Clarence Wijewardena

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Clarence Wijewardena
Clarence Wijewardena (1943-1996).jpg
Born Vithana Kuruppu Arachchilage Clarence Arthur Somasinghe Wijewardena
(1943-08-03)3 August 1943
Brampton Estate Haputale, British Ceylon (now Sri Lanka)
Died 13 December 1996(1996-12-13) (aged 53)
Cause of death Diabetes
Resting place Borella cemetery
Nationality Sri Lankan
Education Highland College Hatton
Mahasen College Yatawatta
Occupation Singer-songwriter, Guitarist, Record producer, Music director
Years active 1965–1996
Spouse(s) Ramadasa Widanelage Sheela
Children Amila Priyadarshani Wijewardena
Parent(s) Dr Vithana Kuruppu Arachchilage Authur George Wijewardena (father)
Ekanayake Mudiyanselage Soma Kumari Hami (mother)
Musical career
  • Sooriya
  • Lotus
  • Sarasavi
  • Supertone
  • Victory
  • Singha
  • Tharanga
  • Singlanka
  • Torana
Signature of Clarence Wijewardena.svg

Vithana Kuruppu-Arachchilage Clarence Arthur Somasinghe Wijewardena (popularly and commonly known as Clarence Wijewardena;Sinhalese: ක්ලැරන්ස් විජේවර්ධන; August 3, 1943 – December 13, 1996) was one of the most respected musicians in Sri Lanka, as per his popularity and contribution to revolutionize the Srilankan Sinhala Pop Music Industry[citation needed] who pioneered the use of electric guitar in Sinhala music. This was in the 1960s and is often named as the father of Sri Lankan pop music[according to whom?] - having influenced performers in ranging from W. D. Amaradeva, Premasiri Khemadasa to Athula Adhikari. His music is often characterized by simple melodies built around a melody that features the electric guitar - this style may be best illustrated by the song Malata Bambaraku Se.

Early life[edit]

Clarence Wijewardena was born on 3 August 1943, in Haputale, Sri Lanka, to an estate medical practitioner. His family moved to Batugedara, Ratnapura, and Clarence abandoned a career as a budding planter to pursue music full-time. He married Sheela Ramadasa and they had one daughter, Amila Priyadarshani.


Wijewardena formed the Moonstones at the age of 21 with Annesley Malewana as lead vocalist[1].[citation needed] Managed by an advertising icon, Sri Sangabo Corea, the group recorded several songs to be aired on the Saturday Star program in 1966. The young musicians were mentored by Sri Sangabo Corea together with veteran Radio Ceylon/SLBC broadcasters Vernon Corea and Vijaya Corea. Their 1968 debut EP Mango Nanda was released on the JVPC007 Philips label selling up to 5,000 copies.[citation needed] It included the songs "Mango Nanda," "Ruwan Puraya," "Seetha Ude" and "Menike." The sophomore release More Hits by the Moonstones came out November that year on the Sooriya label and included the hits "Kalu Mama", "Rosa male", "Ramani" and "Goyam Kapanawa." "Mango Nanda" was selected the best Sinhala song by the Hit Parade program on Radio Ceylon.[citation needed] In 1969, the Moonstones welcomed female vocalist Indrani Perera who sang lead on the best selling "Dilhani." Wijewardena himself only sang lead on "Dileepa Podi Puthu," an adaptation of a poem written by Karunarathne Abesekara to his son.

During the 'Moonstones' era, Wijewardena, who performed as a composer and music director, became a singer. Wijewardena took the initiative to start a three-member band, he was a self taughtself-taught guitarist. However, later the 'Moonstones' were formed with Annesley Malawana playing the key role as lead singer. Since then this exceptional man and his music dominated the Sinhala pop music industry. He is regarded by many as a pioneering Sri Lankan musician in the realms of Sinhala popular music.

After he left the Moonstones in 1970, he held a musical show in Moratuwa with Shanaka Perera and Wijith Peiris and the show was named as "Breakaways from the Moonstones". The late Mike Goonesekera took over the reigns of the Moonstones after the departure of Clarence.

