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From school choir to international fame

Soul Sounds in Normandy and
(inset) One of the venues

By Raisa Wickrematunge

I clearly remember following my mother into the crowded auditorium, filled with an air of expectancy; the hush upon sight of the robed choir, and finally the voices, rising pure, harmonious, seemingly effortless. That was my first taste of Soul Sounds the group, and not one I soon forgot.

Starting off as the Holy Family Convent Senior Choir, Soul Sounds entered a competition in Wales and were placed first runner up in both the Group and Solo categories. At this point, many of the members were graduating from school but rather than disbanding the group, they decided to stick together, and so, Soul Sounds was formed, with Soundarie David as music director, Jerome De Silva as artistic director, and Christopher Prins, who accompanies the group on drums.

Several years later and Soul Sounds is still going strong. The group has travelled extensively, giving performances in the UK, Asia and Australia, and won three Gold medals at the 2008 World Choir Games in Austria.

No financial gain

Curious to know a little more about Soul Sounds, I quizzed Soundarie on what it takes to be a member. “You have to be really passionate about singing to be in the group, because there is no financial gain,” she tells me.  She adds that the group is not a commercial venture, and any money raised is put into a travel fund so that they can showcase Sri Lankan talent worldwide.

 Soundarie holds auditions for new members of the group, looking not just for vocal talent but a willingness to work well with others. If they do well, auditioners are then put on a six month probationary period where Soundarie observes their dedication and progress vocally, at the end of which they will become fully-fledged members.

Choosing songs too is a collective process. Since Soul Sounds has travelled extensively and seen choirs around the world perform, this has given them new perspective, Soundarie says, adding that when they do order music, they always try to create new arrangements. 

Having performed onstage myself, I know that such shows take hours of practice, and so I was curious to know how the members of Soul Sounds are managing to balance this with working or studying. Soundarie said that she admired the girls “commitment and dedication,” considering they were juggling many different roles, be it student or employee.

Roshni Gunaratne, one of the group, explained to me that a practice schedule is worked out taking everyone’s work, study and other activities into consideration, which means that they usually meet on weekends. Andrea Melder Labrooy spoke of balancing work, caring for her six month old daughter and singing, saying that the group’s understanding and help have been invaluable, from being flexible about rehearsal time to carrying bags for her at the World Choir Games in Austria when she was five months pregnant, described by her as “a tiring but wonderful experience.”

Tour of France

Most recently, the choir returned after a tour of France, as a thank you gesture to the region of Normandy, whose locals had donated generously to tsunami victims in Sri Lanka. This was organised by Ionie and Pierre Silliere, and the choir was sponsored by the Sri Lanka Tourist Board as well as the Regional Council in Normandy, the Council General of L’Orne, Amities International, Argentan, Musique Normandi, and Rotary International.

The tour itself, consisting of seven concerts spanning nine days in a variety of venues, meant that the group became “musical ambassadors,” as Soundarie David, the music director of Soul Sounds, puts it, representing Sri Lanka in a positive way. She said on the whole it was “a bit hectic” being on tour, being constantly on the move.

The run up to the tour too was taken up with rehearsing and fundraising, but Soundarie describes the experience as “worth the hard work,” a sentiment the girls seem to echo. “Touring may be hectic, but the rapport between the group members and accompanists, as well as our eagerness and enthusiasm to experience new cultures and learn new things, makes it totally worthwhile. We have definitely learned a lot about time management as well,” said Roshni, adding that she tries to finish any assignments ahead of time so that she can focus on the tour. The group had time to visit the Eiffel Tower and St. Mont Michael, as well as taking in the surrounding countryside which was “almost out of a fairy tale.” 

It’s clear we haven’t seen the last from Soul Sounds, but what does Soundarie envision? “My dream is to showcase Soul Sounds to the world, explore new avenues, and have more challenges in the future,” she says, an ambitious plan which is not unlikely to succeed, given the obvious talent  she has at her fingertips.

