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Sunday, 26 September 2004    
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Aquarius' Saturday date

by Mahes Perera

Benjy and his band Aquarius will be in scintillating live action at the hut, Mount Lavinia on October 2 and will continue to do so every Saturday. Their repertoire takes the groovers from the chart toppers of the 60's through to the rockers of the 90's. To those who enjoy the contemporary soft-rock or the hip-hop sizzles, a night with Aquarius will leave you thirsting for more. The band had a change of personnel which has resulted in an unique and powerful sounding Aquarius.

"I'm happy with the sound of Aquarius now that keyboardist/vocalist Udaya Welikala from Friends has joined us.

His expertise is really an asset to us and together with Ashan the other keyboardist who handles the hip-hop, and rap, our vibes keeps the youth groovers on the floor for long hours" exclaims Benjy, who enjoys himself playing his favourite bass or doubling up on the congas when the rhythms call for the latin beat.

The other members of this exciting band are Shiran Munasinghe - drums/vocals, the glitz Sheru who has been the band's vocalist for the past three years, and is quite versatile in singing not only the latest chart hits but also the baila and songs in Hindi and Russian, considering the fact that she hails from the Maldives.

The guitarist/vocalist in the band is Iresha who one time was a member of Dream Team.

All the members of Aquarius are vocalists which gives the band that extra thrust.

46 years of great sax

Forty six years ago Kumar Mollilgoda was leading a small band playing Jazz and playing a composition of his own. His instrument then was the Chromatic Harmonica.

Kumar Mollilgoda

Now forty six years later, looking back at what this multi-instrumentalist has achieved, it is quite evident that he is one of the most gifted saxophonists to be involved in jazz bands, dance bands, supper club bands, pop groups, lobby bands, rock groups, oriental groups and Sinhala film music and cassette recording orchestras.

To celebrate his 46th anniversary Kumar has released a CD of 14 well known tunes ranging from pops to latin jazz and be-bop. As it is not a commercial venture, the CD is not for sale and can be obtained only from Kumar at the Cafe Deli France. The CD features Kumar blowing Tenor sax, Soprano sax and Baritone sax and is the first of its kind by a Sri Lankan musician and probably the first in Asia.

Kumar has plans for a concert or a TV programme to celebrate his anniversary but it is still in the planning stage. Watch out for the date.

Having started off on Harmonica, Kumar switched over to singing Rock and Roll appearing at dances and stage shows including Malcolm Andree's shows. His rendition of 'Jail House Rock' and 'Blue Suede Shoes' really brought the roof down.

As there were no Rock and Roll guitarists around at that time. Kumar learnt to play guitar and also to play the solo spots. Though self taught, he began to improve rapidly on guitar picking up Flamenco, and Jazz styles. His rendition of Arthur Smith's 'Guitar Boggie' was picked up by many aspiring young guitarists of the time. He got the biggest break in his career when the 'Manhattans Dance Band' signed him on as their guitarist in 1962. Kumar also taught guitar during this period and Rajah Jalaldeen is his famous pupil.

In 1963, Kumar bought the first of his many saxophones. (The Hohner Tenor Sax he still blows). He began appearing at Cabaret spots as a Rock and Roll singer with his guitar and saxophone, and once did a cabaret with a Norwegian female dancer at the Port Cargo Corporation dance in 1964. at that time Kumar joined the 'Mario Manrick's Band' as guitarist, but when Mario Manricks heard Kumar play a few riffs on his saxophone, Kumar was asked to play saxophone from the next date.

And that was the beginning of Kumar's love affair with the saxophone. Within a month of learning to play the sax-Kumar played for a half-hour radio programme with a dance band Kumar, with his vigorous blowing, fast and colourful variations and crisp clear tone, showed what a saxophone in the correct hands could do.

Around 1965, Earle Arnolda invited Kumar to join the 'Fireflies' beat group which he was managing. A beat group similar to the famous band of the time 'The Champs' of 'Tequila' fame, "The 'Fireflies' were a hit with Kumar's sax sound.

Kumar continues to inspire many young boys and girls to take up blowing sax and several saxophonists from the oriental field and the services bands come to listen to Kumar at Deli France. Two of them have already started playing solo or as a duo following in Kumar's footsteps.

Gala fest in Oktober

Way back in Germany in October 1810 a royal wedding celebration gave birth to an annual event labelled 'Oktoberfest' - a festival of traditional music, dance and food. The well known Bavarian Band 'The Alpenfetzer' a four piece band will be jetted down by LTU International Airways to play at 'Oktoberfest' at the Colombo Plaza' for a week from Wednesday September 29 to Sunday October 3.

The band is a four piece band and the members, who have been performing their music in over half of the countries of the world, are multi-instrumentalists playing trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, guitar, accordion, trombone and piano. The quartet will play Bavarian folk music, yodel and perform comedy routines within a wide repertoire of modern dance music.

Apart from the Bavarian music 'The Alpenfetzer' will delight both young and old with their interpretations of the oldies, country and hit parade favourites. In addition this authentic German Oktoberfest will feature a troupe of four Bavarian dancers by courtesy of the Bavarian Cultural Association.

The Shoeplatters as they are known dressed in traditional attire will also be part of the team serving guests, food and beverage, in between the dance routines to give that extra touch of being in Munich during such a festival. For those who are adventurous in spirit the traditional competitions like sausage eating, apple eating, playing the music instruments and dancing are on the cards. - M.P

First ever Sinhala Internet Music CD

The first ever internet music CD in Sinhala was released by to commemorate their fourth anniversary. The site was sponsored by the premier Sinhala music site, Sinhala Jukebox website.

( The CD is now available at the website for a free download during the months of September and October 2004.

The CD consists of 15 songs that include several remastered tracks and original all-new-for-the-web songs. The music direction and composition of all songs in the Cd were done by Rohan Jayawardena, a Sri Lankan music director now living in Australia.

The main vocalists are Nalin and Rohan Jayawardena. Song lyrics were by Dr. Vicumpriya Perera, Shelton Nawaratne, Anil Attapattu, and W. Alvin. Duet vocals are by Malini Bulathsinhala, Nirmala Ranathunga, Nijamali Jayawardena, and Minali Gamage. All the songs were recorded (or remastered) in Australia.

A musical celebration

'A classical Middle Eastern dancer with a modern edge' is how the blurbs describe Ghada Chalhoub who will be in Sri Lanka to perform at the Sheherazade from Friday October 1. Ghada's limited engagement is in connection with the twentieth anniversary celebrations of the Galadari Hotel, the historic landmark being October 6.

Her soulful and elegant belly dance performances with its dynamic movements and complex musical interpretations have charmed many an audience throughout the Middle East. There will be much offered by way of entertainment for music lovers.

Nightingale's Karaoke Lounge invites you to sing and compete with each other in the special competitions arranged daily which will entitle the winners to some great prizes.

At Gabsby's the Jazz and Blues Club will stage special performances by foreign acts, from October 1 to October 6. The latest addition to the hotel a conceptualised designed Pub with a pool ban and a large screen airing the latest happenings around the world will be opened on October 1 for the patron's enjoyment.

The lobby with selective bands, singers and dancers will throb with pulsating music to set the mood for the anniversary celebrations at all the outlets of the Galadari Hotel.


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