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W. D. Amaradeva

Posted by Weligamage on December 10, 2010

Wannakuwatta MitiWaduge Don Albert Perera (born December 5, 1927 in Moratuwa, Sri Lanka), better known by his adopted name Amaradeva, is a Sri Lankan vocalist and musical composer. Primarily using traditional instruments like sitars, tablas and harmoniums, Amaradeva incorporates Sinhala folk music with Indian ragas in his work.

In the mid-1950s, Amaradeva in his Janagayana project consulted experts of the Kandyan dance tradition like Pani Bharata, Kiriganita, Gunamala, Ukkuva and Suramba in his path to understand what constituted Sinhala folk music. Noting that it mostly revolved around a single melody, he decided to add verses that would lead up to the central melody which would now be a chorus thus forming two parts (unseen earlier in traditional Sri Lankan music) removing restrictions that had existed earlier. In doing so, Amaradeva created a uniquely Sinhalese music style that stayed true to folk tradition while incorporating outside influences. His work was vital in the creation of the sarala gee genre practiced subsequently by artists like Victor Ratnayake, Sunil Edirisinghe and Sanath Nandasiri.

Pandit Amaradeva has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Philippine Ramon Magsaysay Award (2001), Indian Padma Sri Award and Sri Lankan “President’s Award of Kala Keerthi” (1986) and Deshamanya Award (1998). He has also represented Sri Lanka in many forums including the UNESCO 1967 Manila Symposium, and composed the melody for the Maldives national anthem, Gaumii salaam, at the request of British Queen Elizabeth II in 1972.

Early life and education

Amaradeva was born the youngest of seven children to carpenter Wannakuwatta Waduge Don Ginoris Perera and Balapuwaduge Maggie Weslina Mendis at Janapriya Mawatha in Koralawella, Moratuwa. Perera was a Buddhist while Mendis was a Methodist bringing both Christian and Buddhist values to the family.

Amardeva was introduced to music at a young age by his father who crafted and repaired violins at moratumulla wadu kaarmika vidyalaya. Amaradeva would often strum the violin while his mother sang hymns. Another family influence was Amaradeva’s elder brother who taught Indian classical music to him. Amaradeva was presented with his own instrument on his seventh birthday which was a Japanese made tin violin by his father.

He obtained his early education under Ven. Malalankara Nayaka of the Koralawella temple. With the development of his musical talent, Amaradeva was asked to recite poems and prayers at the temple; he was subsequently picked to lead the village choir.

Amaradeva continued his studies at Sri Saddharmodaya Buddhist Mixed School. While attending the school, he won a poetry contest held at the Moratuwa Vidyalaya; Amaradeva also led the school choir to a triumpant showing at a contest held by the Colombo Arts Society. His poetry win prompted school teachers to get him a showcase to recite poetry on Radio Ceylon. In 1945 Amaradeva won a gold medal at a music and violin contest held by Jana Kala Mandalaya.

Amaradeva entered Sri Sumangala College, Panadura after completing his primary education with a scholarship for English. At the school, he formed a friendship with the Principal Danister Thomas Fernando (D. T. Fernando). D. T. Fernando helped Amaradeva get into Kalutara Vidyalaya and subsequently Siddharta Vidyalaya Balapitiya.

By chance filming of the film Ashokamala commenced nearby. Gerard J. Pieris of Moratuwa introduced Amaradeva to Mohamed Ghouse Master who was handling the music for the film and Ghouse recognizing Amaradeva’s skill enlisted him as the top violinist in his orchestra.

But D. T. Fernando says that his brother who W.J Fernando was a music teacher and working in Koralawella school noticed Amaradewa‘s talented . W.J noticed Amaradeva touching violin very well at the school. Later Amaradewa’s Father was made a Violin and he was learned under him. after Amaradewa went to Kaluthara for his studies under D.T’s support and few years back he Was introduced to Asokamala film and he play under Mohamed Ghouse. Because D.T was the lyricist to Asokamala film and He had a strong Friend ship with Shanthikumar Senavirathne who film Director. middle of 1950 Amaradewa went for his higher studies Bhathkande Institute of Music in Lucknow, India. After come back to Sri Lanka. D .T was travel Kaluthara to Colombo Amaradewa get in to bus to Moratuwa he met Amaradeva And Amaradeva invited to write a lyrics for him. D .T says that he wrote song of “Peenamuko Kalugange” on travailing bus but could not write Last verse. Because Amaradewa had to get off Bambalapitiya.

Amardeva left his studies and accompanied Ghouse to India to work on the film. He would play a triple role of singing, dancing and acting on the film with the song “Ayi Yameku Kale Ale.”

Career

He found steady work as an artist on Radio Ceylon, where his unique vision and talent could be exhibited to an audience wider than he had ever before known – earning him a position at the Bhathkande Institute of Music in Lucknow, India. After extensive training, Albert returned to Sri Lanka as Pandit Wannakuwattawaduge Don Amaradeva.The name Amaradeva which translates as Immortal god was given to him by Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra (Sri Lanka’s foremost playwright and a close associate).

During this time, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) had only begun emerging as an independent nation, and the question of what Sri Lankan music was, was slowly being addressed with equal vigour by intellectuals, artists and the general public. In response to the spirit of these times, Amaradeva began interweaving indigenous folk music with the Indian ragas he had studied in Lucknow, thereby giving expression to a more sophisticated cadence.

His other innovations include his experimentation with Western harmonies and counterharmonies, as well as with South Indian and Tamil musical forms. His opus, however, remains the work he did with Sri Lanka’s celebrated lyricist Mahagama Sekera, in exploring the contours of fusing classical Sinhala poetry with his unique musical intonation. In time, Amaradeva’s music came to reflect an entire philosophy, reflective of the spirit of a nation.

He has composed music for ballet(Karadiya, Nala Damayanthi, etc), film(Ran Muthu Duwa, Gam Peraliya, Ransalu, Delovak Athara, Gatavarayo, Rena Girav, Thunman Handiya, etc), theatre(Wessantara, etc), radio and television, and has sung over one thousand songs.

Amaradeva, and wife Wimala, have one son (Ranjana Amaradeva), and two daughters (Subhani Amaradeva, herself a talented vocalist, and Priyanvada Amaradeva).

Listen to Amaradeva Voice….

Filmography

Music director

Year Film Other notes
1962 Ran Muthu Duwa debut as music director
1963 Adata Wadiya Heta Hondai songs only
Sikuru Tharuwa one song and background music
Gamperaliya
Getawarayo
1965 Saama background music
Laa Dalu
Saravita
Adarayai Karunawai
1966 Delovak Athara
Westhuru Siritha
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