with Chamikara WEERASINGHE
The difference between the Gypsies and other local bands is that the
latter stands out to personify popular music in Sri Lanka. The band,
while being professional presenters, has shaped a style of their own in
Sinhala pop, a significant feature of Gypsies’ music that is
surprisingly unspoken of by many.
The Gypsies, originally a Western band, has been in the local music
scene for over three and a half decades during which they have released
over 100 singles.
Sunil Perera and the Gypsies released Dance with the Gypsies LPs in
1970. Kurumitto (The smurf song) audio cassette album in 1980. With the
arrival of CDs to Sri Lanka, they released Gypsies Gold with 17 songs.
The Gypsies have made more hits than any other band, among them I
Don’t Know Why, Signyore, Piti Kotapan None, Lankawe Ape Lankawe, Ojaye,
This Land Belongs to You, Uncle Johnson, Kurumitto and Lunu Dehi to name
They have been performing sold out concerts in Sri Lanka, India ,
Canada, UK, US and Australia, making record sales in Sri Lanka. The
original line up Gypsies are Sunil Perera on vocals and guitar, Piyal
Perera on vocals, Niresh Perera on drums, Kumar Peiris on keyboards,
Derek Hepponstall on bass, Ranil Vaas and Dushan on keyboards.
The band has a good rapport with fans of all age groups. They became
favourites of children with hits like Kurumitto and Lunu Dehi, and now
they seem to be enjoying good rapport with those children who have
turned adults after so many years now.
Gypsies introduced sarcasm and humour into some of their songs
humiliating politicians at a time some senior singers have climbed
political platforms to sing for their favourite party or politician.
The songs like Signyore and I Don’t Know Why (Ayi) were embraced by
the public so much so that they became most requested songs on TV and
It would seem very unfair by Gypsies if one was to look at them from
a commercials standpoint disregarding their role as musicians and all
the hard work that went behind the curtain, with Gypsies’ leader and
guitarist-singer Sunil Perera’s brain and directions to back the
It has to be mentioned that Gypsies underwent perhaps more
difficulties than any other contemporary local band with it’s leader’s
revolutionary approach to music as a young musician in the s with fresh
seeds in his brains wit a lot of youth attached to it.
Their music had been under fire not only by critics but also by other
senior artistes who have by then made their names bigger than
Criticism galore from many oriental and semi oriental quarters
attacking young artistes of the Gypsies, branding them as a threat to
the country’s social and cultural fabric.
And they were firing at the youngsters with all cylinders for the
lyrical content of a song called, Mama Dunne Kiss Ekai.
Had the senior artistes discussed the matter with the boys and given
them friendly advice, instead of trying to destroy them with worst
possible attacks through media and in public, things would have settled
more easily on a pleasant note.
The point is, there are thousands of songs which are ten thousand
times disgusting than Mama Dunne Kiss Ekai, And of them worst types are
found in oriental quarters, but there is no body to criticize them these
The upcoming bands and singers today do not have to face such
challenges. When I asked Sunil Perera last week about what were the
aspects he regard as more important in composing a song, he has this to
“I stick to our brand of style and make sure that lyrics are simple
and easily understood by people . And also make sure that message of the
song is enhanced by the music and it is understood.”
* Don’t you want to change gears with hip hop?
I do not dig hip hop because there are lot of artistes who come to
the field wanting to do that. Gypsies have their own brand of style.
It keeps us distinct from others. That is why we are on the demand.
* Any other reasons?
We are a versatile band apart from our music, if someone wants us to
go with 100 per cent Western , English we can do that. If they want a
mixture of both we can do that too.
* Do you have any advice to offer to those trying to come as singers
or musicians to the field?
If you want to become popular try in quick time , try to follow a
style other than hip hop, because the competition is too high for hip
hop with hundreds of people trying to perform in that style.
* Supposing that you want to compose a song what would be your target
Middle age groups perhaps since they are better acquainted with our
* Why do your songs seem to sell no sooner than they are released to
Because I know what the market is, And we produce our singles
accordingly. And it is a gift to be able to do that on a regular basis
the way we do.
Suriyakumar on music:
Frequently asked Questions
Confused about music? You don’t have to be, because you will soon be
rescued from the land of confusion to face music with better
understanding by music authority, keyboard wizard, music teacher and
former Music Administrator to Maldives Academy of Performing Arts,
Suriyakumar Veerasingham. Suriyakumar has prepared this article to
answer frequently asked questions about music.
He is presently teaching music for Sri Lankan students at his
Evergreen Park residence at Narahenpita. This article is published with
Q) What is the definition of music ?
Music is an expression
It uses a system of notes and patterns within the realm of organized
Q) What is organized sound.?
Organized sound contains identifiable patterns. Language and music
are examples of organized sound. Noise is disorganized sound.
Q) Are there different styles of music ?
Yes. The styles of music differ from country to country. The most
predominant Styles are Western, Eastern, Arabic and other indigenous
What are the styles commonly used in the Maldives.
They are western and Hindi styles of music.
Q) What style does Dhivehi music use.
The style most commonly used is based on western notation.The music
is a blend of western and Indian music. There are musicians who use the
oriental style as well.
Q) Are there musical people and non musical people.
Yes. Musical people are more responsive to sound and music. Not
everybody can play or sing properly. It is a matter of aptitude......
Some people are more talented than others.
How do you recognize musical aptitude.
By suitable tests including ear tests.
Q) What is an ear test.
An ear test is an application to determine the level of aural musical
Q) What is a musical composition
Composition is the interaction of original patterns and musical notes
Q) How do I recognize and choose a good composition.
By enhancing your Listening and musical perception. Then you will be
able to differentiate and appreciate the nuances.
Q) What is programmed music
It is the use of computer memory and copy application technology.
Small “bits” of sound can be entered into the computer program one after
the other and can be programmed to be retrieved together at will. A lot
of effects and other enhancements can be added.
Q) Is there a difference between a talented child and a gifted child.
Yes there is. A talented child will respond to musical notes and
patterns much faster than others. Talent means more than average levels
of perception. A gifted child will respond even faster. Gifted
supersedes talent. Both are inherent and inborn. You cannot learn to be
talented or gifted.
Natural Talent is a pre-disposition in the mind and the body, to do
the right thing. When a person who has natural talent for singing hears
someone sing, their body and mind “know” what the person is doing to get
And their body/mind knows how to do it too, or how to begin moving in
that direction. (They don’t have to know this consciously, that is “know
what they know, and how they know it, they just know). Some people come
in for lessons, and they “tend” to do everything right, from sitting
comfortably with the instrument, to positioning and using the fingers.
Some people do everything wrong, and must be shown, painstakingly and
minutely, exactly what to do”.
Q) Do I let the parents interfere and tell me what to do
This problem occurs very frequently when the teacher is unsure of a
given situation. Parents start interfering when they sense that a
teacher is indecisive. A teacher who is knowledgeable in music education
will deal firmly and politely with the situation.
Q) What is the most important aspect of teaching music.
It is the teaching of fundamentals and making sure the pupils have
fun learning and retaining it.
Q)What are the fundamentals.
The fundamentals are Pitch, melody and Rhythm
Q) What is pitch
Pitch is the plane of a system chosen to play a given piece of music.
It is the frequency of choice on which a song is based. It is commonly
called the key. usic has a system of patterns and notes. The system of
notes is called a scale. To be Continued...