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
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
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
“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
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.