It was quite by accident that I noticed an advertisement in an English daily during the Book Fair in September giving a stall number and announcing that two CDs of Sunil Santha's songs were available there. This was something that all Sunil Santha fans have been yearning for. I rushed and there they were! The smiling face of the great singer as I remembered him several decades ago was on the cover with the title 'Aasirive Lanka' - the first line from his song, blessing the motherland.
It has been a long wait to hear Sunil Santha's voice in its original form. At last that wish has been fulfilled.
The two CDs carry 30 of the popular numbers he sang since the mid-1940s. In addition to his voice, listeners can also identify the compositions by some of the renowned lyric writers who, incidentally, were from the Cumaratunga Munidasa School, commonly referred to as the Hela group.
Sunil Santha returned to Sri Lanka from Shantiniketan in the mid-1940s and lost no time in composing some of the finest Sinhala songs ever heard. 'Olu Pipila' - an eternal favourite - was among the first songs he himself wrote. The simple words, the lilting melody and, of course, the beautiful voice were all a new experience to listeners. Here was another 'find' just like Ananda Samarakoon.
Apart from 'Olu Pipila', the CDs contain several others written by Sunil Santha including 'Budun vandinne' (though himself a Catholic hailing from Ja-ela, he has sung some of the most meaningful Buddhist devotional songs), 'Sumihiri suvadenthi mal' (sung on the death of talented singer Surya Sankar Molligoda), 'Sansung balmen', 'Ho ga relle binde', 'Nalevi sanasenne', 'Handapane' and his interpretation of the well known 'Tikiri liya'.
Other lyricists featured include Hubeth Dissanayake ('Aadare nadiye', 'Mevan pitisare', 'Piyakaru nuwara weve', 'Mihikatha nalawaala', 'Me hopalu vanaye' ,'Kokilayange' & 'Suvanda rosa'), Raphael Tennakoon ('Kukulu havilla' & 'Trilokya nethra'), Arisen Ahubudu ('Lanka lanka', 'Emba ganga', 'Mal gomu gumu gumu', 'Aasirive lanka', 'Tel gala', 'Valakulin besa' & 'Dakunu negenahira'), Fr. Marcelline Jayakody ('Ridee seenu handava' ), Karunaratne Abeysekera ('Manu lova') and Piyaratne Rajapkse ('Poda daham sisile').
There are also a few rare gems: 'Bondure' - the popular Bengali song, 'Saraga mala' - from the Sigiriya graffiti, 'Lalitha lavanga' - from Geeta Govinda, and 'My Dreams are Roses' - the only English song in a Sinhala film sung by a local singer (Sunil Santha sang this song written by Fr. Jayakody in G.D.L. Perera's 'Romeo Juliet' with music composed by Shelton Premaratne).
The man behind the production of the CDs is one of the maestro's sons, Lanka Santha now living in the USA.The CDs are being distributed by Tharanga Record Bar. They are things to be treasured.