Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sunil Santha

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Sunil Santha

Background information
Birth name Baddaliyanage Don Joseph John
Born April 14, 1915 (1915-04-14) (age 94)
Origin Sri Lanka
Died April 11, 1981 (aged 65)
Genre(s) Sri Lankan music
Occupation(s) Singer-Songwriter,
Years active 1945–1981

Sunil Santha (1915-1981) was a renowned and influential Sri Lankan singer. He was pivotal in the development of Sinhala music in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He composed the soundtrack to Lester James Peries' Rekava in 1956.



[edit] Life and career

[edit] Early life (1915–1945)

Santha was born Baddaliyanage Don Joseph John on April 14, 1915 in Dehiyagatha, Jaela to a catholic family. His parents died when he was young, and Santha was raised by members of his maternal family. His uncle M.J. Perera was a musician and taught Santha to play the harmonium at a young age.[1]

Santha passed the school leaving certificate examination with the highest marks in his class as a young adult and was awarded the Weeraratne award. In 1933 he completed the Teachers Final Examination and began work as a teacher at the Mt. Calvary School. While tenured there, Santha led the school to three consecutive victories at the Southern Schools Music Competition. In 1939 he passed the Intermediate Gandarva Examination and received a certificate in physical training. He also learned to play the piano and guitar at that time.[2]

In 1940 Santha gave up teaching and travelled to Shantiniketan to study music. The following year Santha enrolled at the University of Bathkanda and worked to get his Visharadha Degree in 1944. He then adopted the name "Sunil Santha."[1]

[edit] Radio Ceylon (1946–1952)

On March 2, 1946 Santha held a recital for the Kumaratunga Commemoration ceremony and was asked to record for Radio Ceylon. Over the next seven years, he would have several popular songs including "Olu Pipila" (the first song he recorded), "Handapane", "Ho Ga Rella Negay", "Bowitiya Dan Palukan Vare", "Suwada Rosa Mal Nela", "Kokilayange", and "Mihikathanalawala." Santha stressed his Sinhala heritage in his songs opting to sing in Sinhala rather than English and not copy Hindustani and Tamil songs of India. An occasional songwriter himself, Santha sang songs written by lyricists like Huberth Dissanayake, Munidasa Cumaratunga, Raipiel Tennakoon, Father Marcelline Jayakody, and Arisen Ahubudu.[1]

In 1952 Santha was banned from Radio Ceylon after refusing to audition for Indian musician Ratanjankar, whom the corporation had brought from South India to oversee the direction of music on their stations. That year he married school teacher Bernadet Leelawathi Jayasekara.[2]

[edit] Later life

Santha experienced monetary problems after being kicked off Radio Ceylon. He tried his hands at various trades like photography and selling clothes over the next few years.[2]

In 1953 Santha started a small school at the Maradana Newton building. He vowed to teach 10 pupils for free. Santha's friend Albert Perera (later known as W.D. Amaradeva) joined the school as a teacher. In 1955 journalist D.B. Dhanapala started a campaign to expose Santha's plight and raised some money through his column on Lankadeepa.[2]

In 1967 Director General Mr. Neville Jayaweera asked Santha to come back to the national radio service. Santha worked with Amaradeva and H.W. Rupasinghe to develop music and audition new artists.[2]

Santha moved into his uncle's house in 1970. In 1977 a record titled Sunil Gee was produced.[2]

Shantha died on April 11, 1981 from a heart attack shortly after his son Jagath drowned in a swimming pool.[2]

Critical Assessment of his works

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