The music legend from Negombo | Sunday Observer
Edwin Samaradiwakara:

The music legend from Negombo

12 September, 2021

Edwin Samaradiwakara is a musician who rendered a great service for the betterment of the music field in Ceylon.

A person with innate music skills, he was once expelled from an institution in India for falling in love with a Vanga girl, which was a significant event in his life.

However, Samaradiwakara, who was married to the said girl, returned to Ceylon and played a significant role in the music field.

Samaradiwakara was born on July, 22, 1916 in Katana, Negombo. The only son of the family, he received his primary education at St. Agnes Roman Catholic School and later entered Maristella College, Negombo for further education.

Samaradiwakara’s father, a coconut farmer, played the violin as a hobby, and this led to a love of music in the former as well. Thus, Samaradiwakara’s innate talent for music led him to play Japanese mandolins and English mandolins wonderfully.

Tudor Subasinghe, who ran the Bharatha Music Institute in the Sandalanka area at that time, heard about Samaradiwakara’s talent and recruited him to his institute. At the same time, Samaradiwakara, who was finishing school, took a position as a clerk at a private company, while studying music.

Samaradiwakara, who had done various research with musical instruments, was also able to join the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). Seeing his development and talents, Subasinghe later sent Samaradiwakara to India for higher education.


In 1945, he entered the Shantiniketan in India, where his teacher was Susil Kumar Bhanja Chowdhury and he learned sitar and sarod from Susil Kumar, a student of the famous musician Alauddin Khan.

W. D. Makuloluwa, who later became a well known musician in the country, became Samaradiwakara’s lifelong friend at Shanthi Niketan.

Love story

At the age of 29, Samaradiwakara fell in love with Preethi Ghosh, a Vanga girl who was studying music at the Shantiniketan Sangeet Bhavan.

She was the daughter of a wealthy aristocratic family and her father was an engineer at the Tata Company.

Their house was also close to Shanthiniketan and her parents were very angry when they saw a love letter given to her by Samaradiwakara.

They informed the administration of the Niketan about this and as a result, Samaradiwakara was suspended from classes and expelled from the students’ hostel.

Accordingly, he took up residence at another place nearby and, realising the trouble that had befallen his gifted student, the teacher Susil Kumar went to his new residence and continued teaching.

In the meantime, he met Preethi’s parents and talked about Samaradiwakara’s talents and explained the importance of such a talented musician joining their family.

Accordingly, Preethi’s parents withdrew their complaint and after that Samaradiwakara was given the opportunity to study at Shanthiniketan once again.

He married Preethi in 1949 and returned to Ceylon. Since then he has conducted music classes in Colombo, Negombo, Wennappuwa, Katuneriya and Kuliyapitiya and later joined the Chithrasena Art Institute.

Service rendered

Samaradiwakara joined the SLBC on October, 1, 1952 and was the leader of the first established orchestra in the history of the SLBC. He was assisted to join the SLBC by Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra.

Samaradiwakara is credited with playing the instruments, Sarod and Surbahar in the history of radio, and he also composed the music for Ceylon’s first radio drama, Sri Chandraratne Manawasinghe’s Manohari. Sona Gangathira, Pematho Jayathi Soko, Subhani, Yasodhara, Ritu Sanharaya are among the radio dramas for which music was composed by him.

He also directed the music for the stage drama Raththaaran and Kadawalalu produced by Prof. Sarachchandra as well as the Visakha drama of Manawasinghe.

Samaradiwakara also directed music for the film Daskama in 1958. Ipida Mare Yali Ipide sung by Pandith Amaradeva is one of the most popular song from the said film.

Although he was assigned to compose music for the films Ganthera and Kurulu Bedda, he was unable to do so due to his sudden demise.

Samaradiwakara mared a number of themes and accompaniments for radio, most notably the orchestral music created to commemorate the sudden death of Prime Minister Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike (S.W.R.D Bandaranaike) on September, 26, 1959.

By 1959, the couple had two sons, Gladwin, the eldest, and Donald, the second. In 1959, as Preethi was preparing for another delivery, she went to Bengal with her two children and Samaradiwaka promised to bring her and the children back in a few months.

On the morning of October, 8, 1959, Samaradiwakara drove to the SLBC office in Colombo 7 where he suffered a heart attack. He was immediately hospitalised but died shortly afterwards. He was 43 years old at the time of his death.

Preethi returned to Ceylon after learning of her husband’s sudden death, and the funeral was attended by a large crowd at the Halpe Roman Catholic Cemetery in Katana.

Preethi, who went abroad again after the death of her husband, gave birth to a daughter named Rama and information about them has not been revealed ever since.