Like mother, like daughter | Daily News

Like mother, like daughter

Performing with her daughter Judy
Performing with her daughter Judy

Kanthie Amelita de Silva has achieved success due to nothing but sheer hard work and a bit of luck that we all need sometimes! Melodies features Kanthie De Silva who met all the right people at the right time! This combined with her natural born abilities took her places!

Very early on in her career the universe conspired to set her on her path to success.

“I came second in the all island inter-school singing competition (classical) from Newstead Girls School Negombo. I started singing in 1962 with my sister the late Lilonga Fernando taking part in the Maliban Amature Talent Contest but was unable to qualify for the finals as we started singing professionally with “The Sound Waves” lead by Rienzie Peiris at the Turf Club, Tennis Club and the Browns Beach Hotel Negombo.

Kanthie Amelita de Silva 

In 1975 I was Graded a “B” artiste of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (Radio Sri Lanka) and had a 15 minute Radio program which was for graded artists,” said De Silva.

It was a different time then, when you really needed a bit of luck! Of course for De Silva it was a matter of time when she would be recognized.

“There was no exposure in the media (newspaper or Radio) like now for new comers, and only the graded artists and recognized musicians and entertainers got the opportunity to be featured over “Radio Ceylon” standards were very high. I worked as a stenographer/secretary at Hulugalle and Wickramanayake Charteted Accountants and later at Walker and Greig during the day and sang seven nights a week, and that was quite a challenge. In 1987, I gave up my day job and did Temporary Secretarial Work and continued my singing career to date,” stated De Silva.

De Silva was mentored by some of the finest! And this really impacted her career! She had the brain. She just needed someone to bring it out of her

“My father the late Edgar de Silva – who was a bass baritone singer, who got down many internationally famous classical artists like Gonzalo Soriano, Annaliese and Karl Willy Hammer and Kenneth Spenser together with the great impresario Donovan Andre.

My mother the late Evelyn de Silva who was a soprano singer featured on Radio Ceylon in the 1950’s, with Tenor Freddy Xavier during the days of the late Clifford R. Dodd (Director Commercial Service Radio Ceylon) Livy Wijemanne and Tim Horshington

My maternal grandfather the late Daniel L. de Silva one of the first recording artists of 78RPM gramophone records, and actor of Shakespearian plays beside the great actor Late Seebet Dias (father Of Chitrasena). My Uncle the late Noel de Silva who was a graded “A” radio artiste (singer and pianist), used to give me all the advice I needed,” explained De Silva.

Passion for De Silva was in her genes. It is in her blood. It has been her calling. It is her life.

“Music is in my blood from both sides of the family, not forgetting to mention the king of Baila the late Wally Bastiensz who is also my Uncle. So we naturally loved music and it was a family passion and I guess it was like the family business to be in the entertainment industry,” pointed out De Silva.

During her younger days

De Silva is very proud of her daughter Judy. The two enjoy a very close relationship.

“I am very proud indeed to perform with my very popular daughter. We have been singing together for the last 33 years, and were the first mother and daughter duo to hold a contract at a five star hotel in 1988 (Galadari Meridian Colombo). Other contracts were Meridian Kochin India, Taj Exortica, Blue Water, The Steuart by Citrus, and presently at the Odel Promanade. We have done many tours abroad, and performed at special shows and functions with our band “Scintillate” since 2002. Cosmic Hits 1 and 2 are two shows we organized together at the BMICH and donated funds for the underprivileged childrens homes. All this mentioned above is very special to me because it was done together with my multi-talented daughter,” explained De Silva.De Silva has associated with some of the greatest in the Sri Lankan Music Industry. Her experiences with these people have molded her character and refined her.

“I was a classically trained singer which gave me confidence. I had a lot of knowledge about international artists and songs. From the start of my career I sang with top bands at the time in the Sri Lankan western music industry starting with The Sound Waves, Sol Fernando Combo, Peter Prins Combo, Talk Of The Town, Gentle On My Mind, Debbie and The Fireflies, Harold Seneviratne Combo, Orange Blossom Special and 20th Century.

De Silva’s formula for success is being able to read the crowd and choose songs at a gig accordingly, which is very important when you’re a stage performer. Also she credits the ability to sing in approximately 20 languages and a having a wide repertoire with hits from the 1930’s to some of the songs of today.

“My message to anyone who wants to succeed in the music industry is - study the instrument you’re playing and if you’re a singer get your voice trained it will improve even your diction and give you much confidence to achieve your goals with ease. Also choose songs that would suit your voice, yet don’t be over confident and take anything for granted because there is always someone better than you waiting for a break to come out,” added De Silva.

Some of the artistes she admires are Shirley Bassey, Ella fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Pat Boone, Anne Murray, Nana Mouskouri, Alison Moyet, Eartha Kitt, Anita O’Day, Dorris Day, Diana Krall, Whitney Houston, and of course her shining star Judy de Silva.

“Emotions inspire me to write lyrics, they don’t have to be my own emotions. It could be someone else’s. I have jotted many verses and Judy recorded one in the 90’s called ‘Lucky Ole Me’

“What sustains me is definitely the love I have for music and my daughter. I don’t get caught in the rat race as you put it. I do things at my own pace. Competition is something I never felt as I am always content with my capacity and achievements.

I am content with what I have achieved, I will sing for as long as my voice is steady and I can sing on pitch. Music makes me happy,” summed up De Silva. 

Career highlights

* Having her own 15 minute Radio Program after being graded by SLBC

* Receiving an award of recognition from the entertainment promoter the late Mr. Malcolm Andre (son of late Donovan Andre)

* Being a part of the famous Operas “Pirates Of Penzance” “Oklahoma” and “Aida”

* Being recognized as a Jazz singer and to be nominated for the Golden Clef ‘Jazz singer of the year’ presented by the Observer.

* Being part of the monthly musical TV program “Music Makers” for SLRC which was put together by Manil Cooray and Mahes Perera.

* Being the first Sri Lankan female artiste to be featured at Taj Samudra Lobby together with the veteran Pianist/keyboardist the late Suriyakumar Weerasingham from February 1985 to November 1985 and later sent to Taj Sheba North Yemen by the general manager Shankar Menon.

* Being the first mother and daughter (Judy de Silva) duo to hold a contract in a five star hotel.

* Singing at Hilton Colombo from inception 1987 to 1988 seven nights a week.


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