By Rochana Jayasinghe –
It has been wonderfully exciting to witness all the love and warmth pouring towards Yohani de Silva following her cover of Satheeshan Rathnayake’s Manike Mage Hithe written by Dulan ARX and produced by Chamath Sangeeth. Within a span of a few weeks, there were hundreds of vocal and instrumental covers from India and many other parts all over the world, throwing light on Sri Lanka’s place on the musical map. In the context of the huge crowds Yohani has amassed in India and the prolific success she is having there as we speak, it would be apt to look back on the other Sri Lankan singing sensation that made India go crazy.
Suranganie is a staple Sri Lankan wedding and trip song. Little do many know that it also set the precedent for several songs in India – today, one would find a number of renditions of Suranganie in India, especially in Tamil, Konkani, Hindi and Marathi. If one were to hear any one of these versions, it would be natural for them to assume that the Sinhala song came after the Indian version(s) since that has been the “natural” order of things. In fact, many believe that it is the Konkani version which is the original. Yet Suranganie was the one Sinhala song that came first.
Suranganie was released in 1972 by A.E. Manoharan, actor and pop singer, who had just been appointed a Producer for Dramas in the commercial section of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. With the song gaining immediate popularity, Manoharan also released a bilingual Sinhala and Tamil version with a Surya Record label, which was broadcast on Ceylon Radio’s international radio and Indian air time – it did not take long for the craze to start in Tamil Nadu. The song was catchy and very quickly became the “go-to” song of many school-going and university youth of Chennai who then took it to other parts of India. The song and its translated versions went on to feature in many films since then, the first being Avar Enakke Sontham where director Ilayaraja’s Tamil version (with the Sinhala refrain) was sung by Malaysia Vasudevan and Renuka. Another significant example is Suraangani Kamaal Karegi sung by Asha Bhosle in the Hindi film Parmaatma (1978).
In 2008, Sri Lankan artiste Dinesh Kanagarathnam made a remake of Suranganie in Sinhala and Tamil for his album Thamila. Famed South Indian music director Vijay Antony in turn, collaborated with Dinesh and made a remix of it for in the film TN-07-AL-4777 released that same year. The song is titled Aathichudi and retains certain Sinhala words and phrases from the original (remake) of Suranganie by Dinesh.
Suranganie has certainly gone a long way.
In 1973, A.E Manoharan, who sang this groundbreaking song that set a milestone in Sri Lankan music, was awarded the title “Pop Chakravarthi” by Minister Chelliah Kumarasuriar in Jaffna. From 1975 to 1976, he performed in a concert series across Sri Lanka, India, and even in the UK, Europe, Canada, Singapore, Australia and Malaysia where he sang, apart from Surangani, Sinhala and Tamil songs like Chuda Manike and Pattu Mamiye. His insurmountable popularity and subsequent work in the South Indian film industry earned him the fond nickname “Ceylon Manohar”.
Yohani has, in the footsteps of A.E. Manoharan, shaken the Indian music loving masses, and is opening avenues for Sri Lankan music and its artistes to be noticed world over. With the power and ubiquity of social media, this might truly bring about more and more recognition and love for Sri Lankan music.
I would also like make two notable mentions at this point – two other Sri Lankan persons who have achieved such landmark popularity in the region, are Sanath Jayasuriya and Sabeetha Perera.
Jayasuriya for many years, tormented Indian cricket – yet, he was also the cricketer that India loved the most, and yearned to have for themselves. His popularity in India was such that many called it the “cult of Sanath Jayasuriya”.
Sabeetha Perera’s acting in 17 Pakistani films earned her wide reputation in the region, with her winning the Best Actress Award for the film Nadiya at the Alsakar Film Festival in Pakistan, and also the Most Popular Actress Award for her role in Bobby.
As Yohani carves her mark in Indian music and its fandom, one can only imagine the future extent and scope of Manike’s journey around the world. Let’s wish Yohani and Sri Lankan entertainment all the very best!