Local music scene
A tribute to Maxwell Mendis

maxwell.jpg (15176 bytes)by Kalinga Weerakkody
The artistes, particularly the popular vocalists, are recognised by the media only after their death or when any unforeseen incidents such as accidents take place.

For example when vocalist H. R. Jothipala was alive those responsible for a popular musical programme on Rupavahini in the early 80s ignored him but following his death in 1987 at the age of 53 he was praised as a talented singer and afforded all the recognition denied him when he was alive.

Many talented vocalists who were ignored by the state media stations were welcomed by the private radio stations from the mid nineties.

Popular vocalist Vernon Perera said so to the author talking about the plight of our talented vocalists, then and now.

He also said Radio Sri Lanka graded vocalist in an unfair manner with only those who curried favour being the authorities were recognised.

He also said artistes like Jothi, Clarence, Milton never went for an audition at the SLBC as they knew the truth behind the scene.

One such victim veteran singer Nihal Nelson has now proved them wrong by putting out 110 cassettes. Veteran music director Lal Thenabadu who has been in the local music scene for over 38 years pointed out that at least even now (especially the national media stations) should open their doors to new talent and stop the step-motherly treatment extended to new talent.

"As an experienced person in the field my sincere request to all media stations is at least now put a full stop to the tragic history which existed in the local music scene," he said.

Even baila wizard entertainer and balladeer Maxwell Mendis who bid adieu to his numerous fans on August (17) following a heart attack was not graded as a singer at the SLBC.

Maxwell, born on January 1st 1939 in Moratuwa and educated at St. Sebastian’s College Moratuwa began his musical career in 1968 with the formation of his family foursome ‘The Mendis Foursome’ which comprised Lalith, Ranjith and the Rohini brothers and her sisters and also Maxwell, the eldest of them all. Though the Foursome recorded four songs namely as ‘Swarna Hamuwe, Dega Dega Pari, Past Love and be Happy’ for the Sooriya label. He became popular only after recording the song ‘Mage Surathal Podi Duwe’ composed by late Clarence Wijewardane. ‘Mavupiyo Dedena’ and ‘Mama Bandinne Ne’ which he did for the Sooriya label in the early 70’s.

The song ‘Mama Bohoma Baya Una’ was originally sung by the late M. S. Fernando. His songs such as ‘Ratak Watinawa Mage Mawpiyo Denna’, ‘Mahadena Mutta’, ‘Hai Hooi Babi Achchige Bicycle Eka’, ‘Moode Yamu’, ‘Pareviya’ songs of late Wally Bastian were sung for the Sooriya label at the request of Gerald Wickremasooriya.

After that he recorded about 150 songs and many of the numbers were hits.

The song title ‘Mage Surathal Podi Duwa Honda Lamayek Wenawa’ was sung for his only daughter and composed by the late Clarence Wijewardana.

A special feature of Maxwell was his ability to entertain the audience in a special way while singing on stage. Maxwell sang "Mama Bohoma Baya Una" with a skeleton which brings out the meaning of the song.

Two years back Maxwell released his audio and CD’s which he sang with the ‘Sun Flowers’ backed by new rhythms.

He also worked as a private English tutor in the area. He was 62 at the time of his death.