A Candid Conversation to Inspire the Mind and Soul


The Veterans of Sri Lankan ‘Baila’, well-known as the ‘Gypsies Band’, that performs Sinhala and English Songs has been in the Music Industry for the past five decades. Their success journey began with a hit series of 05 albums in a row. They released their first CD “Gypsies Gold” containing 17 songs and after it became a huge success, following with two more CDS “Dance with Gypsies” , “Signore,” that were applauded by the massive number of Gypsies fans across Sri Lanka and worldwide for their genre of music, Baila. They continue to be one of the leading, well accomplished bands in Sri Lanka.

This week’s “Saturday Spark” is a conversation with this veteran music duo, Sunil Perera and Priyal Perera.

Q: Do you think your achievements or successes are a reflection of something deeper within your soul?

Sunil: Yes definitely .Both of us believe life is all about blessings, whether it’s related to achievements or successes. A person may believe its merely through talents one can be successful. But we believe it is a combination of both. Blessings take you further.

Piyal: When we look around, we see there are much more talented people than us. It’s not that we aren’t talented, but we are quite ordinary and thanks to lord, Gypsies came this far for sure with the blessings.

Q: Gypsies Band is known to embrace the changes in the Sri Lankan music industry, encourage new talents, do a lot of experimenting with less complaints and competition from and with the newcomers. Is that a conscious effort or how do you manage to be so refined?

Sunil: If you have the basic knowledge of what’s happening around, and you should know that young talent is emerging all the time. There comes a time, you have to take a backseat at a certain stage in life. You have to realize, when young people come around, we need to appreciate them. In the end, young talent is the ultimate thing and the ones to take the music industry to the next level altogether. We must acknowledge the young talent. I would actually consider today the young talent is on a much higher level compared to what we were at that age. Probably certain people wouldn’t endorse that, but I personally think the young talent will eventually control the Music industry. It may take some time for them to establish themselves. As Gypsies, we admire them and what they have produced, and acknowledge the fact, ‘Future is the young talent’. And it is not just in Sri Lanka, it is the same worldwide. We are very old now comparatively, but we are lucky and blessed to be alive, still be able to entertain and influence our fans through music. We believe in universal power.

Piyal: Adding to it, even when Bathiya and Santush (BNS) started their journey in the music industry, we found them really talented and have supported a different genre of music which they introduced to the Sri Lankan music industry. The young generation can bring a new flavor to the industry. It’s not like us; we have been in the music industry for over 50 years, and we may sometimes create the same style of music. The thing is that, from time to time, we see such talents shine. So, we certainly need to admire, acknowledge and welcome them to the industry. Yes, it is a conscious effort from our side as young talent is very healthy for the industry.

Q: If you have to change any three things about each other, what would they be?

Sunil and Piyal: That’s a very difficult question to answer. (And both of them actually laughed jovially and sincerely prior to answering the question.)

In both of us in general, togetherness and the love factor are very much present. At this point of life, we really don’t see anything in each other to be changed. To be honest, we have never thought of anything of that sort.

However, Piyal added, I would like If Sunil Aiya doesn’t speak about religions on open platforms. As the religion, is a very personal faith from one person to another? That’s the only thing I would hope he will change.

Q: Who was your idol when you both entered the music industry?

Sunil:Our dad inspired us a lot. In the music industry, there were so many international artists like the Beatles, Elton John and many more…

Priyal: Of course, we were inspired very much by the late musician Clarence Wijewardane. Right in the beginning, we wanted to be like him and have even played his songs. Although very few have recognized him, as he sang Sinhala and composed Sinhala songs, we find him no different to the Beatles. The artistic value he has added to the Sri Lankan music industry is irreplaceable.

Q: How would you like to define yourself?

Sunil: Today,I believe that much love and spiritual aspect of life is the ultimate thing that would bring results. Whether as a country, as individuals, nothing could be achieved through hatred but only with love. Whatever the circumstances maybe, eventually it is the love factor, the bond of love is the only way to win anything and nothing else. Of course, it may take years for the world leaders to understand this and come together and understand ‘Love all beings.’ But as one of the famous songs goes, “Love will eventually win”.

Priyal: I'm very much a peace-loving person. I don’t like arguments and rifts in general. There are moments I have questioned myself, whether I have been too lenient. But then, right now in this world there is too much hatred, greed and all the chaos created in this world are all due to those….

