Art, culture, and prestigious heritage are rooted firmly on the grounds of the beautiful island of Sri Lanka. Of course, they are more like the intangible gems in this precious country, which enhance its value and take its name to the world. To be specific, Sri Lankan music as well as the musicians in Sri Lanka hold a significant part in it. Sri Lankan music has a long history, with its own traditional music as well as the many music genres adapted to its musical style. In fact, Sri Lanka possesses a great variety of musical traditions shaped by cultural and religious influences.
The main music genres in Sri Lanka are traditional music, western music, Calypso-style Baila, and Baila. Besides, the main languages related to Sri Lankan music are Sinhalese, Tamil, and English languages. However, whatever the language is, there are many great musicians in Sri Lanka, who have contributed a lot to the upliftment of Sri Lankan music. So, this article will bring you detailed information about these talented musicians in Sri Lanka.
Sinhalese Musicians in Sri Lanka
Sinhalese is the language widely spoken in Sri Lanka. Hence, the number of musicians who mainly focus on Sinhalese music is indeed high. Therefore, Sri Lanka is privileged to have many talented Sinhalese musicians including;
- Premasiri Khemadasa
- Pandit Amaradeva
- Nanda Malini
- Clarence Wijewardane
- Mohideen Baig
- Kasun Kalhara
- Bathiya and Santhush
Let’s have a look at how these Sinhalese Musicians have contributed to the music industry of Sri Lanka.
1. Premasiri Khemadasa
Full Name: Guruge Premasiri Kemadasa Perera
Birth: 25th January, 1937 at Wadduwa – Thalpitiya
- Piriniwan Mangalya
- Udumbara Hinahenawa
- Sumudu Sayane
- Golu Hadawatha Theme Song
- Kanyavi Movie Song
- Sanda Horen Horen
- Wikasitha Pem
- Hanthane Kandu Muduna
- Koo maa pathu
- Pavanata Salena
- 1966 – Eksath Lanka Rasika Sangamaya award for ‘Senasuma Kothenada’
- 1969 – Sarasavi and Radio Ceylon Magazine awards for ‘Golu Hadawatha’
- 1970 – Sarasavi Best Music Director award for ‘Narilatha’
- 1970 – Critic award for ‘Mokada Vune’
- 1973 – Critic award for ‘Nidhanaya’
- 1975 – Critic award for ‘Ahas Gawwa’
- 1979 – President’s award for ‘Bambaru Avith’
- 1980 – OCIC and President’s award for ‘Vasanthe Davasak’
- 1983 – OCIC award for ‘Vasanthathil Oru Vanavi’
- 1983 – President’s award for ‘Ridee Nimnaya’
- 1984 – OCIC award for ‘Thunveni Yamaya’
- 1985 – President’s award for ‘Hima Kathara’
- 1986 – OCIC and Sarasavi awards for ‘Yuganthaya’
- 1987 – OCIC award for Maldeniye Simiyon
- 1990 – Sarasavi award for ‘Sandakada Pahana’
- 1990 – Sarasavi, OCIC, and Swarna Sankha awards for ‘Siri Medura’
- 1992 – Sarasavi award for ‘Dolosmahe Pahana’
- 1992 – OCIC and Swarna Sankha awards for ‘Madhu Samaya’
- 1994 – Swarna Sankha award for Surabidena
- 1995 Swarna Sankha award for ‘Mee Haraka’
- 1996 Swarna Sankha award for ‘Maruthaya’
- 1996 – Sumathi tele award for ‘Dandubasnamanaya’
- 1999 OCIC and President’s award for ‘Julietge Bhoomikava’
- 2001 Sumathi tele award for ‘Rejina’
Death: 24th October 2008 at the age of 71
Significant Contributions of Premasiri Khemadasa
Premasiri Khemadasa is one of the leading music composers in Sri Lanka in the recent past. Further, he is widely known as an experimental musician who explored different styles of music around the world and developed his own style. Besides, Kemadasa has contributed through his music to films, teledramas, and stage dramas.
He is also well-known for his work influenced by Western composers of Opera. In fact, he was the only musician who created and practised Opera in Sri Lanka. Therefore, he has used his knowledge of Opera and Harmony to give a unique vibe to his work. His famous operas are Manasawila, Doramandalawa and Sondura Varnadasi and Agni Opera.
