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‘Me a mere entertainer’ - Sunil

Sunil Perera campaigned against the “Prabuddha-Peechang” the fad of yesteryear that happened in the music field of Sri Lanka a few decades ago. He has created more than hundred Sinhala pop songs during the last 40 years. Whatever the songs he and his band Gypsies created became hits in the music charts of Sri Lanka. Sunil Perera talked to us recently. The experienced and mature pop musician spells out his conceptions of music.

Q: How do you compare the music cultures before and after 1977?


Sunil Perera

A: Our band started in 1969. The enthusiasm was much greater in the 70’s. We had only one radio station called Radio Ceylon. It had only four transmissions; two Sinhala channels, one English channel and a Tamil channel. The music artists were almost depending on the radio. There was no TV or live musical shows compared with todays. The enthusiasm of seeing and listening to the singing artists was much greater.

Today what we have is a very much commercialized field of music. I don’t say it is wrong and that is the way it is. But in regard to the live shows, they should not show them on TV over and over again. When you do that on TV, the live artistes will not have any kind of demand. They wouldn’t have a crowd because the crowd has already seen them. No viewer wants to participate in an event that they have already seen on TV.

And on the other hand, the politicians wanted musicians to take part in their political activities on stage. Politicians wanted to draw the crowd. Until the 1990s, I also took part in those political stages. These political musical shows starts around 8.00pm and ends around 2.00am. When you have too much of anything it becomes nothing. 70s, and even the early 80s were the fantastic moments of enthusiasm. But I knew that a new generation is coming. And we were choosing our songs much with humour. We were not doing what the other Sinhala artistes were doing. These artistes were focusing on love songs. But we tried to create a lot of humour and entertainment. This is where we were different but we may have not been good.

Q: The Sri Lankan Music culture describes you as an entertainment centered artiste?

A: True. I am that kind of an artiste because I always try to create entertainment on stage. We are not great singers or musicians. We Gypsies are an average music band with average singers. But we had the blessing and the luck for 40 years. Still we are engaged in all the private functions such as weddings, company functions, promotions, and other advertisements. They are more than enough for us to exist in this field. We are not depending on peak events or major outdoor concerts.

Q: Why don’t you think of involving yourself in some serious stuff in music?

A: The political scenario is not conducive. We tried to expose corruption on stage musically. People loved it. We should thank the politicians for our success due to their corruption that they gave us some material to work with. And we didn’t try to give a particular political form to it. We only focused on corruption in humorous manner.

Q: After the end of 80’s, the trend was to transfer songs from an audio version to a video version. Do you think it is a positive move in music?

A: Till we had the television in our country, we had to express our songs through the video. Only thing was that the video was so expensive. So we chose one of our most important or attractive song and did a video out of it. Video is a sort of a channel to promote the song.

Today you cannot sell a song without a video. The musical taste varies from era to era. Some people may not like the video. But this the way of this industry. New generation might like something totally different to what my generation likes. You can’t say that the kind of music exist today is bad. There are so many good young artistes. You cannot say that my generation of 70’s has the most fantastic songs. No. It is the matter of taste. Time will tell you what will exist out of these recorded songs today. So we cannot criticize things now itself. And see so many good and bad young artiste in this field. And we had mediocre artists in the yesteryear as well.

You have good and bad in every era. You cannot compare what was created in 70s with what is created today.The songs in the bus are what the bus driver likes. And If you go to the Free Trade Zone, the working girls there have a different taste. They love a different kind of artistes. They mostly like the people who directly focusing on love.

If an artist doesn’t have the ability to do anything live on stage, that artist will not have a long run in the music field. You cannot make a fool out of everybody every time. What is good will stay on. And what is bad will chased out.

In yesteryear it took a long time to release an album. Lack of artists was also a vital reason for this. This took place due to commercialization. But today everything is moving rapidly. In our days, We came after school and engaged with all kind of playing. But today the children after school more concerned on computers. It may not good for their health. But you cannot help it weather you like it or not. Thus, you cannot criticize the variety of songs in the market.

If you don’t like, please don’t buy that. And everybody has the human rights to record a song. You cannot go and criticize that person weather his or her song is in the correct pitch and standards or not.

Q: Earlier you were a strong campaigner against the “Prabuddha-Peecahng” difference. Now both these parties are facing the same crisis in standards of music. How you define this new condition in your industry?

A: I still like some of these early songs of Victor Rathnayake, Nanda Malini and Pandit Amaradewa etc. We still play some of their songs in functions such as weddings. But they have been always criticizing everything apart from their work. That is what I don’t like. And the popular simple songs such as Gypsies and Clarence sang not been tolerated by them.

This is bad. It is just a matter of style. There are lot of styles have in the world music such as Country Music, Rock Music, Jazz Music and etc. If you don’t like my style, you have to do your style. But you should not criticize others believing that as your style is the best right thing. And we are not running through any crisis in quality. Our last album released in 2004 and it really did well.

But they may going through a hard time. And they may have been facing a hard time to have a producer for their songs. May be that their type of songs are not accepted by the public today.

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