Evergreen voice!

Those who listened to the songs of the late 60’s and 70’s -Where Bellbottoms and Psychedelic music was almost a craze – would have heard of the Moonstones – especially the Sri Lankan Western music audience , and at an era where local groups like the La Bambas, Los Muchachos, The Humming Birds, Los cabelleros, and the La Ceylonians.

The Moonstones came at a later stage , influenced by all these bands and having only a box guitar and some plastic cups to deal with : but rocked on to become one of Sri Lanka’s most successful and influential bands off all time , known for their beautiful melodies and everlasting evergreens such as ‘Mango Nanda’ , ‘Gon Wassa’ as a student of St. Josephs College, Colombo, Annesley’s first experience in entering the music industry was the one and a half hour interview at school where everyone was given a chance to sing and perform , and that was the beginning of his music career.

Upon leaving school , he met the late Clarence Wijewardene , with whom he formed the Moonstones , and in the early 1960’s ,the Moonstones began performing songs composed by Annesley and Clarence - including ‘Mango Nanda’, Radio Ceylon, as it was called at that time , played a crucial role in giving recognition for their talent and showing them the correct path , especially programmes like the ‘Saturday Star’ where they were highlighted live on air as an upcoming and talented musical group.

This was their favorite hangout, where the Moonstones, Sri Sangabo Corea , veteran broadcaster Vernon Corea, Dr. Vijaya Corea., discussed many songs to be performed etc. Subsequently, they became household names as a result of airplay on Radio Ceylon throughout the 1960’s. Annesley Malewana was known as a master of contemporary baila. During the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s , the songs of the ‘Moonstones’ and the ‘Super Golden Chimes’ which they formed in the 1970’s after breaking up and then reuniting , and the Super Golden Chimes continued till 1978 ,where Annesley Malewana met his loving wife , Indrani Perera , and married her , also announcing his retirement from music at the same time. In 1988 he returned as a solo artiste, but it was in 2005 he emerged as a musician once again by forming ‘Annesley and the Super Chimes’.

For over four decades, Annesley has been entertaining the Sri Lankan audiences with his catchy and groovy baila music and melodies, which cannot be missed in any concert, wedding, social gathering or even a School trip or vacation !! these melodies have captured the hearts of the Sri Lankan audience with their creative compositions , unbeatable talent and years of experience , giving exactly what the audience wants.

Today’s interview is based on getting to know about the achievements they have received so far, and also the numerous accolades they have won for their music, as well as their valuable experience and knowledge in the industry, which can be applied for our new generation of musicians as well. This veteran musician sat down for a small chat with us, ever so ready to share his experiences which he had in his musical journey.


Q: What inspired you to enter the music industry?

I loved music from schooldays. There was one and a half an hour interval where we could perform. That was the beginning. One day our boys went for a stage show at St. Peter’s College, Colombo, where the Spitfires and the Los Cabelleros were performing. That was the turning point where I wanted to form a group with harmonizing and everything. After O/L’s we had to stay at home and there was a special classroom for sportsmen. (I was good in sports as well) I went home for the holidays and it was during this time I met Clarence Wijewardene. He was introduced to me by Mr. Sri Sangabo Corea, and that was how we started. We recruited tewo other guys.

It was Sri Sangabo Corea who named us the Moonstones, since we came from Rathnapura. We were first featured on a programme called ‘’Saturday Star’’ on Radio Ceylon. And I had to lie to my parents to go there, saying that I had a Tennis tournament! my father never appreciated my music and did not approve, but after he listened to the praises which he heard from his friends regarding the programme, he was very happy. My mother was thrilled to hear us on air and she became my biggest fan afterwards. We recorded with Philips records and also Sooriya records. The Sinhala service of Radio Ceylon never wanted to play these songs but it ewas Dr. Vijaya Corea used to put all those on Radio Ceylon. We actually got popular with the English audience, not the Sinhala audience.

Q: How did you get to know Clarence Wijewardene ?

Clarence did all the compositions. Clarence was very keen to do composing for films etc. We parted but never got angry. There was another group who approached him and he went his way.

I continued with the Moonstones and he formed the Goldin Chimes. After sometime, we all reunited again and formed the ‘Super Golden Chimes’. It became one of the best bands which Sri Lanka produced and released a few notable hits such as ‘’Udarata Niliya’’ and ‘Gamen liumak’. Afterwards, in 1977, I applied for a job , because my elders were of the opinion that I should do some thing stable rather than music.

I got a job at a Private company and I had to leave the band in order to focus on my career.

Later on, Clarence went on his own. We did a reunion concert somewhere in 2003-2004.And another one much later.

Q: When did Indrani, your loving wife, fit in to the scene?

I can remember on the very first radio programme I sang ‘Dilhani’ It was actually composed and sung for Sri Sangabo Corea’s daughter. When it came for recording, it did not suit my voice, because it had to be sung with a female voice.

Clarence wanted me to find a girl to sing, and Indrani came to my mind as she used to be a regular visitor at the house in Nawala where I was boarded at that time. I told Clarence of her and he asked me to bring her for a recording. That was how Indrani came to the scene with ‘Dilhani’.

Q: Who was your biggest fan at that time ?

My mother was my biggest fan. She supported me all throughout my career.

Q: Which kind of audiences do you cater to ?

I have my own band now. We cater to all types of audiences including the English and Sinhala songs, especially Sing alongs.

Q: What was it like, working with the late Clarence Wijewardene ?

He was a perfectionist. A perfect disciplinarian. He was a musician who could also do composing, fluent in all 3 languages and was a cut above the rest. You had to be punctual when you were working with him/. I really miss him and if he was alive, the music industry would have changed completely.

Q: What do you think of the music industry now ?

Even we don’t want to criticize the music industry. I know how it is. We were also new to the scene at one point. We should allow the newcomers to do what they want, and it’s up to the audience to decide if it’s good or bad. We can’t criticize the new generation, even they are trying to do something new. The audience must decide whether to appreciate it or not. That’s how we came. There was a point when we wanted to give up, but we somehow managed to continue.

Q: What was the most memorable performance which you had done so far?

I did my 50th anniversary show. It brought back so many good old memories. I think that was one of my best shows.

Q: As an experienced musician, what are the basic qualities which should be there in a good musician?

Inborn talent has to be there. Nobody can get it by spoon-feeding. Clarence is an example. He couldn’t read or write music, but he could compose music. That’s number one. And you have to be humble and down to earth. Sometimes fans might want to take endless selfies with you, but you have to smile and oblige, no matter however much you might be tired. You have to respect elder musicians as well. That makes you a good musician.

Q: Who were your contemporaries at that time ?

Groups like La Bambas, Los cabelleros, Les Lethargos and the Dharmarathne brothers. I organized a mega concert titled ‘’Stars of the 70’s ‘’ getting them all together and my goodness wasan’t that a packed audience! of course there was Milton Mallawarachchi and H.R Jothipala, but from our category, we were the best.

Q: Will you be arranging another concert soon?

If everything goes well, I think we might have one soon, but not right now. I must mention Mr. Damayantha Kuruppu, who helped me to perform the 50th anniversary concert and I’m ever so grateful to him. I have been working with him and he has been doing a lot for the music industry and its progress.

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