2. Pandit Amaradeva
Full Name: Wannakuwatta Mitiwaduge Don Albert Perera (Adopted name: Amaradeva)
Birth: 5th December, 1927 in Moratuwa
- Pasaloswaka Sanda
- Wikasitha Pem
- Sanda Tharu Nihandai
- Tharu Arundathi
- Pera dinayaka ma pem kala
- Maha Wessaka Pera Nimithi Penenawa
- Dathe Karagata
- Mey Gee Eda from ‘Janaka Saha Manju’
- Karadara Podi Benda
- Kumariyaka Paa
- Adawan wu Denethin galana
- Sanda Horen Balaa
- Philippine Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2001
- Indian Padma Shri Award
- Sri Lankan “President’s Award of Kala Keerthi” in 1986
- Deshamanya Award in 1998
Death: 3rd November, 2016 at the age of 88
Significant Contributions of W. D. Amaradeva
W. D. Amaradeva or Pandit Amaradeva is an illustrious music personality in Sri Lanka that will never be forgotten. He is a vocalist, music composer, and violinist. He has also worked as the Chancellor of the University of Visual and Performing Arts.
Earlier in his career, Amaradeva received a scholarship to learn music at Bhatkhande Music Institute in India, under the mentoring of Vishnu Govind Jog. Of course, this led him to bring birth to a new musical genre in Sri Lanka, combining Sri Lankan folk music with Indian Classical music. He has also contributed as a music composer in a number of films including Ranmuthu Duwa, Ransalu, Saravita, Sikuru Tharuwa, and Madol Duwa. Although this great musician is no more with us, his work, his creativity and his introductions to the music industry still do provide service to the world.
3. Nanda Malini
Full Name: Mirihana Arachchige Nanda Malini Perera
Birth: 23rd August 1943 at Aluthgama
- Perada Maha Re
- Pahan Kanda
- Sathyaye Geethaya
- Tharuka Es
- Sindu Hodiya
- Kinduriyakage Vilapaya
- Madhu Bandun
- Malmada Bisau
- Cinema Geethavalokana
- Kirimadu Vel
- Londonyedi Geyu Gee
- Sanka Padma
- Pembara Lanka
- Kunkuma Pottu
- Doctor of Philosophy (Fine Arts)
- Sarasaviya Awards – Best Female Singer (1964, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1991, 1995, 2016)
- Presidential Award – Best Female Singer (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1987, 2000)
Significant Contributions of Nanda Malini
Nanda Malini is renowned in the Sri Lankan music industry for his traditional style and powerful vocal tone. However, she was first introduced as a child singer with the song ‘Budu Sadu’ which acquired her a lot of popularity. Afterward, she got the opportunity to contribute her singing for the movie ‘Ranmuthu Duwa’. Later, Malini had a string of successful releases which portrayed realistic views about life, love, social issues, and emotions. The journey of her music career continues likewise, even at the present.
Also, her collection of patriotic songs has inspired feelings of pride in their country for many Sri Lankans. Even though hundreds of patriotic songs have come out afterward, the power of Malini’s songs have been impressive. Hence, even the younger generations of Sri Lanka still love and appreciate her work.
4. Clarence Wijewardane
Full Name: Vithana Kuruppu Arachchilage Clarence Arthur Somasinghe Wijewardena
Birth: 3rd August 1943, at Brampton Estate Haputale
- Seetha Sulan
- Sihina Pathum
- Kimada Nawe
- Sandak Besa Giya
- Sandai Tharui
- Sihin Sinawai
- Suragana Wes Wala
- Punchi Punchi Tharaka
- Wikasitha Hada Mal
Death: 13th December 1996, at the age of 53
Significant Contributions of Clarence Wijewardena
Clarence Wijewardena is a singer and a guitarist who is considered the father of Sri Lankan pop music. At first, he formed his first band Moonstones, and became the composer and music director for the band. Later, he also became successful as a solo singer and started composing music for many other singers.
Of course, his dedication, talent, and vision managed to create a new wave in Sinhala pop music. In fact, he is still the role model for many pop singers in Sri Lanka. Moreover, his melodious voice and guitar compositions have been an inspiration for many youngsters in the industry over the years. Also, even at present, after decades of his death, his songs can be heard among the youth. Thus, many believe that he is a singer of all time, who is simply irreplaceable.
Other than a singer, he is well known as a kind and down-to-earth human being who often helped others.
