The velvety voice of Priya Suriyasena

by Kalinga Weerakkody
A popular vocalist cum lecturer in music a ‘A’ grade artiste Priya Suriyasena Liyanage has sung over the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC).

His first four songs recorded for the corporation in 1972 were written by Rohana Fernando with late veteran lyricist Premakeerthi de Alwis and music was by himself. ‘Andura Andura mage’ was written by former and ‘Heta davase’, ‘Sarathasa niwa’ and ‘Mata wasana’ by the latter. However, subsequently a good amount of his songs were written by Premakeerthi de Alwis.

The veteran music directors who helped him in his singing were Lal Thenabadu, the late Sarath Dassanayake, Stanley Peiris, Sarath de Alwis, late Clarence Wijewardene and Ranjith Perera. Priya himself directed music for songs such as ‘Edaraniya Neranjana’, ‘Heta davase’, ‘Mata wasana’, ‘Sanda ma gawai’, ‘Mage samarum pothe’, ‘Ekama vidiye’, ‘Mohathaka suwa dena’ and ‘Gelawata banda wu muthu pote’ (neckless tied to the neck) written by Ajantha Ranasinghe which he sang with Neranjala Sarojini. Some of the veteran vocalists who had their music directed by him were M. S. Fernando, Anton Jones, Milton Mallawarachchi, Punsiri Soysa, Mervyn Perera, Gratien Ananda, late Mervyn Mihindukula, Freddie Silva .

His maiden foreign tour was to Singapore in 1978. But subsequently he also made it to over 25 other countries.

He was also a play back singer in many films which were Mal kekulu in earlier 80’s, song Bindu bindu kandulu sala duet with Shayami Fonseka and music directed by Sarath Dassanayake and produced by Sena Samarasinghe, in Selinage Walawwa - Mudukkuwe Juliet, in Ethin Ethata he sang a duet with Milton Mallawarachchi to the music direction of Sarath Dassanayake (Song - Kandan yannan ran mal mala dala) and in Hariyanakota ohama thamai, Pina paduna da etc. In the film Suhada Sohoyuro he played a minor role. Priya was born in Nattandiya in the Chilaw district and had his primary education at Nattandiya Primary School and completed at Madampe Central College in Puttalam district. His parents were of middle-class origin. His father was M. L. D James and mother A. M. Podi Manike who was a housewife. Priya was the only son in a family of three.

As a student he carried away several prizes after participating in musical programmes. One of them being in a UNESCO talent competition. Priya’s school music teacher was D. P. L. Mahipala in Madampe Central College. After his A/L from 1968 to 1971 he sat for external exams conducted by the government musical college Heywood and obtained a diploma in music. In 1978 he wedded Thamara Kumari Weerasinghe of Kandy who was also a music teacher with a Diploma in music from Heywood. He is now the proud father of four children - three daughters Minoshini and Iroshini both studying abroad and Lakshitha of Ananda College and Gayashini of Vishaka, Colombo.