DR ROHANA WEERASINGHE HUMBLE UNASSUMING LEGENDARY MELODY KING FOR FILM,TELE DRAMA,STAGE PLAYS,THE WORD “NO’ NOT IN HIS VOCABULARY ASSIST ONE AND ALL
Dr Dickmawaduge Rohana Chitrakumara Weerasinghe popularly known as Rohana Weerasinghe, lately as ‘melody master’. The Sri Lankan musician who had made the highest number of Music melodies approximately well over 5000 , after an extensive census from the SLBC, all recording studios had been made in year 2009 along with a newspaper notification, when his book ‘Gaman Magak ‘ was published, when it had revealed over 3600 ,in number in the annals of his music narration, along with his book launch he had organised a musical recital. Rohana needs absolutely no introduction having made a huge indelible unblemished dominance in the music arena for around four decades. Rohana had composed music to all popular artistes excluding HR Jothipala, JA Milton Perera, and Sujatha Attanayake. During a television confrontation Rohana had quipped HR Jothipala had got very close to his heart during a tour to England when Jothipala had requested him to do some songs for him to some Hindi songs he had composed music to the lyrics of Augustine Vinayagaratnam,for many Hindi film songs.This was exceptional for Rohana to deviate from his principle of not providing music copying Hindi tunes, but he quipped that his name was not etched anywhere. One such song Rohana recollected was the song “Ma Vinda Vedana” etc. Rohana as a composer of music ideally could easily identify the singing depths cum styles, ranges of all artistes who patronise him which becomes distinctly advantageous to all vocalists. It is the very reason that Rohana had not concentrated much on singing as it is more cumbersome than composing songs involving pitching, elegance, ranges ,styles which he added he does not possess all such facades though he had emerged initially as an auditioned artiste at the SLBC., he had quipped that when he commenced composing songs he had realized how tricky is singing. However, he confessed that occasionally he had sung but not many songs though all became hits. Born on 18th February 1949 in native Nuwara Eliya to parents Henry Weerasinghe ,a village chief and housewife Sepali Perera, is the youngest of nine siblings, three elder brothers and one elder sister are deceased. Rohana recollects going to the village temple to listen to the gramophone with appetite staying close to it , when the head Monk had observed this has asked him to sing a song which he had sung over the microphone for the first time which had propelled him immeasurably as it was heard by all villagers .He recollects that by singing randomly in his young days his attention had been drawn by relatives and villagers. Rohana after his nursery at the sacred heart convent had studied in the village school Vidyachakkra Vidyalaya up to the fifth standard., after his triumph in the scholarship examination had been admitted to Welimada Madhya Maha Vidyalaya where he had been in the hostel. Rohana recollects his father used to come to visit him to see how he is, recollects giving him pocket money of two rupees which was a big sum then, to eat bakery items from a vendor. It was in school he met his first music teacher KVS Perera a good music mentor from whom he had learnt basics in music and other subjects whom he considered as a competent teacher. After a brief lapse after the teacher was transferred had entered to Dharmapala Vidyalaya. He had been looked after by his elder brother, unfortunately had been of no avail as he had been interested in playing football and not on studies. When he failed in the university entrance twice he had been asked to return home ,thereafter had entered the Gamini Vidyalaya in Nuwara Eliya.It was then he had met a great teacher Kithsiri Aluthge who thought music and other subjects too,It was his mentor Kithsiri Aluthge who had advised to enter the Government Music School,called Heywood then.It was at this school ,Heywood he had met as a contemporary Somapala Ratnayake and in the staff Wijeratne Ranatunga through whose association he has had access fortunately to loyalists Victor Ratnayake, Sanath Nandasiri and Dr Premasiri Khemadasa. It was how Rohana had become initially an instrumentalist triumphing playing the Sitar, though he liked the instrument Santuri too. a rare musical instrument which he had got down exclusively from India,as most Indian musicians deploy for creating music compositions, but had not played it for very long. With his expertise on the Sitar he had been able to associate with stalwarts like Khemadasa, Patrick Denipitiya, Mohamed Sally,MK Rocksamy, R Muththusamy,Sarath Dassanayake, WD Amaradeva Nanda Malini for her musical shows for his contributory role with the Sitar.As Rohana matured his musical genres were traditional music, Uttara Bharathi, Carnatic, Western music ,in addition to been a musician , a composer and a singer sung not many songs but all have been hits is a traditionalist who is modern in outlook, widely travelled sensitive to international trend. He had affirmed that he is very gifted with guidance from God above to be so successful. After his music degree from Heywood he could only be a music teacher, had been attached to the tutorial staff of DS Senanayake