– By Sunil Thenabadu
The popular songs of Maxwell Mendis such as ‘Mama Bohoma Baya Uuna’, Seda Sulang Hamanne’, ‘Mage Surathal Podi Duwa’, ‘Mahadena Muththa’, ‘Saravita Bulath Wikununna’ and ‘Bola Kadala’are now back on stage with the new voice of Randeer Mendis.
Randeer Mendis, the son of Lalith Mendis of ‘Mendis Foursome’ and the nephew of Maxwell, has stormed the stage with evergreens of Maxwell.
Unfortunately after his demise in the early 2000 decade his popular name and songs were diminishing in popularity. However his nephew Randeer Mendis having inherited his talent is now unearthing the lost prestige of his Uncle Maxwell. His father Lalith Mendis had thought him to learn playing the guitar, keyboards, sent him for music classes as he had inherited music talents.
‘In year 1972 almost five decades back four members of a Mendis family in Moratuwa came to the musical spotlight forming the band, ‘Mendis Foursome’. It was only the third family group which evolved after the Dharmaratne Brothers and ‘Three Sisters’. The four members of the group may have inherited singing talents from their father who could sing and play musical instruments well. The ‘foursome’ was Maxwell, Lalith, Ranjith and Rohini, the sister. The first song itself was a hit ‘Swarna Hamuvuuye’ recorded under the Sooriya Label.
The lyrics of the song were penned by Ranjith Mendis via a true story. Another hit song in this album was ‘Udarata Kandukaraye’ the lyrics were by Ranjit who was the nucleus of the ‘Mendis Foursome’ band. But the brothers could not live up to expectations for long as Lalith left to Japan and Ranjith had left to France, while Rohini got married, also could not peruse owing to family garments business and home front commitments.
Rigobert Hilary Maxwell Mendis hailed from Moratuwa and is a product of St. Sebastian’s College. After schooling career, while pursuing a singing career, Maxwell had been employed as a Supervisor in Pahana Estate Dodangoda where he met his fiancé Karuna Mendis also employed in the estate owning shares. Karuna too had participated in concerts and singing, such qualities prompted the duo to commence a love affair which ended Randeer Mendis in marriage. The duo is blessed with a daughter.
Perhaps Maxwell the most talented performing vocalist among the quartet, then embarked on a solo journey with baila songs which he sang on stage with dynamism cum ‘punch’ accompanied by gushing on the entirety of the stage which no other vocalist had done previously. The prime reason for his instant popularity was that he was exploiting the entire stage unlike other singers with unique acts bringing physical illustrations in relation to the lyrics like human skeletons, skulls, oars (habala ), barrels, sporting unique dresses etc.
While singing his hit song ‘Mama Bohoma Baya Uuna’, a human skull cum skeleton was displayed sans any lighting on stage scaring audiences. Similarly for most songs he deployed some kind of subject matter in an act to coincide with the lyrics of the song. For his song, ‘Seda Sulang Hamanne’ he displayed habala used in manual boats. Few other songs that became hits then were ‘Mage Surathal Podi Duwa’, ‘Mahadena Muththa’, ‘Saravita Bulath Wikununna’, ‘Bola Kadala’, ‘Mage Nama Raaja’ etc. Maxwell, though had inspired his baila songs from baila king Wally Bastian, had never imitated him but reproduced them in diverse melodies which attracted listeners to six eight tempos. He had sung a duet ‘Malu Malu’with HR Jothipala. Some lyrics of his songs were penned by Clarence Wijewardena, MS Fernando and Maxwell himself, while music compositions were by Clarence Wijewardena, MS Fernando and Dorian Abeywardena and himself.
Nephew Randeer has passed Trinity College London examination having learned classical guitar under retired Commodore Jude Pieris. Randeer was afforded the opportunity to play and learn music in Dubai in year 2009 also with the assistance of his mentor, he had taught music to Arabic, Indian, Turkish and Sri Lankan students in Dubai. Randeer now teaches ‘playing guitar’ for students at his home in Negombo. Randeer has had got the opportunity to sing in Stars of the 70’s Concerts with the able assistance of maestro Melroy Dharmaratne.
Randeer has a YouTube channel singing all his Uncle Maxwell Mendis’s songs and his solos too .He had performed admirably at a television channel recently, where he was invited to sing his Uncle Maxwell’s songs which he did with distinction. Randeer is also invited to perform in many bands, for weddings, hotels as a guitarist and vocalist.
Randeer’s sole intention is not to permit the ‘Hits’ of Maxwell Mendis and ‘Mendis Foursome’ to die away as they are everlasting hits for which he has all legal rights to sing songs of Maxwell Mendis.
‘In year 1972 almost five decades back four members of a Mendis family in Moratuwa came to the musical spotlight forming the band, ‘Mendis Foursome’. It was only the third family group which evolved after the Dharmaratne Brothers and ‘Three Sisters