Q: As Sri Lankans, what are the things you think we should let go to inspire one another?

Sunil: I would consider all communities to come together as Sri Lankans. Everyone should be able to feel and think that we are one, whether we are Muslim, Buddhist, Catholic or Hindu. It should be one country with one person. What Sri Lankans should let go is the ego. We all should remember and treat one another as equal communities. In this country after the independence, it is the leaders who fostered racism to come into power in this country.

Piyal: There is one interesting story that came into my mind, in 2004, and we haven’t released any new album for almost 12 years. One particular incident actually inspired us quite a lot, and that’s how the ‘I don’t know why’ album got released. Sunil Aiya attended a function; a whole lot of Musicians were present. And that time a prominent singer and now a politician, has come and insulted Sunil aiya, saying now your time is over in the industry and asked to get lost. Of course, words may have gotten exchanged. However, a lot of Musicians called and informed me about this. And on that day, Sunil aiya even cried quite a lot. Even after the incident he didn’t tell me. But after a few days, he came and told me ‘Malli, let's track another album. So we ‘Gypises’ do get inspired with criticism as well.

I think greediness for power is what we should let go as Sri Lankans. I like to see Sri Lankans being educated starting from the early education system itself with good moral values, like in Japan and many other countries. And also, respect for one another as individuals is something we all should start practicing in all communities.

Q: In life in general, we all have emotions, happiness, sadness, anger etc. In your opinion, how do you think these emotions are to be handled?

Sunil: I personally feel that all emotions should be handled with love and then everything else will fall into place. The things that we hold onto as ‘my’ such as my religion, my school, my people, my life, my family, need to be changed through our thinking patterns to ‘ours’. Get rid of the egoistic emotions.

Piyal: I believe emotions are temporary and nothing is permanent. So, it’s all about having awareness of all the emotions that ‘come’ and ‘leave’ us time to time.

Q: How important is communication to inspire mankind? And what’s your take on the internet altering communication trends?

Piyal: When I get to listen to speeches like those made by Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy and Dalai Lama, we certainly get inspired with that sort of communication. We all need to get inspired and that’s a common need. There are times, even by just reading or through any form of communication we suddenly realize certain aspects of life. Having the internet and all forms of social media has helped us to have easy access to find all these inspiring communications. I even remember the last speech given by President Barack Obama, when he left his term of Presidency. He even said, “I could have stayed a couple of years more as the President of this country, still I believe I should allow others to serve this country too.” And, isn’t that inspiring enough for all leaders in the world and people to understand that great communication actually can make sense.

Those days, we used to meet people and had those human connections, although in this we can’t do much as the world keeps changing…..

Sunil: Communication is important for sure. But sometimes that communication or form of media is used to brainwash people also, specially through Social Media. This kind of communication is done mostly on social media and people get carried away. The underline of communication is we should have love and not be distant. And that could be due to all the modern gadgetry. We need to relate to people as people and not just as gadgets.

Q: How did you balance work and personal life all these years?

Sunil:We didn’t balance anything much other than work life, it was balanced by our wives, (He added this comment with a good laugh.) It is our wives who safeguarded our family no matter what may have come.

Piyal: We actually had rather challenging work schedules and lifestyles. We didn’t have ‘on’ and ‘off’ times of work. We were travelling quite a lot locally and abroad. It’s actually our wives who kept all things including our families, so we must give the credit to them as we actually didn’t do much to balance our personal lives. That appreciation goes to our wives from both of us. A lot of people don’t realize that the wife is also doing a job;actually, they are doing a far more difficult job than any of us.

Q: Define happiness according to you…

Sunil: Ultimately and eventually in life, all human beings just want to be happy. That happiness, even temporary, can be obtained in various small ways. But if we dig deep into happiness, love is the ultimate fact that decides happiness in life. If someone loves you, if someone cares and is concerned about you, that’s the simplest way of life for happiness to me.

Piyal: Once again, there is temporary happiness. Even then, we must understand as a human being we can’t be happy all the time. There are ups and downs in life and that’s the human nature of life. I feel that it’s more than receiving, but giving happiness is what matters in life.

Q: What’s more important, to be humble or unique?

Sunil: I would say, to be humble is much more important. The ultimate thing is to win the hearts of the people and that’s easily done by being humble. Main thing is to have people see you for what you are, what you have created or what you have done. If people speak well about you rather than just about the next hit song, I think it’s much more valuable than anything else. I feel being ‘unique’ has been more into the materialistic side.