5. Mohideen Baig
Full Name: Alhaj Kareem Mohideen Baig
Birth: 5th December 1919, in Tamil Nadu, India
- Buddhang Saranang
- Girihel Mudune
- Adara Nadiya Gala
- Pem Mal Mala
- Wella Simbina Rella
- Anna Sudo
- Thaniwai Upanne
- Loke Sihinayak Wageya
- Kalashoori Award in 1983 and 1987
Death: 4th November 1991 at the age of 72
Significant Contributions of Mohideen Baig
Well known for his contribution to Sinhalese music, Mohideen Baig is a Muslim who moved to Sri Lanka from Salem in Tamil Nadu. He sang in Sinhala, Tamil, and Urdu but was well-known throughout the country for his great collection of Buddhist Songs. Thus, his songs can be heard even now, especially during the Vesak and Poson seasons, in TV and radio programs, as well as in free-food stalls.
However, his first song was a duet with K. K. Rajaluckshmi. It was namely, ‘Karuna Muhude Namu Gileela’. Then, he debuted as a playback singer in the second Sinhalese film Ashokamala. Accordingly, his music career continued, with several contributions to the Sri Lankan music industry.
Besides, even after his death, his son, Ishak Baig, sings his songs. Therefore, his songs have a long way ahead, and we are sure that his songs will live in the hearts of Sri Lankans forever.
6. Kasun Kalhara
Full Name: Kasun Kalhara Jayawardhana
Birth: 3 November 1981 in Rajagiriya
- Mage Diwi Pana Nala Rakinne (Hymn)
- Ma Balawath Karana Samide (Hymn)
- Sanda Mithuri
- Meedum Dumaraye
- Math Mal Sena
- Mata Kiya Denna
- Adarema Geethayak
- Kadadasi Oru
- Lowa Dutuwe Amma
- Sri Lanka Cricket Theme Song
- Me Obata Ahenawada
- Alaye Ghatha
- Best Singer Male award at Derana Film Awards 2013 – Madu Chandra Yame
Significant Contributions of Kasun Kalhara
Kasun Kalhara is a Sri Lankan singer, musician, and record producer who mastered Experimental, Classical, Rock, Pop, and Latin genres. He started his music career with the support of his mother, the late Malani Bulathsinhala who was also a veteran vocalist. His father H.M Jayawardena was also a well-known musician in the country. However, he was not ready to just be the successor of his parent’s work. Instead, he came on stage with his own songs, covering various aspects of music. Of course, his experimental music styles touched the hearts of Sri Lankans, especially the youth, in no time. So, this made Kasun Kalhara travel a long way with his amazing musical talents.
He has contributed with his music to a great number of teledramas and movies as well. Further, he has held a number of solo concerts. Moreover, he played the role of a judge in the popular television show ‘The Voice Sri Lanka’ as well. Accordingly, he keeps contributing to the music industry in a unique and notable way.
7. Bathiya and Santhush (BnS)
Full Name: Bathiya Jayakody and Santhush Weeraman
Birth: Bathiya – 22nd December 1976, and Santhush – 5th September 1977
- Ai Kale Adare
- Hiri Poda Wassa
- Apatai Me Mihithale
- Ape Gam Gode
- Baila Gamuda Remix Karala
- Chandani Payala
- Dasin Samugena Yai Piyaba
- Dedunna Sedi
- Denna Dena Na Dena Dena
- Ea Pawasu Loke – Sihina Pathuman
- Gassana Danga Malla
- Gayamu Geeyak Den Api Nidahase
- Gum Nade Ranen Rane
- Hinahenne Hitha
- Silver Award Winner at the Azia Dauysy Music Festival in Kazakhstan – 2001
- Bronze Award Winners at the Shanghai Music Festival 2001
- Winners of the TYOP Award for the contribution to Culture & Arts 2002
- The best fusion band in 2002 – Winner of the Golden Clef Award
- Runner-up at the 4th Pop Music Festival in Zernjanin Serbia 2003
- Male Icon – 2006 Award – Winner
- Runner-up at the Derana Music Awards
Significant Contributions of BnS
Bathiya and Santhush, well known as “BnS” is a musical duo in Sri Lanka. They have influenced the popular music culture in Sri Lanka since the late 90s.
