Latha and Nanda – politics of music I Sri Lanka Latest News

Recently at the UNP convention, a sunflower singer sang the famous song ‘Pitakavere’ which is referred as ‘Amu Sindu’, UNP party members were stunned. The song did not get the response the Sunflower singer expected from the fans. Later, the song was mocked on social media as well. The reason is that the song does not go with the  UNP culture.

UNP Singers such as Lata Walpola, Jotipala, MS, Nihal Nelson and later Rukantha Gunathilake sang popular culture songs that fit the UNP culture. Dudley, JR. And Premadasa understood this culture very well. Among them, it was Ranasinha Premadasa who made culture popular culture among UNP supporters. He penned songs for popular singers. Victor Ratnayake was a popular singer in the popular UNP culture. President J.R. requested Victor Ratnayake’s song ‘Api okkokama Rajawaru’ at ‘gam udawa’ shows.

Victor received requests from Elena Jayawardene. Premadasa made Lata an artist of popular UNP popular culture. He did not get Lata to sing political songs. But he made Lata’s songs the most popular songs in UNP stages.  In the general election of 1977, the presidential election of 1982, and the referendum of 1982, these singers represented UNP.  They sang on stage. Premadasa gave houses to all of them. Jotipala was a good friend of both Premadasa and Vijaya. In the 1977 general election, Vijaya Kumaratunga contested from the Sri Lankan Freedom Party in the Katana electorate. UNP invited Jothipala to sing in Katana UNP stages but Jothipala met his friend Vijaya and told him he would not sing on the UNP stage to defeat Vijaya.  

Jotipala was a popular and favourite singer on Premadasa’s Gamudava stage. Jotipala was not featured in Rupavahini during those days.  The reason for ignoring Jothi was that he was branded as a third-class ( peaching) singer and the reason was the political friendship between Premadasa and Jotipala. During jothipala’s funeral, Jyotipala’s family forbade Lata to attend Jyotipala’s funeral. Lata was in tears unable to attend Jyoti’s last moments. This was heard by the then Prime Minister Premadasa. He picked up Lata in his vehicle and took her to Jotipala’s funeral. Seeing Lata coming with Premadasa, Jotipala’s family became silent.

In the 1988 presidential election, Lata and others got into the UNP stage amidst JVP death threats.   At that time, the wave in Sri Lanka was Nanda Malani’s ‘ Pawana’ . While Lata got close to the UNP Nanda Malani became closer to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. In 1980, JR’s government decided to abolish the civic rights of Mrs. Bandaranaike. The SLFP signed a petition of Buddhist leaders and artists against the abolition of the civic rights of Mrs Bandaranayake, Among the signatories were  Amaradeva and Nanda Malani who signed the petition.

Nanda Malani’s songs came out after the signing of the Indo-Lankan agreement and the beginning of the JVP rebellion, where they wrote on the walls ‘Let’s kill JR’. Nanda created a wave through Pawana against JR’s rule. At that time, Nanda’s ‘Pawana’ songs started gathering people before the meeting on the presidential election platforms. After Premadasa became president in 1988, when the JVP was suppressed, Nanda and Professor Sunil Ariyaratne, who composed the songs of  ‘Pawana’, fled to South India, fearing that the repression would follow them. After the suppression culminated, Nanda and Sunil returned to Sri Lanka. At the ‘Vanitha Vitthi’ award ceremony, Nanda was awarded as the best singer by the then First Lady Hema Premadasa. Once Premadasa recited the lyrics of the song ‘Saru Pasa Dilei’ written by Sunil Ariyaratne to talk about the laziness of people in a public meeting. After the impeachment against Premadasa, Nanda and Sunil launched  ‘Sukiribatillan’s collection of songs’, which criticised the UNP’s open economy policy mercilessly. In 1994, after 17 years, the SLFP returned to power, but Nanda did not go to the election platform. But from 1994 till today, Nanda’s songs have been heard on the SLFP stages.

After the U.N.P. became the opposition in 1994, and in the Provincial Council elections in 1999 Lata got into the UNP stage again. In the 1999 Western Provincial Council election, Lata sang Lata’s song ‘Manaranjana Darsheniya Lanka’ before Western Provincial Council Chief Minister candidate Karu Jayasuriya came on stage. Party leader Ranil heard this. Ranil did not like Lata. He wanted Rukantha Gunathilaka, who had come to the fore from his Ministry of Youth Affairs, to sing songs. Once in a meeting at Kosgas Junction, Ranil threatened to stop Lata’s song. Karu Jayasuriya intervened and explained matters to Lata.

Lata is a symbol of UNP culture. Ranil did not understand that. But  Karu Jayasuriya, and then U.N.P. Deputy leader Sajith Premadasa understood it. Even today, Sajith does not forget Lata’s birthday. He takes a flower bouquet and goes to Lata’s house and sings with Lata.

Lata never sang political songs. But Nanda sang political songs and became the popular favourite star of SLFP and JVP. Lata and Nanda never did politics. But Sunil Ariyaratne, who wrote political songs for Nanda, did politics. Sunil Ariyaratne is one of the people who led the protest of university professors against Ranil’s government in 2002. During the 2005 presidential election, he made a speech comparing Mahinda to Dutugemunu. That speech was a great strength to popularize Mahinda’s Chinthanaya.

Also 2017, Sunil Ariyaratne indirectly criticized Ranil in a book launch event, referring to the bond theft.

It may be because of this that Sunil Ariyaratne was appointed the chancellor of Sundarya University after Ranil `took the presidency from Mahindas. At the recently held President’s Awards ceremony, Ranil approached Nanda Malani and gave her awards and appreciated her.

Ranil spent 30 years in UNP, He is not a leader who loves the UNP or the culture of the UNP. Because of this, many popular stars have left UNP. Gamini, Joe Abeywickrama, Malani and Ravindra were among them. A singer like Lata did not leave UNP despite Ranil’s indifference.

In December 2002, when Ranil was the prime minister, Lata performed ‘Rajina Mammai’ concert on her 70th birthday. Prime Minister Ranil was invited but he did not participate. Karu Jasayuri participated in it. Ranil thinks UNP artists, athletes and intellectuals who stand for the party and for UNP do not need special treatment because they are in the UNP anyway. He thinks that the UNP should win. They are antis. That’s why he went to the concert of Premasiri Kemadasa, who strongly attacked the UNP, and skipped Lata’s concert. But Kemadasala never came to UNP.  Ranil is not a leader who fits the mould. Looking at it that way, history has given him the rightful place to inherit the presidency.

By Upul Joseph Fernando

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