VISHARADA BANDARA ATHAUDA MOST HUMBLE MODEST MUSIC LECTURER ,VIOLINIST, VOCALIST IN A GLITTERING CRUISE FOR OVER FORTY NINE YEARS
Visharada Bandara Athauda was born in his ancestral village in Ankumbura Kandy to parents MAKB Athauda and Charlotte Samaratunga , a Principal and Teacher, on 23rd February 1948 . as the third child of six siblings ,three brothers and three sisters. Father had been a native of Ankumbura Kandy while mother from Udugampola in the Gampaha district, the two had met while worshipping the sacred tooth relic at the Dalada Maligawa. After Bandara’s birth in a village in Ankumbura he had been forced to live in Uva Welassa located between Bibile and Moneragala cities as his parents were on a transferable service. From year one to the year five Bandara had studied in the in the Senapathiya Vidyalaya beginning from year 1953. Bandara reminisces the fauna and flora of the village which was wrapped within jungles having very attractive lakes running within. the sceneries of which still lingers in his mind to tall altitudes. Bandara also recollects his father after school hours was used to sing many old numbers delightfully playing the ‘Serpina” which he was competent in with other teachers who too were away from their dwellings, living in boarding houses who had congregated in the school premises to sing and enjoy which Bandara too had witnessed. Bandara may have inherited genetic affiliations from his father for his flair for music which he blossomed to unparalleled tall boosts later in his illustrated career.
From year six Bandara had attended Ankumbura Maha Vidyalaya ,his parents getting back to ancestral village due the transferable services. Bandara had been brilliant in his studies as well as in vocal music. His music teacher KC Liyanage a native of Katugastota having identified his innate talent had requested his father to buy him a Violin to get him involved more in the music arena. The teacher had been so inquisitive about the future and progress of Bandara had even asked for his horoscope which had foretold about his illustrious music career.His father too had read his horoscope earlier which had revealed the same predictions. Anyway it had been CK Liyanage who had insisted his father to commence a career in music as father had focussed him on his academic success. It is from then onwards from seventh standard he had learnt to play the Violin and to dominate in its execution. It was under his music teacher he had blossomed his music career becoming very enthusiastic. Bandara had admitted in a television confrontation that from the day the father bought the violin he had been practicing daily. In school he had been recognised by his teacher for his singing aptitudes in ‘Kavi’ and songs had even accompanied him to all classes had asked to sing for all contemporary students to hear. The teacher had told all students to follow him ,which is the manner to sing
Bandara though a very popular vocalist had not sung and recorded many songs only a bit more than sixty songs ,mainly semi classical, folk and classical songs been his forte.Bandara had entered the government music school, Heywood, presently called the visual and performing arts university in the late sixties on the insistence of his teacher Guru MK Ganakadaran at the Nugawela Madya Maha Vidyalaya, had entered the Heywood in year 1966 .Prior to entering the music school his guru had taken to inaugural Principal, Professor Lionel Edirisinghe and introduced him briefing about his exquisite talent. Bandara was keen to be more an instrumentalist playing the predominantly the ‘Violin’ and to a lesser extent the ‘flute’ ,than in singing. Bandara had been groomed to play the violin under B Victor Perera,LD Gunasena Perera at the Heywood.
In his senior batch at the Heywood had been the famous musicians and vocalists Amarasiri Pieris, Victor Ratnayake,Sujatha Attanayake,Amitha Wedisinghe,Amara Ranatunga,Kusum Perera, Sanath Nandasiri, Wijeratne Ranatunga, B Victor Perera, Dharmasena Perera, while his juniors and contemporaries had been Lakshman Wijesekera,Bandula Wijeweera,Rohana Weerasinghe,Ananda Weerasiri, ,Malini Bulathsinhala etc. For Bandara’s competency in playing the Violin through his friend lyricist Kumaradasa Saputanthri at the Heywood had been selected to play the Violin for Dayananda Gunawardena’s stage plays ‘Nari Bena’, and “Jayasaya saha Lenchina” . As ‘Sapu” as addressed by Bandara, was involved in the organisational activities been close to the producer. Bandara had conveyed he had been fortunate for him to travel all over the island. The music course at Heywood was for a period of five long years.Bandara reminisces that he was very lucky to have been accommodated at the Principal Professor Lionel Edirisinghe’s dwelling at Siebel Avenue Colombo 5 for both board and lodging sans any payment. During that period finding board and lodging as boarders was a problematic probable. He had been fortunate to learn more on his music career while at his dwelling. At a recent television dialog Bandara quipped that the Edirisinghe duo had treated him just like one of their own children.Also there had been no barrier or hassle for Bandara to perform vocal exercises even in the wee hours of the morning . During his entire tenure at Heywood for five long years Bandara had been living enthusiastically also had been trained in his musical education by the Professor who even come to his room to watch him perform vocal exercises. Incidentally Bandara had been the last pupil nurtured by Professor Lionel Edirisinghe before his demise. Bandara had quipped that he had even learnt to cook and even cooked meals for the entire Edirisinghe family unit. By the time Bandara had passed out he had studied for the music Visharada degree successfully. Earlier onBandara had been adjudicated as the finest violin player by the authorities of the Bhahatkande music academy when he was only eighteen years of age, not known to many this feat of his.In the year 2009 Bandara had been bestowed with the title of “Kalabushana” from state patronage for his services rendered to music.
