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.

Songs

Aese Madura
Baesa Seethala Gangule
Balanna sonduriye
Ennada Menike
Jana Sema Mana
Karuna Nadiye
Kellane Numbalaa
Namuko Kimidhi
Peradhiga Aakasee
Podi Mal Ethano
Poson Poya Dina
Pudhamu Mee Kusum
Punchi Sudha
Ramya Wana Malee
Siri Saru Saara Kethee
sumano Podi Sumanoo
Sunil Guwane
Wile Malak Pipila

National anthem

One of Samarakoon's early compositions, Namo Namo Mata was nominated as the national anthem and was officially adopted as the national anthem of Ceylon on 22 November 1951, from a committee headed by Sir Edwin Wijeyeratne.Critics attacked Namo Namo Mata, particularly the "Gana" significance of the introductory words (Namo Namo Matha) which designate disease and ill luck. Samarakone was not a believer in "Gana" and the criticism caused him to write numerous articles counterattacking his critics to defend his composition. However, without his consent, the introductory words were changed to "Sri Lanka Mathaa" so that the "Gana" significance now would designate victory and prosperity