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Songstress with the divine touch

Sangeeth Visharadha Chandrika Siriwardena:

In the 70’s decade, the then Radio Ceylon used to air a mixture of good Sinhala songs, which were experimental creations. One of the songs which soothed our ears was Raththaranin Ran Mala Nobandata, which was sung by a female singer. We were more than mesmerized with the refreshing voice which rendered justice to the melody and lyrics.

Sangeeth Visharadha Chandrika Siriwardena. Picture by Saman Sri Wedage

The song visualized in our minds, a youthful seductress taking Ambula to the Kamatha, where her soul mate sheds sweat. The songstress was Sangeeth Visharadha Chandrika Siriwardene. These are excerpts of the most recent interview she had with the “Daily News.

After posing for a series of colourful photographs with her Thampura beside her, the graceful songstress was finally ready to express her views on various aspects of Sinhala song and contemporary music.

“An artist could perform and rid the people of all their sorrows in mortal life. Thus, all forms of art are the only means for mortals to understand gods”. Visharadha Siriwardena said with a pleasant smile. Devo Bhuta devan Yejet is a phrase in Upanishads which implies that, “Become a god, in order to worship god”.

This gifted singer recorded her maiden song at the age of 5 at Lama Mandapaya, in Radio Ceylon. “The Golden era of Sinhala Song was the 70’s decade when Ridgway Thilekeratne was the Chairman of SLBC”, says Visharadha Siriwardene.

At this period of time, a significant event occurred in her life. She was selected to the ‘Super Grade in Sinhala Light Song and Super Grade in Tamil Light Song’, apart from being selected to ‘A’ grade in classical singing, which is still an unbroken record in any radio channel in this country.

The auditions were done by Professor Miss Deepali Nag of All India Radio and Sangeeth Bhushanam, Professor T.N. Krishnan, the South Indian Music legend respectively. She flew to India for her Sangeeth Visharadha examination, which was held at Bhathkande Music University. There she had the honour of receiving a first class distinction and becoming the best student with highest marks.

“This background is essential for an artist”, the Visharadha singer said. “It is pathetic that today’s youth had become victims of so called Globalization. Inferior quality western singing styles had crept into all cultures of the world, ruining the rich cultures, heritages and values. Even the media is entangled in this vicious web”. she said this with great emotion.

A credible example to prove her point would be the ‘Super Star’ singers, who sing good evergreen Sinhala songs as contestants and end up singing garbage once they become Super Stars. Indulgence in these incorrect selections sees the downfall of their careers at the inception itself. These talented young singers are nipped in the bud.

Visharadha Chandrika is the only daughter of the well known musician/actor, Peter Siriwardena and music teacher/actress Karunadevi Siriwardene. She was brought up in a musical background in Kandy.

Her musical ability was nurtured in a North India Classical Musical background. Her first music teacher in school was Ms. Perera. (Wife of Syril Perera of M.G.P. Kalayathanaya fame) Pushpadana College Kandy, was her Alma Mater.

“Art is not for separation but for integration. Song could be used as a tool towards ending separation and nurturing harmony and warmth”, says this Visharadha singer. She has a huge regard for North Indian Classical Music.

“Any form of folklore song, Western song or a Western Symphony for that matter, could be notated and explained with ragas of North Indian Classical Music, which is only second to South Indian Karnataka Music which has 72 Ragas”, she says.

She has rendered her voice for more than 100 film songs, and was recognized with 3 Sarasaviya awards. Filmgoers would recall her song Nimwalallen in the film Hithawathiya, which has a touch of Lata Mangeshkar.

Her patriotic song, Ranabima Marune Sinhalayekunam received wide acclaim. In some films, she portrayed characters as Raththaran Amma, Dewduwa to name a few.

1983 July riots compelled her to fly to India to save her dear life from the insurgents who killed Premakeerthi de Alwis and Thewis Guruge. At this short stint, Indian music directors identified her ‘Soprano’ singing ability offered her to stay in India and sing for Karnataka films, which she turned down and flew back to her Motherland.

Speaking of creating visuals for TV songs, Visharadha Chandrika said, “Choreography is a very sensitive art. Dancing damsels won’t fit into any song, across the board. For an example, just see how the late M.S. Fernando and Nihal Nelson performed while singing. Using dancers for the performers of this caliber is detrimental”.

Almost all the songs of her newest album which is to be released in March 2010 are now recorded. Maestro Amaradeva had voiced the evergreen duet Kandan Yanne Kawada Ma... afresh, for this album. She hopes to conduct singing classes in 2010, starting from January. “The Degree of Sangeeth Visharadha is the qualification to study classical music”, says this versatile and humble songstress. ‘Constant practice’ is her motto.

Her loving husband, the Veteran Journalist Anton Alwis is the provider of moral support for all her endeavors. They are blessed with a son and a daughter.

Their daughter Jithendrika Jayakalani is a Bharatha Natyam dancer. Visharadha Chandrika sings for Arangethram’s and is a popular figure in the Tamil musical scene too. She urges the Government to intervene in standardizing Sinhala song and music.

“Pandith Ravi Shankar is the Cultural Ambassador of India. The great Chandramukhi is the state dancer of South India. They set a standard for others to follow”, said Sangeeth Visharadha Chandrika Siriwardena.

She lives with her soul mate in a quiet homely residence at 224, Handala Road, Handala, Wattala.


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