Pandit W. D. Amaradeva

Maestro of Sri Lanka Music

Sri Lankabhimanya Wannakuwatta Waduge Don Albert Perera better known by his adopted name Amaradeva, was a prominent Sri Lankan vocalist, violinist and composer. Primarily using traditional instruments like sitars, tablas and harmoniums, Amaradeva incorporates Sinhala folk music with Indian ragas in his work. Many consider Pandit Amaradeva’s contribution to the development of Sinhala music as unmatched; hence, he is occasionally cited as the Maestro of Sri Lanka Music.

In the mid-1950s, Amaradeva in his Janagayana project consulted experts of the Kandyan dance tradition like Pani Bharata, Kiriganita, Gunamala, Ukkuva and Suramba in his path to understand what constituted Sinhala folk music. Noting that it mostly revolved around a single melody, he decided to add verses that would lead up to the central melody which would now be a chorus thus forming two parts removing restrictions that had existed earlier. In doing so, Amaradeva created a uniquely Sinhalese music style that stayed true to folk tradition while incorporating outside influences.

Born           :-   Wannakuwatta Waduge Don Albert Perera
                          5 December 1927
                          Moratuwa, Sri Lanka
Died             :- 3 November 2016 (aged 88)
                          Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, Sri Lanka
Nationality :-   Sri Lankan
Education   :- Bhatkhande Music Institute
Alma mater :-   Bhatkhande Music Institute
                          Siddharta Vidyalaya
                          Kalutara Vidyalaya
                          Sri Sumangala College
Occupation :-   Musician, singer, composer, Chancellor of the University of                                 the Visual and Performing Arts
Years active :-   1947–2016
Spouse       :-   Wimala Amaradewa
Children       :-   Ranjana, Subhani, and Priyanvada

In 1972, Pandit Amaradeva composed the music for the Maldivian National Anthem (Gaumii salaam) at the request of Maldivian Government.

He found steady work as an artist on Radio Ceylon, where his unique vision and talent could be exhibited to an audience wider than he had ever before known – earning him a position at the Bhatkhande Music Institute in Lucknow, India. In 1955, Amaradeva won the All India violin competition. After extensive training, Albert returned to Sri Lanka as Pandit Wannakuwatta waduge Don Amaradeva.The name Amaradeva which translates as Immortal god was given to him by Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra (Sri Lanka's foremost playwright and a close associate).

During this time, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) had only begun emerging as an independent nation, and the question of what Sri Lankan music was, was slowly being addressed with equal vigour by intellectuals, artists and the general public. In response to the spirit of these times, Amaradeva began interweaving indigenous folk music with the North Indian ragas he had studied in Lucknow, thereby giving expression to a more sophisticated cadence.

His other innovations include his experimentation with Western harmonies and counter-harmonies, as well as with South Indian and Tamil musical forms. In the song 'Ran Dahadiya Bindu Bindu', Amaradeva incorporated the Baila music of his hometown. His opus, however, remains the work he did with Sri Lanka's celebrated lyricist Mahagama Sekera, in exploring the contours of fusing classical Sinhala poetry with his unique musical intonation. In time, Amaradeva's music came to reflect an entire philosophy, reflective of the spirit of a nation.

He has composed music for ballet (Karadiya, Nala Damayanthi, etc.), film (Ranmuthu Duwa, Gam Peraliya, Ran Salu, Delovak Athara, Gatavarayo, Rena Girav, Thun Man Handiya, Puran Appu, etc.), theatre (Wessantara, etc.), radio and television. He is the creator of the mando-harp, a musical instrument combining the mandolin and the harp.

Amaradeva is credited as having introduced artists such as Nanda Malini and Edward Jayakody to the wider audience. Many artists such as Sunil Edirisinghe, Victor Ratnayake and Neela Wickramasinghe have credited him as a major influence on their work. Dr. Lester James Peries has described his voice as the greatest musical instrument. Amaradeva has also been described as the defining musician of Sinhala civilization for his role in the creation of a national tradition.

Amaradeva was married to Wimala, together they had one son (Ranjana Amaradeva), and two daughters (Subhani Amaradeva, herself a talented vocalist, and Priyanvada Amaradeva). He was a patron of numerous charities. W. D. Amaradeva was the second Chancellor of the University of the Visual and Performing Arts.

Honours

  • The title of Sri Lankabhimanya highest national honor award by the Government of Sri Lanka posthumously in 2017.
  • Officier (officer) of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) from the French government (2003)
  • Padma Sri Award from India (2002)
  • The Ramon Magsaysay Award of the Philippines (2001)
  • Title of Deshamanya from the Government of Sri Lanka (1998)
  • Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from University of Peradeniya (1998)
  • Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters(Honoris Causa) from University of Ruhuna(1993)
  • Honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Fine Arts) Honoris Causa from University of Kelaniya (1991)
  • Title of Kala Keerthi from the Government of Sri Lanka (1986)

Awards

  • Philippine Ramon Magsaysay Award (2001)
  • Indian Padma Sri Award (2002)
  • Sri Lankan "President's Award of Kala Keerthi" (1986)
  • Deshamanya Award (1998)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Fine Arts) Honoris Causa (University of Kelaniya - 1991)
  • The Degree ba ba black sheep bts of Doctor of Letters (University of Ruhuna - 1993)
  • Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (University of Peradeniya)(1998)
  • Deshamanya (1998)
  • Sri Lankabhimanya (2017)

Films

Ran Muthu Duwa

1962

Adata Wadiya Heta Hondai

1963

Sikuru Tharuwa

1963

Gamperaliya

1963

Getawarayo

1963

Saama

1965

Laa Dalu

1965

Saravita

1965

Adarayai Karunawai

1965

Delovak Athara

1966

Westhuru Siritha

1966

Valampuri

1981

Albums

Wasantha Geethaya (2017)
Irata Muwawen
Kolomthota
Sasara Wasana Thuru
Wasantha Geethaya (1980–2000)
Vali Thala Athare
Amara Gee Sara
Victor & Amaradeva
Neela & Amaradeva