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DateLine Sunday, 16 December 2007

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Seperated and isolated by the lumpen culture

No patronage for her being talented and cultured:

Up-close and personal

Neela Wickramasinghe has also become a victim of contemptible culture which made Sri Lanka a cultural desert. While so called artists who perform on political stage receive accolade and financial rewards, she did not receive her due recognition, perhaps, due to her cultured voice and sin of not contributing to baser tastes.


Neela Wickamasinghe - A winsome smile coupled with the cultured voice that soothes and tutours human race.
Pic : Ranga Chandrarathne

Out of jealousy, many awards which were rightfully her had been robbed. The same fate befell on artists like Gunadasa Kapuge and Malini Bulathsinghala.

It is incomprehensible why the genuine artists and their original works are relegated to the backburner while upholding fake and imitative work as creations of our own.

However, it is an indisputable fact that very signature of nation imbedded in the original works of art sprang out from indigenous culture.

According to Neela Wickramasinghe, a song should contain an inspiring notation with a voice which will address the heat and mind of the listener. A good song can move the audience and create zests of melancholy as well as happiness.

A notation that will create momentary and passing impulses, in this instance, can not be considered as a song. Song will leave behind a memory in the mind and heart of the listener. Song also should contain meaningful lyrics.

As a teacher of music with over 23 year's experience, Neela is of the view that a practical aspect of the music is essential. The authorities decision to remove practical sessions from music syllabi is a ridiculous step which will enable a student to cram and obtain a distinction for music without acquiring the ability to spell out a single note.

A delicate balance between practical sessions and theory should be struck in order to produce talent. She is afraid, for instance that a person who could not speak be able to obtain a distinction for music.

As music is a practical subject, in fact, an art, jettisoning the practical sessions will destroy the creativity and ultimately the music education in Sri Lanka. She emphasized the fact that variety fares and year-end concerts music are held in school in order to boost talents and to bring out students? creativity. Children are also talented in composing lyrics. Scrapping off of practical sessions will completely rob students of their creativity and talents.

Neela Wickramasinghe stated that a considerable sector of teachers of music can not teach the subject owing to their inability and inaptitude. There are some teachers of music who can not spell out the note "Sa". She equates the steady deterioration of art and culture of a nature is amounting to withering away of the very spirit of the nation.

Speaking on intellectual piracy, existing law regarding the legal ownership of a song is modeled on Western laws. In operas, the musician has the intellectual property rights as different artists sing in the opera. However, this principle can not be applied to songs since a song is sung by a vocalist.

For instance, a song is identified with singer not with the lyrists or a musician. A notation and lyric will not make a song. Combination of a notation with lyric becomes a song when it renders a voice or a life to it. So the singer is the vehicle that carries song to the audience.

So considerable intellectual property rights should be vested with the singer. These loopholes in the legislature are being exploited by mushrooming singers and distort the original songs. They earn quick money while those who have intellectual property rights for songs turn a blind eye.

Disunity among the artists also hampered the effort of genuine artists to protect the intellectual rights of artists and songs which are being sung on popular stage by duplicate singers. As she loves art, Neela Wickramasinghe doe not want to degrade the music to that of a cheap game played on a popular play-ground.

Neela is fortunate to render her voice to best songs of our generation. Perhaps, singular characteristic of her voice is its tutored nature and femininity. As she comes from a classical back ground, her voice knows the subtle under tones of notes and is, therefore, capable of capturing the hearts and minds of thousands of Sri Lankans for generations. It is not only a symbol of Sri Lankanness but also distinct feature of cultured voice.

As art is the very heat of the nation, it should be protected. She attributes the present moral decades to deteriorating standards of songs. Most of the songs appeal to the impulses than to the heart and mind of the audience.

Through media, cheap music has already devoured younger generation. It is pathetic that Government media which should be the wayfarers are also following cheap tactics of certain media and produced programmes modeled on shallow productions.

She recalls with nostalgic memories when she actively participated in ant-polio campaigns in Sri Lanka which would contribute to eradicate the disease in Sri Lanka.

Among the sixty seven play-back songs, Viyogee Gayena Hade (Gahanu Lamai), Rasamusu Penkalpana (Durga), Keena Dammitak, mee Aba Atte (Chanchala Rekha) are some of the memorable ones. She believes in her talents and subscribed to the idea that a person with abilities can face challenges. She states that music is not something for competition which will ruin the field.

She is thoroughly disappointed about the wave of commercialism that, some times, sweeps off even an established artist. However, she does not advocate the idea that public taste has been deteriorating. For instance, a concert held in Bandarawela. Though oriental instruments were exclusively used for the concert, the venue was inundated with crowd who even stayed after the show to meet the artists in person.

She believes that the commercial wave is one which has been artificially created by certain media just to lead the audience on the garden path. Although taste among the younger generation is, somewhat, lowered by the sweeping commercial wave, youngsters complaint that the songs with a classical base are hardly played on media. These songs are not memorable but transient as they produce cacophony of noises.

Speaking of the increasing expatriate Sri Lankan community scattered in diverse parts of the globe, Neela Wickramasinghe stated that these Sri Lankans have a thirst for quality music.

This has been vindicated by the overwhelming response she received at concert held abroad. They invited veteran artists for those concerts for the very reason that expatriate communities appreciate songs (not incoherent set of noises) that are registered in their heart and mind. It should be mentioned here that Neela was introduced to me by expatriate Sri Lankan writer Sunil Govinnage who is her avid fan.

From childhood, singing was a part of her life. Perhaps, the ability was hereditary as almost all members of Visharada Neela Wickramasinghe's family are born singers. Having mastered the craft, she entered the field of music singer; 1959 sang her debut song for SLBC and a play-back song in 1966.

Though she is a one of the sought after songstress, Neela Wickramasinghe enjoyed more her teaching career and imparting her knowledge to a generation of students.

She consider her play-back sons Viyogee Gayena Hade for Sumitra Peries's Gahanu Lamai as a watershed in her career on account its being western notation, a deviation from her indigenous folk song base.

Viyogee Gayena Hade and Master Sir, a play-back song for Manick Sandarasagara's Kaludiyadahara were songs based on Western notations. The music for the songs was composed by Nimal Mendis.

****

"The Mother"- a caring Organisation

Envisioned by songstress Neela Wickramasinghe, "The Mother" was born in 2002, with the aim of catering to children, elders and artists who made a lifetime contribution to the field.

"The Mother" held a "Master Sir" concert and presented "The Mother" award to selected artists; C. J. S Kulatilaka, D. D. Gunasena, V. Hemapala, Henry Kaldera and Ven. Rambukkana Siddartha. Except Ven. Rambukkana Siddartha Thero, other artists were presented with a sum of Rs. 20,000 each together with the "The Mother" award.

"The Mother" has already done number of successful projects including construction of a house for artist Shelton Premaratne. The organization's this year's focus will be on financing disabled children and their education. The organisation also finances needy children's education

rangac@sundayobserver.lk
 

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