Clarence Wijewardena:The unfading star of Sri Lankan music | Sunday Observer

Clarence Wijewardena:The unfading star of Sri Lankan music

Clarence Wijewardena:
Clarence Wijewardena:

It has been 22 years since the brave pioneer of Sri Lankan music who rose above the storms of the musical seven seas to create his own identity left us forever but the memories of his melodies will forever be embedded in our hearts.

The pioneer of Sri Lankan pop music has long left us. But years on one must often reminisce the revolution he created through a new wave of music by the introduction of the Sinhala pop genre to the local industry in the 1970s.

Since then, and even in the present era, any artiste standing before an audience with a guitar in hand is in debt to this maestro. His awe-inspiring and sensational musical creations have created a plethora of singers in Sri Lanka over the years. This musical genius is none other than the unfading star of Sri Lankan music, Clarence Wijewardena.

The transformation of Sinhala pop music by the start of the ‘Moonstones’ group and its pop trio Clarence, Annesley and Indrani can never be forgotten in the music world. The creativity of Clarence through his new music creations and matching delicate melodies in band music exemplified in songs such as, ‘Dilhani Duvani’, ‘Gon Vassa’, ‘Mage Palpathe’ and many other compositions only go on to prove his musical genius.

The true awakening of Sinhala musical bands came with the formation of the ‘Golden Chimes’ in later years along with the creation of the ‘Super Golden Chimes’ thereafter.

Other than Clarence, Annesley and Indrani many more talented musicians and singers entered the music scene during this era. Following the ‘Super Golden Chimes,’ the concept of Sinhala musical groups swept across the country.

The revolution created single-handedly by Clarence is not any less important than the change introduced to the Western music world by groups such as, ‘The Bee Gees’ and ‘The Beatles’.

Clarence and John Lennon of ‘The Beatles’ are undoubtedly equals. Often, many songs created by Clarence were sung by other singers. Clarence had the amazing ability to write not only the lyrics of a song but compose its melody and music, thereby creating a song almost effortlessly. This was a musical gift he possessed which can never be appreciated enough.

It was Clarence Wijewardena’s talent behind most of the songs sung by the 70s heartthrob and much-loved singer of youth at the time, Milton Mallawarachchi.

He was also the unfailing shadow behind many successful songs of popular artists such as, Annesley, Indrani, Anil Bharathi and Priya Sooriyasena through his creative lyrics, melodies and music.

The very first song sung by Clarence ‘Dileepa Podi Puthu’ was created by him based on a poem written and dedicated to his son by Karunaratne Abeysekera for a newspaper at the time. While the song became an immediate hit, his success and popularity as a singer among the public were evident following its release.

“If Pandit Amaradeva is given a prominent position in the local music scene, a similar position must be granted to Clarence Wijewardena” renowned critic Prof. Tissa Abeysekara once said. This utterance was later endorsed by the great Pandit Amaradeva himself.

Following the demise of Clarence, talented veteran musician and singer Rookantha Gunatilleke was able to take this genre of music even further while establishing his musical career through the support rendered by Clarence Wijewardena.

Every keen music enthusiast in the country is undoubtedly aware of the extent of lyrics written by Clarence for various artists during his career.

It is also noteworthy to mention that the first Non-stop music cassette in Sri Lanka’s musical history was created by none other than Clarence Wijewardena, while he also introduced new electronic mixes to songs sung by the popular duo, Chithra and P.L.A Somapala.

He has produced Jingles for Radio and TV commercials and he was a very good copywriter for commercials, such as, ‘Hithata Sevanak - Hithata Nivanak’ for Gam udawa project (Still remain unchanged), ‘Ube kateth dot - Mage kateth dot’ for Dot toffee, and for many more brands such as, Bata, Pugoda, etc.

But, what is unknown about Clarence was that he was a brilliant football player as a youth while he later went on to create the first song intended for Sri Lanka Cricket by creating its lyrics and melody.

Fans can perhaps never forget the ‘Suseema’ comic created surrounding a music band featured in the ‘Sathuta’ comic magazine and the entertainment provided to viewers by Clarence as a music director through his music when it was later turned into a Teledrama on national television.

One can easily recall the way Clarence for the first time highlighted the singing talents of the gifted artist, Jackson Anthony, by guiding him towards a new genre of music. I have never experienced this kind of refreshing intensity by another music director.

Clarence also directed the music in popular teledramas such as, ‘Suseema’, ‘Nidikumba Mal’ and films like ‘Sikuruliya’, ‘Apeksha’ and ‘Sooriyakantha’.

Clarence understood the hearts of the youth in Sri Lanka. He often created his music through this understanding. Therefore, it is unlikely his music will ever leave us, and instead, its value will only increase in time.

He was never in pursuit of money and was instead a simple and down to earth human being, similar to his compositions. Often helping those in need, Clarence never accumulated any wealth through his work. What remains today is his music, the change he created in the local music industry and the now veteran artistes gifted by him to the country.

Clarence did not care for awards and accolades. But while he did however, win awards, perhaps the best out of these was the love and admiration of his fans.

This was despite the fact that his services to the country’s band music industry often went unnoticed and unappreciated. But, those who remember still cherish its value to this day.

“Dear musician, at this moment when we mark 22 years since you left us your musical creations will live in our hearts forever. They will continue to entertain many generations after us.

A price can never be set for the services rendered by you to the music industry for over three decades. Your loved ones and thousands of fans will remember you with fondness, adoration and love as we mark your 22nd death anniversary which fell last week.


Dear Clarence………

Through the cords of the guitar

Through the flowers of summer

You soothed us

You made us cry

It has been 22 years now

Since you left us

But you and your songs

will remain in our hearts forever


(The writer is Founder Member of the Clarence Wijewardena Memorial Foundation)