Multifaceted Melroy Dharmaratne- Over five decades of effervescent voyage in celebrity – by Sunil Thenabadu
Even sans inheriting musical instincts cum inability to read musical notation Melroy Dharmaratne an acclaimed music prodigy in the music arena for over five decades having formed in late 1960’s the quartet, first Sinhalese family pop group, the “Dharmaratne brothers” with his siblings Christie,Maxwell and Ronald. Melroy has diverse talents with natural cognition which makes him elusive with his vivid expertise as a singer, music director, lyricist,playwright,dramatist and journalist. Melroy was born to Clarence Vernon and Stella Dharmaratne in year 1947 attended St.Benedict’s College .Having lost his father early in his life mother Stella had shouldered the robust burden of the family. Like many talented artistes Melroy’s innate talent had been sensed early by Brothers Edward and John when he was in grade six. He had been encouraged to sing on College stage. The Brothers had been impressed when Melroy had sung the song “ seetha sunil diya dhara” which had prompted to spur them to expose the talents of young
Melroy at a school concert “our own songs”. Concurrently Melroy was invited to St.Lucia’s church choir located in the vicinity to College. The quartet were further acclaimed when they composed and sang the Sinhalese version of everlasting English carol song “Mary’s Boy Child” which is now sung in every local church during Christmas,”Kalakata Pera Bethlehene”. It need to be emphasized that young Melroy had been inspired by the then veteran radio singers, giants like Christopher Paul , Vincent de Paul Peiris,HR Jothipala,Mohideen Beg.Milton Perera and Sunil Shantha.It needs to be emphasized that Melroy is ‘self-thought exceedingly persevering. Having studied his repertory in arts Melroy had been invited to draft the script for a school play for the “ school literature day” in which he had not only written it but had portrayed aptly the lead role in collateral to his innate skills. It was that time Mum, Stella had formed the two member tiny group with Melroy and Ronald ( no longer living) titled ”Dharmaratne
Brothers”. Subsequently other two brothers Christie and Maxwell joined forming the “quartet” which initially took part in school functions,parties and weddings.The lyrics which were very simple ,like “Varsity kollo’.’Priyangika’,’Wessa’,’Awwa’,’Suhada Pathum’ were the brainchild of Maestro Melroy himself.These songs with simple lyrics echoed in the hearts of fans which revolted to fame abruptly.These songs were recorded under the Phillips and Sooriya labels with the able counseling of Vijaya Corea.It needs to reminisced that it was Vijaya Corea who influenced Sinhalese songs to be heard in English airways. The then prodigious showmen Malcolm Andree and Jayatissa Hettiarchchi who also had boosted the quartet.. The instruments that backed then ,were only an acoustic and a traditional hand drum the “Rabaana”,
while all other pop bands that existed then were stirred with guitars and percussive instruments with Congo drums.The usage of such fewer and simple instruments was to preserve the national identity to be not too sophisticated .Before the foursome quartet was formed Melroy and Ronald participated in a singing contest at Methodist College along with niece ( sister’s daughter) Shiromie Fernando, “baby Shiromi” singing prodigy of “Kondenamagena fame”. Melroy was not only the instrumental figure behind the child ‘superstar’ Shiromi but also composed and directed music for almost all her blockbuster songs, “Amma,Sakala Bujan and Handa Hami’.Melroy is a famous lyricist having penned many hit songs from his repertory. The most popular of them “Ayubowan,Ayubowan” and for the music score of“ Me Mei Gaha Yata” sung by ,HR Jothipala and Milton Mallawarachchi.Many Sinhala songs carry his music emblem surprisingly sans his inability to read music notations.A few such songs with his music signature are HR.Jothipala’s ‘Durakathanayakin”,”Oba nidanna”.”Gangawai Mahamuhudai” ,Paul Fernando’s “Egoda Gode”, Felix Anton’s “Sulang
rella”,Milton Perera’s “Punchi Punchi Tharaka”There are also many children’s songs with his music creations under the ‘Sooriya’ label. Although Melroy composed melodies and directed music for two Sinhalese films, “Pathini” in 1978,”Weswalagath Tharuni” in 1986 owing to production conflicts were never shown. Melroy has been a member of OCIC foundation from the inception had been in the Judge panel in 1969 and 1970 for selecting winners at the award ceremony. As a booming journalist Melroy had excelled to unprecedented heights.Melroy had joined the”Sawasa” newspaper as a journalist then in the “Dawasa” turning a cartoonist in a series named “Sapinna” in year 1971. He was a popular journalist as he was the pioneer in publishing the Sinhala versions reviewing via commentary English films in local Sinhalese newspapers.His launched his first novel in 1971 “Malawunge Kathawak”which was
eventually scripted to a film “ Kavuluwa”.In the early decade of 2000 Melroy launched two more novels” Vineetha Roshisha”,”Premaye Vairaya” and in year 2014 the book “Pavu Saha Pin”.Melroy had been a ‘log writer’ at the Supreme courts Hulftsdorf where he fell in love with his wife Theresa Antoinette also a ‘log writer’ having tied the nuptial knot in year 1976 is blessed with a daughter Sinali Mary.His journalistic talent was further exhibited when he made contributions to popular magazine “Cine” named Kala ( Arts) As an acclaimed dramatist Melroy staged in 1960 “Maya”, the first solo drama staged in motherland.In 1977 multifaceted Melroy scripted a drama “Nava Magaka Yanno” for the All-Island drama contest which won awards for best actor,best production and best make-up artist.Then he produced “Sivil Uddhaya”( civil war) It proves by the foregoing what enormous contributions Melroy had made to our Art, music, stage and journalism.
Melroy cannot be forgotten in grooming his niece ,sister’s daughter ‘Baby Shiromi”from her younger days.At the age of nine years observing her talent had trained her in vocals for two years. At her age of eleven years in year 1971, It was Melroy who introduced her to Gerald Wickremasooriya of very well known Sooriya label..
During the past five decades to Melroy had organized concerts to mark milestones like completing decades of singing which is perhaps the total responsibility of the state to felicitate this wizard artiste for services rendered so massively to our arts and culture