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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2958

Susil Premaratne – Great Artist with Variety of Talents.

By T.K.Premadasa

The eighty ninth (89) Birthday anniversary of Susil Premaratne, popular playback singer and renowned creative artist of beauty falls on April 5 , 2014. He was a great performer skilled with varieties of talents rarely found in the field of Arts. The vacuum left by the demise of an artiste of his caliber in 2010 February can never be replaced.

This veteran artist not only entertained the public by his deep melodious voice singing in his own unique style but also enthralled the people with his fascinating paintings of natural beauty and comic stories (Chithra Katha)."Ru rese andina lese", "Somnasa ho santhapaya hamuwe" and many of his songs recorded in 40s, 50s, 60s & 70s are still spellbound household favorites in Sri Lanka.

Born on the 5th of April, 1925, the innate talents of this future artist featured from his childhood. The untimely demise of his beloved mother left his fortune to be taken care of by his closely attached aunt. He studied in Dharmaraja College and later entered the Colombo Technical College to pursue arts and other creative work.

His father was the famous M. Sarlis Master who was held in high recognition as one of the leading artists of creative Arts. Susil was inherited with his father's talents which helped him to rise to the apex of glory as a very popular singer with a golden voice and an artiste of performing arts.

At Age 16 Susil Premaratna was first introduced to Mr U.A.S.Perera known as Siri Aiya of Radio Ceylon by late Mr. Herbert M. Seneviratne. He associated with famous drama writer C.A. Fonseka, songstress V.P. Leelawathie and Violinist Vincent de Alwis at Radio Ceylon and became a regular artiste at Radio Ceylon (SLBC).The famous song Namawu Namawu recorded with the then popular singers Kingsley Jayasekera, Priscilla Opatha & Leela was true to form his cordiality with his associates. He was promoted as 'A' Grade artiste at the audition held by Mr Ratanashanka the Indian Musician assisted to Radio Ceylon in early 1950s.

In the latter part of 1940s Mr. Gabriel the Manager of Recording Department, Cargills Ltd influenced by his musical skills invited Susil for recordings with H.M.V. Records widely recognized publishers of music at the time.

In 1950 it was Susil who introduced Rita Jenevi Fernando as Latha the future Nightingale of Music in Sri Lanka since her voice was richly melodious as Lata Mangeshkar of India. He observed the innate talents of Lata and encouraged her to achieve her ambitious goal in singing.

"Ru Rese Andina Lese" (Poems of Gutthila Kavya) Ranwan karalin pesila, Kalu Kelani Nadee, Sonduru Komala , Preethi Madura , Mihiri Suwadda and Nanwamu Siri Lanka were some of the duets recorded with Latha in 50s.Contemporary artistes of this great personality were Dharmadasa Walpola, Mohideen Begg, Latha Walpola, C.T. Fernando, Vivian de Silva Boralessa, Chitra, P.LA. Somapala and Rukmani Devi.

His first duet sung with Lata was Ranwan karalin pesila and other duets were sung mainly with Mallika Kahawita and Indrani Wijayabandara. Sinhala Janasangeetha , Ko Ada Menika, Naaran Dodam Amba, Nil Seley Adan, Raththaran Menik, Sakman Maluwedi were the popular duets sung with Malliaka Kahawita and Sudu Piruwata with Indrani Wijayabandara. The duet Sanasanu Ma Prem Sayure Gililla sung with Surya Rani was a popular song in 50’s.

Janaki maa prema rani, Aadara matha, Ma Aa Mawatha , Ma Sonduru, Ma hade Shoka, Mal Renu Natala, Pem Kusume, still remain etched in the lasting memories of our time.

Nearly a hundred songs sung by him during his career of music are immortal and highly popular at the height of its composition of the melody, lyrics and his admirable voice captured by generation after generation on picnics, dinner parties and musical evenings.

He was the main playback singer for B.A.W. Jayamanne’s film “ Sengawunu Pilithura screened on April 20th 1951, singing a solo “Ma Hade Soka De and Manahara Gettha Gayala and Pem Loka Rajani with Rukmani Devi, the Queen of Silver Screen. He also snag a duet Prem Saure Gililila with Latishiya Peiris. In addition he sang a solo number “ Ma Hade Soka De”

Susil as an artist made a few progressive steps on Paintings. Painting was a talent gifted by his late father a revolutionary painter well known for historical paintings of Buddhist culture. A household name for miraculous paintings particularly in Buddhist temples was his reputable father M. Sarlis Master.

He joined Lankadeepa Newspapers as a young artist of drawing creative stories brilliantly guided by Mr D.B. Dhanapala the then editor of Lankadeepa Newspaper. Those stories of artistic drawing became so popular among its readers that an increase of the publication was high in demand.

His first creative story of comic drawings (Chithra Kathawa) was Hora Howla and "Mahahene Reeriyaka" was the second written by the late Prime Minister S.W.R.D Bandaranaike. Consequent to the overwhelming popularity of these story writings of artistry as appraised by its readers Lankadeepa was compelled to focus on Chitra Katha a drawings of mega stories Bili Pujawa and later Landesi Hatana. Blessed by the innovative talents in artistic drawings Susil extended his skills to Vanitha Witthi a publication of the Times of Ceylon with his starling performance of Arts in Ran Dupatha, Ridee Kumari, Pahan Tharuwa and Hangi Mutthang of the children’s magazines.

In addition he was engaged in detective stories to Rasavahini in the latter part of 50s.His creation was Wickrama like Sherlock Holmes in detectives and Tin Tin in stories for children. Encouraged by this revolution of artistry various other publishers too started their own publications with drawings of stories (Chitra Katha) in 60s and 70s. Gamini Fonseka king of the silver screen was a painter himself and was a student of Susil Premaratne.

The effort by his wide knowledgeable skills to enrich music and painting art should be greatly appreciated. His deep voice of admiration and great works of paintings will remain etched in our lasting memories. In spite of his inestimable contribution he was never recognized much This article is an attempt to reminisce with honor the immeasurable contribution made by him to the Nation. The vacuum left by his unbearable demise is never replaceable.

T. K . Premadasa is the retired former Head of Corporate Affairs and Communications- Sri Lanka Export Development Board and Ex-Director of Sri Lanka Trade Centre in Maldives .

- Asian Tribune -

 Susil Premaratne – Great Artist with Variety of Talents.
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