His voice, still Everyone’s choice | Daily News


33rd death anniversary of H.R. Jothipala:

His voice, still Everyone’s choice

Sri Lanka’s best playback singer and the most acclaimed vocalist ever on stage and in the studio, legendary H.R. Jothipala, is loved and remembered evermore by the people from all walks of life. They continue to seek joy and fulfilment in his voice.

People play his songs in public places, buses, cars, shops, restaurants, private meeting places, and at homes. It was such a widespread sentiment of a singular feeling on Tuesday on his 33rd death anniversary. Still, no big musical shows or tribute concerts were to celebrate Jothipala’s predominant role in Sinhala music this year due to COVID-19.

COVID-19 has taken its toll on this year’s tribute concerts to commemorate H.R. Jothipala’s death anniversary. “But the people will continue to take comfort in the singer COVID-19 or not,” Music Director Sarath De Alwis who composed music for H.R. Jothipala’s award-winning masterpiece, Paalu Susane, Prema Purane, told the Daily News.

H.R. Jothipala, in full Hettiarachchige Reginald Jothipala, born on February 12, 1936, won the Sarasaviya Film Festival’s Best Singer Award in 1986 for his rendition of the song Paalu Susane Prema Purane, which also earned the Best Lyricist Award. The composer was strangely omitted from receiving any award, for which Jothipala had subsequently expressed his dismay.

Sarath De Alwis said three decades have passed since Jothipala’s death on July 7, 1987. However, his voice never seems to fade away because listeners still take comfort in his songs. “There is no playback singer like Jothi in Sinhala music. You have just got to communicate the song’s mood, play the chords, and roughly sing the lines of the lyrics, and he has just got it in a while. Then he would only deliver his voice and do the justice to the song,” he said.

Singers, musicians, film personalities, fans, and family members of H.R. Jothipala flocked to the artiste’s monument at the Borella General Cemetery to pay floral tributes to the artiste on Tuesday.

Bassist, music composer, educator, and singer Keerthi Pasquel said Jothi died when they all least expected it, and the vacuum created afterwards was more than anyone could bear.

“His worthiness has increased over time during the past three decades. His significance as a singer will never diminish because nobody in the current local music scene has such a right balance in their voices.

Jothi had a rich tone and an even timbre throughout his vocal range. His articulation of words was brilliant with precise phrasing,” said Pasquel.

“His singing technique is well worth studying for other singers because we have such good technologies to do so now. During the seventies and eighties, when H.R. Jothipala was singing, nobody felt that his loss could mean this much huge to the country’s film industry and music scene. I do not think that we could find a singer of the calibre of Jothipala even in another hundred years,” he emphasized.

Keerthi Pasquel played bass at Jothi’s last performance as a singer on stage at the Gam Udaawa on July 5, 1987, two days before his death. Pasquel had participated in a number of his recordings earlier to that.

Jothipala first shot to popularity as a playback singer, and later shot to fame as a live singer. He had worked with many film directors, including filmmaker Lester James Peiris in the movie Sandeshaya. He sang Puruthgeesikaaraya composed by Sunil Shantha, which was written by Arisen Ahubudu for the film.

Jothi gave vocals to hundreds of films and sang thousands of songs. He, too, had his share of criticism from other parties, including artistes, especially from those with Indian classical and university backgrounds, who called him a “pavement singer.” He was also criticized for singing to some Hindi tunes, especially of Mohammad Rafi.

He was a man who liked to hang out with ordinary people than with the privileged, educated class. The latter class had looked down at Jothipala’s singing mostly because he had not studied music on their campuses. While this hurt Jothi’s emotions, it did not affect his singing.

From the very beginning of his singing career, the fans protected Jothipala. They flocked to see him in thousands, listen to his music, greet him, and love him because of his modesty and his grace.

He played a number of roles in films, including Ethulweema Thahanam, Sulalitha Sobani, Sujeewa, Sukiri Kella, Abhirahasa, Bonikka, Shanthi and his own production Sumithuro and Obai Mamai.

His voice had such a rare quality that matches any character.

He worked as a playback singer for prominent stars such as Gamini Fonseka, Vijaya Kumaratunga, Tony Ranasinghe, Ravindra Randeniya, Sanath Gunathilake, Eddie Jayamanna, and Ananda Jayaratna, to name a few.

The artiste had sung under acclaimed music conductors, including P.V. Nandasiri, Premasiri Khemadasa, Sarath Dassanayake, and Milton Mallawarachchi.

His father was Hettiarachchige Reginald James and mother was Ahaliyagoda H.K. Podinona Perera. He attended St. Lawrence College, Maradana and joined St. John’s College, Dematagoda. He was married to Blossom Winter and they had four daughters.

Jothi was indeed a kind-hearted person. He was an extremely generous person, says lyricist Saman Chandranath Weerasinghe. “If you want to know real H.R. Jothipala, you will have to listen to him sing because that is when he lives out loud.”As singer Nihal Nelson puts it, “H.R. Jothipala has always been then the job bank for those singers entering the music field.” The movies he contributed to with his singing include Kasthuri Suwanda, Thushara, Sweep Ticket, Hitha Honda Minihek, Kawuda Raja, Hondata Hondai, Wasana, Sangeetha and others.

The award-winning singer played some memorable roles in movies.


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