Five decades in the music field
Anton Jones still a household name
His once movie-star looks may be fading but the voice that
entertained over three generations will not be contained. Baila maestro
Anton Jones continues to be a household name and is still in demand at
outdoor musical shows, church feast carnivals etc. where young music
lovers feast on his inimitable style of baila rendering even though not
even the parents of these youth may have been born when he hit the
musical scene nearly five decades ago.
That was the time in the late fifties when we were yet to witness the
full advent of pop music in the country and Baila was the chief form of
entertainment with its famous Kaffiringa beat.
This was also the time when the legendary Wally Bastians was the rage
and songs like the perennial "Masun Maranna" was on every one's lips.
It was into this milieu that Anton broke in with his prodigious
talent as a Baila exponent. Perhaps the immediate surroundings of his
upbringing at St. Sebestian's Street in Hulftsdorp, which had a large
carefree Burgher community with a penchant for baila rhythms may have
had a profound influence on him.
Anton possessed a unique style and his tremulous baritone ideally
lent itself to the baila form. Hits such Mini Gawuma, Uyala Pihala,
Kanthoruwa, Kanthoruwa are still in great demand nearly 40 years after
they first came on the airwaves.
To date he has released 37 cassettes and eight CDs all of them
instant hits. He is perhaps the only singer to have set to lyrics,
events of upheaval and tragedy that caused an impact in the country.
Hits that readily come to mind are 'Aasai Bayai' (the Nilwala boat
tragedy), DC 7 (the Knuckles Range crash), 'Maru Sira' (the
controversial death of death-row prisoner), 'Rukmani Devi' (the demise
of Sri Lanka's nightingale), 'Premawathi Manamperi' (the Kataragama
Beauty Queen murder).
He is quick to pounce on such events and not surprisingly his latest
CD titled 'Sebe Siddhi' (true events) starts with the Tsunami
These and other hits are in constant demand at musical shows where
Anton also performs a unique feat that of breaking into impromptu
compositions picking on the names of all band members backing him on
stage as a sort of tribute to them. A truly remarkable feat from a
Anton who walked into Lake House the other day speaking to this
writer said he had no regrets looking back on his long musical career.
and attributed his success to his firm belief in God. It is God who has
given him the strength to carry on thus far even though he has now
passed the biblical lifespan of three score and ten years.
Delving back to the past Anton was ever grateful to his guru the late
Wally Bastian popularly considered as the father of baila.
"I started my singing career in the early 50s under the guidance of
Wally Bastians. I did my first live programme at SLBC (then Radio
Ceylon) in 1958. Since then I have been performing on stage at musical
Anton is also among the few local artistes who did not make singing
his sole career. His career as an English stenographer of a leading
state Bank almost spanned his entire singing career before his
retirement in 1997 completing a 35 year period of service.
"I never even once absented myself from work on account of some dawn
musical show. Whatever the hour I always reported to work on time". What
of his family?
Anton says he has two sons and two daughters. The eldest, Tyronne is
domiciled in Paris where he had already made two visits. He lives with
his loving wife Iris at their home in Dehiwala and dotes on his numerous
Anton's singing career has taken him to UK, France, Italy, Canada,
Japan, South Korea, Lebanon, Cypress, Jordan, UAE, Bharain, Kuwait and