College Borella, thereafter at Senananda Maha Vidyalaya ,Meepilimana in Eliya, Ananda Sastralaya Kotte, but had continued with composing music work. When his music composing demand had increased to elevated altitudes, he had given up teaching profession to concentrate on his composing work also had worked as the sound engineer at “Singa Lanka” . One other reason for resigning from the government teaching job was in that period Rohana was compelled to accompany many musicians and vocalists like Victor Ratnayake, Premasiri Khemadasa ,Nanda Malini for many overseas tours when he had to placed on no pay leave which was not good for his teaching career. He had met his wife Leela Beatrice de Silva, when she entered the government music school in 1971 two years junior to Rohana’s batch. She had studied in the dance category to be a dance teacher, her academy had been in the adjoining building. The duo after studying each other for a reasonable length of time had married in year 1977 ,wife Beatrice had supported Rohana wholeheartedly giving him appreciation for his music work also showing any shortcomings if any in his composing work. The duo is blessed with two sons elder Kalindu Gajaba ,next seven years his junior is Chirath Kanishka. Kalindu after studying in Asoka Kanishta and Ananda College,had been sent for music classes to musician Harsha Makalanda, has qualified in IT from an university in Australia works as a IT consultant at a government office in Canberra, married over a decade ago to Chalani a medical officer, the duo now has a school going daughter who also could sing perhaps with inherited hereditary affiliations. Kalindu is also a musician who conducts music for Sri Lankan artistes when they visit Melbourne and Canberra. Chirath is attached to cinnamon Grand too has inherited hereditary affiliations from father could sing had recorded a number of songs for the music compositions of Father Rohana. Chirath too has had a long stint in Australia for higher studies. He had stated that he felt home sick used to call about three four times a day to speak with the parental duo. Rohana had quipped that it is Chirath who comments first on father’s music compositions also could be termed as his real fan. Rohana is a from the old school not at all competent in modern technology who hardly surf the internet, but reaches modern technology via Chirath who is well updated with diverse music designs from all over the globe by surfing the net.Rohana had not encouraged Chirath to follow his footsteps as the prospects in music currently aired bleak but him to concentrate on higher studies.
In 1981 was a milestone in his musical journey when he got to direct music for a tele drama ‘Rekawa” a musical tele drama to which he had also got an invitation to portray a lead role by Dr DB Nihalsinghe which he had refused, but had proposed to his colleague Lakshman Wijesekera.For this teledrama he had won an award which had consisted of ten songs with all lyrics were by professor Sunil Ariyaratne. Renowned lyricist Kularatne Ariyawansa had quipped that Rohana is very flexible when he composes music.He had composed music to more than eighty percent of his song lyrics, the duo had entered the respective fields at the identical time .As a custom after he composes the melody he used to verify from the lyric writer and the vocalist whether the music composition is virtuous. It needs to be emphasized that Rohana and musician HM Jayawardena had emerged at the same era had become equally popular as music composers. In year 1979 when the cassettes were recorded two cassettes were produced by Tharanga music box of TM Jayaratne and Neela Wickremasinghe.The music compositions of four songs had been given each to Rohana and HM Jayawardena other than to Sarath Dassanayake,Mervyn Perera and Stanley Pieris. It is revealed that the songs composed by the duo Rohana and HM had become more popular like HM’s ‘Raththran Neth’, ’Rohana’s “Eka sitha dethenaka,”Punchi sithe”,”Hiruta Horen”.On hearing these triumphs Vijaya Ramanayake had selected Rohana for his film ‘Aradhana” for the music at the request of Kularatne Ariyawansa to Vijaya Ramanayake both were selected to be joint music directors for the film.Rohana had composed music for two songs, the theme song ‘ Aradhana” and the background music while HM had composed one song. He and HM Jayawardena both won awards for his music in film ‘Aradhana” in year 1982 which had boosted Rohana. Rohana had performed his sitar for films like ‘Duleeka, ‘Nidhanaya’ and ‘ Desa Nisa’ while performing his task Rohana had observed closely how they performed self-studied ,to Rohana it is Victor Ratnayake whom he admires most also as a mentor. In Nanda Malini’s Sathyegeethaya” concert fifty percent of musical contributions were made between HMJ and Rohana. Rohana reminisces as the Sitar exponent had traversed all over the island with her concert. This had been a huge milestone to the respective music careers of the duo.The song “Pujasanaye” sung by Nanda Malini to the lyrics of Sunil Ariyaratne to the music composition of HM ,Rohana reminisced all words are etched in his mind even to date.The chorus singers had been musicians Keethi Pasquel and Nawaratne Gamage confirming it was a star studded musical extravaganza.
