Art, culture, and a rich heritage are deeply ingrained in the beautiful island of Sri Lanka. These intangible gems enhance the country’s value and bring its name to the world. Among them, the music of Sri Lanka and its talented musicians hold a significant place. Sri Lankan music has a long history, with traditional music and various genres that have evolved over time, shaped by cultural and religious influences.
Sinhalese Musicians in Sri Lanka
Sinhalese, the widely spoken language in Sri Lanka, has given rise to a multitude of talented musicians. Let’s explore some of the notable Sinhalese musicians who have made their mark in the music industry:
1. Premasiri Khemadasa
Premasiri Khemadasa, born Guruge Premasiri Kemadasa Perera on January 25th, 1937, in Wadduwa-Thalpitiya, was a leading music composer. His compositions include popular songs such as “Piriniwan Mangalya,” “Sumudu Sayane,” and “Golu Hadawatha Theme Song.” He was also recognized with numerous awards, including the Eksath Lanka Rasika Sangamaya and the President’s Award for his outstanding contributions.
2. Pandit Amaradeva
Wannakuwatta Mitiwaduge Don Albert Perera, popularly known as Pandit Amaradeva, was a revered vocalist, music composer, and violinist. Born on December 5th, 1927, in Moratuwa, he is highly regarded for blending Sri Lankan folk music with Indian classical music. His songs, such as “Pasaloswaka Sanda” and “Tharu Arundathi,” resonate with audiences to this day. Amaradeva’s exceptional talent earned him accolades such as the Ramon Magsaysay Award and the President’s Award of Kala Keerthi.
3. Nanda Malini
Mirihana Arachchige Nanda Malini Perera, born on August 23rd, 1943, in Aluthgama, is a renowned vocalist known for her powerful voice and traditional style. Her career took off as a child singer with the popular song “Budu Sadu,” and she went on to contribute to movies like “Ranmuthu Duwa.” Nanda Malini’s songs tackle various aspects of life, love, and social issues, and her patriotic compositions continue to inspire feelings of national pride.
4. Clarence Wijewardane
Vithana Kuruppu Arachchilage Clarence Arthur Somasinghe Wijewardena, born on August 3rd, 1943, in Brampton Estate Haputale, is considered the father of Sri Lankan pop music. He formed the band Moonstones and made remarkable contributions as a singer, guitarist, music composer, and director. Clarence’s melodious voice and guitar compositions revolutionized Sinhala pop music, making him an irreplaceable figure in the industry. His songs, including “Seetha Sulan” and “Sandak Besa Giya,” continue to captivate audiences.
5. Mohideen Baig
Alhaj Kareem Mohideen Baig, born on December 5th, 1919, in Tamil Nadu, India, migrated to Sri Lanka and left an indelible mark on Sinhalese music. He became well-known for his collection of Buddhist songs and his contributions to various Sinhalese films. Mohideen Baig’s unforgettable songs, such as “Buddhang Saranang” and “Maya,” are still cherished, especially during festivals like Vesak and Poson.
6. Kasun Kalhara
Kasun Kalhara Jayawardhana, born on November 3rd, 1981, in Rajagiriya, is a versatile singer, musician, and record producer. With his mastery of Experimental, Classical, Rock, Pop, and Latin genres, Kasun has captivated audiences with his soulful voice. He has composed music for teledramas, movies, and stage performances, leaving a lasting impact on the music industry.
7. Bathiya and Santhush (BnS)
Bathiya Jayakody and Santhush Weeraman, collectively known as BnS, have made a significant impact on the Sri Lankan music scene. Passionate about blending Sri Lankan classical music with contemporary Western styles, they have created a unique and refreshing sound. With chart-topping hits like “Ai Kale Adare” and “Chandani Payala,” BnS have won numerous awards, including the TYOP Award for their contribution to Culture & Arts.
Yohani Diloka de Silva, born on July 30th, 1993, is a rising star in the Sri Lankan music industry. Her viral hit song “Manike Mage Hithe” gained worldwide recognition, especially in India and other South Asian countries. Yohani’s unique voice and musical rhythms have resonated with a global audience. She continues to produce captivating music and has been honored with prestigious awards like the Raigam Tele’es Award and the ‘Kala Keerthi Abhimani’ award.
Tamil Musicians in Sri Lanka
Tamil language songs, influenced by South Indian culture, hold a special place in Sri Lanka’s music industry. Though their numbers may be smaller, the contributions of Tamil musicians are immense. Let’s explore some of the renowned Tamil musicians in Sri Lanka:
1. Dinesh Kanagarathnam
Aaryan Dinesh Kanagaratnam, popularly known as ADK, is a Sri Lankan Hip-Hop and R&B music artist. He started his career in 2005 with the song “Naan Sonnal.” ADK is recognized as the best Tamil rapper in Sri Lanka and has collaborated with renowned artists such as A.R. Rahman. His work as a music director in Tamil movies further showcases his versatility and talent.
2. Arjun Coomaraswamy
Arjun Coomaraswamy, known as Arjun, is a British Sri Lankan singer-songwriter, beatboxer, and record producer. He has successfully fused contemporary Western and Eastern sounds, combining R&B with South Asian music. Arjun’s hit songs like “Just Friends” and “Take It Back” have received international recognition, and he was honored with the UK Asian Music Awards’ Best Urban Act Award.
3. Krishan Maheson
Krishan Maheson is a Sri Lankan rap artist and music producer. He played a pivotal role in shaping the Tamil rap scene in Sri Lanka and released the country’s first-ever Tamil hip-hop album, “Asian Avenue,” in 2005. Krishan’s contributions as a solo artist and as part of various collaborations have established him as a prominent figure in the industry.
English Musicians in Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan music industry has also seen the influence of Western music, thanks to musicians who primarily focus on the English language. Here are some notable English musicians in Sri Lanka:
1. Cliff Foenander
Cliff Foenander was a pioneering musician in Sri Lanka with a global reach. He gained popularity through Radio Ceylon, where his songs, like “Dancing on the Moon” and “Cry,” captivated audiences. Cliff continued to entertain as a solo artist in Melbourne, Australia, showcasing his talents as an all-around entertainer.
2. Desmond Kelly
Desmond Kelly, known for his popular song “Dream World,” made a significant impact during his time. After migrating to Melbourne in 1962, Desmond pursued a successful career as an entertainer and actor in Australia. His contributions to the Sri Lankan and English music scenes remain cherished to this day.
3. Natasha Rathnayake
Natasha Rathnayake, a pop singer and songwriter, has made a name for herself in the English music industry. Her songs, such as “Shake that” and “Let it Go,” have garnered a dedicated following. Apart from her music career, Natasha also works as a professional model, brand ambassador, female activist, and social worker.
The Sri Lankan music industry is a rich tapestry of diverse talents and styles. The musicians mentioned in this article are just a glimpse of the many exceptional artists who have shaped the industry. Their contributions continue to resonate with audiences, bringing joy and inspiration to listeners worldwide. So, take a moment to explore the rhythms and melodies of Sri Lankan music and immerse yourself in the enchanting world created by these talented musicians.