Mar 03, 2020

Sujatha blends academic and skilled expertise to deliver Aesthetic delight

‘Weera Matha’ Visharada Dr Sujatha Attanayake, the musical genius singing sensation acclaimed as one of the most popular vocalists, commenced her pivotal career in music when she was just eight years when she sang a song at the then Radio Ceylon ,to the music composed by AJ Kareem .

Since then she had not looked back apart from deploying diverse techniques such as Gamak, Tan, Meend, and singing styles such as Khayal, Dhruvpad, Tarana and Dhamar that measure their theoretical and animated values, the guiding philosophy of the inventiveness of music meth artistry, deploying diverse techniques. Sujatha could play many musical instruments conquering the Harmonium and Sitar, also excelling in taking down singing notations in quick succession Sujatha could sing in numeral styles and languages including Tamil and Hindi .When she sings in Tamil, she does not clue of the slenderest Sinhalese inspiration, and when she sings a song in the North Indian classical music tradition, she is not influenced by South Indian or the Carnatic tradition of music although she is an expert in both.

She had acquired the Tamil influence when she had visited several times to India with her mother Wimala Kantha during her younger days. In rendering her voice to folk songs such as ‘Podi Nangi Tikkak Hitapan’ which is based on Sinhala folk music, she deviates from all the major traditions of music, which represents the authentic Sri Lankan female folk voice. A fruitful innovation can be made by retaining or restricting the conceptual value and communicative value of varied music resources, using them comparatively to attain the desired goals. She was the female sought after vocalist ,perhaps who had sung in the highest number of Sinhala films over 350 in number possessing an ideal ‘screen voice’ Her first film song was in SM Nayagam’s “Sohoyuro” film in year 1956.In addition Sujatha had sung in 19 Tamil films, so many light songs well over one thousand songs which have become all- time hits lasting in the hearts of her over a million fans scattered all over. There are fans who patronize film halls principally to hear her songs which tremble the film halls.She had sung duets with all male popular artistes During the 60,70- and 80-decades Sujatha was a sought-after vocalist for indoor and outdoor musical shows and for overseas concerts having toured almost all overseas countries.

Sujatha in different styles would automatically occur to a decidedly talented creator or a musician. The efficiency of the route is dependent on the quantity and the quality of the creator's or musician's visionary virtue and artistic intelligence. The value of a creation would be verified by this emotional process and its nature. Manifestation of relative ideology is an emotional process that leads to a significant art.

The complex emotional process, which is very much a conscious process, is also automatic when it comes to instinctively talented singers such as Sujatha Attanayake. It is a blend of signals from the nervous system that help to produce sophisticated musical notes and interpretive choices on whether to apply a technique in measuring up its relative and expressive value, all this within split seconds.

Sujatha had excelled in many distinct areas in music she ventured into, in common, stands out as a vocalist. When compared with versatile Indian classical singers in North Indian and South Indian Carnatic traditions, Sujatha is the only Sri Lankan singer with a wide tonal range of voice as wide as those of Indian classical singers. She has the best trained voice among all Sri Lankan singers. For its illustration, Sujatha can sing varied notes on a three-octave scale commencing on Concert C. (Lower Octave, Middle Octave and Upper Octave). She could sing up to eight notes on the Higher Octave on the Concert C. In the same manner, she could sing up to 5-6 notes on the Lower Octave on Concert C. The conception of diverse music rituals is varied as well as their critical strengths. For instance, in North Indian Classical Music, the symbol of the ritual is the gigantic liberty adored by the innovative performer possessing elementary base of the tradition are Ragaas with much room for improvisation. Sujatha seized renowned traits of North Indian classical music is the Monophonic Melodic Line In her composition’s music would steadily reach its pinnacle creating exhilaration. sensations with passionate musical perceptions.

One may be a superstar in the making with a voice be a truly powerful one, but that’s not enough to be a great vocalist. Sure, those qualities are excellent to have, and they will help you become fruitful. No question, but when one gets to a firm point in one’s career, especially if need to sing certain genres of music like light, film, classical or opera, one needs to lay emphasis on some of the more technical aspects of singing, including importantly on enunciation which is the is the precise act of pronouncing words. While this sounds simple enough, it can become multifaceted and tough very quickly when one is singing. Controlled breathing is perhaps the other most important part of singing. If one does not properly pace one’s breathing would muddle up the song, running out of air mid-note, or may even miss a cue as one is busy taking a breadth. Sujatha easily navigates over these constraints with supreme ease.

Sujatha had been a sought-after vocalist for many Tamil films too. Fundamentally, the Carnatic tradition of music is entirely dissimilar to Hindustani tradition and in fact, there are few singers like Sujatha who had mastered both traditions which is a salient attribute of hers. It is due to her sheer vocal ingenuity that she is able to sing songs in diverse ethnicities of music in such a different array of languages such as Sinhala, Tamil, Hindi, Nepali, Marati, Urdu, Islamic, Gujarati and Bengali in which languages she is well conversant in.

Her skill to produce pure notes can be illustrated in terms of creative music. As in the issue of relative philosophy, music perceptions are born in the mind and would convert into signals in the nervous system that would reproduce such intricate notes through vocal codes effortlessly. This comes spontaneously to her via knowledge, practice and vast familiarity in interpreting her voice.
Sujatha’s contribution to Sri Lankan arts and culture was emphasized by many to create a popular tradition of music that combined the essence of all three – folk, classical and popular - while not falling victim to the insignificances, debasements and vulgarizations of flavor associated with popular mass musical culture.