To date Rohana had made music compositions to over three hundred tele dramas including the popular tele drama ‘Doo Daruwo” particularly the theme song of ‘Dulci Mathawa’ stands out with the echoes of the flute which had to be emotional to depict the real love of the mother. Though Rohana had composed music for many stalwarts like WD Amaradewa,Victor Ratnayake, Nanda Malini but has had a close friendship with Suni Edirisinghe from around 1971 when he sang the theme song for the film Mataraarachchi while Rohana and others had gone to sing chorus for the songs.The rehearsals had been held at Victor Ratnayake’s residence, there the intimate friendship had begun, thereafter had toured India together when the friendship had deepened, thereafter only Rohana had made music compositions for his songs.For Sunil Edirisinghe’s first EP disc containing four songs like ‘Chandramandale’ ,’Thani Kale’, ‘Pata dedune’ etc., the music had been entrusted to Rohana. Rohana had quipped that if Sunil Edirisinghe sang ten songs at a recital music in eight songs invariably were composed by Rohana. During the initial tenure both Rohana and Sunil had risen to fame concurrently.Rohana Had not composed music for so many like he had made to Teledramas. At a television he was hailed for directing music of films directed by film directors like HD Premaratne, Vasantha Obeysekera, Asoka Handagama, Sunil Ariyaratne, Jackson Anthony, Vijaya Dharmasiri,Somaratne Dissanayake etc.For some films according to the themes the music rendered need to be applauded to unprecedented high altitiudes for e.g Sarigama and Yashodara /Bimbadevi. Some films for which Rohana had provided music are appended below beginning from the latest films.
Kadira Divyaraja (musical director) Kathuru Mithuru (musical director) 2022CineMa (musical director) 2020Little Miss Puppet (musical director) 2020/ITsunami (musical director) 2019Suba Theraniyo (musical director) 2018Kalu Hima (musical director) 2018Bimba Devi Alias Yashodhara (musical director) 2018Punchi Andare (musical director) 2018Underpants Thief (musical director) 20175 Samath (musical director)
2017Wassanaye Sanda (musical director) 2017Deveni Warama (musical director) 2016Sarigama (composer: theme music) 2015No Address (musical director) 2015Suhada Koka (musical director) 2015Maharaja Ajasath (composer: additional music) 2014Anagarika Dharmapala Srimathano (musical director) / (playback singer) 2013Seetha Man Awa (musical director) 2011Mahindagamanaya (musical director) 2010Suba (musical director) 2010/IISara (musical director) 2010Tikiri Suwanda (musical director) 2008Nil Diya Yahana (musical director)2008Rosa Kele (musician 2008Siri Raja Siri (musical director) 2006Sewwandi (musical director) 2006Samaara (musical director) 2004Aadaraneeya Wassanaya (musical director) 2002Salelu Warama (musical director) 2001Mahadena Muththai Golayo Roththai (musical director) 2001Kinihiriya Mal (musical director) 1997Mahameara Usata (musical director) 1993Seven Virgins (musical director) 1993Madara Parasathu (musical director)
He recollected that the foursome Kumaradasa Saputantri,Kularatne Ariyawansa, Lakshman Wijesekera and himself had formed a foursome intimate group.As the group are together at all times Pundit Amaradewa had named it the ‘Sathjana ‘ group. This foursome had composed creations together which had resulted in been invited to perform more melodies as the collective creations had become very effective. Along with the foursome and Edward Jayakody had once got together and composed a few songs secretly, one each by Edward Jayakody, DD Gunasena,Tissa C Perera,HM Jayawardena, Edgar Perera had arranged a ‘Sarala gee’ program at the SLBC.This was as Rohana was backward in his singing career been at snail’s pace. Another feature of Rohana’s character that is the word ‘No’ is not in his vocabulary as he had never said no to anyone in his entire career even to novices, which he had affirmed in a television dialog. Rohana recollects