Golden Chimes[edit]

Wijewardena departed the Moonstones and formed a new music group called the Golden Chimes, with ex-Moonstones bassist Chanaka Perera and Lankika Perera in January 1971. Their first release included "Kimade Nawe", "Mage pelpathe", "Sihin Sinawai" and "Samanalayo." Subsequently English language vocalist Anil Bharati joined. The second EP on Philips label contained "Malai Velai", "Sihil Nuwan", "Surangana Vesvala" and "Mage Viyowen" and third EP contained "Iru Dina", "Sandai Tharui", "Muhudu Rella" and "Thakkita Tharikita."

At this time Wijewardena found a professional lead guitarist Dixon Gunaratne at a wedding.

After evaluating Bharati's performance for one year, Wijewardena decided to enter him into the Sinhala pop music scene. Wijewardena composed "Ada Wei Iru Dina" for Bharati which became an all time hit[citation needed] followed by the lovely Christmas song "Bethlehempure" and "Maa Adarai Nangiye". Clarence offered him another all time hit "Tikirimalee" with "Ma Mulin Liyu Pem Pathe", "Desa Vidala", "Bambaraku Aduna", "Sarojini" and "Iru Dina Pamanak".

In 1972, Wijewardena and Gunaratne left the Golden Chimes and they both formed a new band known as Super Golden Chimes also with the support of Annesley Malawana in 1973.

The Super Golden Chimes[edit]

The Super Golden Chimes.

Wijewardena formed the "Super Golden Chimes" back in the company of his lifelong friend Annesley Malawana. It was one of the most productive music groups in Sri Lanka and together they hit the number one slot in the Sri Lankan music charts on both the Sinhala and English Services of Radio Ceylon and subsequently the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. For many years they enjoyed the reputation as Sri Lanka's number one group in the 1970s and 1980s.[citation needed] After three years Wijewardena decided to go solo when Annesley Malewana announced his plans for marriage.

Experiments in Music[edit]

Wijewardena, like the Beatles, experimented with sitar music and introduced the sitar to some of the songs of the 'Moonstones.' Wijewardena was a musician's musician. He had the ability to grasp new trends in modern popular music. For the first time (for a recording) he used a guitar wah wah pedal for the song 'Pemkathwawa.' Also the song 'Sigiriya' was the first Bossa nova beat song in Sri Lanka and later he used this beat for the songs Piyaneni, Mage Palpathe, Muhudu Rella, Renin Piyabanna, Maliniye, Ramya (Previously sung by Wijewardena in 4/4 beat), Ran Monarun (Winslow Six), Lalitha Kala (Chithra Somapala) etc. Also he used two guitar players to play lead parts and counterparts of songs such as Sumudu Mal Pipinu, Dileepa Podi Puthu etc. For the first time in Sri Lanka he used the blocked guitar tone for the song 'Kusumalatha'.[citation needed] Wijewardena introduced some of the guitar techniques through his songs via a single guitar harmony style in the introduction of "Dellepa podi puthu" and arpeggio styles in "Sihina Lowak" and "Malata Bambareku Se".

Wijewardena composed a song Ma langin that was in the 1960s "Twist" style and released the song in "Ugayen ugayata" cassette in 1989.

For "Dineka me nadee thira" he used mute guitar technique for the introduction. Some of the guitar techniques Clarence used in his songs are alternate picking, Chicken picking, Carter Family picking, Cross picking, Flat picking, Golpe, Hammer-on, legato, Pick tapping, Pinch harmonic, Pull-off, Slide guitar, Sweep picking and tap harmonic.

Tribute songs[edit]

Wijewardena has composed and directed music for a number of songs for the daughters and sons of his friends and relatives. He composed 'Piyaneni' in memory of the late Reverend Canon Ivan Corea who was the father of Radio Ceylon broadcaster, Vernon Corea. Wijewardena had met Corea in Maha Nuge Gardens in the 1960s during his visits to meet with Vernon Corea. The song became an instant hit in South Asia and to this day it is sung by Annesley Malewana on his world tours.

Wijewardena composed a song for the son of Vijaya Corea and it was titled as "Viran Bilindhu Puthe" After that Wijewardena changed the chorus part of the song and sang that song as Kiri Muhuda Kalabala. Also Wijewardena composed a song for the son of Chanaka and Lankika Perera and it was titled as "Sihina Pathum Wimane" Also the song "Bethlehempure" which was written by Sri Lanka's famed lyricist, Mr Karunaratne Abeysekera, became an instant hit on the island.[citation needed] It was one of many songs capturing the Christmas spirit and the birth of Jesus. Wijewardena also composed 'Naththal Seeya' in the early 1970s.