Immediately after his passing out of the Heywood ,an Army officer captain Delwala attached to the Torrington army cantonment had contacted the Professor of the government music school Lionel Edirisinghe wanted a musician to form a band for the army.The Principal sans any hesitation had recommended Bandara Athauda as he was a elegant violinist also as he had not found a teaching appointment then. Bandara had been absorbed as a ‘soldier’ having to follow army routines also practicing with the band. Bandara had been the main instrumentalist playing the violin and the flute for many of army musical concerts which the army had organised during his tenure in the Army. After six months Bandara had been promoted to ‘Corporal’, But had found employment as an assistant music teacher at the Wijayapala Maha Vidyalaya in Matale .Bandara had applied to Matale district as her father was the Principal of a school in the Matale area. It is where where he had met his wife Priyani Rukmal Ganegoda also a teacher in the school had married in year 1984. One of his friends had recommended her a dance teacher to Bandara whom he had seen in school. Bandara had liked her had said to his friend that if she can adjust to his life style leaving home often for musical activities then only he will agree.Bandara had told his friend to visit his place withherr to view to herself how he lived which is contrary to the normal custom where the bridegroom first visits the bride. The duo are happily married blessed with two children ,elder is daughter Nuwansala a student of Mahamaya College Kandy, who is married with a toddler baby while son Buddhika still a bachelor. Nuwansala is currently the deputy manager at People’s Bank Kandy also a capable vocalist having recorded some songs of her own to the lyrics of Rathna Sri Wijesinghe,Yamuna Malini to the music compositions of famous musicians .In a recent SLRC program felicitating Bandara Athauda she sang the duets of Bandara’s songs with Niranjala Sarojini, Chandralekha Perera and Malini Buathsinghala not showing any nerves of course having inherited genetic affiliations to father’s aptitude. Need to reminisce that for the 40th anniversary of Bandara’s singing career the musical show “Ruwan Tharaka” was held at the Musaeus College auditorium in year 2013 to a packed house ,where it was Nuwansala who had duetted with father Bandara, had sung to precision like a veteran not showing any signs of a novice.Bandara had not been that keen to have more similar recitals as he was not that person who chases popularity.His fiftieth year in the musical field in in year 2023 ,it all depends whether a similar concert would be organised.The concert in year 2013 had been promoted by Bandra’s younger brother living then in Oman.His son Buddhika ,is highly qualified ,a bright product of Dharmaraja College now a senior Human resources learning and development executive at prestigious MAS holdings having graduated in Business Management, IT literacy from the Uva Wellessa University ,is now also a national Director for Miss & Mister Universal VIP World, Dubai,National Director for Miss Tourism Planet,had worked at MAS Intimates (pvt) Ltd, studied at Harvard Law school, also studied at Institute of Personnel Management Sri Lanka, both have high prospects for their future. Both Nuwansala and Buddhika have had absolutely no pressures from father Bandara to follow his musical footpath but had been allowed to choose their own routes.
Son Buddhika teamed up with his father Bandara in the program “Leya saha Laya” in TV Derana in year 2019, where the duo had to sing several songs together as duets. In that program Buddhika had revealed the hereditary affiliations to his father’s singing aptitudes going close to father possessing a more less similar voice with wisdom. Buddhika had already recorded about twelve songs to the lyrics of famous lyricists like Sunil R Gamage, Dhammika Bandara and Rathna Sri Wijesinghe to the music compositions of legends like Rohana Weerasinghe and HM Jayawardena which could be heard from the you tube .Buddhika cannot devote much time though talented as he is full time occupied with his huge responsibilities as Human Resources administrative, development work at the MAS Holdings. Daughter too has genetically affiliated to Father’s music aptitudes having excelled in her school days at Mahamaya College Kandy .In the recent SLRC two hour program of Bandara Athauda “Sandaru Suyamya”, Nuwansala sang three duets with father, previously sung with Chandralekha Perera, Niranjala Sarojini and Malini Bulathsinghala very impressively of course having without doubt inherited hereditary affiliations to father .Bandara resides in Levella, Kandy, Sirimal Uyana, Sirimal watta housing scheme in an ideal environment. Bandara after any music activity , television program, concert in Colombo or outstations makes sure he returns to his base, his Kandy dwelling which is to him most conducive. While working in Polgolla he has had quarters when the family had dwelled .Before retirement from the proceeds of the sale of his ancestral properties in Matale had constructed the house in Levella .