on getting the unique opportunity to have a musical show at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. One of his friends Kithsiri Karunaratne had been an employee at the Opera House. He had thought when so many foreign musicians come and perform in the Opera house why not afford the opportunity for a Sri Lankan which dawned a vibrant ray of light on the music industry of Sri Lanka. Veteran musician Dr. Rohana Weerasinghe who has marked numerous milestones in the Sri Lankan music culture, brought glory to Sri Lanka by performing at Australia’s prestigious Sydney Opera House on September 3, 2006. It was the first time that a Sri Lankan musician performed at the world-famous Sydney Opera house. Many crowned artistes such as Nanda Malini, Victor Rathnayake, Sunil Edirisinghe , Edward Jayakody, Priyadarshani, Nelu Adhikari, Charitha Priyadarshani and Dayan Jayathileke had adorned the concert “Rohana Ransara” organised by Yasiru Multimedia pvt Ltd , the leading Sri Lankan entertainment company based in Australia. Performing at Sydney Opera house was a golden opportunity for any musician, it was Rohana himself who conducted the orchestra. The performance in year 2006, he made with his numerous music compositions is etched in his memory which should go down in to history to which Rohana is greatly obligated to his friend for this historical rare opportunity as previously no such musical extravaganza, opera or any other musical event had not got this gigantic break Rohana also had performed among many other foreign venues at Arts centre Melbourne in year 2004 titled “Ransara Dhara” in year 2008 alive performance at Millenium Dome London in year 2008.Rohana had commenced in Nugegoda a ‘Kala Ayathanaya’ which is now handled exclusively by Sangeeth Nipun Manjula Seneviratne,Lakshman Wijesekera and Ananda Wijesiri, Rohana owing to his busy schedules Rohana is not a part of it but for an annual event he used to participate with the trio.
Rohana had been appointed the advisor to the President of Sri Lanka in year 2006 in Cultural and Aesthetic affairs.Rohana during his tenure to date had won all possible awards some a number of times. Among the awards were Sarasaviya, Signis,Vijaya Rupavahini awards,Hiru award,Presidential awards, Sumathi. Rasa awards, Government drama awards, Swarna Sanka which for music in films, direction of music and for providing music for songs won more than any other in the annals of cinema, teledrama, stage play narrations. In culminating at the 2014 Sumathi awards ceremony DR Rohana Weerasinghe received the life one time achievement UW Sumathipala award.Later he was awarded a similar award under entertainers category at Derana Sri Lankan legends awards along with Dilantha Malagamuwa and others. In his dwelling he has stacked appropriate manner nearly fifty of the awards for which he had affirmed was a thrilling feeling after his diverse efforts to compose music to diverse stories and circumstances.
A couple of years ago Rohana was invited to select ten songs occupying the ‘Guest’ seat in the popular SLRC program “Sihinayaki Re’.Owing to his busy daily schedules he had been postponing the invitation for more than five years.When he ultimately accepted the invitation his home folks wife and son Chirath too had helped him to select songs as they too were fans of the program. Rohana had focussed on music and singers who had made yeoman service to our music in the old era beginning from the 1950’s.During the time allocated to comment on the songs selected he paid high tributed to the singers, musicians who had made yeoman service to our music.Below are some excerpts of his conversation with presenter Mahesh Nissanka the writer captured. Rohana the humble musician never touched a single music composition of his.It was also when he sang seven songs in “Ma Novena Mama” did not sing a single song which he had composed.Rohana is a highly disciplined human being very humble down to earth unassuming individual .