Piyal: I feel that to be humble and unique would be the ideal thing one could be. But one person can’t be humble and just be greedy and all that, then there is no point in just being a unique person.

Q: Share with us an idea that changed your perspective towards life?

Sunil:Earlier in my life I used to justify my actions. I think I realized and had a different perspective of life, maybe 26 years ago after my bypass surgery that everything has to change. I realized, although you have everything in life, it’s my wife and family that matters the most.

Piyal:It’s quite a difficult question to answer because I can’t gather one specific day or time as such. However, through serious mistakes that we all commit in life and come through, I have come to look and think towards life differently.

Q: Do you have any unfinished projects that you would like to complete for the betterment of the Sri Lankanmusic industry or the society?

Sunil: We have done many things and are still trying to get certain projects to get communities together. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked as yet but we haven’t given up and we still keep on trying. Even recently, we are working on a song for a campaign on togetherness, as per a request from a person in Australia. And we are much focused on getting this done for the betterment of the society. We believe that we have always done our part but unfortunately in Sri Lanka, for whatever reasons, most probably for political reasons all through these years, the majority has not got the message. This country belongs to all people, not just one. If that’s been understood by the people of this country and even if a hundred more songs have to be written to achieve that, we will contribute towards ‘togetherness’ in this country.

When it comes to the music industry, I have no complaints as such. There are lots of young talents and we have had our day, and now it’s time for the new generation to take over. We are looking forward to seeing the new generation impact the new audience. Each one of us has our own identities. It’s not right to discard young talents.

Piyal:I can’t agree more, and I also believe from our time to the present the music industry has progressed. What we must know, although we have been in the industry for 50 years, what a lot of us miss out on is that we now have lots more to learn from the younger generation. Whether it’s from the technological side or even singers and guitarists are there who are much better than us. Youngsters certainly can learn from our experiences but talent-wise I think they are far better than us. This doesn’t mean we will stop working on new songs, we will continue to do so with the same urge and enthusiasm. We always believe in healthy competition. Out of our personal faith, we also would like to thank Our Lord, Jesus, for all the blessings poured on us.

Q: Share with the country your most favorite motivational quote?

Sunil: This is a quote by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, “Minisage Parama Yuthukama Minisata Sewaya Kirimai” – A man’s ultimate duty is to serve the humankind.

Piyal : It’s a quote by Ronald Reagan, “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone”.

Q: What’s the definition you would give to life?

Sunil: Life is about reaching out to people, each one of us needs somebody. Nobody can live alone, we all need somebody, so we should be able to reach out to people like that… and to do what we can for them. Doing something for somebody else is soulful.

Piyal: Life is a gift we have got. We can’t say all people can help, and there are people who need help in various ways. Main thing is not to be greedy for anything that we have or do not have. For me, life is about doing the best you can and to be a giver….

Q: What are the values of the Gypsies ?

Sunil: Seriously, we haven’t thought of anything as such, but I remember my father used to always say, “If you want to achieve anything in life, one sort of needs to do something good for other musicians as well.”

Piyal: For the past 50 years I have never checked our earnings, how we are going to share and all that. Because I know for a fact that my brother, Sunil will give atleast hundred rupees more than what he or we as a band earned. That’s the trust I have in him. I still don’t look into how much our band charges for a wedding or our expenditures, because there is no necessity as such. My brother is such a kind of a person, he always gives at least a little bit more than what he gets. Main thing in a relationship is trust and we have to earn that trust as well. I must mention ‘trust’ is the main reason our relationship has gone so long, and even whether it’s the individual endorsements, it has always been the same.

Sunil: I must add, the trust and giving factor hasn’t stopped with just between the two of us, it has extended to our families and they have embraced the same values too.

Q: How do you agree to disagree, in making ‘Gypsies’ as the all-time favorite band in Sri Lanka?

Sunil: I don’t believe we are an all-time favorite band. Answering your second question, it’s always based on the majority vote if it’s based on a certain idea or a project. And we always accommodate and are open for family and band members' views when working together to create a good piece.

Piyal: Just because we have so many years of experience, we can’t say we are the all-time favorite band. But we certainly do appreciate all the love we have received from our audiences and the society in general.

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