Wijewardena's first solo is 'Dileepa podi puthu' was written by Radio Ceylon broadcaster, Karunaratne Abeysekera for his own son. Wijewardena appreciated the work of Karu and wrote an instant song Seetha Pawan to express his gratitude on the day of the funeral of Karunaratne Abeysekera.

Film music[edit]

Wijewardena entered the film music industry at that time. The first film with music directed by Wijewardena was 'Sikuruliya' and the sound track was supplied by the Golden Chimes - the film includes a scene where Wijewardena and the Golden Chimes perform at a party. Also for the music of the songs of Sikuruliya film, Wijewardena used western musical instruments as well as eastern musical instruments. The song 'Wasanthaye Mal Kekulay' which was composed by Wijewardena was the first song that consists of five lines in the chorus part of the song. He directed music for the films in a different and unique style of his own.And also he composed music for "Apeksha" directed by H.D.Premarathne.

Outstanding skills[edit]

Super Golden Chimes LP.
Clarence in early 1980s.

Wijewardena showed his outstanding music skills during this time. He composed and directed music a song named as "Maha Balwathune" for the conference of the Non-Aligned Movement held in 1975 in Sri Lanka. He composed and directed music a song for the SAARC Conference as well. At the same time he sang the song "Duwani Sirima" when Hon. Former Prime Minister Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike arrived as the chief guest for the opening ceremony of Ceramic Corporation. Also Super Golden Chimes supplied music for that opening ceremony. Wijewardane certificated as the most popular composer in Sri Lanka for the years 1974 and 1976 by a pop poll conducted by Pop and Teen Fanfare.[citation needed] The song "Kataragama" which was composed by Wijewardane also certificated as the best song in Sri Lanka for the year 1974 by a pop poll conducted by Pop and Teen Fanfare.[citation needed] Wijewardena composed most number of songs for God Kataragama.

In the early 1970s, Wijewardena invited Radio Ceylon broadcaster, Vernon Corea who had mentored him from the start to write the notes on a Lotus LP sleeve. Vernon Corea wrote: "We have all shared the treat of your lovely Lyrics, your tuneful compositions, your friendly presentation and your spontaneous sense of sharing with your followers, your treasury of talent. Keep going, keep growing, keep glowing". In 1976, when Vernon Corea was invited to present the first Asian radio programme in English on BBC Radio London called 'London Sounds Eastern' he played the music of Wijewardena and Annesley Malewana, introducing them to a whole new audience in London.[citation needed]

Wijewardena started to sing for the Sinhala films under other music directors. Subsequently a cassette tape known as "Any Time Any Where" was released in Colombo. In 1979, Wijewardena left the Super Golden Chimes and started a solo career.

Cricket fan[edit]

When the Sri Lankan cricket team entered the world of test cricket in 1982, Wijewardena produced an album called Test Cricket Souvenir, comenerating the country achieving test cricket status. "Thana Nilla Dige" performed by Saman De Silva became a hit during the season of test matches and every big match in Colombo.there after. Other contributiors to the album included Nihal Nelson, Mariazelle Goonetilleke and Freddie Silva.[citation needed]

Wijewardena was concerned and made a statement to Sathsara (an art magazine in Sri Lanka) regarding the song "Thana Nilla Dige" and how it's singer Saman De Silva was not given due credit for the song and published a full page article about the song in a newspaper around the time of the release of the song and cassette but did not mention the name of the composer

New career[edit]

Clarence with Vernon Perera, H.D.Premaratne & Hemasiri Halpita.

Wijewardena joined Sing Lanka Ltd. and acted as the General Manager. Sing Lanka recording studio was the first recording studio in Sri Lanka with multi tracks and Wijewardena was the pioneer to introduce this recording studio.[citation needed] During that time he directed music for a number of artists in Sri Lanka. He also produced a cassette tape named "Clarence with the Rising Stars".

Directing music for tele dramas[edit]

Wijewardena directed music for the tele dramas Susima and Nidikumba Mal. He was the composer and the music director for all the six songs of Susima tele drama. During this time he got a special chance. That he was able to compose and direct music for Pandit Amaradewa. That song was Sasara Gewa Yana Diwi Gamane which contained in tele drama Nidikumba Mal. Also he composed and music directed a song which says about child abuse and other prohibited things happen in present society. That song was "Daesawan Dase" which contained in the Sihiwatana II Cassette Tape. When the royal tusker of the Temple of Tooth Relic died, Wijewardena composed and music directed a song about the royal tusker and it was named as "Kandu Sikarin Wata Senkadagala Pura". It was vocalized by the Ananda Perera who was the leader of the Siha Shakthi music band.

