Korner by Dee Cee
Down memory lane with Clarence
It was a trip down memory lane. A packed audience at the BMICH earlier
this month paid tribute to Clarence Wijewardena, the man who created a
new trend in Sinhala music thirty five years ago. The voice Clarence picked
to sing his compositions - Annesley Malewana back in 1967 - was there to
bring life to the early songs from the days of the Moonstones, the first
group that Clarence formed. Annesley's voice is still the same and we,
who had admired and appreciated the duo's efforts in the pioneering era,
were taken back to those memorable days.
We missed Clarence of course, yet when young Rajiv Sebastian came on
stage and started singing, many wondered whether he was back. One could
close one's eyes and 'see' Clarence singing. An ardent admirer of Clarence,
Rajiv confessed how from his school days he had adored Clarence and followed
him to his concerts. He was ever so grateful to Clarence's wife, Sheila
(she was present at the show herself) who supported him in his endeavour
not to let Clarence's fans forget him. Rajiv deserves a big 'thank you'
for doing a marvellous job, with his 'Clan' to back him.
Just as much as Indrani Perera gave life to 'Dilhani' followed by 'Amma'
paying tribute to the mother, in the late sixties, she reminded us that
these numbers would never fade away. With Annesley she made the show come
alive bringing back sweet memories.
Compere Vijaya Corea did a grand job in tracing the progress of Clarence
as a shy young man then. In fact, the show was structured to illustrate
that progress with prominent singers from the different eras lending their
voices to sing popular numbers. There was Anil Bhareti joining Rajiv to
present a medley from the Golden Chimes era, which was followed by the
Super Golden Chimes era. Vijaya reminded us that the first time Clarence
lent his own voice was to sing 'Dileepa podi putha' - a song he composed
about veteran lyricist Karunaratne Abeysekera's son.
With pride, Vijaya looked back at the time he gave a break - a big one
it turned out to be - to the Moonstones featuring them on the English service
of Radio Ceylon, the State radio channel. The group had also cut 45 rpm
gramophone disks, first under the Philips label and later under the Victory
label. Clarence's work reached homes across the country through the Sooriya
The highlight of the evening was the ever so popular Kataragama song
- Kanda Surinduni - sung by Rajiv and Manoharan - the latter singing the
Tamil version which he originally did with Clarence. There were guest artistes
who came to pay tribute to Clarence - Chandralal Fonseka, Shyami, Lilanthi
and Ranil who presented a medley of Clarence compositions originally sung
by his late father, Milton Mallawarachchi.
The Old Anandians Sports Club led by their energetic president Manju
Fernando and the hardworking project manager Gilbert Mendis, put up a grand
show once again for a worthy cause - the development of college sports.
Old Anandians and others had rallied round to make it a success, just as
they did for the earlier show, 'Amara Uvasara' featuring Pandit Amaradeva.
In the news
Pandit Amaradeva continues to be in the news. The Ramon Magsasay Foundation
has written to tell him that he made such an impression during his lecture
tour in Manila when he went to collect the Magsasay Award that the Foundation
continues to get letters of appreciation from music lovers. The Manila
City Council has passed a resolution felicitating Pandit Amaradeva and
other recipients of the Award this year, a copy of which has been forwarded
Meanwhile, the Ceylon Bloomesbury Group in London which has been promoting
Sri Lankan artistes, is planning to hold a seminar on arts sometime next
year featuring Pandit Amaradeva, drum expert Piyasara Silpadhipati and
Rohan de Saram. Dr Sivasambu, the live wire of the Group, has written to
Amaradeva and Silpadhipati (de Saram is in London) seeking their co-operation
to present lecture demonstrations during the seminar.
A similar seminar was organised in 1988 when Amaradeva accompanied Dr
Sarachchandra and presented the varying traditions of Sinhala music through
the ages and the modern trends.
Dance of the drum
A repeat performance of the ballet "Berahanda" by Vajira, Sri Lanka's foremost
danseuse goes on the boards on December 2.
Berahanda is the mythical story of the origin of the drum, an integral
part of Lankan culture, based on Bandula Jayawardena's stage play, which
has been brought vividly to life by Vajira. Her skill as a dancer, performer,
teacher, choreographer and producer has resulted in an audio-visual treat
of exceptional brilliance reflecting the talent and virtuosity of her guru,
the incomparable Chitrasena whose leadership, knowledge, drive and charisma
brought dance in this country to new heights. Berahanda is dedicated to
him in recognition of the influence he has had, not only on Vajira, but
also on the culture of our entire country.
The prelude to the ballet consists of items by professional dancers,
Upeka in Bera-nada-chalana, Geeth Premachandra in Ves, with the dancers
of the project "Preserve the Dance".
The leading roles will be played by Geeth Premachandra, Dilhani, Mahesh,
Venuri, Isuru and students of the Kalayathanaya. Decor and costumes have
been created by Somabandu.
Berahanda will be staged at the Lionel Wendt Theatre on Sunday December
2 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the Theatre.
Battle against banality
Hurrah for the Circus, an exhibition of drawings by Muhanned Cader, is
on at the Barefoot Gallery from November 26 to December 9.
Muhanned Cader's house overlooks one of the more secluded reaches of
Bolgoda Lake. Overhanging trees frame the prospect. Waterfowl forage in
the shallows. Now and then a kingfisher or gull unzips the lake surface
to pluck out its dinner.
