W. D. Amaradeva

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Pandit W.D. Amaradeva
Pandit Dr.W. D. Amaradeva.jpg
Pandit Amaradeva in 2014.
Born Wannakuwatta Waduge Don Albert Perera
(1927-12-05) 5 December 1927 (age 88)
Moratuwa, British Ceylon
Nationality Sri Lankan
Education Bhatkhande Music Institute
Sri Sumangala College[1]
Occupation University lecturer
Religion Buddhist
Spouse(s) Wimala Amaradeva
Children Ranjana Amaradeva, Subhani Amaradeva, and Priyanvada Amaradeva

Wannakuwatta Waduge Don Albert Perera (Sinhalese: වන්නකුවත්ත වඩුගේ දොන් ඇල්බට් පෙරෙරා; born 5 December 1927 in Koralwella, Moratuwa, British Ceylon) better known by his adopted name Amaradeva is a Sri Lankan vocalist, violinist and composer. Primarily using traditional instruments like sitars, tablas and harmoniums, Amaradeva incorporates Sinhala folk music with Indian ragas in his work. Many consider Pandit Amaradeva’s contribution to the development of Sinhala music as unmatched.[2][3][4]

In the mid-1950s, Amaradeva in his Janagayana project consulted experts of the Kandyan dance tradition like Pani Bharata, Kiriganita, Gunamala, Ukkuva and Suramba in his path to understand what constituted Sinhala folk music. Noting that it mostly revolved around a single melody, he decided to add verses that would lead up to the central melody which would now be a chorus thus forming two parts (unseen earlier in traditional Sri Lankan music) removing restrictions that had existed earlier. In doing so, Amaradeva created a uniquely Sinhalese music style that stayed true to folk tradition while incorporating outside influences. His work was vital in the creation of the sarala gee genre practised subsequently by artists like Victor Ratnayake, Sunil Edirisinghe and Sanath Nandasiri.[5][6]

Pandit Amaradeva has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Philippine Ramon Magsaysay Award (2001), Indian Padma Sri Award (2002)[7] and Sri Lankan "President's Award of Kala Keerthi" (1986) and Deshamanya Award (1998). In 2003 the French government awarded him the prestigious honour; Officier (officer). Notably he still remains the most popular artist as confirmed by Nielsen Media Research findings[5][8] He has also represented Sri Lanka in many forums including the UNESCO 1967 Manila Symposium.

In 1972, Pandit Amaradeva composed the music for the Maldivian National Anthem (Gaumii salaam) at the request of Maldivian Government.

Early life and education[edit]

Amaradeva in action.

Amaradeva was born the youngest of seven children to carpenter Wannakuwatta Waduge Don Ginoris Perera and Balapuwaduge Maggie Weslina Mendis at Janapriya Mawatha in Koralawella, Moratuwa. Perera was a Buddhist while Mendis was a Methodist bringing both Christian and Buddhist values and music traditions to the family.

Amardeva was introduced to music at a young age by his father who crafted and repaired violins at Moratumulla Wadu Kaarmika Vidyalaya (Carpentry School). Amaradeva would often strum the violin while his mother sang hymns. Another family influence was Amaradeva's elder brother who taught Indian classical music to him. Amaradeva was presented with his own instrument on his seventh birthday which was a Japanese made tin violin by his father.[1]

He obtained his early education under Ven. Malalankara Nayaka of the Koralawella temple. With the development of his musical talent, Amaradeva was asked to recite poems and prayers at the temple; he was subsequently picked to lead the village choir.

Amaradeva continued his studies at Sri Saddharmoday, a Buddhist Mixed School. While attending the school, he won a poetry contest held at the Moratuwa Vidyalaya. Amaradeva also led the school choir to a triumphant showing at a contest held by the Colombo Arts Society. His poetry win prompted school teachers to get him a showcase to recite poetry on Radio Ceylon. In 1945 Amaradeva won a gold medal at a music and violin contest held by Jana Kala Mandalaya[5]

Amaradeva entered Sri Sumangala College, Panadura after completing his primary education with a scholarship for English. At the school, he formed a friendship with the Principal Danister Thomas Fernando (D. T. Fernando). D. T. Fernando helped Amaradeva get into Kalutara Vidyalaya and subsequently Siddharta Vidyalaya Balapitiya.[1]

Young Amaradewa met Sunil Santha, a prominent artist at the time at one of Sunil Santha's concerts. Since he showed interest Sunil Santha invited Amaradewa to audition at Chitrasena studios. There he played in front of Sunil Santha, Chitrasena and A. J. Ranasinghe and impressed them. This meeting and related events are described in detail by A. J. Ranasinghe,[9] Dr. Nandadasa Kodagoda[10] and Sunil Santha.[11] After the audition Sunil Santha brought Amaradewa to stay at Chitrasena Studios, his room mate was A. J. Ranasinghe.

