word ‘Remember’ is described in many dictionaries as to recollect,
recall, remind, reminisce etc, all of which mean to bring an image or
idea from the past into the mind. It implies a keeping in memory of some
significant incident or date that may be effortlessly registered in
one’s mind as though it were yesterday. Time on the other hand is the
compensating factor or healing mechanism for any loss or sorrow.
Every day in our impermanent living we are affected by passing away
of someone whom we love or hold in our heart with great esteem.
To overcome sorrow in such instances people have adopted many forms
to comfort themselves and in their memory, engaged in numerous religious
rights commonly known as transferring of merit to ‘uplift the soul’ of
In normal circumstances a dead person is remembered in seven days,
followed by three months and then annually on the death anniversary.
Unless the departed is a close relative the remembering process tends
to fade away from human memory.
|* Born in
*Educated at Ibbagamuwa Central College
* Student of Prof Ediriweera Sarathchandra
* Made music composition for Sinhabahu drama
* Received Best Music Award in 1963 for Kuweni contribution
* Died on March 7, 1998
On the contrary, religious leaders, divine messengers,
philanthropists, great rulers and those who had done immense service to
the society are remembered with respect on their death anniversaries.
While going through my log of archaic notes I was struck by an entry
which read ‘March 7, 1998’ - a memorable date when a dear friend
answered ‘the compulsory call from above’ while living in London.
H H Bandara (Bandes) was an intellectual, professional, patriot,
journalist, musician and, above all, a jewel of a friend.
Born in Kurunegala district and educated at Ibbagamuwa Central
College, during a period when the Sri Lankan society was saturated with
Colonial influence and only a handful of colleges in Colombo were
regarded as higher seats of learning, Bandes disproved such pseudo
theories by gaining admission to Peradeniya University and qualifying as
an honour’s graduate.
H H Bandara composed music for Sarachchandra’s Sinhabahu. File
The late Prof Ediriweera Sarathchandra, philosopher, man of letters
and a connoisseur of art, was a lecturer at Peradeniya during Bandara’s
Sarathchandra perceived young Bandara’s embryonic aesthetic talents
that overfilled patriotic receptivity.
The Professor afforded Bandara a unique opportunity to compose music
to one of Sarachchandra’s admired dramas - Sinhabahu.
Young Bundara’s originality in music composition made the stage play
When Sinhabahu became a hallmark, Bandara’s concentration to draw
inspiration from his native folk tradition and melodic creations
augmented. Like a magician, who holds the audience with the wagging of
his wand, Bandes soon began to ‘hypnotise’ his audiences with his flute.
He received the ‘Best Music Award’ in 1963 for his exemplary
contribution to Henry Jayasena’s play Kuweni. After concluding his
university education and working as an Assistant Director of Cultural
Affairs and as Assistant Secretary to the Minister of Education, H H
Bandara migrated to the United Kingdom, a completely strange country and
a totally alien culture to him.
Though he ‘settled down’ in London, he was deeply rooted in Sri
Lankan culture and tradition.
However, his appointment as a Librarian at the Oriental Manuscript
Division of the British Library in London compensated, at least in part,
to sustain the Sinhala culture and tradition while living in the UK. In
London, he met with his old Peradeniya contemporary, Namel Weeramuni,
who had already made his mark as a popular producer/director of stage
drama in Colombo.
Namel was also a serious student and follower of Prof Sarathchandra.
Akin to Bandes, Namel too had a burning yearning to revive Sinhala drama
in London. (He still continues from the ‘Punchi Thetare’ in Borella).
In 1983, I met with Bandes in London when Namel Weeramuni produced
two Sarathchandra’s Sinhala plays, Elova Gihin Melowa Ava and Raththaran
and designated H H Bandara as the director of music for both plays.
Modernising his creative talents Bandes conducted music intensifying
the plays into stylised drama. Persuaded by Namel and Bandes, I was
thrown into the proverbial deep end in stage drama in London where I
ended up in performing the beggar’s role in Elowa Gihin Melowa Awa on
three consecutive evenings at the Tricycle Theatre in London, with his
wife Lanka Bandara, Karuna Bodhinayake and Lilani Perera, each
performing the main female character of Kaluhamy respectively. Bandes
was an unassuming gentleman with two main characteristics, humility and
Such noble qualities made him a catalyst to attract people. He
published the first Sri Lankan tabloid in the UK. Was there a need to
help anyone in the community, he was always there to give a helping
hand, particularly to Sri Lankans. Towards the latter part of his life,
he advised and educated many Sri Lankan expatriates in London on the
subject of insurance, an area to some extent expatriates had a misguided
Bandes was ever willing and available at the beck of a telephone call
for those who needed assistance to pledge in the process of house
purchase or securing a child’s education program linked to an insurance
Sri Lankan cultural and arts programs in London received a
sledgehammer blow on March 7, 1998 at the demise of this blossomed
flutist and music originator.
His late wife, Lanka Bandara, lost a devout and a loving husband at
the time, the two daughters suffered the loss of a caring father and Sri
Lankan expatriates in London bereaved at the demise of a gem of a human
being whose loving memory has lingered on for 13 years to date. Those of
us who attended his funeral in Upper Norwood crematorium in South East
of London shed a silent tear whilst the Sinhabahu music which inspired
thousands over the years sounded as a heart breaking parting knell of
his final exit from our eyes.
Bandes, my dear friend, you have gone from us forever, but your
memory will linger on and the music you composed and the service you
rendered to your Motherland, your folk, your own culture, and your
friends will live forever.