Much acclaim for  Whimsical

By Ranee Mohamed

It was the ultimate in tolerance when disciplinarian headmaster Somabandu Kodikara urged children to get on stage and rap. And rap they did, these students of Gateway, not quite recognisable at first sight, with gel on their hair, chains around their necks and music on their lips,  body and soul.

Watching Whimsical recently with the management of Gateway College, veteran educationists R.I.T. Alles and  Rohini Alles, their son Dr. Harsha Alles and Deputy Headmaster Morley – the audience wondered how children could be so at ease with the headmaster, deputy headmaster and the cream of management around.

Nothing affected their great performances, nothing could stifle their body movement as they rapped to tunes – made at home, or more precisely made in school. The lyrics were perhaps the most intelligent compositions that ever got to rap.

It is but natural that Henry VIII by the Todorettes bagged the ‘best lyrics’ title. And it surely must have been a hard choice with Undiscovered, Wild Fire, The Revolution, 9 p.m., First Dawn, Gang DJ, Rap Stars – all giving us a literary treat before the actual music set in.

Undiscovered bagged the coveted title of the ‘best group.’

It was fortunate that there were a group of versatile judges to do the job, because the audience and the critics in there were at a loss to say who actually won.

One would be missing the bottom line if one did not make the observation that the true trophy ought to go to Headmaster Somabandu Kodikara, who with his customary gentleness has nudged the children to run amok with their emotions, dreams and inner longings.

If there was one thing amiss, then that was in the fact that Whimsical was confined to the auditorium of Gateway College where only a limited audience got to see the unbelievable talent in these young school children.

Let children grow; and certainly Gateway has. By giving equal opportunity to other avenues of education other than the stoic academic and book-based education, Gateway has emerged a true winner. And with winning ideas as Whimsical which has come from a sombre, no-nonsense headmaster from the old school, Gateway has got itself the ultimate honour for knowing what children need, feel and for recognising their every whim and fancy.

New Production of Kuveni

Henry Jayasena’s award winning play Kuveni is to be brought back to the stage as a new production. It will be directed by Samudra Jeewani Karunananda, a bright product of the University of Aesthetic Studies, who holds an M.A. in theatre arts.

Kuveni has been hailed by critics as well as theatre-goers as a milestone production which brought a new style to local theatre. Kuveni won almost all the awards in the stylized section of the National Drama Festival in 1963.

The sterling cast includes Nimal Jayasinghe, Prasannajith Abeysuriya, Dulanjali Sankalya, Rajitha Hewathanthirige, Warnatunga Senanayake, Visaka Jayaweera, Tilina Prabath Adikaram, Dilini Radhika, Rasika Pushpasiri, Nishantha Karunasena, Gayantha Sanjeewa, Suneth Shanthapriya, Niluka Rajanmanthri, Nilakshi Dharani Ekanayake, Nivoni Dayangi Kumari Dahanayake, as well as students from the University of Aesthetic Studies. Taksila Himashi and Padma Maduranga Weerasinghe will be in charge of stage management. Costumes are designed by Prasannajith Abesuriya.

The original music of award winner H. H. Bandra will be directed in the new production by Gayanath Nakala Dahanayake. Make-up is by Chaminda Lakmal and the lighting will be directed by Janakaraliya Lighting. The new production is a joint effort by the University of Aesthetic Studies and Nirmala Prakashana. The chief organiser of the new production is Jude Srimal.

Movie Review

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

As is spelled out in the title, this is the story of how Wolverine became Wolverine. Not where he got his mutant powers to begin with, but how the man Logan became a mutant who uses his extra special abilities - and steely claws - to fight the good fight.

We first meet Logan and Victor as kids in the 1800s then quickly follow them as they fight alongside fellow patriots (of the non-mutant variety) in a succession of wars (WWI, WWII, the Civil War, Vietnam...) until finally after surviving a hail of bullets from a firing squad, they’re locked away. Even the least observant person on the planet would know there’s something wrong with anyone who miraculously heals after being shot dozens of times at close range.

