Visharada Neela Wickramasinghe:
Versatile playback singer
Visharada Neela Wickramasinghe is an accomplished singer, teacher,
composer, a super grade artist at Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC)
in both classical and light music and a director of music. She is a
versatile playback singer having sung in about 70 films. Her singing
career has spanned for over 42 years since she sang her first song for
the then Radio Ceylon in 1959 for the program 'Amateur Voice.' She has
always sung with an intensity of feeling. She has evolved her own
inimitable style of singing.
Neela inherited her musical talents from her parents. Her father was
known for his skills in singing and acting while her mother excelled in
folk songs. She owes her success to such reputed music teachers as Amara
Athukorala, Vincent Somapala, Ananda Jayasinghe, Sarath Dassanayake and
Premadasa Mudunkotuwa. After obtaining her Sangeeth Visharada degree in
1974, she became a music teacher. After teaching music in several
schools for over 23 years, she retired to concentrate on her musical
She possesses characteristics of choosing the proper and ideal lyrics
and she is very particular with regard to the meanings, rhythms and
echoes of her songs which had always given the listener immense ecstatic
At solo concerts here and abroad fans waited eagerly for the rare
aesthetic nourishment which they relished. Her variations are found in
abundance and singing a series of songs without a break is unique and
remarkable with her melodious voice.
Unlike many vocalists she never sought popularity. She has been
acclaimed by a cross section of fans. She believes in not having
recitals at frequent intervals. Over the years her voice has grown to a
high depth which has given her songs a semblance of maturity. She has
won the Sarasaviya Award five times, Presidential Award, Sumathi Tele
Awards, Zonta Award and Vanitha Award. To her the acclaim she has
received from fans is treasured more than any of these awards. She has
made several trips overseas for solo recitals.
She has composed the music for most of her own songs. Among many who
have sung her musical compositions are Pandith Amaradeva, Sangeeth Nipun
Sanath Nandasiri and Victor Ratnayake.
She said that she had inherited her courage from her mother. She had
a difficult time when she was young but due to sheer determination she
surmounted the difficulties. She is content with her present position,
status and popularity as a singer and musician.
She took part in many a social activity outside the realm of music.
She participated in the UNICEF Project to save the children by
eradicating polio from our country in 1989. Her efforts helped immensely
in the campaign to eradicate polio and by 2000 not a single case of
polio has been reported.
Neela has had the unique opportunity to sing for songs composed by
Dr. Lionel Algama, Athula Somasiri, Victor Ratnayake, Nimal Mendis,
Stanley Peiris, C. de S. Kulatillake and a host of other musicians
including young Samantha Perera. She prefers to give talented young
musicians their due place.
All of them gauged her potential and predicted a prosperous future
for her. To her credit she has immortalised heavily westernised
compositions such as "Viyo Gee", "Rantikiri Sina" and "Master Sir." Many
of her popular songs have been sung in only about eight cassettes, first
of which was released in 1978.
Neela was adjudged the winner in a singing competition during a New
Year festival when she was very young. She has won every singing
competition she took part in school. She was placed first among 555
contestants in a singing competition held at the Sarasaviya Studio in
Kelaniya in 1966.
Neela's career as a playback singer blossomed with time and she
became a much sought after singer from 1980 onwards. She received the
prestigious Sarasaviya Award for her song "Bodhiye Viharaye" in "Ethin
Ethata." In 1985 too she bagged the Sarasaviya Award.
Despite a plenty of bouquets and accolades pouring from all quarters,
there were brickbats and missiles too hurled at her by some elements.
She is one person who is fully committed and dedicated to her career.
She has confessed that she has sufficient strength to stand on her feet.
She sets goals for herself and when she reaches then she forges beyond.
After her retirement while making new musical compositions she
wanted to launch a project to protect children felicitate veteran
artists and look after elderly parents. On her own initiative she
formed 'The Mother' organisation in which she is the founder
chairperson and collected a sum of Rs. 500,000 from a 'Master Sir'
recital and donated it to the late musician Stanley Peiris for
medical expenses during his prolonged illness.