Melodies for jingles[edit]

Wijewardena became famous for his melodious and catchy jingles aired over the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.[citation needed] These jingles were Elasto, Bata, Astra Margarine, Bristol Cigarettes, Arpico, Dot Toffee, Singer, Edna Chocolate, Thultex, Ice-Cream Soda, Development Lottery, Dasuna Cartoon Paper, Atlas pens, Orex pens, Building Materials Co-operation (in Sinhala and English), Keels and Health Joy Soap etc. The song "Sigiri Ru Ladun Paradai" which he composed for the beauty queen contest became an instant hit.[citation needed]

Discovering new Sri Lankan music talent[edit]

He formed the Sri Lankan band "Madhara" in 1985 with Rookantha Gunatilake (keyboards), Mariazelle Goonetilleke (keyboards/female vocals), Raju Bandara (lead guitar), Keneth De Silva (bass guitar), Ajantha Dodampegama (drums) and rest of the other members of the group. During the 1980s, he composed and directed music for a number of songs and performed with well-known music directors in Sri Lanka.

All of Wijewardena's compositions have been recorded at some of the island's best recording studios and under the best producing labels in Sri Lanka. Some of the early 1960s recordings were at Augie Ranaweera's studio in Bambalapitiya.

Later career[edit]

Clarence with 3 Sisters.

Wijewardena organised three musical shows with his lifelong friend Annesley Malewana and Indrani Perera at BMICH in Colombo.

Wijewardena proved to be quite a hit in London when broadcaster Vernon Corea broadcast his music on BBC Radio London 206 on his popular radio programme, London Sounds Eastern. Wijewardena and Annesley frequently toured the United Kingdom in the 1980s playing to huge audiences in London.


However, due to the popularity of his songs (which has grown since his death), they have also become the subject of a lawsuit over illegally recorded renditions sampled by other Sri Lankan artists. Wijewardena's widow Sheela Wijewardana in 2001 filed suit against Rajiv Sebastian,[2] hoping to recover a portion of the income earned through the use of her late husband's work. An action doomed to failure due to the non availability of evidence on the part of the complainant. Since the lawsuit against Rajiv and Sarath Kothalawela, Sheela filed a wrongful lawsuit against Clarences long time friend and musical partner Annesley Malawana and lost it with no recourse. To this date, she has been unable to establish her rightful claims as the legitimate or legal heir to his intellectual property.


Sri Lanka's musician, Clarence Wijewardena, composed and sang over 1000 of songs but 40% of them were not released because the master recordings were under the custody of record producers.[citation needed] Some of the songs were released to the market without any authorized label after his death. They did not get the attention of his fans because they were considered to be illegal and most of the FM broadcasting channels in Sri Lanka were not aware of them. It is unfortunate that most of these songs are not released officially and Wijewardena did not get the due credit for them.

Wijewardena spent more of his composing time for his fellow singers and he had never been offered the credit for them.

In the course of his career, Wijewardena wrote several songs that became classics in his own time - among these; Gamen Liyumak (Translated: A Letter From the Village), Hiruge Lowedi (Translated: In the World of the Sun), Kanda Surinduni ("O Lord God of the Mountain"),Piyaneni ("Father"), and Malata Bambaraku Se (Translated: Like a Bee To a Flower)


Stone memorial (Tomb) of Clarance Wijewardana at Borella cemetery.

Wijewardena died on 13 December 1996, at the age of 53, in Sri Lanka after a long struggle against ruptured gastric ulcers and gangrene due to accute Diabetes.


Many of his songs are considered classics, and continue to enjoy ample airtime on Sri Lankan television and radio broadcasts and on some overseas radio stations. The songs such as Rasa Pirunu Katha, Geeyakin Kese, Eatha Ran Wiman Yowun Sihina Loke, etc are very popular among present generation which again demonstrated his talent in composing music (also as a lyricist) for the future.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Moonstones". Sooriya Records. Retrieved 2017-09-11. 
  2. ^ "Law suit (lankanewspapers, Sri Lanka)". Retrieved 2005-12-04. 

External links[edit]