It’s in their military jail cell they first encounter Stryker. Stryker not only understands who they are but embraces what makes them different. He has big plans for Logan and Victor (who’s just as lethal as his brother as his mutant name Sabretooth implies). Stryker has a group of mutants working for him on a secret project, the mysterious Weapon X programme, and for a while Logan and Victor work side by side on Stryker’s team. But killing innocent people isn’t in Logan’s makeup so he quits and leaves everyone behind, including his brother.

Years later (sometime in the ‘70s) Logan’s quiet life in Canada is interrupted by the appearance of Victor who’s sole goal is to kill his brother. Logan’s been living a quiet life with his schoolteacher girlfriend Kayla Silverfox, but when the love of his life is taken away from him by his brother, the claws - literally - come out. Revenge is the only thing on his mind and if that means he has to work with Stryker, then that’s what Logan does. But Stryker’s a lying, conniving, snake in the grass - something Logan learns way too late.

Jackman is Wolverine. He knows this character now inside and out, and even though it’s his fourth time as the lethal yet humane mutant, his performance doesn’t feel any less fresh than it did in the original X-Men. Stepping back in time to fill in Wolverine’s backstory, Jackman’s called upon to perform even more aggressive, heart-pounding action scenes in Wolverine than in previous editions. And although it’s been nearly a dozen years since the first X-Men, Jackman hasn’t slowed down one bit.

Book Review


Quaint Fascinations by Jayanthi Kaththriarachchi is a quaint collection of poems meant to soothe the reader. Its green cover, large black print on white pages and colourful verse makes the reader fall in love with this quaint creation at first sight.

Counselor and Literary Critic Mangala Vidanapathirana in his foreword says he sees the author, whom he knew as a science teacher as a philosopher and humanist.

Jayanthi Kaththriarachchi attributes her quaint poems to inspiration derived from real life situations which she says remained etched in her memory yearning for expression.

The book quite rightly begins with Misty Morning, and goes on to Fragrance, then Drifting... Undoubtedly the sequence of the poems and the way they have been inspired from reflect that the author has a correct perspective of life and living.

The Tale Of A Tree and a Guinea Pig’s Farewell, and Echoes speak of the wonder of nature and the cruelty of life. And Quaint Fascinations move on to  Coming and Passing, Visions, New Neighbours, and Gratitude…

Kaththriarachchi goes on to add some meaning into the ‘frightful’ Skull. Bondage, Eternal Companions, Faces, Enlightenment, the poems move on… to bring us a happy collection which will be remembered for their simplicity and for soothing the brow of the reader, heavy with the burdens of stark happenings and bad news.

Music Review

CD dedicated to Clarence


Dedicating his maiden original Sinhala CD to the late music legend Clarence Wijewardene, hotelier turned singer Damayantha Kuruppu of DK Promotions fame released Suhadaneni a fortnight ago.

Letting no stone unturned to carry on Clarence’s style of music, Damayantha to his credit has tried his utmost to give music lovers the much sought after music they have been clamouring for since the demise of Clarence Wijewardene 13 years ago. With mesmerizing lyrics backed by fabulous accompanying music the first song in the CD has been dedicated to Clarence for his immense contribution to the Sinhala music industry.

“It was Clarence who brought me to the music field although I was a hotelier by profession. Our long-standing friendship dates back to the ’60s and if not for Clarence I wouldn’t have found out my musical talent,” Damayantha told The Sunday Leader.

According to Damayantha the title track of the CD Suhadaneni is the greatest tribute that he could have paid to Clarence.

“I wish to dedicate the CD to Clarence who is a legend in the local music scene. It was Clarence who shaped me into what I am today. Suhadaneni was a creation especially to pay my gratitude to Clarence and I consider it a privilege that I was able to release my first Sinhala CD as a tribute to my mentor,” Damayantha said.

According to Damayantha all the songs in the CD are based on his personal experiences, which also includes songs that are dedicated to his beloved parents — Demapiyan and to his two sons — Isuru and Asitha.

While thanking those who helped him to get the CD released Damayantha paid a special tribute to Sheila Wijewardene, wife of Clarence and Siri Hettiarachchi for granting him permission to re-record Sihinen.

— R.M.









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