26 March 2019
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Remembering multifaceted music maestro Dr. Lionel Algama

lionael algamaDr. Lionel Algama  (Algama koralalage Lionel Kumaradasa Perera) the renowned, gifted and multifaceted Musician, Innovator of musical instruments, Teacher, Conductor and Composer of music passed away on the 18th of May 2008.This day in year 2015 marks as his 07th death anniversary. He was 74 years old at the time of his untimely demise after a brief illness.

He was a contemporary of famous musicians in the similar moulds of legendary Dayananda Gunawardena, Premasiri Khemadasa and Pandit Amaradeva. In addition he was a 'A' grade singer, in Hindustani and Bengali as well, Examiner of music, 'A' grade Instrumentalist in ballet - stage - films – Tele-drama - Director, Conductor of music. Late music maestro Dr Lionel Algama was the Inventor of the original instrument called the 'Soorthar' and then the more sophisticated 'Sree Veena', which could bring out the combined sounds of many instruments and it could be easily utilized for a solo recital without any other musical instruments. He performed with his new instrument "Sree Veena" in a solo concert at Elphinstone Theatre, Maradana on   January 7th 1996. Professor of Music, University of Delhi Ajit Singh Paintal was the chief guest had this to say in appreciation. ” The Sree Veena innovated by Algama had unique sound quality of many Indian instruments like Sarod, Sitar and Swar-Mandal all combined together into one instrument”.

He successfully wrote two theses for his doctorate, the first of which was Teaching of Music and the other was Development of the Chordophones, East and West in the years 1978 and in 1979.

He was a native of Siyane Korale in the Gampaha District. He had his primary education at Veyangoda Central. His father, a wealthy businessman Jinadasa Perera, ran his own theatrical company mainly for amateurs. It was a routine every evening for artistes to conduct rehearsals at their residence. Having identified his talents and interest in this creative field at his tender age of 20 years in 1955, his father a person of means sent him to Visva Bharathi University, West Bengal, Shantiniketan to complete a degree in Music.

Having studied Bengali and Hindustani he became an important member of the broadcasting team of the University as an instrumentalist during the tenure of his course. As he grew in stature as a musician he evolved with time, his own inimitable style of composing music for Ballet, Tele-drama, Stage plays and Films.

He was always interested in experimenting with sounds and instruments. Eventually, he invented the 'Soothar' which as basically the blending of sounds produced by Sithar, Hawaiian guitar, Sarod, Santoor, Harp and Goothawadyam. Besides his own "Soothar" he has mastered the Sithar, Sarod, Harmonium, Piano, Organ, Mendolin, Tennor, Banjo, Guitar, Esraj, Torshani, Santoor, Violin and Tablano which no other musician in Sri Lanka is competent and who could have challenged him. Even today it is difficult for any famous musician to live up to his standards in playing such a range of musical instruments.

He was a gifted and the best innovator Sri Lanka had ever produced, It is unfortunate that his contribution to the field of music had not been the due recognition by the administrators in Aesthetic music, He had excelled at classical and jazz concerts and Ballets in New Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay, Benares, Jaipur and Pakistan between the years 1955 1959.These recitals were applauded, hailed and appreciated by cosmopolitan audiences.

Subsequently he had performed at Perth and Tasmania in Australia with the Chitrasena Ballet troupe, Broadcasting and T.V. Singapore in 1963. Between 1979 1980 he performed for B.B.C. London, I.T.V. London, Manchester, Birmingham Camden Centre London, W.C.I., Commonwealth Institute of London, Bharathiya Vidya Bhawan (U.K.centre) Institute of Indian Culture London also toured all the Scandinavian countries for musical recitals and concerts.

His performance made for charity at the Bharathiya Vidya Bhawan Institute of Indian Culture, London, a jealously guarded aristocratic preserve of high caste Indian Brahmin was highly hailed. His performance fascinated the audience by keeping them spellbound.

From 1959 to 1989 he worked as a music Teacher and he had a long stint at Thurstan College, Colombo 7 as the Teacher of music. He created the College theme song.. The College theme song composed by genius musician late Dr Lionel Algama has still exists in College.

In 1975 he was appointed as a Cultural Development Officer in the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. He was also entrusted with the duties as the Chief Examiner of Music, in both theory and practical at the Faculty of Aesthetic Education, University of Kelaniya. He served as a supervisor in music, Ministry of Education in the Republic of Maldives from 1983 to 1984. He was entrusted to design the North Indian Classical music syllabus for the Institute of Asian Culture, University of Windsor, Sunset Avenue, Ontario, Canada.
He has composed and directed music in several films, ballets, dramas produced in Sri Lanka and won awards for the Best Music directions in 1961, 1963, 1966, 1976, 1984, 1996 and 2000. The first of many films in which he made the music score was in the film "Patachara' He was the winner of the National award for the Best Music Directions and Creations in 1995 and also won the best Tele-drama Music Directors Award in 2000.

The musical score and composition of the award winning film "Parasathumal" produced by Chitra Balasuriya was also his. He composed music the main theme song sung by Sujatha Perera,"Parawuna malwala suwanda athethe" ,which was also an award winning song’. The other films he directed the music were ‘Banduramal’, ‘Pradeepaya Mawewa’,’Mayurige Kathawa’, ‘Bambara Geethaya’ and ‘Vasanthi’ etc.
He had composed music for a number of stage plays such as Dayananda Gunawardena's "Naribena, Romeo and Juliet, Sinahawa, Nuwana Podiya, Tikirimalie, Oedipus, Kusa Pabawathie, and the Horror of Mahahena." He also directed music for ballets, Karadiya, Nala Damayanthi, Sakunika, Ginihora, Rankikily, Kinkini Kolama, Capture, Isolation, Making of Men, Through the Desert and Macbeth.  Other than that he had also composed, organized and conducted music for several feature programs in Hindustani, Classical and Light music.

On his 07h death anniversary the legendary musician should be very appropriately remembered by all music lovers for his massive contributions to the musical arena for over five decades.

May his life through Sansara be shortened and he attains the supreme bliss of Nibbana.

SUNIL THENABADU, 17, Melrose Place, Eagleby, Queensland 4207, Brisbane,Australia Tel 0469862769
6th May2015.

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