Observe... the mystic rhythm of Pradeepanjalee
MAESTRO: Pradeep Ratnayake
MUSIC: In recent times Sri Lankans have had very little to crow about
besides harping over the grandeur of their past. Outside of our shores,
we are known mostly for our â€śtea, tourism and terrorismâ€ť.
There has appeared mercifully on the horizon a bright new star in the
last decade to lift us above our contemporary doom and gloom: he is
sitarist Pradeep Ratnayake who has performed to tremendous acclaim both
at home and abroad.
Ratnayake, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Languages and
Cultural Studies in the University of Sri Jayawardenepura, obtained his
Masterâ€™s degree in Music with a First Class from the Visva Bharati
University, Santiniketan, India in 2003.
It is little known that he qualified to enter a university in Sri
Lanka having offered Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Chemistry
and Physics for his G.C.E. Advanced Level examination. Physical
Scienceâ€™s loss has been musicâ€™s immense gain.
Ratnayake has had a glittering career to-date in music. He obtained
First Division passes in all examinations leading to a Vadya Visharada
from Bathkande Vidyapeeth, Lucknow, India, during 1978-1984.
In 1983 he secured the First Place in instrumental classical music in
the All Island Inter-School Music Competition.
The Indian Council for Cultural Relations awarded Ratnayake a
scholarship in 1992 to follow a course of study leading to a Bachelorâ€™s
degree in music at Santiniketan. He graduated in 1996 with a First
Upon first returning from Santiniketan in 1996, Ratnayake embarked on
a series of musical concerts, a creation of his own, titled
Sponsored by the bi-national United States-Sri Lanka Fulbright
Commission (US-SLFC) that administers the Fulbright educational exchange
programme between the two countries, Pradeepanjalee XI is scheduled to
take place at the Bishopâ€™s College auditorium on 27 March.
This will mark the second occasion on which the US-SLFC will have
sponsored a Pradeepanjalee concert.
The first was in 2004 when as part of the 50th anniversary
celebrations of the Fulbright programme in Sri Lanka, Pradeep Ratnayake
and Friends brought together a fascinating repertoire of compositions
that included re-workings of Sri Lankan folk melodies, Classical Indian
Ragas and the Music of John Coltrane and George Gershwin arranged for
the fusion of both Eastern and Western musical instruments.
In these Pradeepanjalee concerts, Ratnayake showcases Indian
Classical music to begin with and as the concert progresses he turns to
his own compositions in which he uses elements of Eastern, Western and
Sri Lankan music.
As Tissa Abeysekara observed in a speech at the recent 10th
anniversary celebrations of Pradeepanjalee, she is the force that makes
possible for the music and notes to flow from Ratnayakeâ€™s sitar at his
concerts which seem to happen almost by themselves.
In reality however, as we know only too well, much energy is expended
on these productions. The zest and devotion of Madhubashini and those of
the respective parents of the couple have been and are indispensable to
the many successes of Pradeepanjalee.
It is the Goethe Institute that helped Ratnayake launch the first
ever Pradeepanjalee in 1997 by hosting it at 35, Gregoryâ€™s Road. From
here on end, Ratnayake has gone from strength to strength. His next
performance was at the ILO Auditorium in Geneva, Switzerland.
In 2000 Ratnayake helped the Central Bank of Sri Lanka celebrate its
50th anniversary. He composed the symphonic tone poem Indrakeelaya for
this special event. The Governor of the Central Bank at the time Dr. A.S.
Jayawardena had the following comments to make on the occasion:
It was the 50th anniversary of the Central Bank in 2000, and we dared
the young musician, Pradeep Ratnayake, to compose a fitting memorial to
the bank in music, as Guiseppe Verdi did to immortalise the opening of
the Suez Canal by his opera, Aida.
Ratnayake took up the challenge and what he produced - Indrakeelaya -
is a magnificent tone poem, which yet reverberates in our ears.
ORGANISERS OF PRADEEPANJALEE: (from left) Dr. Ruwan Weerasinghe
(director, University of Colombo, School of Computing-UCSC), Tissa
Abeysekara (author and film director), Terry White (Press and
Cultural AttachĂ©, U.S. Embassy and Chairman U.S.-SLFC) and Tissa
Jayatilaka, (Executive Director, U.S.-SLFC)
- Picture by Palitha Gunasena
Delving deep into our cultural roots and the heroic poems of other
cultures, Ratnayakeâ€™s composition on the theme of a phoenix rising from
the ashes, is a tribute to the bankers who survived a devastating attack
on the premises a few years before. Ratnayakeâ€™s Indrakeelaya (the
unshakeable) is widely acknowledged as a classic.
Ratnayake over the years, has performed to the thrill and delight of
audiences in Abu Dhabi, UAE, at the UN Headquarters in Geneva, Asia
Society in New York, at the Kennedy Centre in Washington D.C. and at the
Vienna Musikverein in Austria.
Other highlights in Ratnayakeâ€™s flourishing career to-date include
his performance as Soloist in Lalanath de Silvaâ€™s Sitar Concerto. De
Silva, Associate Conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka,
composed this concerto inspired by Ratnayakeâ€™s playing.
The Sitar Concerto has been performed jointly by the Bombay Chamber
Orchestra and the Symplony Orchestra of Sri Lanka both in Bombay and
Ratnayake has played western classical music on the sitar as part of
his experimentations. He has played the second violin part of Bachâ€™s
Double Concerto for Violin and a mandolin part on the sitar in Vivaldiâ€™s
Concerto for Two Mendolins.
Ratnayake has composed and directed the music for Lester James Periesâ€™
film Wekanda Walauwwa and Linton Semageâ€™s Mage Wam Atha, the first ever
Sri Lankan film to be screened at the Locarno Film Festival in 2002.
He has produced several Compact Discs containing his music titled
Indrakeelaya, Roots and Sitar Gee Rava.
Visva, a CD containing the music of the concerts Ratnayake performed
in the United States on his 2005 tour of that country, will be released
at the forthcoming Pradeepanjalee XI sponsored by the US-Sri Lanka
Ratnayake is engaged in an effort to give a new identity to his sitar
- - a Sri Lankan identity which can hold its own in the international
world of music.
He seeks to do so by crossing cultural boundaries and travelling
effortlessly across styles, idioms, forms and traditions as Nihal
Rodrigo has observed.
The sitar has become a magic wand in his hands. Those of us fortunate
enough to grow old along with Pradeep Ratnayake are indeed a blessed lot
for the best of this wonderful sitarist is yet to be.
A treat for children of all ages
Udayakanthaâ€™s Ran Kevita at cinemas from March 16:
MAIN ROLES: Child actors Hisham and Harith as Suran and Janith
CINEMA: Udayakantha Warnasooriya has taken a new turn in his
cinematic career with his latest release - Ran Kevita. His 12th creation
is set to be screened at Savoy, Wellawatte, and islandwide from March
Presented by Millennium entertainment and distributed by E.A.P.
Films, this movie features two main child actors, Hisham Samsudin and
Harith Baddewala. A line up of popular actors and actresses contribute
to the story.
Shot in the remote areas of Embilipitiya, Sooriyawewa, and
Tissamaharama, the film includes several scenes starring animals such as
bush-babies, snakes and donkeys.
Another specialty of the movie is that it includes a three
dimensional digitally animated character - Gopalu Yakka, which is a
first in the Sinhala cinema.
Filled with a blend of humour, seriousness, fantasy and education,
keeping you entertained while putting forward certain meaningful aspects
of life, Ran Kevita is one for the kids though those in their elderly
years will find it hard to resist as well.