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Making Groundbreaking revolutions in pop music

SLBC recordings were subjected to strict guidelines enforced by a prejudiced orthodox panel, during that time. Any instrument branded “Western” was completely banned from participating in SLBC recordings. If closely observed, “Maduwanthi” a program associated with Maestro Amaradeva, would have created much more alluring songs, if it was allowed to use Western musical instruments on relevance.
Victor arrived in SLBC to record songs under those circumstances.
Amaradeva set the stage for original Sinhala music, but when evaluated on melodious merits, they fall back. Victor’s iconoclastic contributions broaden the horizons of Sinhala song by shattering the limitations of conventional trends at that time, with incorporating classical western musical harmony, counterpoint and orchestral music to his debut pop songs program at SLBC. “Sinda Binda Mohanduru Papa Kriya”, “Atha Penena Himaw Kandu Matha”, Golu Muhude Muthu Ate” were his first songs recorded for SLBC and groundbreaking techniques he pioneered in creating those songs elevated Sinhala pop song to a new level earned Victor his rightful place in history.
This modernist movement founded by Victor during mid-60s, established a musical symbolic status referred as “Victor Ratnayake”. This new trend in Victor’s music attracted many veteran and amateur artists swarming him for melodies.
Victor was the pioneer in introducing perennial western musical instruments banned from SLBC during that time, as drums, Obo, Bassoon. Saxophone, Cello, Clarinet, Trumpet, Double Bass, Corangale, and shape the way of Sinhala music.
Late singer Gunadasa Kapuge was the recording technician on such occasion, when Western musical instruments paraded into a SLBC recording studio. Kapuge recalls that incident,
“I was waiting for Victor at studio number 5. I have not sung a single song by then. I had 4 microphones ready by the recording machine. Victor arrived and the orchestra followed him one by one. One, two, three, four....and by the time last member entered the studio 5, Victor’s orchestra had 22 members. I went crazy. What was I supposed to do with 4 microphones? There was an Audio Engineer at SLBC named Ranjith Edirisinghe. I asked him for help to overcome the trouble I was facing. Ranjith was quick to borrow seven, eight microphones from neighboring studios and connected an additional mixer brought from another studio, transferring studio 5 into a massive recording studio. Song recorded that day was “Malsara Ukdandu Dunnen Pani Bee” and I never had a recording experience filled with that much anxiety and tension. But we felt an amazing joy with that recording.”
Victor proved he wasn’t biased towards classical western music, by using techniques of North Indian Classical music techniques as Meend, Gamak, Kan, Andolan for Vocal melody and Gazeth, Zam Zamam, Krinthan for orchestra, for his pop music program for SLBC.
The recording of the song “Malsara Ukdandu Dunnen Pani Bee” previously mentioned by Gunadasa Kapuge was the one and only instance in the history of SLBC, where two studios were connected by removing partition separating them, in order to accommodate an orchestra.
Victor became the first musician to enlist a larger orchestra to record a song and also became the first musician to record a song using a minimal orchestra (only Harmonium and Dolacki) when he recorded “Podi Kumari Hamiye” written by Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne.
LP discs play in two different formats according to rpm (rounds per minute) and Victor was the first to create a song using both formats, a technique known as “Chipmunks”. That song titled “Punchi Hami” was banned by SLBC from broadcasting and Victor’s initiative was simulated by several artists using that technique to create songs. In a time, where technology was utilized to a minimum effect, technician Ranjith Edirisinghe handled that recording to the amazement of his peers.
Written by Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne, song“Maliniye” was another experimental endeavor of Victor using the “sound on sound” technique to create a novel recording.  Content of the song referred to a conversation between the conscience and the subconscious of a person.  
Sri Lankan melodies were mainly based on North Indian Classical or Western Musical traditions, but Victor used South Indian Karnataka music as an additional tradition to complement the two most common ones to create his melodies to subtle effect.

  • Kotta Kelengei Thambala
  • Meena Nuwan Yugin Balan
  • Kundumani

“Sarungalaya” and “Thawalama” are examples demonstrating the fact that Victor was the first mainstream musician influenced by South Indian Karnataka music in creating pop songs and film scores.
Victor is responsible for creating many songs of Buddhist devotion, apart from love songs and patriotic songs.  Victor drew inspiration from Buddhist practices as Pirith and Gatha verses, as well as classical Indian music to create those songs.
Raised Buddhist, Victor didn’t shy away from drawing inspiration from Chorus Singing associated with Catholic Churches and often associated local folk music to effect in making his own creations. Victor has composed several melodies for songs of Christian devotion, based on that familiarity.
Constantly innovating and evolving Victor as a musician can be considered as a university with academic values and application, but his modesty always preceded ego, resulting in him being a down to earth humble artist, appreciated by the industry and public alike.
Victor distinguished between ego and pride as he took immense pride in his work, for which he is known as a “charming radical”.
It is a commonly accepted fact that, Sinhala pop song would never have broken free from the traditional traits and eventually would have faced with a woeful fate, if it wasn’t for Victor Ratnayake who pioneered the movement that revolutionized it.



Making Groundbreaking revolutions in pop music

Victor in SLBC, Studio 6
ශ්‍රී ලංකා ගුවන් විදුලි සංස්ථාවේ 6වන මැදිරියේ සිට සංගීත පටිගත කිරීමක යෙදෙන වික්ටර් Victor in SLBC, Studio 6
Recording a song at SLBC
ශ්‍රී ලංකා ගුවන් විදුලි සංස්ථාවේ සිට ගීතයක් පටිගත කරමින් Recording a song at SLBC
Making Groundbreaking revolutions in pop music Overview
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