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29th August 1999

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That haunting melody gets the maestro's touch

Kala korner by Dee CeeWay back in 1936, renowned musician H. W. Rupasinghe teamed up with the 'Nightingale of Sri Lanka' Rukmani Devi to sing 'Siri Buddha Gaya Vihare' , a song remembered to this day. Rupasinghe Master (as he was popularly known) was 41 then. Rukmani was just 13 and this was one of the first songs she recorded. Sixty three years later, Pandit Amaradeva turning 72, has teamed up with Samitha Mudunkotuwa (not so young as Rukmani when she sang it ) to render the age-old favourite.

Then the song was released on a 78 rpm record on the HMV (His Master's Voice) label. Now it's on a Compact Disc and audio cassette on the Torana label.

What prompted the maestro to sing it? "Future generations should value and appreciate the pioneering work done by our musicians. This is all the more important when we are about to enter the new millennium leaving behind what we have achieved over a century."

"This is a tribute to the Master and the Nightingale," he said at the simple launch ceremony of 'Swarna Vimanaya' , his latest CD & audio cassette released at the Taj Hotel. Amaradeva insisted that we should not forget the pioneers.

As usual, Amaradeva (he insisted on being called plain and simple Amaradeva rather than with any of the prefixes Pandit, Dr. or Visharada) was in fine form. After a brief introduction to his latest attempt (a mix of old and new numbers), he went on to sing some of them to the delight of the audience comprising mainly of media personnel. In fact, when the compere invited the media to ask questions, there weren't any. They preferred to be entertained with a few more songs and he readily obliged. Veteran Mallika Kahawita joined to sing 'Sandun Gase' from the film 'Adata Vediya Heta Hondai' (1963) and accompanying him for a few numbers was daughter Subhani, fast becoming an accomplished singer. He had a special number for his rasikas, appreciating their response to him.

As he always does, Amaradeva began with 'Jagan Mohini', the Sarasavi Abhinandana song composed by Sri Chandraratne Manwasinghe for the first Sarasaviya Film Festival in 1964 and sung by Amaradeva. He ended with another of his favourites, Mahagama Sekera's 'Ratnadipa Janmadipa' paying homage to mother Lanka

To the moon

Keynote speaker at the launch, Dr. Sarath Amunugama nearly suggested sending Amaradeva to the moon in the new millennium! "If we are to send something to be deposited on the moon to remember the 20th century, possibly the only worthwhile stuff would be Amaradeva's songs," he said.

Valuing Amaradeva's contribution to Sinhala music, he recalled the Peradeniya University days in the fifties when Amaradeva and Dr. Sarachchandra jointly did a lot for the upliftment of our music. "He also tried to teach us a bit of the art. But not with much success," he confessed. Dr. J. B. Disanayaka who was presiding nodded in agreement.

For his latest release, Amaradeva has selected some of the popular film songs in the sixties including 'Swarna Vimaneta' (Getawarayo) and 'Ira Handa Payana' (Sikuru Tharuwa).

It's a collector's item with 16 songs. One of the earliest hits 'Peenamuko Kalu Gange' written by Amaradeva himself in the forties is included. Most of the well- known lyric writers who are no more are represented - Manawasinghe, Madawela Ratnayake, Mahagama Sekera, Fr. Marcelline Jayakody, Dalton Alwis and Karunaratne Abeysekera. So are today's ones - Kularatne Ariyawansa, Lucien Bulathsinghala, W. A. Abeysinghe, Sunil Ariyaratne, Ajantha Ranasinghe and Sunil Sarath Perera.

Still waiting

Over an year ago, the Philatelic Bureau announced that several sets of stamps would be issued to mark 50 years of Cinema, Paintings and Sports to coincide with the Golden Jubilee of Sri Lanka's Independence. Many moons have passed, celebrations are over - yet there is no news when the stamps will be released.

Sets of four stamps for each topic were planned, designs done and possibly the stamps were printed. The 80th birthday of Dr. Lester James Peries would have been an ideal day to release the stamps on cinema, particularly because they include stills from the internationally acclaimed 'Gamperaliya' and ' Nidhanaya'. In April, the 97th birth anniversary of George Keyt was commemorated. Couldn't that have been the occasion to release the stamps on paintings?

Possibly the stamps are locked up somewhere in the Philatelic Bureau awaiting a date from the Minister for the official launch.

Outsiders again

TV viewers have got a chance of enjoying Tissa Abeysekera's tele epic 'Pitagamkarayo' once again, thanks to Eagle Insurance. It is being telecast over Rupavahini Channel 2 every Saturday afternoon .

Winner of 15 awards (eight at the Sumathi Tele Awards & seven at UNDA Abhinandana), 'Pitagamkarayo' is a story set in the Kelani valley spanning three generations.

A powerful script, superb direction, fine camerawork by M. D. Mahindapala, a music score to suit the different eras by Harsha Makalanda and matchless performances by an 83-member cast led by Malini Fonseka, Jackson Anthony, Sabitha Perera, Ranjan Ramanayake, Daya Alwis and Asoka Peiris made 'Pitagamkarayo' a classic.

It's well worth seeing again even if you enjoyed it the last time.

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