| Sunil Edirisinghe, one may say, is a famous male vocalist that grew up within the Sinhala-Buddhist culture of this island. Most of his songs after 1980s represent his nationalist personality in art. But when he began singing career such an aesthetic culture of local Sinhala nationalism was not prominent. Until the 1980s Sunil was just a singer who made his mark through a film song named as "Sandakada Pahanaka ..." He sang over the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Cooperation between intervals. It is essential to read the colourful text of such a vocal artist. We met him recently and gathered his views for this article.
Q: What is the background you entered into this field of music?
A: I had this talent from my young age. My singing ability was highly admired in school and by my family. My brother Sachischandra Edirisinghe's first film named 'Mathara Achchi' was my first opportunity of sing. He asked me to sing 'Sandakada Pahanaka' in this film. This song became a hit in the Sri Lankan hit parade chart chart of 1970's.
Victor Rathnayake the veteran musician and my brother Sichischandra were very enthusiastic with my singing, and asked me to study the exact technicalities in music.
I didn't have the at least the acquaintance of basic music notes. So I could not have my own projection of voice through the knowledge of music.
Therefore I started learning the North Indian Classical Music from the late P.V. Nandasiri was publically admired as an excellent tablist and a vocalist.
He was a refine teacher who then taught music in the 'Heywood' Institution of aesthetics. I studied under him for number of years.
My singing became natural and affective while I trained my voice with the knowledge of music. This acquaintance with quality music and the popularity I gained through the song 'Sandakada Pahanaka' gave me the opportunity to enter the film screen with popular songs in 1973. The songs such as 'Kuda Game Maddahane'(in the film 'Hulavali'), 'Hise Gini Avilethe'('Sri Madara') are some of them. Later, the song titled "Wadakayaneni Obe Sithraya" made me a significant singer over the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corperation. This song was written by Saman chandranath and the melody composed by my teacher the late P.V Nanadasiri. Until 1980s, I sang only few songs. Then, I had a chance to voice in an E.P recording, which is technically limited to a recording space of four songs. 'Chandamadala', 'Kaurunda Oba Mage', 'Pata Dedunu Sedila' and 'Thanikale' are these songs.
These songs became hits that time and, this introduced my voice in the field of music in a different way. I became an icon in the Nationalist Music Culture. Dr Mrs Deepa Nago, the Acadamic vocalist who came to SLBC from India graded me as a Super Grade Vocal artist. I suppose that this was the turning point in my singing career.
And my superior predecessors of music such as Ananda Samarakoon, Sunil Santha, Amradeva and others have already established themselves as following a nationalistic approach. They showed me the path to build my career in music.
Their mode of singing had not been taken from India. They were originals. These originals derived from an independently experimented mode, which was a blend with our Sinhala folk music and the technicalities of North Indian Classical music.
The tendency of our music culture with local classics journeyed in a middle path and became popular after the appearance of the veteran musician and vocalist Victor Rathnayake.
He innovated a new unfailing style of popular music on our own and this has greatly affected to his musical offspring of composers such as Rohana Weerasinghe. On the other hand Somadasa Alvitigala, Lional Algama and Premasiri Kemadasa have surfaced as film musicians into the song chart of this country. Kemadasa was an outstanding artist among them who fascinated an audience with a new dimension in Sri Lankan music. Expert vocalists such as Nanda Malini and Amaradeva involved their vocal chords with Kemadasa highly experimental music compositions.
And no one of any musician in those days directly copied each other though they were affected by the other's styles indirectly or unconsciously. I entered into the arena of singing with this environmental background of music.
Q: Most of your popular songs are lyrical and metaphorical . They reflected Sinhala opinion . Why are you bound to this pattern of vocal vocal music?
A: From my childhood I was very fond of Amaradeva's music and singing. My two elder sisters attended his music class. I used to go there with them and had a chance to listen to his music. And I tried to sing his songs when I came back home. The religious background of the Chief Thera and the Daham Pasal (Sunday School) of our temple has enormously influenced my way of music.
Whenever I choose a lyric, this background instinctively affects me. I don't think the nationalisticideology has directly affected my singing voice.
Yet I am a person who is so enthusiastic with my traditional cultural ideology and its values. Sometimes, the sound of religious Pirith may have affected my vocal chords. Yet I am not so sure about that.
I prefer Tranquility and wisdom in an artistic creation. You need an ego-less condition in spirit to taste art. The delicate nuances of the singing tone of Amaradeva are very hard to identify with a mere mind. You need a higher spirit with peace to catch them.
Q: Have you a space in this present cultural scenario?
A: No. This culture highlights only the market values.
The television and the mobile net almost captured this business of music. Whenever talented children appeared in a Reality TV Show, they get a chance to express their talent. Yet, before or after this, these children should follow a better path in music. But the present atmosphere of this cultural market won't allow it. We, in our days, also had a market producing songs with cassettes. Yet It didn't harm this much in music.
The law of Intellectual Property is very clear cut in this country. Yet it is not put into practice. Art should move from fascination to wisdom. Yet today the market has brought everything into a puzzle.