voicing Solos ! | Daily News

voicing Solos !

When I entered Dr Manela Joseph, Pathologist’s (retired) resident in Embuldeniya, she invited me in with a sweet smile while humming the song “All things bright and beautiful”.

I saw the scenic beauty, just out of the window, away from the concrete town of Moratuwa, beyond the green paddy fields with golden rods, green wilderness and fruit-filled trees and vehicles zooming across the road like colourful toys. For her beauty can be defined as an early morning as the whole area is dotted with colourful birds singing merrily and the scent of farmers reaping fresh harvest.

Q: How did you get into the medical field and music?

It was instinct which led me to singing. I belong to a family of six and I am the eldest of the family. We are Catholics. In the late evenings we would get together and sing many classical songs. We all possessed equally good voices. I was a student of the Our Lady of Victories from the Kindergarten to Ordinary Level. In the mid 60s, there were no strong restrictions. You are sent a letter if you had even three ‘C’ passes. Entering a university was not difficult. One has to be very intelligent to get a ‘C’ pass. My mom used to say that even my first few words as an infant were melodious. She knew that I was destined to sing.

Q: Did the electronic era influence your passion for singing?

No, in 60s we never saw a TV. It was the radio and the togetherness in the family which kindled the musical sense in me. We listened to our parents’ advice and sang, played, and studied while we were seated on the floor and our parents were on seated on the sofa.

Q: Apart your medical work and being a vocalist you are also an expert on the piano?

I was gifted a piano-accordion when I was nine years. I became the best piano player in 1962 after playing “Beer Barrel Polka” at the All Ceylon Piano Accordion Contest. Piano I played to the ear and I am still going strong.

Q: How did you pursue your dream in becoming a instrumentalist and a vocalist?

From my school days I was a solo singer and good at harmonizing in group singing. I was encouraged by Mother ‘Kenem’ who trained my voice.

Me and my sisters: Melani, Liwan, Nilan, and Iromi and my brother sang at a party in 1970 when we were in our teens. Music Director NissankaWimalasooriya appreciated our talent and got us down to record the two songs ‘Roshi’ and ‘Ranmonaru’ composed by the Late Clarence Wijewardane and another two English songs ‘Wake up’ and ‘Picnic on the Beach’.

At that time I did not know about the copy right reserved issue. I composed lyrics, set them to melody and taped them trying to enter the music market which I failed as I had to follow the rules. There was not much demand in the market for English original songs in Sri Lanka. My first cassette comprised of 12 songs -10 English and two Sinhala songs.

Q: Did you benefit from them?

No, not at all. At that time the English songs were badly exploited. There was no commercial value. It was only Radio Ceylon and small music parlours which offered very low royalty.

The music industry was highly corrupted. However I continued in the field because of my pleasure and passion for the art. There were no avenues for our English originals to go over the waves beyond the horizon. It was a very sad situation. However our media embrace what came from overseas. This is not the case in India. They respect their language and they are highly conversant in English. The Ebnglish songs that they sing are also embedded with their culture and they provide high proficiency to English songs. Sri Lanka should also follow suit by encouraging our own home grown material.

Q: Does the funds for your work come from your own pockets?

Though my husband, Joseph and I are both doctors, I am not that rich. I am grateful to the State Pharmaceutical Corporations for constantly donating an amount for the work. Several other private hospitals too have contributed to the projects.

Q: How do you see yourself in the future?

I am in a way a Philanthropist. I am always looking out to help the needy. The Mighty Blessings of God has always been with me throughout my journey.


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