In other words, she was able to draw on the riches of the classical and folk traditions while taking advantage of the resources made available by popular mass culture. It is her deemed verdict that we do not have the luxury of fading into a golden past, defend ourselves from all western impacts.

One of the major areas Sujatha contributed to enrich popular music culture is film music. She was an exceptional sought after playback singer. Her songs have immortalized those films, capturing the inspiration of the audiences. It should be reiterated that her songs sung over decades ago are still been emulated and sung by those majority of aspirants taking part in all reality programs.

Sujatha’s music knowledge, experience, and the understanding of ethnomusicology and semi organized musical traditions has assisted her to be an accomplished musician through her eminent musical ear.

Sujatha Attanayake, is Sri Lanka's first ever female film music director/composer, stands out as an object tutorial for a gifted musician who applies virtual creed in directing and composing music. The film was ‘Hariyata Hari’ In this backdrop she could take up any challenge in the music arena.For the 150th year of existence of the Police department year before last when the authorities of the Police administration had selected Sujatha to compose the music for the Police theme song which she done very precisely. It is pertinent to quote appropriately that her father MD Perera had been a Police Officer.

In the year 2013 her solo concert “Jeewana wila meda” after a lapse of decades since her solo “Esi Mihira” shows was held to a packed house at the Nelum Pokuna performing arts theatre under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

"Sujatha Attanayaka Divisirita", her biography and "Sujatha Attanayaka Geethawaliya" was launched on 11th November 2017 to coincide with her 75th birthday, also the 67th year of her music career.
Visharada Sujatha Attanayake was appropriately honored with a doctorate by the authorities in the Visual and Performing Arts University during the University’s annual convocation in year 2019 by the Chancellor Sangeeth Nipun Sanath Nandasiri.

Sujatha has inherited the influence of ‘Noorthi Gee’from her mother Wimala Kantha and sister Flori Devi both exponents of Noorthi Gee. Recently with her wide knowledge she compiled and launched a book containing one hundred (100) Noorthi Gees of the Tower Hall era with accurate phonetics (swara prasthara) which would be very useful to school teachers of aesthetics as there is a dearth of such books.

Sujatha was never interested in receiving awards for reasons best known to her. To indicate a few in the year 1965 Sujatha received the Swarna Sanka award for the song Duka Ena Kala from the film "Yata giya dawasa" lyrics by Karunaratna Abeysekara music score by R.Muththusamy. In year 1966 Sarasaviya award and Sawarna Sanka award for the song ‘Parauna malwala suwanda athethe’ in "Parasathu mal" lyrics by Mahagama Sekara ,music by Dr Lionel Algama.In year 1972 award for the best singer for the song Punchi Dawaswala, then Kumarathunga Samuru award.1974 best playback singer for Parauna mal, Sarasavi award and Swarna Sanka awards.

Sujatha was born on 12th of May 1942 she was the 3rd in a family of five siblings. Eldest sister Flori Devi a renowned Tower Hall actress then elder brother Dharmasiri Perera a music teacher, younger sister singer Ranjani Perera and youngest brother Susil Perera renowned as a versatile drummer. She married Nawaratne Attanayake a Director of Education Aesthetics. Sujatha too served the department of education as a Assistant Director of education-Aesthetics. The duo was blessed with three sons Heli, Chanaka and Samin. Chanaka sacrificed his life while serving in the army in 1992 while eldest Heli is having his own business while Samin is an airline pilot attached to Etihad airlines based in Abu Dhabi.
At Fox Hill Chess Fiesta 2019 one of the highlights of the awards ceremony was the presentation of a souvenir to Sujatha the ‘Weeramatha’ souvenir in the form of a memento. One of the highlights of the awards ceremony was the presenting of a memento presented by Brigadier Kithsiri Ekanayaka, Chairman of the Army Chess Committee. Weera Matha Sujatha’s son, Captain Chanaka Sanjeewa Attanayake, sacrificed his life for the nation while on duty at Pooneryn on, 25th September 1992. He was an infantry colleague of Brigadier Kithsiri Ekanayake. It is pertinent to mention that when Chanaka met with his tragic death Sujatha was at a concert in Melbourne Australia and Nawaratne Attanayake was employed in Florida USA. Both had to rush back to Sri Lanka for his funeral.

Having known Sujatha, Nawaratne Attanayake family very intimately for over five decades have observed both to be a philanthropic duo always striving to promote the welfare of others via donation of money and services. As a characteristic of philanthropic persons, the duo has seen success in their perquisite two are concerned of the welfare of others who venture to alleviate the hindrances of others been empathetic without seeking whatsoever for their own personal benefit. As a very close family comrade there are many more illustrations and evidences to prove.
The duo collects money from relations and friends to buy dry rations to be given to destitute living in the border villages in Weli Oya which they do every three months uninterruptedly. The distribution is done in a systemic transparent manner with the help of Army personnel in Weli Oya.
Sujatha during her peak had conducted music classes for novices. Two such who became fame were Uresha Ravihari and Asanka Piyamantha, still teaches music for University students. Her charges are very nominal, but do not charge from the poor folk. She is a staunch Buddhist who goes on pilgrimages to India each and observes Eight Merits on every Poya day. She has put up a small house in Anuradhapura where the duo spends two weeks of the month specifically for worshipping the shrines and promoting Buddhist activities.
Finally, it should be said that she should go in the annals of music as a modest unpretentious down to earth legendary singer. ‘Weera Matha’ Visharada Dr Sujatha Attanayake in her twilight years. All Sri Lankans should extend gratitude for the services rendered to our music philosophy to wish her good wellbeing and longevity.

Sunil Thenabadu in Brisbane