“The first song selected was in film ‘Sujatha’ Manaram song 1952 a patriotic song one of the first of our own music melody not a copy lyrics by Ananda Samarakoon music by Dhakshinamoorthy. This had been the only original melody in this film, all other songs were copied from Indian tunes then famous of. This song had been selected for the present generation to hear and learn about old songs. 2nd song ‘Adara Hengum ‘ sung by WD Amaradeva, originally to ‘Bakmaha Akunu’ stage play , later in film Bakmaha Dige, lyrics of Dayananda Gunawardena in 1969. The music was by Somadasa Elvitigala a legendary musician which had been a collective selection with son and wife. The music of this song had been remade by Rohana sans changing the original track but Rohana made the melody much better with perhaps with sophisticated instruments. Rohana quipped that he had made similar compositions in songs like ‘Viyoven Pasuwai denenne Premayae abiman’,’ahasa se oba ananthai’,’Sadakalika nowena lokaye’ are similar symphonies Rohana had made in loathe ,when separated from love. Third song selected was from film ‘Daiwayogaya’ screened in 1959 sung by Mohideen Beg to the music composition of Sajad Hussain an Indian musician , “hada gile ama mihire’, lyrics by Chandraratne Manawasinghe, Rohana from younger days had been huge fan of Hindi songs, He had attributed that this may have been the reason that he was able to make great music compositions. All songs were sung by Thamara Dharshana, who had been a winner in the program ‘Kavitha’ among university students a few years back and Nadee Seneviratne ,daughter of two reputed musician duo ,the two had been trained to sing all songs selected as he would be found fault by his music knowledgeable colleagues.The duo sand all ten songs to precision also endorsed by Rohana too. The 4th song ‘Ewasanu Hade Wishwase daiwaye’ sung by music composition of R Muthusamy was one who made most of our own compositions sans copying Indian melodies, the film was ‘Mathalang’ in year 1955 lyrics reminisced Rohana in year 1982 Rohana had played Sitar for his film music and songs lyrics W Benedict Fernando sung by Latha Walpola. The 5th song sung by Narada Dissasekera and Sujatha Attanayake ‘Pushpamatha Randaya Mage’ in film ‘Sihina Hathak’ music by Shelton Premaratne .Rohana paid tribute to Sujatha as a sought after vocalist ,Sri Nihal A Jayasinghe was the lyricist .For Shelton Premaratne’s film songs he apparently wanted to Sujatha to sing was confessed by Rohana.It was added that Shelton Premaratne had emerged from initially providing music in stage plays. Rohana added that he is a good teacher even if someone makes a mistake, he jokingly corrected those sans hurting them. As a singer Rohana confessed he had failed in his endeavour but as a composer of music he had commenced with minor compositions also played for many music groups like of Khemadasa, Patrick Denepitiya, Mohamed Sally,MK Rocksamy, R Muththusamy,Sarath Dassanayake, WD Amaradeva Nanda Malini in her musical shows.These experiences had nourished him. Rohana in the program quoted the saying of Bandula Wijeweera who had quipped that even to be beaten by wife he used to tolerate when mistakes were committed. But it was not the case in Rohana . Although Rohana had not sung one thousand songs the ten songs or so sung by him were acceptable and pleasant ones the presenter Mahesh Nissanka added. ’Muthukuda Ihalana Mal Varusa’ of Lucien Bulathsinhala stands above the rest sung to his own music composition as it has a Sungara taste which is ‘a great joy of life’.Rohana paid a tribute to Lucian Buathsinhala as one who had helped him a lot for his journey at the beginning which was reminisced , even when he was loitering in the corridors of the SLBC. The 6th song was “Ahanna Mage Punchi Puthe “ by JA Milton Perera , music of Mohamed Sally lyrics of Karunaratne Abeysekera as a radio ‘sarala’ song. It was revealed that Mohamed Sally had made music compositions to many songs of JA Milton Perera, HR Jothipala, Milton Mallawarachchi ,Rupa Indumathie etc.The song had been selected to reminisce Sally Master’s original music triumphs to listeners. The 7th song selected was a duet by Devananda Waidyasekera ‘Mokada menike hanika Yanne” . In 1966 in the Uva province school’s singing contest Rohana had become the winner.For the prize presentation at the Bandarawela municipal council Devananda Waidyasekera too had been a guest. He had sung many songs then ,a duet with the female winner in the singing contest to which Rohana had