Local scene...
He is Mr. Cock-a-Doodle-Doo...

cockadudul.jpg (15330 bytes)by Prasad Gunewardene
"When I was young my father said, "Son I have something to say, and what he told I’ll never forget until my dying day. He said son, you be a bachelor boy until your dying day" - Cliff Richards. That great singer Cliff who failed in love followed his father’s advice to remain a bachelor. Today the "Watch Out" speaks of a local musician who is not great as Cliff Richards but sought to follow the life style and song of Cliff in the local music scene. This man too failed in love and chose to remain single which he thought was the best. His bachelor life, full of fun and frolic is viewed with humour by some, because he happens to be a Thomian. Some years ago veteran Media Minister Anandatissa De Alwis told this writer-"Though men are single they are never alone round the clock.Sometimes when the clock strikes two they get up with two".This musician is Priya Peiris who emerged from the popular group "La Bambas" from Moratuwa in 1967, still in the scene, better known as "Mr. Cock-a-Doodle-Doo".Priya the bachelor may know better when the clock strikes two and the cock gets up sounding cock-a-doodle-doo.

Priya Peiris who started this group during the "Group Music Fever" era of the late 1960’s with Brian Fernando in Moratuwa loved the Calypso style with the box guitar to bring the paraguan rhythm into Sinhala lyrics. However, Priya hit the top with his song "Nuwara Menikela" and became popular among the English listeners in the then Radio Ceylon when he came out with the hit "Cock-a-Doodle-Doo". Vijaya Corea and Vernon Corea who were in charge of the "Saturday Stars" and "Sooriya" programmes with humour introduced Priya with that song to say that Priya was the only man who had his cock up at two to wake up others. At a recent musical show Vijaya introduced Priya with the same humour after thirty five years saying that older the bull stronger was the horn and Priya will come on stage with his Cock-a Doodle-Doo. Priya was another find from the "Maliban Talent Search" and the "Observer Talent Search" the popular contests during that time which brought new talent into Sri Lankan music.

This musician was inspired by the Calypso styles introduced by the late Neville Fernando of "Los Cabelleros" and Merril Fernando of "Amigos Romanticas" two popular music groups from the Negombo belt. He however, used the style of Noel Ranasinghe of "La Ceylonians" as a role model in his music career. The "La Bambas" started with Brian, Priya, Rolinson Ferdinando, Erington Perera, Malsiri Wijesuriya and Lasla Fernando. This is one group that has all its founder members intact for thirty five years though they seldom appear on stage. Calypso at that time needed much harmony for style to melodies which is rare in the electric guitar music which has lot of sound in equipment. Priya was top singer in three part, three and four part harmony in Calypso style. The name "La Bambas" was based on a Spanish song titled "La Bamba".The first label to give the break for Priya and his group was "Paradise Label" of Oriental Musical Stores which recorded four songs - "Samanmali - Atha Sarasanna - Handa Paane and Nelum Vile, a duet which introduced Christine Gunewardene. Then came Philips Label to them from the Gowri Corporation for another four songs that introduced the popular Estelle Gunesekere. Priya and the La Bambas not only specialised in Sinhala Calypso but also composed English numbers like the popular "Island in the Sun" sung by Priya.

These compositions were rated high in the only electronic media, the Radio Ceylon at that time. The compositions that emerged from music groups in that era had decent lyrics, heart rending music and melodies unlike today. Each group had its own identity and they had to follow audition in the studios at Radio Ceylon before selection.

The musicians of yesteryear composed songs on lovely themes that caught the hearts of music lovers and that was why those songs came to stay for decades. It is unfortunate that group songs of today have no meaning neither in lyrics as most lyrics can never be played on a decent channel that would uphold culture and tradition. Today’s musicians in these dastardly groups have no knowledge of any type of music. A song has to be given much thought before it is designed. The musicians both oriental and western in the Sinhala scene were committed to uphold tradition and culture. If a panel found a single word not in keeping with these lines, the song would be rejected. Therefore those who produced songs were extra cautious of their compositions. Priya Peiris, Clarence Wijewardene are two musicians who set different trends. Priya used the box guitar throughout while Clarence changed to the electric guitar. But , both upheld the highest traditions in their compositions. That was why they became and are popular even today and in the future.

Priya Peiris is one of the few musicians who has a tremendous knowledge in Calypso style of music. He says that in the 16th century during the days Vasco De Gama, Christopher Columbus and Magalan of Portugal were exploring countries colonising from Mexico downwards the Calypso style was introduced with colonisation. When Portugese came here in 1505, the Spanish style invaded our culture and it caught the sea belt where Catholism spread, Priya recalled. The Catholic radio has had a programme "Trio Los Paraguas" using Spanish instruments where Sinhala lyrics were written by legends like Neville Fernando, Merril and Bernadine Fernando. However, "La Ceylonians" of Noel Ranasinghe in the early 1960’s has been the first group to Ceylonise that type of music in style. Priya and his La Bambas have been carrying the mantle of Claypso style uninterrupted with the founder members intact for thirty five years. At times when unable to get together as a group due to other commitments, Priya appears solo on stage to bring back the nostalgic memories of that era. He is a man who could even present his Calypso numbers into the electric equipment backing of today. That is why Priya Peiris is a versatile musician and remains a bachelor boy like Cliff Richards.