A musical gem from the City of Gems | Sunday Observer
Annesley Malawana

A musical gem from the City of Gems

2 August, 2020

Annesley Malawana is an iconic musician in Sri Lanka’s musical firmament. Stars rise, shine and fade away, but some stars remain evergreen, always dazzling. Annesley Malawana and the late Clarence Wijewardene are two such stars, ever popular and ever loved by audiences here and abroad.

It is no easy task to dominate the music scene for almost five decades, but Annesley has achieved this feat. Even though for a while he retired from the scene, neither he nor his voice was forgotten by fans.

He recently released two great songs, Ruwanpuraya and Mama Dutuwa. Neranjan and Viranjan, two twin brothers from Moratuwa wrote the lyrics and music for the former, while Theja Iddamalgoda wrote the lyrics and music for the latter. Musical backing was by Annesley’s band Super Chimes.

To Annesley and the late Clarence Wijewardene goes the credit of creating a musical revolution in Sri Lankan music. Hailing from Weralupe in Ratnapura, Annesley Malawana moved to Colombo for his education.

He joined St.Joseph’s College, (SJC) Colombo. At SJC, there was a musical platform called ‘Interval Music’ and this could be called the germination of Annesley Malawana as a musician.

Always fond of and talented in music and singing, Annesley frequented musical shows and in 1964, while still in school went to see a show by the popular, the Spitfires. Another popular group, the Los Caballeros too performed. Their Sri Lankan music inspired young Annesley, and he vowed to be a musician in the same stye.

Annesley Malawana’s career blossomed in the 1960s and the 70s. He has never looked back. However, what really launched his singing career was his teaming up with the late Clarence Wijewardene.

“I am what I am today because of him,” Annesley said. A neighbour and friend, Premasinghe Marambe told Annesley about a group looking for a lead singer. He went along with Marambe and was introduced to Clarence Wijewardene who had formed a group. Clarence had spoken to Sri Sangabo Corea who had told Clarence to find a lead singer first. Clarence took Annesley to Corea. He heard Annesley sing and told Clarence, “you have got your voice”.

He gave the group the name ‘Moonstones’ as they hailed from Ratnapura, the ‘City of Gems’. Corea also contacted his cousins, broadcasters Vernon Corea and Vijaya Corea and the ‘Moonstones’ were given a chance to appear on a radio program called ‘Saturday Stars’ hosted by Vijaya Corea.

The songs included Mango Nanda, their first hit and Dilhani which was composed by Clarence for Sri Sangabo Corea’s daughter. Annesley introduced Indrani Perera to Clarence. She sang Dilhani, while Annesley sang Ramani composed by Clarence for Corea’s other daughter.

The Moonstones cut their first EP for the Phillips label with the Gowri Corporation.

The four songs were Mango Nanda, Ruwanpuraya, Sudu Menike and Seetha Udey Pipi Mal.

After this, they cut their first single for Sooriya Records with whom they had a long and illustrious relationship.

The Moonstones rise was meteoric and all their numbers were hits. Clarence Wijewardene left the Moonstones to concentrate on composing and directing music for movies. Annesley remained with the group.

Clarence and Annesley came together again with the Super Golden Chimes and recorded unforgettable hits like Udarata Niliya and Gamen Liumak .The Super Golden Chimes and their songs hit the number one slots in the 70s.

It was Clarence Wijewardene’s wish to have a ‘Super Golden Chimes Reunion Concert’, but he passed away before his wish was fulfilled. However, Annesley took up the cause. The concert he organised was a rip roaring success and was a tribute to a good friend.

Annesley left the music scene to concentrate on his job as his boss had told him to select one or the other. He joined the Mayura Group as an Accounts Clerk and rose to be General Manager of Gil Garments, one of its subsidiaries. After retirement, Annesley is back with a bang in the music scene. He formed his band the ‘Super Chimes’ in 2005.

One of his most resounding successes has been the Stars of the Seventies concert series which he started in 1997. It has not only resonated with local audiences, but overseas music fans as well. They have toured Australia, the Middle East and the USA.

Today, the Covid-19 Pandemic has put a break on Annesley’s musical plans, but he hopes to have a Stars of Seventies concert soon.