PANDIT AMARADEVA/ SRI LANKA
PANDIT AMARADEVA/ SRI LANKA
You have earned a reputation for yourself as a singer, not only in Sri Lanka, but al over the world. Is there anything special that has contributed to it? Why did you choose singing as a career?
I liked singing from my childhood. My father used to repair violins at home those days. I used to watch it very keenly. My father was able to play a few of the ragas on the violin. My mother could sing well. Actually, that environment was created. At home. That is how I started my life as a singer.
Is there any particular incident you can remember in your career either at Bathkand University in Luknow, or any other unforgettable incident?
Yes. One is the opportunity I received to sing for the ‘Selalihini Sandeshaya’. When I was studying at Bathkand, there was a choir performance by foreign students at New Delhi. Our principal, Pandit S.L.Ratnajankar selected me for it. I was the only Sri Lankan student to be selected. I went with a group of foreign students and sang two songs there. They were trying out a type of choral singing. The other was sung in the ‘Malakawunsha Raga’. I specially remember that. Those are the special memories I have.
After you return from India to Sri Lanka, were there any impediments you had to encounter here?
I experienced both. There were difficulties and successes. That is how I reached this position today.
Do you think that we have our own singing tradition particular to Sri Lanka?
Yes. This is what I believe about it. There are two traditions in the world. The great tradition and the little tradition. There are only two great traditions in the world. One is the Indian Great Ragadari tradition and the other is the Western harmonize tradition. There is another called Pentatonic tradition. That is there in countries like Burma, Thailand, China and Japan. Of these the greatest are the Western and the Indian. We belong to the Indian tradition. Our music’s is based on the Indian Rag tradition. So, our identity I tied up with the Indian tradition.
Do you have any style of singing particular to you? How did you develop it ?
In actual fact, I developed it through folk songs. The tunes and melodies of our folk songs have influenced me.
Can you tell us something about your fist teachers?
he singing teacher in my village school in Kalutara was W.J.Fernando. I remember another good teacher, Master Mohamed Ghouse. He influenced me. That is what helped me to sing in the film ‘Asokamala’. I was able to sing and act in it.
Yes I remember you acting in it.
Yes. My name was also mentioned in it as the Asst. Music Director. My name is really W.B.Albert Perera. After I went to India on the scholarship, Prof. Sarathchandra felt that I should have a traditional Sri Lankan name. That is how I changed it to Amaradeva and became popular by that name.
About how many songs have you sung so far?
More than a thousand.
is it altogether, for ballets and dramas?
Yes. For ballets and stage dramas.
Of them, what are the song you like best?
The song you remember most?
Yes. I remember the song ‘ Maduwanthi’ It is my favorite.
Can you tell us something about your wife and children?
I met my wife Wimala through music. In 1959, we went with Chitrasena Kalaayathanay on a cultural tour. Wimala also joined it. That is a special occasion. So I think there was a meaning in my love for Sinhala music.
What about your children?
My eldest daughter is Priyanwada. It was Prof. Saratchandra who named her. My second daughter is Subani. She is studying for the Vaag Vidya Degree in New Delhi. She is not doing it in Hindi but in English. My elder daughter is a languages teacher. She used to help me a lot at the beginning with my work. My son Ranga, is a good tabla player. He specially likes this instrument. He studied further under the Indian teacher Pandit Syama Gosh. Then he studied under D.R. Peiris. He actually started playing with D.R.Peiris. Now he is studying under Randuwa Guruthuma(teacher). Somehow he is doing it very well.
You have received many awards and honors, much more than any others in the filed . I think your career has been very successful. Can you elaborate on it?
yes. I received the Magsei Award. I also received a special award presented by the Indian government called ‘Padma Sri’. I am also associated with the cinema. I have provided music for many films. So I have received many awards for them too.
I am sure you are very glad about your achievements. I think life has been very wonderful for you.
Yes it has been.
What do you feel, when you listen to the first songs you sang?
I sometimes feel that I have sung later songs better than the more recent ones. So there is something new added to it every day.
Where were you born?
I was born in Koralawella in Moratuwa.
What are names of your parents?
My mother was Christiana Mendis and my father was Warnapurawattage Don Jinoris Perera. Both families were involved in carpentry.
Do you have other siblings?
Yes we had three in our family. Now I am left only with one sister. She lives in Moratuwa.
Where did you receive your education?
I studied in my village school Vidyalaya for some time. He had a brother called D.T.Fernando. He is the one who composed the songs for the film ‘Asokamala’. He lived in Ambalangoda. So I moved to Ambalangoda and went to Siddhartha College in Balapitiya. I moved from school to school.
Can you tell us something about your childhood?
Yes, as a child, I took part in many singing competition and I have won many prizes. I also took part in many music programs. That is how I spent my childhood. In the later years I was associated with the university through Prof. Sarathchandra. When I was a student, I think it was in 1950, I was selected to sing the ‘Sandesha Kavi’ for Premakumara’s ballet ‘Salalihini Sandeshaya’. It was something new to me. Two eminent writers in this country, D.B.Danapala and Prof Sarathchandra were both impressed with my singing. They created a Lankadeepa scholarship fund and sent me to Bathkand University in Luknow to obtain my Sangeetha Visharada and Vaadya Visharada degrees.
I am sure you have watched many movies. Is there any one you like in particular?
Can you remember a Sinhala or English or Hindi movie you like?
Yes. I have watched many. I watched a good Hindi movie called ‘Sidhartha’. Hemantha Kumar did the music. The film Sidartha is one I like very much. It is the life story of Lord Buddha. I also watch Sinhala films. I also listen to the kavi of Selalihini Sandeshaya. I listen to both Oriental and Western music. I think it is good to listen to both.
What about the books you have read? Do you remember any one in particular?
Yes. There is one I particularly remember. It is Kumaratunga Munidasa’s “Subasa”. Our teacher, A.J.Perera encouraged us to read Munidasa Kumaratunga’s books. One was ‘Kiyawana Nuwana’. The other was ‘Subasa’. Those books help us to improve our knowledge of the language.
What is the message you would like to give young people who would like to enter into this field?
Yes. This is the advise I would like to give them. There are three things you must adhere to in this house of arts. The first is luck. You have to be born with it. You must be born with it in your genes. The other is that you need to acquire knowledge. It can be done by associating with other people involved in the area, teachers, music teachers and other artists. The other is practice. You need to practice all the time. If you can fulfill these three requirements, I think you can succeed as a singer.
Let us get to the last question. What do you think life is? How do you look at life?
Yes. Life is like a flowing river. We encounter both sadness and joy. So we must try as far as possible to succeed by using one’s intelligence.
at Koralawella called Sri Sadharmadhodya. I moved to another school after a while because of my music. My teachers were eager to move me to another school because of that subject. I studied at Sri Sumangala for a while. I had a teacher called W.J.Fernando in Kalutara. Because I knew him, I studied in Kalutara
Well, let us hope that your life will be more successful in the future.