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Errol takes over "Master, Sir" from his brother Neville

sing.jpg (9621 bytes)by Prasad Gunewardene
Talent inherited flows down the line in families in any sphere. Especially musical talent flows uninterrupted in those circles. Somestimes it flows from father to son, son to brother, mother to daughter and sister to sister. This is an undisputed fact. Inheritance is quite different from copying and imitating another. However, copy and imitating does not give the exact original. The conclusion would be that it is a different voice in the end. Today the "Watch Out" speaks of another musician and singer who has inherited the voice of his brother who made a successful career in music though he died very young. The name of his brother is in the hearts of music lovers for decades. He was another man from Negombo who came with the calypso style to become an allround voice in all circles. He is the dynamic Neville Fernando who led the popular "Los Cabelleros" from early 1960’s till his untimely death in 1976 caused by a terminal illness. When you hear the hit-"Master, Sir", Neville enters your mind.

Today we speak of Errol Fernando, his brother another talented musician who could not only sing but also play the lead guitar and the organ. His talent was enormous that even the popular "Jetliners" wanted his services at that time. Errol was a member of "Los Cabelleros" with his brother playing the bass guitar and harmonising to the dynamic voice of Neville. When the two brothers sang together it was difficult for the audience to identify who was singing. They had to carefully see whose lips were moving to ascertain the man who sang the chorus or the verses of that song. This is ample proof of inheritance devoid of copy. As long as Neville lived, Errol did not wish to be in the lead vocals of that group though there was a demand. He preferred harmony at recordings. Neville left a wealth of songs for his brother to continue after he passed away at the age of thirty three in 1976. He was at his peak at that time. Neville was anxious to see the release of the film "Kaludiya Dahara" for which he sang the masterpiece - "Master, Sir" composed by Nimal Mendis. Nature was so cruel that he was called to eternal rest before the film was released.

"Master, Sir" became very popular and it came to stay. This song was later sung by Neela Wickremesinghe to a different beat but it never came to stay like the original of Neville who had a voice unparalelled in the calypso scene of box guitar music. But when it is sung by Errol there appears no difference in the voice and it is sung to the original beat and music composition performed by Neville. The absence of Neville from the scene is filled by the entry of Errol. Adding more to fill the void in the popular duets Neville did with Rukmani Devi, Errol has his daughter Maria with him. Maria was outstanding in music and drama at Holy Cross Convent, Gampaha. This young girl has a high pitch voice that could duet those songs with her father. The father and daughter come together on stage to sing "Malbara Himidiriye" a duet between Neville and Rukmani that still linger in the hearts of music lovers. Maria born to a family where music is inherited has been gifted with a lovely voice. But when she sings the duets of Rukmani, this slim looking girl does not try to copy the voice of Rukmani. Once when I put that embarassing question to her she replied, "You see, Rukmani aunty was gifted with an exclusive voice and talent by God and no one can copy her". Even this little girl knows that copying cannot be done and it’s a disaster for a career.

Errol after the "Los Cabelleros" disbanded following the untimely demise of his dear brother joined the "Jetliners" to play the lead guitar. Continuing from there Errol at times performed as a member of the "Los Cabelleros" in the Maldives, Germany, Bombay. Karachi and other countries. By this time his teenage son Trevor showed signs of singing the popular songs of his uncle Neville continued by his father. Errol took him to Maldives and the father and son appeared at different Resorts in those islands. Those who heard them saw no difference in the voices. This is proof of how inheritance flows down the family. The songs of Neville and Rukmani are being followed by Errol and Maria at concerts and shows. Errol is another star in the "Stars of Seventies" done by showman cum singer, Annesley Malawana. The duets are performed by Maria. A few months ago when Errol was called upon to sing "Master, Sir" at one of Annesley’s shows, Errol came on stage with his son Trevor. The song was shared between the two and put the audience in a quandary as it was difficult to find out who was singing of the two. The voices were identical and a third emerged from that generation to carry on the mantle of Neville Fernando. Neville though no more would be a happy man as his songs will come stay for a very long time with his nephew Trevor there to continue one day from Errol.

The fans of Neville flock musical shows where Errol has been booked. They eagerly await the arrival of Errol on stage to hear the heart rending hits done by Neville nearly four decades ago. Neville was not only a group singer but also a film playback singer in an era where stalwarts like M. S. Fernando, Mohideen Begg, H. R. Jothipala, Milton Perera, Dharmadasa Walpola and C. T. Fernando reigned the film playback vocals. His film song "Gayana Geyum" was another popular hit that came to stay for decades. Inheritance in the family has enabled these hits to live long. In an era where creations and songs of musicians are destroyed by copy cats, music lovers are fortunate that those who have inherited talents are continuing in the scene to prevent copy cats from destroying the musical wealth left behind by those maestros in the Sinhala music scene. It is a welcome sign that the incumbent government has given thought to amend the Intellectual Property Act where the rights of musicians and singers would be protected to prevent destruction by copy cats who earn a fast buck to make a living. Minister Ravi Karunanayake must be commended for this move.