Legendary ‘UNSUNG” humble model Lead Guitarist Mahinda Bandara reminisced
It is a natural phenomenon for any person to be a legend in any field to have acquired hereditary affiliations from family members or ancestors which is a laid down norm. The unblemished music career of humble Mahinda Bandara is no exception. It is obvious that his mother Chandra Bandara has acquired musical instincts as a ‘A’ grade vocalist at the SLBC from genital affiliations from her father DG Kodituwakku a master in ‘Tabla’ also a teacher of repute. Mahinda’s maternal uncle is famous Tabla exponent Premanath Kodituwakku a native of Kegalle as Mahinda. At Mahinda’s ancestral dwelling where he too resided there had been many musical instruments v.i.z. tabla,violin,sitar,guitar, mandolin etc., which were freely available for Mahinda to experiment with. Emulating the elders Mahinda too had endeavoured to touch and play musical instruments after his toddler days.
The instrument Mahinda had attempted to play initially was the ‘ Mandolin”.In a short time he had felt it was a bit cumbersome as it was difficult to manipulate the two parallel strings, felt was a bit awkward, hurts his fingers and difficult to handle. Mahinda soon opted the guitar had started playing the notes, the skills of which he had undoubtedly inherited but with his ear absolutely sans an educator. To his dwelling many acclaimed musicians had visited like famous Stanley Peiris ,Lawrence Fernando etc.It was revealed by Mahinda that his first mentor was accomplished musician Lawrence Fernando who had voluntarily taught the enthusiastic youngster ,as how to play the chords properly which was definitely the preliminary boost for young enthusiastic budding famous lead guitarist Mahinda Bandara to be at root level. By this time, his maternal uncle Premanath Kodituwakku and the folks at home knew he was a musician in the making had made notice of his aptitude. Playing the guitar was his main concentration other than attending to school. When he was barely nine years old young Mahinda got a break via his uncle Premanath and grandfather to participate in a ‘Lama Pitiya’ children’s program of legendary Karunaratne Abeysekera titled “ Sonduru Sevana”.Young Mahinda it was revealed had played on request, the lead guitar to the tune to veteran Chithra Somapala’s song “Ukule Kale Thiya” spectacularly to surprise all, simultaneously had received accolades. The piano parts had been played by famous musician Aelian Soysa, tabla musical parts for the tune had been made my maternal uncle and grandfather.
When young about thirteen years old having the music craze and talent inherited had commenced a musical band named “swinging boats” with mostly from members of the family elder brothers and younger brother Raju Bandara. But the band had not prolonged for a long period .During this time the lead guitarist Padmasiri Rupasiri of the Fortunes band had left our shores in search of greener pastures. The band leader having had talented Mahinda Bandara in his foremost mind knowing his aptitude, seen him perform at his residence had invited Mahinda to fill the vacancy which he had clutched with both hands in year 1974.There was no looking back for Mahinda as it was a matter of daily recordings in many studios and backing the Fortunes as their permanent lead guitarist. The manner of Mahinda’s enthusiasm was exhibited by his immense dedication in erudition and becoming matured which is the advice he still gives to budding musicians. This was an opportunity for Mahinda not only to earn but also was a huge prospect to meet all famous musicians and vocalists. Initially the band Fortunes had catered to western songs mostly and it was later the bank had accompanied for Sinhala songs. During his long tenure with the Fortunes band he had the unique opportunity to work with dedication and to meet legendary musicians like MK Rocksamy,R Muththusamy, Sarath Dassanayake,Claude Fernando ,Dr Rohana Weerasinghe and others too. Mahinda had quipped at a television dialog that he had impressed veteran singers like Rukmani Devi,Mohideen Beg,CT Fernando, Dharmadasa Walpola, Latha Walpola,HR Jothipala, WD Amaradewa, Milton Mallawarchchi,Milton Perera,MS Fernando,Anton Jones all in the era before the present generation of vocalists. Mahinda recollects Rukmani Devi presenting him with a bar chocolate in appreciation of his talent and it was revealed the she had told Stanley Peiris to groom him as he is oozing with talent with a blooming future.
