"Sa" completes 39th year:
Victor Ratnayaka's songs reverberate through the music world
It ended just where it had started thirty nine-years back - at
Lumbani Theatre in 1973. Victor Ratnayaka's Sa performance with its own
quotient of stylistic excellence continues to sustain its broad appeal
though it marked its dramatic finale at the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda
Rajapaksa Theatre and Lumbani Theatre.
In the simplest phraseology, Victor Rathnayaka is a singer with a
natural command of melody and his music is melodically planned in the
minutest detail. A mere play of his fingers among the keys on his
cherished harmonium has the potential to produce tuneful melodies within
Victor Ratnayaka's music and voice are clearly intended to appeal to
various sides of public taste and he has a sense of style that is very
much his own. The Sa performance saw the light of day in 1973 at the
Lumbani Theatre. As he had been well established in the music arena with
his own impressive repertoire of hits, he was ready for such a solo
His songs captured the spirit of a wide spectrum of fans when he
staged his fiftieth Sa performance at BMICH as the first show in it.
The massive strength behind the musical enterprise was the collective
spirit of Sunil Ariyarathne, K.D.K. Dharmawardhana, Premakeerthi de
Alwis, R. R. Samarakoon and many others. They proposed Sa, the first
note of musical octave as the title for the show.
In more than forty Sa performances on foreign tours, he enjoyed
widespread respect and popularity as a towering musician among Sri
Lankans living abroad. His first performance in the Maldives in 1978 and
the last live performance in Australia well demonstrate the level of
international recognition offered to the show.
The uniqueness of 'Sa'
Since 1970s, Victor Ratnayaka's Sa never faded into insignificance
against any growing trend of music but positively inspired the minds of
an audience held spellbound.
His songs ranged over folk music, popular music and classical music
and nourished (and still does!) the mind of the fan in tune of his
philosophy of music. Victor Ratnayaka possesses the rare ability to
facially interpret what he sings and he is fairly confident of his
success at it. In the course of his singing, his voice and face
carefully projects and sensitivity of the words sung in so much as to
keep the listener absolutely mesmerised.
The 'Sa' performance has long entertained almost three generations
and completes the thirty ninth year in 2012. The show comprises his
masterpieces that are products of both eastern and western musical
As the show completed the thirty ninth year on July 20 this year,
maestro Victor Ratnayaka called a sad finale to the "Sa' performance
that brought out a legacy of piquantly novel songs to Sinhala music.
However, stopping such an exceptional show is invariably a national
loss against the drop of increasing mishandling of music in Sri Lanka at
How ever, Victor Ratnayaka's departure from Sa is justifiable on the
ground that frailties of age debar him from proper singing.
The popular hits such as Thani Tharuwe, Sihil Sulan Relle, Soka
Senasum, Miyuru Kalpana added beautiful colour to the show.
This made fans of Victor Ratnayaka believe that the Sa performance
was the "spring" of Sinhala music. Today his fans seem to have been
distracted by his sudden declaration of the end of Sa performance at the
climax of its popularity.
The attraction of Sa rests largely on beautiful melodies and the
variety of themes which range over love, patriotism, childhood, and a
mother's love. The variety of the performance inevitably compels one to
watch it over and over again.
It appears fair to say that he was the legend of youth. His songs
were a classic blend of light music and classical music - an interface
between musical tradition upheld by H.R. Jothipala and that used by W.D.
Amaradeva in a transitional period of music.
By this time W.D. Amaradeva and Nanda Malini were staging
"Shravanaradhana", a joint performance which had earned unmistakable
success and popularity throughout the country. Victor Ratnayaka's friend
suggested to him to mount a solo performance with the best hits called
from his popular repertoire influencing the musical ethos of the
This was the birth of Sa
He has composed music for popular films such as Mataraachchi,
Thavalama, Hulawai, and Sarungale. Moreover Victor Ratnayaka has sung
nearly hundred songs for the screen but adequate appraisal for them has
not been made.
Victor Ratnayaka's close association with Premasiri Khemadasa was a
historic occurrence that produced best creations. During this time,
Khemadasa was conducting a music class named, Sangeetha Manjari at
Maradana. At Sangeetha Manjari, Victor Rathnayaka enriched his music
with the company of Premasiri Khemadasa, Sunil Ariyarathne,
Thilakarathna Kuruwita Bandara. He even sang for Khemadasa's Sithijaya
(Horizon) and opera which incorporated Sanath Nandasiri, Nanda Malini,
and Sunil Ariyarathna.
On the other hand, Victor Ratnayaka made a significant breakthrough
over Radio. Some musical programs produced by G. S. B. Rani Perera
exclusively featured Victor's melodies and Sunil Ariyarathna's lyrics.
As the program producer in SLBC, G.S.B. Rani Perera brought out novel
programs such as Geetha Tharangani and Jana Prasadini which gave immense
publicity to Victor Ratnayaka's songs such as Thotupala aine etc.
He is an excellent music director - a truth made clear by the songs
of films such as Sarungale and Siribo Ayya etc.
In 1976, Prof. Sunil Ariyarathna, Prof. Sucharitha Gamlath and Dr.
Dharmasena Pathiraja invited Victor Ratnayaka for a Sa performance at
the "Weerasinham Hall" in Jaffna.
There Prof. Sucharitha Gamlath made the comment - " A cultural
messenger has arrived in Jaffna".
The response to Sa from the Tamils of Jaffna was really tremendous
because they had not watched a performance of such merit and perfection
Announcing the decision to discontinue Sa performance, Victor
Ratnayaka says, as an artist I am perfectly satisfied because I have
lavishly supported other artistes with my melodies. I did not exploit my
creativity to bring reputation and public praise for myself alone. There
I am satisfied.
I have enjoyed a surprising response from my fans not only in Sri
Lanka but also in other countries. I feel that I am rather incapable of
performing the same way I performed at the first show now.
Therefore it is most sensible to stop singing because my age (71)
cannot bear up the pressure of a solo performance. However, I will
contribute my best in directing and composing music in future. July 20
marks the end of Sa performance but not Victor Rathnayaka's contribution
Unfortunately, the future generation will miss the superbly organised
performance that has already been staged 1450 times and enjoyed by three