Affable CT Fernando

by Kalinga Weerakkody
The late Cyril Tudor Fernando popularly known as C. T. Fernando was born on January 28, 1921 at Kadalana, Moratuwa.

He studied at St. Mary’s College Nawalapitiya and won a gold medal in oratory and carried away several prizes for elocution, singing and drama as well .

He was also a chorister in the parish church he attended and won the 1st prize for singing in the choir.

From 1942 to 1965 C.T. was a choir master in the A.R.P. Messenger service in Colombo and was in charge of the singing group as a scout leader. C.T’s musical talents developed further when he joined the Colombo Grand Cabaret to entertain the troops.

In 1946 C.T. Fernando was successful in an audition held by Ratnajunkar (who came from India) at Radio Ceylon and became a regular radio artiste.

In the latter part of 1946 he recorded the song "Pinsidu Wanne" written by R. N. H. Perera which because very popular.

His first commercial record was done in 1952 under the H.M.V. (Gramophone records) label produced by Cargills (Ceylon) Ltd. which included nine songs such as (side 1), ‘Pinsindu wanne’, ‘Suwanda rosa’, ‘Baraba-ge’, ‘Ambili mame’, ‘Lo ada ninde’ (world at sleep), (side 2) - ‘Gilimale tharuwa’, ‘Kimade sumihiriye’, ‘Ambaruck sevenalle’ and ‘Bilinda nelawe ukule’.

Most of the melodies were created by C. T. himself and his songs were very popular.

On a more personal note, the song Pinsidu wanne captured the hearts of a damsel 190 miles away in the hills of Badulla and it ended on a happy note when he wed her.

Between 1947 and 1950 C. T. Fernando took part in a series of public concerts. At a variety show at Anula Vidyalaya he sang as a beggar boy. At a show held in the Colombo Town Hall he sang as a gram seller and the Sunday Observer of March 23rd 1947 wrote as follows:.

C. T. Fernando carried the honours of the night in a clever humorous sketch which made the house roar with laughter. It was as if the gram seller was brought on stage from the street.

It was so realistic. Sometime later C.T. sang at a concert held at St. Joseph’s College Colombo in aid of the swimming pool fund and was given a thundering applause when he came on stage to sing the popular "Bilinda Nalawe Ukule."

Playing the part of a citizen in John de Silva’s "Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe’ stage play produced by Dick Dias he sang ‘Ranjinde ape grame’. He also sang in Chitrananda’s ‘Vidura’ ballet.

While taking part in John de Silva’s "Siri Sangabo’ produced by J. D. A. Perera he played the role of a villager and sang a song of lamentation and Miss Joan Hardwick, an actress niece of the famous actor Sir Cedric Hardwick who was in Ceylon at that time commended the play.

She wrote to the Sunday Times as follow: "A special word of praise goes to the villager who comes to tell of the evils of the demon.

From the moment he stepped on the stage he lived his part. He interpreted the music by the feeling he put into the words of the song and his crescendos, pauses and expression all contributed to real living little Cameo. I would have liked to hear more of this player.

His second album ‘The Golden Voice of C. T. Fernando (1967) had a record sale and it was produced by Lewis Browns recording studios under the label of Columbia on an invitation by Tony Fernando.

It was an instant hit which contained all time hits.

In side one it contained ‘Sihina love mihira mavu’ by Lalith S. Maithripala, ‘Sanda wata

rantharu’, ‘Hela jathika abhimane’, composed by Karunaratne Abeysekara, ‘Ane dingak innako’ by D. C. Jayasinghe, ‘Ma bala kale’ by Malini Wijesinghe, ‘Mage sudu mame’ by Susil Senadeera.

In (side 2) it contained ‘Vana bambaru’, ‘Avadiwanne avadiwanne’, ‘Ranwan rankendi pirala’ by Karunaratne Abeysekara, ‘Jeevana mihira’ by Sarath Wimalaweera, ‘Punsanda hinahenne’ a duet with actress cum female vocalist Rukmani Devi, lyrics by Wimaladasa Perera.

Music direction of this album was by veteran music director Patrick Denipitiya. The songs were included in the Long Play (LP) 33 1/3 R.P.M. record manufactured by ‘The Gramophone Company of India (Private) Ltd one of the E.M.I. Group of Companies in Dum Dum, India .