During this period the word had been spread among EP.LP, Cassette producing merchants about young Mahinda’s talent as a lead guitarist. The owner of ‘Tharanga’ label Wijaya Ramanayake had contacted Mahinda and requested to compose music for three songs to the lyrics of Dr Ajantha Ranasinghe which he had made impressively made. One song was the first song recorded by Rookantha Goonetilleke in his musical career. Another song to which he composed music was to a duet by Rookantha Goonetilleke and Shyami Fonseka.Keerthi Pasquel had approached Mahinda to do his cassette ‘Issara Adi Kale’ cassette
In the year 1980 Mahinda had met with an accident, had a leg amputated. But he continued to lend his lead guitar parts to many recordings. It was said that Dharmadasa and Latha Walpola had re-recorded about three hundred to four hundred songs ,hence it was a routine daily to be at the recording studio.Then Dhammika was about fifteen years old had been visiting the studio almost daily.Mahinda recollects that she even gives him chocolates. Later she had been a Montessori teacher but of and on almost daily she used to visit the studio which made Mahinda feel that she was interested in him.It was Dhammika who had shown interest in Mahinda and professed her love .For Dhammika it was a worry how to convey this to Father which she had conveyed via mother.Dharmadasa Walpola had known Mahinda very well and hence there had been no objection at all.Mahinda had imagined whether the consent would be given as Dhammika was very precious to the duo been the only girl in the celebrated family.It is learnt that for this affair it was revealed that the recording engineer at the Bishops House Donald Ivan had facilitated to unprecedented tall altitudes in this affair. Now the duo are married for well over three decades with two sons educated in Australia, Thisara in particular in already following father’s massive footsteps in the musical arena. He has already released an official music video ‘ Shikaraye’ in year 2018 is emulating father. The duo are presently living separately at Talahena ,Malabe with legendary mother in law Latha Walpola.
Mahinda had affirmed that he has contributed his lead guitar skills to around five thousand music melodies.Also during his tenure in the field there are many own musical compositions he had made to a number of vocalists in the past decades.Among those that comes to mind are Nirosha Virajini’s, Rangira Ma”,’Duhulu Malaka Mal Peththaka’ ,’Ma Kirilliak”, ‘Sath Mahaleka Besa Yannam”Rajive Sebastian’s ‘ Veeduru Mal’, Asanga Priyamantha Peiris’ Senehasakata Aruthak”, the songs titles many other compositions of many artistes like ‘Natasha’,’Tharuka Pelen Eha’,’Mulu Reyak Pura’,Kavikaraiye Sindu Kiyana Lande’,’Dawasak Da Hendewe’,’Me Diganthe’,’Punchi Kale’,’Haddisiyema Obe’,’Issara Adi Kale’ etc,etc,.The melody for the “Rangira Ma’ was very unique the first time in native Sri Lanka a melody had been made with Latin music genre which many others too were very impressed and wanted similar melodies.
It is not known to many other than the vocalists thar it is Mahinda Bandara who is given the opportunity to sing the ‘Dummy” of the song which the vocalist sings accordingly.In this manner Mahinda had sung over five thousand ‘dummy’ songs before the originals were sung by the respective singers. This matter is well known to all vocalists in Sri Lanka. Mahinda had disclosed that for all HM Jayawardena melodies he had assisted with the dummy’ singing. It was said that for 98 percent of all cassettes of Nihal Nelson, Mahinda had played the lead parts. At a television confrontation it was revealed by Mahinda himself this should be a world record not entered to the ’’Guinness Book’ unfortunately. Though Mahinda had sung so many ‘dummy’ songs he had recorded just one song previously which is in the you tube owing to a plea from a person. But lately Mahinda and Dhammika duo recorded a music video titled ‘MAGE IRA HANDA’ to his own music composition for the meaningful lyrics of Bandula Nanayakkarawasam which has already been watched by many which is sure to beat all viewing records soon.
Mahinda had reiterated very humbly that his success is owing to been updated and dedication to his job.There are so many genres of music in the world like Rock, Pop, Jazz, Country and Western,Ragadari, Popular Music,Latin, Blues,Classical etc which all musicians should be familiar with.Mahinda reminisced the talents of Earnest Soysa,Dickson Guneratne etc his predecessors which he had followed closely to become who he is today with supreme sacrifice and total dedication.
Mahinda had received many accolades from many quarters including awards at the RAIGAM and SUMATHI for his contributions to the teledrama music.For Mahinda the appreciations of the musicians and public has been more important.Mahinda had been invited to many music recitals to display his lead guitar exponent skills.He was invited ‘Me Diganthaya” and to Royal College musical concert ‘Miyesi Meerawaya’ as chief guest where he was accompanied by the College Band to spectacularly perform solo guitar performances .At this even he played the Hindi song ‘Lakhon Hain Yahan’ and Sinhala song “Suwanda Dane’ stunningly, assisted by the college band quartet.Likewise Mahinda had on invitation displayed his guitar exponent skills at many events and concerts to thrill audiences with guitar solos.
Mahinda despite his enormous skills and immense popularity remains on low profile and humble always. He possess his own principles been simple and helpful to all who he comes across. Once it was learnt that he had been invited by popular television channel to conduct a reality program for juveniles for a huge fee.He had said will agree only if the participants are requested to sing children’s’ songs. The authorities had told him only to sit with the band but he had point blank refused the offer as he is on the belief that the children should not sing songs of veteran singers but only children’s’ songs which will jeopardize their future careers.That is typical Mahinda.He is well know to every music lover in the country having seen him back the Fortunes musical band for decades. Considering what Mahinda has done to our music industry in the past five decades it is hard to believe that another ‘Unsung’ Mahinda Bandara would be born in Sri Lanka even in another century. All music lovers in the country and musicians would wish Mahinda longevity and good health.
Sunil Thenabadu in Brisbane e mail firstname.lastname@example.org whatsapp 0061444533242