ĎPeopleís Singerí Indrani recalls golden musical era

Caressing many hearts with her unique timbre, Indrani Perera remains one-of-a-kind. The Nation re-lives a golden musical era of the country through the life and times of this song bird.

By Randima Attygalle
Q: What is your earliest memory as a singer?
When I was a little girl of about six or seven years, I used to wear my motherís satin underskirts and high heels, rub on my motherís lipstick, and get onto a high table and sing! Not that I had any idea of stage performance or intention of becoming a singer, but I always knew I could sing well. I used to listen to lot of records of Tina Turner, Harry Belafonte, Nat King Cole, Pavarotti and Ravi Shankar, and then I used to imitate them. I used to record my singing and listen to my own voice which quite thrilled me! (laughs)

Q: Can you recollect the singer in you as a school girl?
My talent in singing was actually nourished only when I reached my SSC Prep. Class. Till then my existence was almost unfelt in school. My two sisters Mallika, Irangani and myself attended Presbyterian Girlsí School at Regent Street. (Later I joined Stafford Ladiesí) My elder sister Mallika was actively involved in school productions.. Even in the music class, I used to sit right at the back and never tried to come into the limelight..

One day my music teacher in school, Mrs. Potgar realized that I could sing well. She was elated, so much so, she even took me to be introduced to our Principal Ms. Valerie Liyanage. I was asked to take part in an inter-school talent show which was represented by so many schools in Colombo. We had the recordings at SLBC and I did not have the slightest clue about voice controlling before a microphone! Mrs. Potgar whom I consider to be my first music guru, trained me in her own way for this show. Iím still indebted to her and Mrs. Liyanage for recognising my talent and helping me nourish it.

Q: What was the atmosphere like in your home with three sisters involved in singing?
(smiling) I must say there was always a festive mood. Both my parents hailed from musical families. My mom was a very talented pianist and her sister could sing very well. There was always music at our place, with records being played. My fatherís uncle used to be a close associate of the famous musician Mohamed Ghouse. He could play several instruments.
Although my father did not play any instruments , he was a music lover. All his brothers could play some kind of an instrument. When my father realized that my elder sister Mallika could sing, he got her to join Pandit Amaradevaís music class conducted at YMBA, Colombo. I used to accompany her and sit outside the class. All ragas and whatever songs he practiced with the students in the class, I myself practiced outside the class! I was learning Kandyan dancing under maestro Chitrasena and Vajira during this time. It was such a beautiful period in my life. My youngest sister was quite small at that time and I remember how my mother played some of her favourite records and got her to dance to them. She even acted as a child star in the film Sama along with my elder sister. Unfortunately my mother did not live to see the film being released although she accompanied them for the recording sessions.

Q: What was life like after the loss of your mother?
When my mother died of a cancer, we were quite young. My youngest sister was only six years old. Without her, our lives were empty. The responsibility of three young daughters lay heavily on my fatherís shoulders. He was both our father and mother after the demise of my mother. He was a very understanding father. He was our confidante and our best friend as well. We were very open with him and had no secrets between each other. My father instilled correct values in us and taught us how to lead an untarnished life which is important to any woman specially. He taught us not to fight back, not to harbour revenge.
When we formed our band Three Sisters, there were times when the microphones were switched off when we got on to stage. My father taught us how to be composed even in such situations. He gave his fullest support to us in our singing careers and we were fortunate to have had him with us till last year. After my mother passed away, both my father and my eldest sister sacrificed a lot for the well-being of the family.
My eldest sister Mallika, quitted school to be a second mother to us. Life was not easy for her, learning all household chores. Later when I lost her, it was like losing my mother all over again. There was such a strong bond between us sisters and our father.

Q: What is the history of your much acclaimed hit amma?
This was composed by Clarence Wijewardene. Although it was written long after the demise of my own mother, he thought that Iíd be the ideal person to do justice to it. Amma is an emotionally-charged song which brings tears to so many.

Q: How did you join Moonstones and what are your fond memories of this band?
The idea of joining a band always fascinated me and I was selected by Dalrene for the band Fire Flies as her female vocalist. I was attending Stafford Ladies at this time and Malee Malewana, a cousin of Annesley Malewana was a close colleague of mine. Through her, I came to know Annesley and Moonstones. After quitting Fire-Flies, I joined Moonstones in 1969. Dilhani was the first song I sang for Moonstones which became an instant hit. This was followed by Sigiri, Sumudu Mal, Pem Kathawa etc. My association with Moonstones enabled me to meet some of the eminent musicians and lyricists in the country such as Annesley Malewana, Clarence Wijewardene, M.K. Rocksami, Victor Dalugama, Sarath Dasanayake, Milton Pieris, Earnest Soyza, Milroy Dharmaratne and Stanley Peries. All these people inspired me and I have lot of treasured memories of them.

Q: What gave birth to Three Sisters?
It was actually my fatherís idea that his three daughters form their own band. Thus on December 31st, 1969 we had our first performance at Hotel Taprobane (Present Grand Oriental). There was a marvellous response and numbers such as Oba Soyana Kalu Kella and Akkala Nangila became quite popular. Our father gave us his fullest support in this endeavour and we continued as Three Sisters for more than 20 years. We also had some top players in our band such as Raja Jalaldeen, Kumar Molligoda and Miskin who was the drummer. Unfortunately after the demise of my sister Mallika, we could no longer carry the name Three Sisters. .

Q: Your singing is unique for its native touch with a Western flavour to it. How did you adopt this style?
(smiling) As a young girl I used to listen to quite a lot of English numbers and in the meantime I used to listen to Ravi Shankar, Asha Bhosle, Latha Mangeshkar and Pandit Amaradeva as well. I was also familiar with traditional wannams, nadagams as I learnt Kandyan dancing under guru Chitrasena and Vajira. Although I am Buddhist (my father was a Buddhist) my mother was a Roman Catholic and I used to accompany her to church. This enabled me to reap the best of both worlds. I suppose all these contributed to my style of singing.

Q: Can you tell us about your family?
I met my husband James through Wijeya Corea when I was doing a recording for the Lotus Label. I married him in.1979. When I had my first child, daughter Anjali Charukeshi, I was elated. Having grown up with no mother, I felt that the whole world was mine when I myself became a mother (smiles). My daughter got married recently and is residing abroad. Although her voice is identical to mine, she never pursued a singing career. My son Nimendra Dhananjaya has just completed his degree. He too can sing well.

Q: What best describes Indrani Perera?
(Smiling) Indrani Perera is essentially a peopleís singer. I have walked with people of all walks of life yet I have never lost my common touch. Even when I walk into a hospital, so many come and inquire, Indrani akkata karadarayakda? I feel blessed to have touched the hearts of so many over the years.










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