M. K. Rocksamy:
Lasting impression on Sri Lankan film music



By Revata S. Silva

Mohammed Sally, Mohammed Ghouse, Muttusamy and Rocksamy – they form a different music genre in Sri Lanka in its post-independence era. When Maria Kolande Rocksamy —better known as M. K. Rocksamy and nicknamed ‘Rock’— died aged 56 on November 30, 1988, in those turbulent days of political upheaval, nobody cared much except his immediate colleagues in the local film and music industry.

But ironically through the 22 years that followed, the name M. K. Rocksamy has weathered all storms to remain an integral part of the common man’s psyche – a ‘rocking’ impression. One brief look at the list of thousands of his songs will prove this fact.

He had an ancestry to a music-loving family in Goa and it is said that one of his mother’s favourites, when she played the seraphina, has been ‘Premayen Mana Ranjitha We’ of the classic play Maname during that period.

His flamboyance with which he played the saxophone and the violin made him leave his formal education at Anderson College, Slave Island at age 17 to join the SLBC (then Radio Ceylon) orchestra. Eight hours of strenuous practice per day with the violin made Rocksamy the most sought after violinist around.

His exceptional skill to play many a musical instrument and his theatrical knowledge on Carnatic music which he gathered from one Sangaralingam at Colpetty, led him to the well known R. A. Chandrasena who guided ‘Rock’ to none other than Ramayya Muttusamy. Muttusamy’s film orchestra at the S. M. Nayagam Studio at Kandana changed his destiny. That was during the latter part of the 1950s. A unique and highly influential film music director was born there. Since then he dominated Sinhala popular cinema from 1960s to the mid 1980s; two decades of film music.

Gamini Fonseka referring to the musicians with an Indian background once said: "There was no national, race or religious difference among them. Their only nationality, race, religion and language was music." (The Sarasaviya, Feb. 23, 1995)

The problem of ever widening ethnic rift has engulfed the island by the 1980s. Amid cutthroat competition in an overtly nice yet covertly ugly arts field, Rocksamy stamped his signature. He emerged a figure admired more or less by both the layman and the critic. That too at a time the whole field of arts was literally split into two, popular and classic, when we look from now.

‘Rock’ created rare theme music for films, his ‘Sinhala Avurudda Ewilla’ emerged one of the most popular songs among many social divide and some of the serene love songs which he gave music to became evergreen hits.

Still the man led a simple life at Kandana with his wife and three children, Jeevan Augustin, Anna Radika and Anjala Devika. The sight of ‘Rock’ master taking a walk to the Nayagam Studio with the violin in his hand has been a common sight then. Nobody would have ever thought the man’s influence could one day be so enormous and long lasting.

"With music, it is possible to make our hearts overflow with kindness, compassion and purity and dispel thoughts of craving and hatred. That is the beauty and value of music." – M. K. Rocksamy

Some Popular Songs -

Evilla Evilla Sinhala Avurudda Evilla, Jeewana Vila Meda, Piyaapath Sala, Madu Mala Lesa, Agaada Saagaraye, Menikak Rakina, Budu Saamine, Sithin Ma Noseli Sitiddi,

Some Films Rocksamy Provided Music -

Sansare (1962), Dheewarayo (1964), Chandalie (1964), Suhada Sohoyro (1963), Mahare Hamuwa Striya (1966), Ran Rasa (1967), Haara Lakshaya (1971), Edath Sooraya Adath Soooraya (1972), Susy (1976), Kawda Raja (1976), Deviyani Oba Kohida (1977), Sakunthala (1977), Siri Pathula (1978), Re Manamalee (1982), Raththaran Kanda (1985), Ponmani (Tamil), Raththathin Raththamai (Tamil), Maniyar Veedu (Tamil), Naan Ungul Tholan (Tamil)

Wife Indrani Rocksamy Says -

I don’t think I’ll ever find a better human being than my husband. As an elephant is unaware of its real size, ‘Rock’ too didn’t actually know about the amount of his influence. Still he was a simple person who never wanted to have a car or at least an electric fan in our house, which he considered unnecessary luxuries. His name, Maria Kolande meant child of Mother Mary and he was a fervent devotee of St. Anthony’s Church. I remember on one of his birthdays, I presented him with a new sarong which I later found had been given to a beggar who came to our house. I still preserve the cream of his film music which has not been released so far in any form of media, like cassette or CD. I took a lot of pain to make into audio cassettes most of his beautiful film songs. Heartening to see people still enjoy his music so much even after 22 years from his death.

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