In year 1967 to 1969 SLBC had graded the vocalists with the participation of legendary music directors from India. Bandara had sung two songs of Pandit WD Amaradeva, had passed the audition with consummate ease to be in the list of ‘A ‘grade singers at the SLBC also as a recognised as a graded ‘Nurthi Gee’ exponent. Bandara also had got the opportunity to play in the SLBC orchestra as a ‘violinist’, also as a ‘flutist’ , had also participated also as a chorus singer.There had been a program termed “Nawa Padamala” conducted by Visharada Gunadasa Kapuge as he returned from his educational tenure in India. All novice lyric writers send to SLBC lyrics of songs which are utilized for these programs. The song written by a novice then Siri Saman Wijetunga had been given to Bandara to sing in the said program which was about the “Mahaweli River” , the music composition was also that of Gunadasa Kapuge himself. Thereafter he had to sing a song to the lyrics of a song written by Rathna Sri Wijesinghe when he was an student in the Advanced level class at Richmond College Galle, titled ” Netha Piyan Wasa’, both songs were Bandara’s first recorded songs at the SLBC to the music of Visharada Gunadasa Kapuge.During that period Bandara reminisced that the standards at SLBC were at a high boost not allowing any song with inferior lyrics to be sung by anyone which had to be navigated over a panel of strict judges who were very firm. For a ‘Sarala Gee” program then a single artiste is given four songs , the songs had to be on four different specific themes and lyrics, one patriotic, one ‘budu guna’ , one on ‘maw piya guna’ and the other on hatred ( Viraha). The lyrics had to be obtained from versatile lyricists and music compositions from accomplished musicians. The song ‘Nayana Kalu’ was sung by Bandara for his first ‘Sarala gee’ program at the SLBC. Bandara from his inception had never sung songs of others as many have done in the annals of our music history. But in the popular TV Derana program “Ma Novena Mama” he had obliged to sing other’s songs at which he had selected songs of acclaimed vocalists as WD Amaradewa, Victor Ratnayake. Sanath Nandasiri, Shanthi Geethadeva, Somasiri Jayamaha, Gunadasa Kapuge etc embedded with high class lyrics and classy musical compositions.
After been an assistant teacher at the Vidyapala Maha Vidyalaya in Matale for only about two years ,had opted to an assignment in Matale district as his father was a Principal in a school in Matale. Thereafter had joined the Giragama teacher’s training institute for about eight years, before he had been assigned as a Senior lecturer in music at the Polgolla government music university from year 1985 to year 2008 until his retirement ,a relatively long stint where he had groomed thousands of budding musicians. It need to be emphasized that Bandara was not astute to lengthen his music career in singing but had given priority to educating the students with his music familiarity . He reminisces that his students having qualified in the respective musical degrees are scattered in schools and musical institutions not only in Sri Lanka but in overseas countries too holding high position..Though both Bandara and wife are in twilight years after retirement the duo conduct music classes for many students for all island schools’ singing and music competitions sans any fees. Usually any music teacher conducts a class for a maximum of about three hours but Bandara conducts even in excess of six hours which is generally unheard of ,in the music teaching routine processes. During the latter years Bandara had served as the visiting lecturer at the University of Peradeniya too for the benefit of deaf and blind personnel.
Bandara Has never ever asked any responsible person in any media to promote his songs.He quipped that even once he sings a new ‘sarala Gee” program he even does not inquire when they were played, only he gets the information from others .Once the former Chairman of the ITN Newton Guneratne had met Bandara added that he is one person who had never asked him favours .Bandara is really unassuming down to earth personality who never goes behind popularity. Bandara had quipped humbly in a television discussion that he had never asked a single lyricist to compile lyrics for songs all he had received by sheer coincidence .However Bandara had sung songs obtaining lyrics of many lyricists like Kusum Peiris, Sunil R Gamage,Kumaradasa Saputantri, Ratha Sri Wijesinghe,Sunil Ariyaratne,Wasantha Kumara Kobewaka,Praneeth Abeysundara, Bandula Nanayakkarawasam, Jayalath Manoratne etc.to the music directions of mainly Rohana Weerasinghe ,Gunadasa Kapuge and HM Jayawardena.
