Legend of the Gypsies | Daily News

Legend of the Gypsies

“Amma Amma Me Mata…Kiyanna Lajjai Thaththata…”

This song by Sunil Perera was simply loved by the youth of the 1970s. A youngster in his late adolescent age would play this song more often in his cassette player or record player to tease his parents.

Sunil’s unique voice did justice to the song and the reggae type melody and the lyrics blended so well with his voice to make it an overnight hit.

When in merriment, socializing or while going on trips youngsters would never forget to sing this song at the time. “Usa wennath honda nae…Miti wennath honda nae….”

Even before this song became a hit, Sunil did another song in which the lyrics go as… “Oba dutu Ae Mul Dine…Sidu Wu Semadae…” The song is more popular now than when it was made.

When Sunil originally recorded this sentimental song in 1970s he too was in his youth. Yet for some reason the song (at the time) did not elevate him to the heights he anticipated. Hence he tried his luck at doing Baila songs and songs of other genres such as Pop, Rock or Western Cha-Cha.


Sunil Perera and Piyal Perera

In time Sunil Perera positioned himself as a Baila singer that brought him all the glory and fame. However, what he did not know until his demise was that his sentimental songs too touched the hearts of the girls and boys of a bygone era. The new generation of singers doing cover versions of these old songs is testament to their everlasting quality.

Sold-out concerts

Sunil Perera was an artiste who had a flair to offer thoughts for people to ponder upon via his songs. He knew the pulse of a society. He would sing Linda Langa Sangamaya in 1973, Nonae Mage Sudu Nonae in 1977, Kurumitto in 1980, Lunu Dehi and Uncle Johnson in 1987, Oye Ojaye in 1989 and Signore in 1997. His most recent works were, I don’t know why, Koththamalli and Diyawannawe Inna.

When Sunil Perera and the Gypsies performed in open air concerts they had the best sound setups in the fraternity that could vibrate a whole stadium. Youth flocked at Bambalapitiya or Royal College grounds to watch Gypsies and Sunil Perera in full swing. Sunil would add more value by staging acts on his songs Kurumitto, Lunu Dehi or Nonae Mage Sudu Nonae to thrill his fans. While himself being the center of attraction, his brother Piyal wearing a skinny and sporting a bald head would sit at the drums. They would bequeath merriment to the flocks comprising young and old folks all night long.

A dinner dance or a private party too would become a gala event when Sunil arrives with the Gypsies. He would team up with singer Desmond de Silva to sing a song like Sumihiri Paane. There are many musical bands and singers who were inspired by Sunil Perera. Some of them still try to imitate Sunil’s accent when singing.

Versatility

Sunil’s versatility as a singer is yet to be explored. I for one would not hesitate to call him a versatile singer as Pandit Amaradewa and there is a credible explanation to this statement. Pandit Amaradewa would never sing the two verses of a particular song similarly. He would always bring in different variations to the second verse or vice-versa when singing live and this comes from his heart. Sunil Perera is no exception and he could do the same thing. Another artiste with this rare talent is Rookantha Goonatillake.

A Brand

In the late 1970s, 80s and 90s Sunil was at his best. Though people in our country appreciated Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk, they forgot to notice Sunil Perera’s unique dance act when performing live. Yet the marketers and the corporate sector in Sri Lanka took serious notice of Sunil Perera because they identified him as an innovator who has positioned himself as an inimitable brand. Thus they made him the brand ambassador for their products. They even went to the extent of using a cartoon character of Sunil Perera with his voice for TV advertisements.

Prof Sunil Ariyaratne took time to make a remark on Sunil Perera. He said, “In my book, ‘Sri Lankave Kandayam Sangeethaya’ I have mentioned about Sunil Perera’s versatility. He had a unique identity. He created a group that had its own songs and Gypsies was never a backing group. They always adapted to the changing times. Sunil was the only artiste in Sri Lanka who made a monthly payment to the lyricists who have continuously contributed to his songs. He did charity work without gaining publicity. I personally know that he once gifted a brand new keyboard to a youngster. Sunil expressed his political views boldly.”

Sunil Perera of Gypsies fame was an entertainer par excellence. His songs are evergreen ones. We will miss his trademark smile, singing supremacy and matchless act on stage. His name will linger in the minds of Sri Lankans forevermore. A void that could never be filled.


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