"Kandy Lamissi" Mariazelle:
Baila "Queen" joins the "Kings"
When Mariazelle Gunetilleke entered the "Observer Talent
Search-Junior Section" in way back 1970 as a child, the Sunday Observer
ran a headline-"The little girl with the big voice and guitar higher
than her". This newspaper predicted she would be the winner. And it
happened. Today she is known as the "Queen of Baila". As her father, the
late Rajah Wijebadra Gunetilleke believed, Mariazelle who started to
sing at house parties from the age of three seems to have been
accidentally vaccinated with a gramophone needle.
As a child she was inspired by listening to the ever popular numbers
of that era like 'Udarata Menike', the English version of 'Hai Hui Babi
Achchige Bycicale' and mesmerised the baila of the late Eric Batcho.
She forced herself to stay awake to listen to the radio till late
night though her parents wanted her to get to bed early as a child
attending St. Joseph's Convent, Nugegoda. A frequent visitor to her
place was Leonard Weerasinghe (father of musician Sohan) who taught this
little girl the first chords of the hawaiian guitar. As a five year old
Mariazelle used to sing "Kumbaya" and "Ebony Eyes" accompanied by this
guitar. She learnt harmonising under Eranga (Leonard's daughter) of the
famous "Eranga/Priyanga" combination.
Enlarging her knowledge in music, Mariazelle as a seven year old
graduated to the Spanish Guitar and studied Classical Guitar under the
late Winston Jayawardene. Later, she played drums and keyboards at that
Her ringing voice as a child made everyone believe that they were
either listening to Marie Osmond or Karen Carpenter. In school she led
the children's choir and conducted it. Often her teachers had to warn
her as free periods in school ended up in noise with Mariazelle flanked
by her friends singing in the class.
Despite these talents, she could not secure a place in the "Elasto
Talent Competition" hosted by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.
Undeterred by this set back, little Mariazelle entered the "Observer
Talent Search-Junior Section" to be the proud winner.
This gave her more courage to play with bands like "The Emeralds" and
the "Midnight Mist". Recording "Kandy Lamissi" in 1977 was the virtual
turning point in her career. The song was an instant hit and Mariazelle
came to be known by that name. This new "Kandy Lamissi" had to move from
place to place not only here, but also in top hotels like Soaltee Oberoi
in Kathmandu, Nepal to perform. In the same year she met with an
accident in Nuwara Eliya in which she sustained serious injuries to ker
spine and collar bone.
Music fans were told that Mariazelle would never perform again as
doctors claimed that extensive damage had been caused to her vertebrae.
In addition, she fractured her ribs, shoulder and forearm. Helped by her
dear classmate, Christine Nadarajah at that time, her belief in God and
community prayers saw her out from that dark period, Mariazelle claimed.
Out from hospital Mariazelle had the privilege of getting the helping
hands of legends like Clarence Wijewardene, the Emperor of Baila, M. S.
Fernando, Stanley Peiris, Ajantha Ranasinghe, Chandral Fonseka and
Sunil/Piyal of the "Gypsies". The compositions of Clarence and others
provided her a different style and rendition that attracted music
lovers. Ajantha's composition "Sihina Nelum Mal" was dedicated to her
son, Teshan now studying in England.
In her music journey, after 1977, Clarence was instrumental in
composing the best ever hits for Mariazelle. The sweet melodies, music
and lyrics like "Rahasai Sonduru Jeewe" and "Yowun Sihina Loke" still
echoe in the minds of music lovers. Clarence knew the enormous music
talents in Mariazelle and saw her ability and trend in vocals. He
accordingly composed and every number became an overnight hit.
This "Queen of Baila" and pop music, after globe trotting many a time
has now joined the band "Kings" to perform at the lobby/Lounge at Hotel
Continental in addition to other concerts. Mariazelle has come a long
way to stay in the music scene. The stage is always live when Mariazelle
is there. She, was discovered by the "Observer Talent Search"
Mariazelle with the "Kings'
Formed in 1983 as CHAMPAIGNE and changed the name to KINGS when they
had to tour Europe as there was an international band by the name of
Founder Members of the band: Chandral Fonseka Leader/Bassist/vocals
Ranil Vas Guitar/Keyboards/Vocals Shiran Munasinghe Drums/Vocals
Melantha Perera Keyboards/Vocals Back in Sri Lanka, they continued to
function as Kings and played at the LITTLE HUT for 7 years continuously.
In 1989 with Sonali Sooriyagoda as the female vocalist, Ranil Vas and
Melantha Perera were replaced by Aruna Liyanage (Jaya-Sri) in 1989 and
Geeth Mihiripenna in 1987. Geeth Mihiripenna was replaced by Arith
Ratnawibhushana in 1990. In 1989 Sonali Sooriyagoda joined as the female
vocalist. Only three changes took place in ten years.
KINGS were voted the MOST POPULAR BAND IN 1990, AND 1991 at the
annual Island music awards.
KINGS re-grouped in July 2002 and had their re-launching concert at
the Empire Room of Mount Lavinia Hotel with a number of top musicians in
attendance. The members were Chandral Fonseka - Leader/Bassist/Vocals
Ranil Vas - Guitar/Keyboards/Vocals Rafi Burksh - Keyboards/vocals
Ajantha Dodampegama - Drums/vocals Sherry - Female Singer.
After a spell at the Blue Leopard and Harbour Room of Grand Oriental
Hotel in Colombo for 2 and a half years, KINGS can now be seen and heard
at The Heist Bar at The Ceylon Continental Hotel on Fridays.
The band has been seen at the Holiday Inn Hotel ushering in the New
Year, and also the Colombo Plaza (Cinnamon Grand) 2004 New Year's Eve
dance. The present line up of the band comprises:
1. Chandral Fonseka (Bass Guitar & Vocals)
2. Hasitha Samarakoon (Drums & Vocals)
3. Shakila Ganegama (Key-Boards & Vocals)
4. Manoj Fernando (Guitars & Vocals)
5. Mariazelle Goonetilleke (Vocals).