A restful place, then: a typical 'artist's retreat'. Hardly the setting,
you would have thought, for an epic battle between the forces of civilization
and barbarism. Yet that is precisely what, for the past several years,
it has been. The pictures on display at Muhanned Cader's exhibition, Hurrah
for the Circus, opening today at the Barefoot Gallery, are the offspring
of that struggle and testify that, for the time being at least, civilization
No 'Sri Lankan artist' better exemplifies the contradiction inherent
in that phrase than Muhanned Cader. It is almost impossible to be Sri Lankan
and an artist too, for we Sri Lankans are a deeply inartistic people. A
walk down the street - any street, in any town or village in the country
- will immediately confirm this.
At a deeper level, the individualism, egoism and hunger for life that
drive the artist to make art are missing in our society: viciously suppressed,
or sublimated into activities and impulses that might help shore up the
collapsing false front that is Sri Lankan culture. Real art, like real
life, is forever threatening to bring this wormy facade crashing down.
In surroundings like this, how is it possible to make art at all? That's
It's a problem only a real artist would have, and it nearly killed him.
For some years now he's suffered from a near-terminal case of artist's
block, and like countless others before him he's sought to medicate the
condition with sundry potions and diversions. Such remedies help with the
pain but not with the cause, and for a while it seemed he might never paint
again. Instead, he misbehaved - tormenting the toffee-nosed, scandalizing
the spinsterish, smashing up society parties - all the while railing against
the human vileness and squalor around him, the cultural midden on which
he, one of the tiny handful of civilized Sri Lankans left, was forced to
crawl, side by side with the bluebottles and maggots, picking over the
filth for means of sustenance. If art is supposed to hold a mirror up to
life, how could a person of taste and decency be an artist, when the mirror
he upholds reflects nothing but garbage?
I, for one, thought he had lost it for ever.
But God knows how, he found his way back. The evidence is on display
this week, hanging from the gallery walls. You'll see no big, elaborately-finished
canvases gleaming with potential investment value, no mixed-media 'installations'
betraying nothing more than their creator's inability to combine novelty
with taste. What you will see, instead, is a collection of lucid pen-and-ink
drawings, each one displaying more wit and imagination in its exploitation
of technique alone than most of his rivals can bring to the execution of
entire oeuvres. Not that Muhanned is the kind of artist who flaunts his
technique; more often than not, he reveals it by concealing.
The great difference between the art of Muhanned Cader and that of almost
any of his contemporaries is his understanding of narrative and context.
Talk to the average Sri Lankan artist: you're talking to a space cadet,
someone with a headful of nonsensical ideas picked up at university or
art school and absolutely no understanding of the real world, or of real
people. Talk to Muhanned and you'll discover someone fully wired into the
world, connected with life on all levels, firing on all cylinders. And
- this is the clincher - he knows how to turn all that involvement, all
that observation, all that insight, into art. It's there in the pictures
- in his incisive, often perverse, frequently hilarious observations on
the decadent, reeking society,in which Sri Lankans now live.
It's very restful out there in Koralawella, where Muhanned Cader's house
is. But the place where Muhanned lives and has his being, where he fights
his unending battle against the forces of banality, vulgarity and untruth,
is anything but restful. A map to that location is now on display at the
Barefoot Gallery. Go have a look. It might teach you something about your
own place of domicile.- Richard Simon
Close to nature
Lester Perera's fourth exhibition of bird painting opens on November 29,
at the Alliance Francaise with a collection of 40 watercolour and acrylic
paintings marked by some notable developments in technique and style. The
delicate, meticulous bird depictions so characteristic of Lester's style
are now bolder, habitat-focused, larger scale paintings.
Lester has always striven to couple artistic merit with accuracy. The
proportions and postures, the intricate body details, the blend of colours,
the background habitat - all should be as close to nature as possible.
He spends days out in the field, observing, making notes and sketching.
Back at home, his field sketches and notes are transformed, after a lot
of thought, trial and deliberation, into paintings.
Archer writing behind bars
Disgraced peer Jeffrey Archer doesn't have a lot on his plate as he heads
for another prison breakfast
Later he'll knock out a few more pages of his latest book — about life
behind bars — then maybe visit the inmates' gym.
It's a far cry from the posh social whirl that convict No. FF8282 once
enjoyed as Tory party deputy chairman and celebrity author - but he's still
wangled a few perks.
Archer has now been inside for more than three months — first at Belmarsh
Prison, South London, now at North Sea Camp open prison in Boston, Lincs.
The 61-year-old millionaire has asked warders to wake him at 4 a.m.
every day so he can spend three-and-a-half hours on his book.
An insider said: "He often carries around his manuscript in a blue folder.
After breakfast he returns to the administration block next door to write.
"It's a detached house and he works in a converted bedroom on the first
floor. If he needs any inspiration, it has extensive views of the local
Archer was arrested after the News of the World revealed he had lied
in a libel case about his involvement with a prostitute.
He was sent down in July for perjury and perverting the course of justice,
but he has enjoyed a string of treats since he became a guest of Her Majesty.
The latest is a running machine, which Archer paid to have installed
at North Sea Camp because he didn' t think the jail's gym facilities were
up to scratch.
An extra source of irritation to other prisoners is that while they
have to share cells, Archer has the biggest one on his landing all to himself.
The source added: "And he has been excused from working on the prison
pig farm. All other new arrivals are expected to spend at least a couple
of months there.
"It's a cold and wet job and you're upto your knees in manure, but he
hasn't had to do it.
"I know he wrote First Among Equals - but that doesn't mean he should
get special treatment here."
But there is a crumb of comfort for the other prisoners.
Archer has one chore - having to clean the warders' toilets every day.
-News Of The World