By chance filming of the film Ashokamala commenced nearby. Gerard J. Pieris of Moratuwa introduced Amaradeva to Mohamed Ghouse Master who was handling the music for the film and Ghouse recognising Amaradeva's skill enlisted him as the top violinist in his orchestra.

Amardeva left his studies and accompanied Ghouse to India to work on the film. He would play a triple role of singing, dancing and acting on the film with the song "Ayi Yameku Kale Ale."


He found steady work as an artist on Radio Ceylon, where his unique vision and talent could be exhibited to an audience wider than he had ever before known – earning him a position at the Bhatkhande Music Institute in Lucknow, India. After extensive training, Albert returned to Sri Lanka as Pandit Wannakuwatta waduge Don Amaradeva.The name Amaradeva which translates as Immortal god was given to him by Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra (Sri Lanka's foremost playwright and a close associate).

During this time, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) had only begun emerging as an independent nation, and the question of what Sri Lankan music was, was slowly being addressed with equal vigour by intellectuals, artists and the general public. In response to the spirit of these times, Amaradeva began interweaving indigenous folk music with the North Indian ragas he had studied in Lucknow, thereby giving expression to a more sophisticated cadence.

His other innovations include his experimentation with Western harmonies and counter-harmonies, as well as with South Indian and Tamil musical forms. In the song 'Ran Dahadiya Bindu Bindu', Amaradeva incorporated the Baila music of his hometown. His opus, however, remains the work he did with Sri Lanka's celebrated lyricist Mahagama Sekera, in exploring the contours of fusing classical Sinhala poetry with his unique musical intonation. In time, Amaradeva's music came to reflect an entire philosophy, reflective of the spirit of a nation.

He has composed music for ballet (Karadiya, Nala Damayanthi, etc.), film (Ran Muthu Duwa, Gam Peraliya, Ransalu, Delovak Athara, Gatavarayo, Rena Girav, Thunman Handiya, etc.), theatre (Wessantara, etc.), radio and television. He is the creator of the mando-harp, a musical instrument combining the mandolin and the harp.[1]

Amaradeva is credited as having introduced artists such as Nanda Malini and Edward Jayakody to the wider audience.[5][8] Many artists such as Sunil Edirisinghe, Victor Ratnayake and Neela Wickramasinghe have credited him as a major influence on their work.[12] Dr. Lester James Peries has described his voice as the greatest musical instrument.[13] Amaradeva has also been described as the defining musician of Sinhala civilization for his role in the creation of a national tradition.[2][14] He is a patron of numerous charities.[15][16]

Amaradeva, and wife Wimala, have one son (Ranjana Amaradeva), and two daughters (Subhani Amaradeva, herself a talented vocalist, and Priyanvada Amaradeva).[17]



Music director[edit]

Year Film Other notes
1962 Ran Muthu Duwa debut as music director
1963 Adata Wadiya Heta Hondai songs only
Sikuru Tharuwa one song and background music
1965 Saama background music
Laa Dalu
Adarayai Karunawai
1966 Delovak Athara
Westhuru Siritha
1981 Valampuri

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Pandit Amaradeva strikes a note from the past The Sunay Times- 16 August 2016
  2. ^ a b Music maestro Pandit Amaradeva a national asset Daily News - 19 December 2014
  3. ^ Amaradeva felicitated Daily News - 8 July 2011
  4. ^ More recognition for the musical genius Daily FT – 06 September 2014
  5. ^ a b c d Tribute to Amaradeva over BBC Sandeshaya Daily News – 12 December 2007
  6. ^ Maestro Amaradeva is Sri Lanka’s most celebrated singer, musician and violinist
  7. ^ "Padma Awards". Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Amaradeva the lure of a Maestro Sunday Times - 26 June 2011
  9. ^ Ranasinghe, A. J. (1981 04-27, 28, 29, 30). Visharada Kalakaruwek. Lake House: Dinamina – Lake House – 1981 April 27, 28 29. 30.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. ^ Vitharana, Vinie. Sunil Samara. Central Archives Colombo. 
  11. ^ Sunil Watha. Sunil Watha. Central Archives – Colombo, Sri Lanka: CD containing images of articles from 1930 – 1960. 
  12. ^ "Mal Wehi Poda" Lanka Help Magazine - 01 September 2011
  13. ^ Maestro in Sinhala music Daily News - 4 December 2010
  14. ^ In praise of Amaradeva: On his 85th Birthday The Island - 04 December 2012
  15. ^ Music & The Army The Island - 26 April 2014
  16. ^ Amaradeva Trust to help talented youth Sunday Times - 30 July 2000
  17. ^ A Tribute to Amaradeva: Art and humility unite in deathlessness – Pandith Amaradeva
  18. ^ India honours doyen of modern Sinhala music The Hindu – 28 June 2011

External links[edit]