| M. S. Fernando was star in the 70s. He is someone who took Baila into a new sphere giving it a Sinhala touch. A unique dance act added glamour to his performances. We admire and respect singers like Cliff Richard and Michael Jackson not only for their vocal proficiency but also for their mesmerizing dancing performances.
Wasn’t MS a local artist of the same calibre? If one sits back and think logically how MS performed a song like Obata Thibena Adare Mama on stage interacting with the audience, he or she would understand he was a world-class performer. He was able to sing in five languages and was much respected and admired by his ardent fans, let alone the late President William Gopallawa, who awarded him with the Golden Lotus A. K. A. Ran Neluma lifetime achievement award in 1973. Baila (Bailar) is a legacy from Portuguese. Meaning of Bailar is ‘to dance’. We have adapted many words from Portuguese along with Baila and Kaffrhina, which had crept into our culture as an entertaining style of music.
Chorus Baila and Waada Baila the two genres were tailored with 6/8 beat and blended with Sinhala lyrics to produce a Sinhala folk Baila style. Wally Bastian introduced Baila to Sri Lanka’s Mainstream in 1960s though it was popular much earlier in our country. MS and Maxwell Mendis shared the reign in the 70s and gave Baila a more Sinhala touch.
The king of Baila in the 70s was none other than M. S. Fernando. He entered the scene with the duet Malak Kada, Konde Gasala (with Pushparani Ariyaratne). Lyrics were by Karunaratne Abeysekera.
MS hit the limelight with Sili Siliye Nawa Suwandak. This trend towards stardom was followed by Rasa Ahara kawala, Asoka Mal Mala , Seetha Sulang, Mae Ahapalla Lamayo and Lassana Baila.
MS in short
- * Could sing in five languages.
* Peak period of stardom is in the 1970s.
* Instrumental in giving a Sinhala flavour to Baila
* Had a flair for creating instant Baila
* Had acted in films and teledramas as well.
* Honoured with ‘Golden Lotus’ award for lifetime achievement in 1973
MS was born on March 4,1936 in Mount Lavinia to Laron Fernando and Litee Gomes. He studied at St. Anthony’s College Mount Lavinia and Christ Church, Dehiwala while learning music from the veteran musician J. A. Sathiadasan. Very few knew MS could instantly create a Baila according to prevailing context and sing.
In the 70s M S got the rare opportunity to enter into the celluloid world firstly as a playback singer.
Simon Aiyai Martin Aiyai (Adare Hithenawa Dakkama), Menike Mama (Dan Mathakada) and Thetiya Medde Kalu Karaapu (Maruwa Samaga Wase) are few of his film songs. MS himself gave life to some of these songs on screen. He had a stint as an actor in many films and a few teledramas. It is said that director Neil Rupasinghe once blamed M S for singing Menike Mama Aye Gedara Enawa in musical shows prior to releasing of his film Den Mathakada.
He once sang a somewhat unusual song, Marina.. Marina, which tells about a Sri Lankan soldier who bids adieu to his girlfriend in a foreign country where he had fought the war. M. S. Fernando died on April 9,1994. But still that damsel called Marina lingers in our minds.