Recollecting Music Icon Legend RA Chandrasena

During brief life span of only 56 years he had achieved incredible reputations as a proficient composer of music, a singer, teacher, a drama /film / light songs music director more over as an exclusive mentor to so many key music personalities in our music world.

by Sunil Thenabadu

There is no lasting spot for exploits and fame or you may quote Mark Anthony’s phrase. ”The good that one does is often interred”. The veritable truth of this statement is often witnessed in contemporary lives.Lofty and amazing feats of human endeavor very often failed to be lauded and commemorated by the state. Memories linger only in the minds of the fellow citizen. Human memories being frail they very often fade away.

Queerly, however, the two state televisionbroadcasters have decided toair a two-hour commemorative programs titled appropriately as “NomiyenaSihinaya” and “PeoLegend” tohonorpast legendsA legend who deserves a permanent place in this commemorative endeavors is Ranasinghe ArachchigeChandrasenaPerera, musician 1940 – 1980.

For many years to come, RAC will be spoken of as the father of the contemporary Sinhala music, one who retrieved the Sinhala music from ailing, in the pre-independence era. With his ardent fervor for Sinhala music, he gave it a form content direction and made it the fore runner of the modernSinhalamusic.

RAC hailed from Kandy. He was virtually a stranger to music industry.He hardly could evince any hereditary links to his musical prowess His sole guru was his father RA JierisPerera.RAC commenced his musicalexpedition as a “Carol Cart Singer.” He was the sole vocalist for a mobile Carol Cart created by his father which paraded traditionally in the streets of Dalada and beyond in Kandy. In Addition to his vocal talent RAC displayed innate skills in creating array of musical sounds and proved skillful in turning ordinary instruments likeharmonium and violin into electrical instruments. Thus commenced practice of vocal music composition being backed by instrumental variety.

RAC commenced his musical career in late 1930’s in theatre music and later at the then Radio Ceylon in “Lama Pitiya”. In year 1943 RAC met at the Radio Ceylon audition a talented singer SriyaniPerera whom he selected as his life partner marrying her in the year 1946 .This proved to be fortuitous one ,as his spouseSriyani and her three children were able sustain his vision after his demise.Theywere blessed with three children Thilangani.Lalith and Darshini. After his demise wife Sriyani sustained the RAC vision. Youngest daughter Darshini prolonged a career in music having graduated from the faculty of Aesthetic studies at the Kelaniya University. With elder sister Thilangani ,Darshini has recorded a very popular duet for RAC’s music composition titled “Malkiniththa wage Nangilassanai” recorded at the Sarasaviya studios in Kelaniya. Darshini is continuing her father’s music school even today after her mother’s demise in year 2009.

Reputed and loved for his musical composition,RAC has also been ardently honored for being the mentor for legendary singers like Dharmadasa Walpola, Victor Ratnayake .HR Jothipala,Nihal Nelson, PunsiriSoysa and a host of others and musicians like PremasiriKhemadasa. It is reliably learnt that it was RAC who initiated Victor Ratnayake to the musical world in 1962 at a show in Kandy Club.VR was the violinist for his orchestra at that time.Since then RAC had composed music for many of his popular hit songs including “MohenMulawela” RAC is said to have provided the opportunity for HR Jothipala to travel to South India initially by introducing him to BAW Jayamanne.

From the year 1948 it was RAC whomade all musical arrangements for indoor and outdoor musical concerts. In 1953 when Mohamed Rafi visited Sri Lanka it had been RAC who had made all music arrangementsand inviting local artistes like Rukmani Devi and Mohideen Beg. This was a resounding success and aide in RAC being labelled as Sri Lanka’s Naushad.

RAC had made the music compositions for seven Sinhala films since the 1950’s.In those films there had been around 8 to 10 songs in each film. The audiences had flocked to hear the songs. Thefirst song for his own music composition had been “Jeevithe Preethi Sancharayaknovelowe” for the film “KolambaHadayo” sung by Dharmadasa Walpola in year 1972 which was recorded at Ceylon studio. The other films with his musical scores were Iranganie,Mathabedaya,DaivaVipakaya,VediBima,Vanaliya and Miringuwa.The vocalists chosen were Rukmani Devi,Mohideen Beg, Dharmadasa Walpola,Shirley Blight, Eddie Jayamanne,SuriyaRani,GSBRani,LathaWalpola,SujathaPerera,MiltonPerera and Mabel Blight.

RAC has sung many songs composing his own music. The highlight was theme song for the drama “SandaKinduri”, the “DasabaladariBuduBalaPera Kala” with lyrics by Professor SL Kekulawela.This song was reproduced and sung by his grandson HarshadevaAriyasinghe in year 2013.

It is learnt that in early 1950’s it had been RAC who was commissioned to provide musical flourishes. He had been accountable for inviting singers like Mohideen Beg, Rukmani Devi and rest.

He established his own musical school in year 1951 “Chandrasena Institute of Music”. This helped many aspiring musicians. He never discriminated anyone who were keen on learning.

In year 1961 RAC launched a “gramophone record company” under the label RAC and Shrimath producing all music compositions of his, on 45 RPM, EP records exclusively marketed for the Sri Lankan Sinhala audiences. This venture was not successful. He had before his death in 1980 commenced a piano business which was continued by his wife Sriyani.

During brief life span of only 56 years he had achieved incredible reputations as a proficient composer of music, a singer, teacher, a drama /film / light songs music director more over as an exclusive mentor to so many key music personalities in our music world.

The proverb “good die young” was amply illustrated by RAC’s death. He was barely 56 when he died. During his brief life time he realized his sole passion of enhancing and enriching his beloved Sinhala music. More than his innovative contributions musically, his greatest legacy to the musical world was to identify guide and nurture those artistes of modern times who made Sinhala music a mammoth advance be admired.


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