played the sitar while his school mentor had played the violin .It had been a real coincidence when Devananda Waidyasekera re made his songs it had been entrusted to Rohana the music was entrusted through his nephew Lalith known to Rohana too. It was revealed that when WD Amaradewa had visited India for music education for his void at the SLBC Devananda Waidyasekera had been replaced. For program ‘Masika Reguma” etc this duet he had sung with an unknown female singer who had come for another program.The lyrics were of Karunaratne Abeysekera while the music composition was of Devananda Waidyasekera himself who in real life is a Medical doctor. The 8th song selected was Visharada Sujatha Attanayake’s ‘Sanda Rejiniyeni in the film ‘Sekaya’.Rohana added that Sujatha’s songs are selected by many who sing in reality contests to obtain more marks the music was by MK Rocksamy lyrics of Karunaratne Abeysekera.It was added by Rohana that MK Rocksamy had been helping all like Tissa C Perera who had willingly given their music knowledge to all without any reluctance. He had led the music group for Victor Ratnayake’ s ‘SA’ recitals for which Rohana, Edward, Lakshman, Ananda,Niranjala, Nirmala etc had been all chorus singers. Rocksamy had treated them in equal proportions as he did for seniors the quality of MK Rocksamy was hailed.Rohana paid a huge homage to him. The 9th song was ‘Galana Gangaki Jeevithe’ in Ranmuthuduwa film a duet by Narada Dissasekera and Nanda Malini in year 1962 to the music of WD Amaradewa and lyrics of Chandranath Manawasinghe, when Rohana was a teenager just 13 years old. This song had impressed Rohana now as how the words were pronounced to precision also appreciating the music compositions which remains etched in the minds of many.Rohana had made a lot of foreign tours with Nanda Malini where he had sung all duets with her.in addition to providing music.The 10th song in the ‘Mathalang; film song ‘Sirini Saru Sara weela’ sung by Dharmadasa Walpola to the lyrics of Karunaratne Abeysekera This song was selected by Rohana to pay a compliment for Dharmadasa Walpola’s enormous contribution made to Sri Lankan music. It is known that R Muthusamy had not been a citizen of Sri Lanka, but for his services to music with state patronage he had been give the Sri Lankan citizenship .At the conclusion of the ‘Sihinayaki Re’ program to presenter’s interrogation as to any regrets in his career.It was affirmed though he has had in mind to make music compositions with foreign collaborations. However, as he had not been able to achieve that aim, he has disregarded this wish of his for which he has absolutely no regrets.
Rohana’s You Tube channel is a popular platform among the Youth. Indeed, it is a fertile ground. popular artist Sangeeth Wijesooriya had explained the importance of a You Tube channel .Later, Rohana’s son Kalindu Weerasinghe together with Ranura perera has created the You Tube channel of course with the IT expertise of Kalindu. Rohana’s younger son Chirath has been involved in the monetary management related to the channel. Not surprisingly, this channel has won the Silver You Tube Plaque. Not only that, more than 2500 songs of many kinds are available on this channel. Even Kapirinna melodies and Karaoke melodies can be enjoyed through this channel. In addition, there has emerged an increased demand for the veteran musician Rohana’s rare melodies. The main reason behind this is that several young people, after watching the channel, got to know that the musician Dr. Rohana Weerasinghe had composed their favourite songs. Another significance is that every composer can benefit from this you tube channel .From the September 3rd, 2021 all music lovers were able to watch the remarkable concerts on the Rohana Weerasinghe official you tube channel. This concert has been scheduled to run for 24 hours in such a way that anyone in the world can enjoy this amazing musical show. The main objective is, as noted by Rohana Weerasinghe, to give something good to the listeners in the world. Overall, the veteran musician Dr. Rohana Weerasinghe better known as the ‘King of Melodies’ being a singer, sitarist, music director for films and tele dramas has enriched the music industry of Sri Lanka by creating many melodies for almost every singer. As a country we are indebted to his commendable service. All followers and fans would wish him good health and longevity to continue in the same vein or even better in all future endeavours.
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