Some of his popular songs among many are “Sithuwili Sirawee”,lyrics by Kusum Peiris music composition of HM Jayawardena, “ Nuwan Tharaka” lyrics by Kumaradasa Saputantri, music composition by Rohana Weerasinghe, “ Sihinayaki Ree” a duet with Niranjala Sarojini, music by HM Jayawardena, “ Nethu Piyan Piya”, lyrics of Rathna Sri Wijesinghe to the music composition of Gunadasa Kapuge, “Kohe Yannada” a duet with Malini Bulathsinghala , lyrics of Kumaradasa Saputantri , music melody HM Jayawardena, “Hiru Hine hena” a duet with Chandralekha Perera, musical melody of Rohana Weerasinghe ,lyrics by Sunil Ariyaratne,” Kandulu Pisadalana” was sung to the lyrics of Wasantha Kumara Kobewaka, music compositions of Rohana Weerasinghe,”Obe Eetha Sanda Wee Paya”, lyrics by Jayalath Manoratne to the music composition of Rohana Weerasinghe perhaps his solitary song authored. The manner how Bandara had got the lyrics of the last two songs mentioned above reads very fascinating. Once Bandara had travelled to SLRC with Sachin Keith from Kandy to attend to some recording work.Had gone towards Nugegoda are in search of some song lyrics when the duo had met accidently Praneeth Abeysundara before he became a Professor. When the two added the reason of their visit Pranneth Abeysundera had given this song which was in a file. Bandara had been impressed with the lyrics had thanked him and gone to a café in the vicinity had made a rough melody using his skills in writing music notes and later handed over to Rohana Weerasinghe to make a complete music composition. Bandara recollects the unselfishness of Praneeth Abeysundera as it was handed over sans any hesitation most willingly .Once Bandara had during a visit to Colombo had visited Lakshman Wijesekera at his residence at Narahenpita flats where his friend Kumaradasa Saputantri also had dwelled. Bandara when inquired whether he had any song lyrics Lakshman Wijesekera had brought a file containing many song lyrics had told unrestrainedly to select any one he preferred. One he had recommended was that of Jayalath Manoratne’s who hardly compose lyrics for songs to which Bandara too had favoured “ Obe Eetha Sanda Wee Paya” which music was composed by Rohana Weerasinghe.The song Bandara had included to a cassette had been heard in many FM channels.As Bandara had derived an income from the sale of the cassette he had decided to give a token of appreciation to Jayalath Manoratne for his lyrics which he had handed over when he met him at St Anthony’s College Kandy auditorium when a stage play was in progress .This token of appreciation had surprised Jayalath Manoratna for making him a recognized lyricist .In both instances Bandara had emphasised the unselfishness of both Praneeth Abeysundara and Lakshman Wijesekera which he had mentioned in a television debate. Also in the same television dialog Bandra emphasized the quality of the character of musician HM Jayawardena whom he had moved with from his novice days. Bandara reiterated that HM Jayawardena had been a very helpful innocent person without any malice and jealousy towards anyone, had loved the violin music displays of Bandara.When interrogated about his music ability had added not much upstairs very humbly said do not possess much of knowledge in music knowing just three or four ‘Ragas’. On Bandara’s visits to Colombo he used to meet HM Jayawardena who loved to listen to his violin music temperaments. After enjoying Bandara’s violin displays at home once at his dwelling had gifted him rupees one thousand which Bandara had not accepted. Had retorted saying that his violin music was so soothing could enjoy remembering for even three months or so.
Some songs of Bandara Athauda not mentioned above are” Ashawe Mal”, “Dahasak Pipi Mal”,”Nethu Piyan Piya”,”Ashawe Mal”, “Kandulu Pisadala”, many have been re made without harming the original music compositions including modern technology. Bandara’ s songs could be heard on spotify,You tube , apple music etc.It should be emphasized that Bandara had composed lyrics for his song ” Sihinayake Se” to the music composition of HM Jayawardena.Bandara is a person who never runs behind his own popularity.At the conclusion of a musical program the presenter asked him how he wished to be addressed as a vocalist, teacher, lecturer, father, etc his answer was instantaneously to be a good human being helpful to many at all times. Indeed he a role model not only for all artistes but to all citizens ,been so humble and unassuming had dedicated immensely his time and energy for the pupils, his extensive knowledge in instrumental and vocal music .All would wish him longevity and good health as a septuagenarian in his twilight years.
Sunil Thenabadu in Brisbane e mail email@example.com whatsapp 0061444533242