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W.D. Amaradewa


W.D. Amaradewa

Biography


Sri Lankabhimanya Wannakuwattawaduge Don Albert Perera[4](Sinhala: වන්නකුවත්තවඩුගේ දොන් ඇල්බට් පෙරෙරා;Tamil: டபிள்யூ. டி. அமரதேவா; 5 December 1927 – 3 November 2016) better known by his adopted name Amaradeva, was a prominent Sri Lankan vocalist, violinist and composer. Primarily using traditional instruments like sitars, tablas and harmoniums, Amaradeva incorporates Sinhala folk music with Indian ragas in his work. Many consider Pandit Amaradeva’s contribution to the development of Sinhala music as unmatched; hence, he is occasionally cited as the Maestro of Sri Lankan Music (si. හෙළයේ මහා ගාන්දර්වයා Helayay Maha Gandarvaya).
In the mid-1950s, Amaradeva in his Janagayana project consulted experts of the Kandyan dance tradition like Pani Bharata, Kiriganita, Gunamala, Ukkuva and Suramba in his path to understand what constituted Sinhala folk music. Noting that it mostly revolved around a single melody, he decided to add verses that would lead up to the central melody which would now be a chorus thus forming two parts (unseen earlier in traditional Sri Lankan music) removing restrictions that had existed earlier. In doing so, Amaradeva created a uniquely Sinhalese music style that stayed true to folk tradition while incorporating outside influences. His work was vital in the creation of the sarala gee genr practised subsequently by artists like Sanath Nandasiri, Victor Ratnayake, T.M. Jayaratne, Sunil Edirisinghe and Gunadasa Kapuge etc.
Pandit Amaradeva had been the recipient of numerous awards including the Philippine Ramon Magsaysay Award (2001), Indian Padma Sri Award (2002) and Sri Lankan “President’s Award of Kala Keerthi” (1986) and Deshamanya Award (1998). In 2003 the French government awarded him the prestigious honour; Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Notably he still remains the most popular artist as confirmed by Nielsen Media Research findings. He has also represented Sri Lanka in many forums including the UNESCO 1967 Manila Symposium. The University of Kelaniya conferred on him the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Fine Arts) Honoris Causa in 1991 and the University of Ruhuna and University of Peradeniya conferred on him the Degree of Doctor of Letters, Honoris Causa in 1993 and 1998.
In 1972, Pandit Amaradeva composed the music for the Maldivian National Anthem (Gaumii salaam) at the request of Maldivian Government.
Amaradeva died at the age of 88 on 3 November 2016 due to a heart failure. A state funeral was held by the government with a week of national mourning declared.





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