Samarakoon was born to a Christian family in Padukka, Sri Lanka on 13 January 1911. He had his primary and secondary education at Christian College, Kotte, presently known as Sri Jayawardenapura M.V.Kotte. His Sinhala Guru was Pandit D.C.P. Gamalathge. Later he served his Alma mater as a teacher of Music and Art. Samarakoon left for the Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan in India to study art and music. After six months he abandoned his studies and returned to Sri Lanka, and changed his name to Ananda Samarakoon, embracing Buddhism. Then he served as the music teacher of Mahinda College, Galle from 1938 to 1942.
In 1937, the popular music of Sri Lanka consisted of songs derived from the North Indian Ragadhari music. These songs lyrics often contained meaningless phrases with little or no literary merit. Samarakone set out to create a form of a music that can be classified as Sri Lanka's own and came out with the song Ennada Menike (1940) that paved the foundation for the artistic Sinhala music.