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Dharmaratne Bros. to bring back lilting melodies of the past

Now as a three member group - Christie, Maxie and Melroy

There were four brothers in a family living down College Street Kotahena. Christie, Maxwell, Ronald and Melroy were each blessed with a talent to either sing a song or play a musical instrument from mouth organ to a guitar.

The foursome decided to form a music band just to entertain their family members with no further ambition. But destiny took an unexpected turn. They eventually teamed up to form the Dharmaratne Brothers". The year was 1967 and this was the time of the nascent Sinhala pop bands. Moonstones were already establishing themselves under Clarence Wijewardena and the Los Cabelarors under Neville Fernando was at its zenith.

Melroy Dharmaratne

The advent of the Dharmaratne Brothers - the first all family Sinhala pop band- on the scene was to unleash a whole new dimension in the Sinhala pop world which took music fans by storm engendering a whole new (pop) culture in the country. This saw the mushrooming of Sinhala pop bands which provided rythemic, lilting toe tapping entertainment in those halcyon days of a swinging sixties.

"What happened to Dharmaratne Brothers?", this was the first question I posed to Melroy, the youngest member of the group when he stepped into Lake House the other day.

"The Dharmaratne Brothers were at their peak in the 1970's. However with the passage of time two members of the band went abroad. It is true we were silent for some time. One of our brothers, Ronald died in 1987. We are now a three member band and has emerged once again through the show titled "Stars of 70's" on the invitation of Annesley Malawena", Melroy said.

The songs like "Vessa Wahinawa", "Punchi Hurathala", "Kandukare" composed by Melroy were their first recording for the Philips Lable in July 1968. They were all instant hits with sales topping 3,000 discs.

A book cover of Melroy’s latest novel.

"Patrick Perera of Gowri Corporation was the first person who lent us a hand to enter the field of music. After singing for Philips, we sang for the "Soorya" label. "Varsity Kello", "Suhada Pathum...", "Sahodarayo Hathardena" and "Kellani me Ahapalla... were some of the popular hits under this label", he said.

Vijaya Corea, who was then in the Commercial Service of then Radio Ceylon, former Director General Nevil Jayaweera and Levy Wijemanne, Director of Commercial Service gave all the encouragement and backing to popularise the group's music and songs in the country", Melroy said.

The emergence of the "Moonstones" and "Three Sisters" happened to be during this golden era of 1970's following this backing.

During this time another fresh voice seemed to have bloomed within the Dharmaratne family when their niece Shiromi Fernando, broke into the music scene.

"She was only 11 years when she sang the hit songs "Konda Namagena", followed by "Pembara Amma", "Sakala Bujan" and "Handahami".

At present Shiromi is living in Canada with her son and daughter. Most of Shiromi's songs are now sung by Nelum Darmaratne, daughter of Maxwell, Melroy said.

"With the popularity I gained by composing the above songs, I got an opportunity to create several melodies for H.R. Jothipala. "Oba Nidanna...", "Mal Ethano...", "Gangawai-Mahamuhudai..," Malin Peeregiya..." were the four songs that I created melodies under the ' New sound Label in 1970, he said.

"Auybovan, Auybovan Japan ratay Sayonara... the song sung by Jothipala and "Surupi.. Virupi" sung by Saman de Silva was composed and music directed by Melroy, and his other popular melodies were "Durakathnayakin....", "Me mai gaha yata...," "Ran mudu ranmudu...," "Egoda gode mal nelana...", "Sulan Rella...." just to name a few.

When one looks back on Melroy's more than 35 years in the field of art he has not only excelled in composing songs, melodies, and singing. He has directed music for films and stage dramas, tele-and film script writing and has worked as a free lance journalist for several publications including Lake House.

Melroy who has authored several novels and is busy these days to release his latest books titled " Veenitha Rathisha" and " Premaya Vairaya" tomorrow August 26 at the Public Library auditorium at 4.00 pm.

He will also set up his own institution under the name of "Suba Sri" on the same day which will provide all the requirements such as music groups, calypsos, one man band with other needs as printing, designing banners, posters under one roof.



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