His 3rd LP record ‘Mal loke rani’ (1968) was produced by Wijaya Ramanayake (who became the pioneer cassette producer in 1978) under the ‘Tharanga’ label.

It contained 10 songs such as ‘Mal loke rani’ lyrics by Lalith S. Maithripala, ‘Saman kakulu athurala’ lyrics by Rathnasena Dias, ‘Api avidimu handapane’ (walk in the moon light) lyrics by K. Francis, ‘Atha veeriyen osawala’ lyrics by Lionel Ginige, ‘Sihina love’ lyrics by Lalith S., ‘Berena Panibindu’ lyrics by Susil Senadeera, ‘Gatha sitha samakarala’ lyrics by Sudath Masakorala, ‘Wana bambaro’ lyrics by Karunaratne Abeysekara, ‘Kela mala nowe’ lyrics by Sarath Wimalaweera, ‘Mage sudu mame’ lyrics by Susil Senadeera.

Making a breakthrough for the first time into the hitherto exclusive preserve of western music at that time he obtained a featured engagement at the romantic "Little Hut’ overlooking the sea, at Mt. Lavinia Hotel between 1960 and 1966.

He became a star billed cabaret artiste. Following his return from a European tour he was featured in yet another romantic spot . The Coconut Grove at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo.

C. T. also did an EP record in 1967 namely as ‘Paravuna mal ‘(Faded flowers) for Lewis Brown Ltd which included songs such as ‘Paravuna mal’ lyrics by Karunaratne Abeysekara (KA), ‘Eye dutu lowa’ (the day seen yesterday), ‘Santhose padenna’ lyricist (KA) ‘Ethana ran ethana’ (KA).

In 1969 C.T visited U.K. where he was interviewed on feature programmes of the ‘Sandeshaya’ and ‘Good Morning Africa’ World Service of the BBC.

He also appeared and performed in a number of public recitals.

C.T. was the first Ceylonese singer to perform at the Commonwealth Institute in London becoming the first artiste to perform abroad. A big show was held under the distinguished patronage of Sir Oliver Goonetileke a former Governor General and his tour of Britain had its climax when he sang for the second time at the same hall the ‘C.T. Sings Farewell Show’ sponsored by his London Club where both British and Ceylon fans showed their appreciation by singing along with him during the show.

C. T. Fernando has sung and starred in a number of well known films, including the widely acclaimed ‘Gamperaliya’.

In 1972 June 25th C. T. Fernando celebrated his 25th anniversary of singing when he sang 25 of his songs beginning with his first song ‘Pinsuduwanna’ at Navarangahala backed by ‘SEAC Entertainment’ where veteran musician Lal Thenabadu played the lead guitar.

In 1975 C. T. produced an EP under the label of ‘Silverline’ namely as ‘Sigiri sukumaliye’ (a song about Sigiriya) which included ‘Sigiri sukumali’ (KA), ‘Anantha gee’ (KA), ‘Mahada sisil pavan’ (Joe Withanage) and ‘Me amba wanaye’ (lyrics by Ananda Seneviratne).

In 1977 October 17 he passed away due to a heart attack.

Priyantha Fernando C.T.’s only son entered the music scene in 1978 and to date has followed his father’s footsteps

After C.T.’s death Cargills re-produced another LP under the label of H.M.V. in 1978 which included songs such as ‘Kalu mahaweli’ (song about major rivers in Sri Lanka), ‘Kovulange mihiri sangeethe’, ‘Onchili chili chillamale’, ‘Dlindu pale’, ‘Davasa gevi’ and ‘Sala lihini kovul’ a duet by Latha Walpola.

C.T.’s wife said that this particular record was re-produced without her consent and she took immediate steps to prevent it but then distributed.

In the same year she gave permission to Gerald Wickremesooriya to re-produced ‘The Golden Voice of C.T.’ under the ‘Sooriya label’ which again was a re-hit in the Island.

C. T. is no more but his golden voice lingers in the hearts of his numerous fans.

It is noteworthy to say that C.T. was not only a singer but also a maestro of melody making as he made the melodies for all his songs.

CT was the first to introduce the western flavour to eastern music which made him unique in the Sri Lankan pop music scene.

On behalf of the Watchout Magazine we thank the wife of late C. T. in Nedimale, Dehiwala for her cooperation extended to us.