11th death anniversary of the veteran vocalist falls
Re, Awasara Netha Mata,
Oruwaka Pawena, Piyapath Sala,
Madu Mala, Thani Wee Sitinnai,
Upul Nuwan Vidaha and
Me Meyi Gaha Yata
are among some of his most popular and
Maestro who touched deepest emotions of people
After more than a decade his songs still top the charts of present
day radio and television programs. Only a few fail to be captivated by
the mellow voice which fitted so well into the heartrending melodies he
Eleven years have lapsed since the nation was rocked by the startling
news of the sudden death of Milton Mallawarachchi, the virtuoso who
touched the deepest emotions of the public through his musical genius.
The gifted musician passed away at a private hospital in Colombo in 1998
on a day like today leaving behind many golden memories and silver
Veteran vocalist Milton Mallawarachchi
The old boy of Ananda Sastralaya, Kotte, first emerged into the
limelight after a brief stint with a short lived group called Sakyans
and later with La Ceylonians beside Noel Ranasinghe and others.
His performance with the latter, as a chorus singer for songs like
Daha Duka Vindala and Tharuna Jeewithe Ape Vinodeyen, set the foundation
for him to be recognized as a vocalist. While recording was in progress
at the Sarasavi Studio his talent for singing was noted by Mervi
Rodrigo, the first Sinhala recording engineer of Sri Lanka.
Rodrigo had been so taken up with Malawarachchi’s voice that he had
begged the young vocalist to go solo, a step which had many great
achievements in store for him.
Rodrigo then introduced the gifted youth to Patrick Corera who
produced Malawarachchi’s first four songs which launched his solo
career. He began his venture into music in 1969 with Oruwaka Pawena.
The song became an instant hit and he followed it up with Ran Kuduwa,
Sansara Sevanella and Managala Neth Managale, all composed by
Karunaratne Abeysekara with music by Mohamed Sali.
He went on to sing oriental songs till he came across the fortune of
meeting the renowned musicians Clarence Wijewardena and Stanley Peries.
A Western flavour was then added to some of his tracks like Me Ha Eda,
Andannepa Den, Awasara Netha Mata and Sihinen Oba Mata. Like most great
vocalists of his decade Milton too underwent rejections and setbacks but
these never faltered his innate talent and dedication.
He had faith in a good voice and did not believe in following trends
which swept across the industry at certain ages.
He rightfully believed that such practices were short-lived and a
melodious voice coupled with quality creations would outlive the time.
Together with contemporaries such as Victor Ratnayake, T. M.
Jayaratne, Clarence Wijewardena, Priya Sooriyasena and Sanath Nandasiri,
Mallawarachchi had to overcome the craze for Hindi melodies which were
monopolizing the local music industry.
Instead of singing to Hindi melodies, these artistes of the ’70s took
up the challenge of creating an identity of their own by indulging in
In a career spanning over three decades Mallawarachchi had sung over
1,000 songs. He was also one of the era’s leading playback vocalists
with nearly a 100 film songs to his name.
His debut to playback singing was in 1971 film Poojithayo and in 1978
he clinched the award for the best playback singer for Kendan Yannang
Ran Mal Mala Dala, a song from Sena Samarasinghe’s movie, Aethin Aethata.
Though H.R. Jothipala was the most sought after playback king of the
era, when it came to romantic songs or songs expressing distress a.k.a.
Viraha Geetha, Mallawarachchi scored above them all.
Eda Re, Awasara Netha Mata, Oruwaka Pawena, Piyapath Sala, Madu Mala,
Thani Wee Sitinnai, Upul Nuwan Vidaha and Me Meyi Gaha Yata are among
some of his most popular and noteworthy songs. He had sung duets with
some of the best known Sinhala vocalists like Angeline Gunatileke and
Rukmani Devi and most of his songs were composed by Karunaratne
Abeysekera, K. D. K. Dharmawardena, Premakirthi de Alwis, Upali
Danawalawithana, Dharmasiri Gamage, Ajantha Ranasinghe, Shelton
Weeraratne, Kularatne Ariyawansa, Ananda Padmasiri, Vernon Perera,
Chitrananda Abeysekera, Bandara Wijetunga and Vijaya Ramanayake.
One of the distinguished features in his songs was the fact that when
analyzing the lyrics, a storyline is apparent.
Milton and wife with their children
He paid special attention in choosing a song with a narrative element
and a melody which is able to grasp the attention and live in the hearts
of its listeners.
Preferring light music and the instruments like the saxophone and the
guitar to accompany his vocals, Mallawarachchi composed most of the
melodies for his songs.
He even dedicated five songs for each member of his family: Etha
Epita Dura Aakase composed by Karunaratne Abeysekara for his wife
Malathie, Ranil Puthe composed by K.D.K. Abeywardene for his eldest son,
Tharaka Puthe for his second son, Duwe Harshani composed by Premakeerthi
de Alwis and Du Nadee Hinehenawa for his daughters Harshani and Nadija.
Out of his four children the eldest, Ranil, followed the footsteps of
his father by turning towards music. The father and son did a song
together in 1996 titled May Lova Gamburui for Ranil’s maiden album.
Milton was the first vocalist to produce the first Sinhala music
cassette named Sanden Eha. Sri Lanka’s last record was also his Oruwaka
He was essentially a man of principles and never sought to bask in
the limelight through the media. Rather fame and fortune came his way
due to his talent and his quality of taking up whatever caught his
interest and performing it to the best of his ability.
He refrained from accepting tours abroad and paid due respect towards
his seniors. Apart from his love for music he harnessed a passion for
cricket and at one time in his life he possessed a dream of training his
son to become a cricketer one day.
Though more than a decade had passed since he bid adieu to the nation
his songs are still loved by many generations and by people from all
walks of life.
As long as his tunes continue to captivate many an audience and as
long as his voice graces many of the radio and television channels,
Milton Mallawarachchi will be very much alive among us.