Music and rhythm in Jananath’s blood | Sunday Observer

Music and rhythm in Jananath’s blood

12 July, 2020

Chandanan yasa theja kunkuma /
anda digaganan urathala
Binda sathuru adhuru pahara /
bandu kamalase
Nanda Wijaya Shri Wickrama
Rajasingha nam apahimi
Inadra sirin nithi rakaden
kanda kumarune.

A man clad in colourful, traditional Sri Lankan sarong and shirt sings this well-loved Sinhala folk song while beating the udakkiya or talking drum. A unique man with a unique mission - Jananath Warakagoda. His mission is popularising the rich Sri Lankan heritage of drumming and traditional songs and leaving an indelible footprint for them in the international arena. Jananath has achieved much locally and internationally. He is much in demand as a performer, lecturer and teacher.

Coming from an artistic family, it is not surprising that Jananath was born with artistic genes in his blood. His parents, Wijeratne and Chitra Warakagoda are doyens of the Sinhala cinema and stage. Wijeratne Warakagoda is also an A grade vocal artiste at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). Sister Vindya is a dancer of repute.


The Wijeratne home at the Elvitigala flats was always filled with artistes, friends and colleagues of Jananath’s parents. This gave the young child more exposure to the arts.

Rhythm flowed through young Jananath’s veins. He was always drumming on surfaces, including his father’s record player. Drums fascinated him, especially the powerful, pulsating beat of traditional Sri Lankan drums. Singing and dancing also held him in equal fascination.

His parents recognised their young son’s talent. At the age of five, Jananath was sent to Maestro Shelton Premaratne to learn the keyboard. With Premaratne, the budding musician was exposed to a creative blend of Oriental and Occidental music.

A little later Jananath was enrolled at the Channa-Upuli Dance Foundation to learn the intricacies of Kandyan dancing and contemporary ballet. Fascinated as he was with traditional Sri Lankan drums, Jananath drummed during free spells at the dancing classes.

This did not escape the eagle eyes of guru Channa Wijewardhana. He spoke to Warakagoda senior about his talent and introduced him to late guru Piyasara Shilpadhipathi who was also guru to Channa Wijewardhana.

Jananath was trained in various spheres of oriental music by several gurus. The late D. R. Peiris taught him classical table, while B. Victor Perera initiated him to the Raga based Indian classical music.

This talented and versatile artiste has completed his studies in Kandyan dancing. His Ves Banduma (Graduation Ceremony) was held at the Rajagiriya Madinnagoda temple and the Ves Banduma or the placing of the head gear was done by late Kala Guru Dr S. Pani Bharatha. He performed all over the world with the Channa-Upuli dance company.

Warakagoda had his education at Asoka Junior College and Ananda College. He is a second generation Anandian as father Wijeratne Warakagoda is also an Anandian. Jananath’s son Januth is a third generation Anandian.

Jananath read for a degree in Indian music from the University of Lucknow. Having completed the Bhath Kanda examinations, he is now a Visharadha in vocal and instrumental music.

Today, Warakagoda is a top- of –the- rung composer of music, singer and drummer. He operates from his studio J.W. ‘Percussion House’ in his parental home at Kalubowila, Dehiwala. It is a state-of-the – art studio with all facilities to produce high qualitydigital music.

Jananath has composed music for movies and teledramas, including Wimalaratne Adhikari’s Deva Daruwo, Ithi Athu and Isi Waruna.

He has also been a playback singer and the popular teledrama Bonda Meedum is one where the melodious voice of Warakagoda is heard.

A lover and respecter of traditional Sri Lanakan music, Warakagoda is involved in a tireless and praiseworthy effort to popularise our folk music in the country and abroad. According to him, nowhere else in the world, do you get drums like the Sri Lankan ones. The main ones are the getaberaya, dawula, pahatha rata beraya and the thammattama. The uddakkiya or the talking drum is also an integral part of the Sri Lankan drums. Combine this with the Sri Lanka folk music and it is a winning combination to place Sri Lanka and its matchless cultural heritage on the world map.

Jananath favours fusion music and his drumming is often combined with jazz, Indian ragas and other forms of western music, including Latin beats. The Sri Lankan Creole or kaffringha is another element I found in his music. To Warakagoda rhythm and beat are the key elements in fusion drumming and one has always to be conscious of them in fusion drumming.

Jananath and Friends, his band is much in demand to play for weddings and other events. He has also worked with popular percussion band Nardro and also with Elephant Foot.


Jananath has composed melodies for songs. His song, Numbaimaye Amma was composed for mother Chitra’s 74th birthday. The lyrics were by Isuru Samarasinghe. The song eka hithen badhemu a peace, song, was launched on Independence Day. The Ranwala Balakaya singers also participated in the singing and the lyrics was by Geeth Tharanga.

Amaradewayanini was a tribute to Pandith Amaradeva and Apey Loku Hamuduruwo was composed for Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera on his demise. The lyrics for both were by Isuru Samarasinghe.

He believes that children’s minds should be made receptive to the matchless Sri Lankan cultural heritage, especially song and dance. To do this, it has to be made attractive to them and the utilisation of forms of music like the old nurthi/nadagam songs would be helpful, he says.

Warakagoda has also participated in parenting classes for UNICEF.

In 2000, he was honoured with the Japanese Bunka Award by the Government of Japan. He is married to business woman Janaki Siriwardhana.They have two children, daughter Jayali and son Januth both of whom are well set to follow in the father’s footsteps. They are members of Soul Sounds and Jananath hopes to introduce them to Oriental music shortly.