Bathiya is a classically trained singer and a piano player. Besides, Santhush is a vocalist and keyboard player, and he has been the emotional pulse behind their music. And the amazing fact is that they started the journey as a duo in the 1990s, and they still stand strong together, as one of the best ever music icons on the island.
When these two youngsters stepped into the music industry of Sri Lanka, Sinhalese music was mainly based on classical music and baila. In an era as such, Bathiya and Santhush tried to give a new shade to Sri Lankan music. In fact, they blended Sri Lankan classical music, with westernized music styles, and came out with a unique set of creations. Likewise, they tried to revolutionize the Sri Lankan music industry with their unique productions, mixing Sinhala, Tamil, and English lyrics and styles.
However, at first, they could only attract the youth generation of the country. Yet, later, even the maestros of Sri Lankan music appreciated their work and encouraged the new color that they tried to add to Sri Lankan music. With time, they were able to get the love of almost every Sri Lankan.
By now, BnS have done more than 350 live performances around the world and were able to secure their songs on top music charts for years. The BNS duo continues to shine with the blend of their vocals, personalities, and creativity.
Full Name: Yohani Diloka de Silva
Birth: 30 July 1993
- Merry Christmas Baby
- Rawwath Dasin
- Sitha Dawuna
- Haal Massa
- Manike Mage Hithe
- Awidan Yanawa
- Ithin Adare
- Moving On
- Gajaman Nona
- Shiddat (Female version)
- Raigam Tele’es Award for the Mash-up song of the year (2019)
- ‘Kala Keerthi Abhimani’ award in 2021
Significant Contributions of Yohani
Yohani is a budding Sri Lankan talent who achieved the highest popularity around the world in the recent past. Her viral song ‘Manike Mage Hithe’ was famed all around the world, especially in India and other South Asian countries.
This song was released on YouTube in 2021 and received over 178 million views. Of course, the lyrics of the song were in the Sinhala language. Still, it was loved by people in many countries because of its musical rhythms and unique voice.
Yohani’s music career started in 2019 upon joining the Pettah effect record label. She has been attracted to music since childhood and has been practicing music. However, her talent was well recognized in her youth. She has taken piano classes since childhood and later she also learned to play the guitar with the help of YouTube. Besides, she has received professional music training in the United Kingdom. After that, she returned to Sri Lanka and continued her education in logistics management as well as music.
She has completed her Sinhala music album by now. Apart from that, she also performed her famous Sinhala song ‘Manike mage hithe’ when she was featured in the Big Boss season 2015.
Tamil Musicians in Sri Lanka
Being the second language of Sri Lanka, and inspired by the south Indian culture, Tamil language songs are also great hits in Sri Lanka. Although not high in numbers, the contribution of Tamil Musicians to the Sri Lankan music industry is immense.
So, here are some famous Tamil musicians in Sri Lanka.
- Dinesh Kanagarathnam
- Arjun Coomaraswamy
- Krishan Maheson
Scroll down to get to know more about these Tamil musicians.
1. Dinesh Kanagarathnam
Full Name: Aaryan Dinesh Kanagaratnam
Birth: 30th August 1981 in Badulla
- Dhoomi Dhaala
- Goka Pearu
- Hollaback Muniamma
- You Ate My Money
- Uyir Poo
- Best Dance Song – Hollaback Muniamma in VIMA Awards 2014
Significant Contributions of Aaryan Dinesh Kanagaratnam
Aaryan Dinesh Kanagaratnam who is also popularly known as ADK is a Sri Lankan Hip-Hop and R&B music artist. Also, he is a songwriter. However, he started his career in music in 2005 with the song Naan Sonnal featuring Bathiya and Santhush.
Besides, he is the best-known and highest-paid Tamil Rapper in Sri Lanka. Moreover, he was the only Sri Lankan artist who got the opportunity to feature with the Oscar-award-winning composer, A.R. Rahman. ADK also featured Singapore artist Shabir and some other leading Malaysian and Singapore artists.
He worked as a film Music Director in many Indian Tamil movies. In fact, he has worked in popular movies including Jakkanna, and Krishnashtami.
2. Arjun Coomaraswamy
Full Name: Arjun Coomaraswamy
Birth: 23rd September 1990, in Colombo
- Just Friends
- Remember Tonight
- With Us or Against Us
- Same Girl
- Take It Back
- Sanam Ho Ja
- UK Asian Music Awards – Best Urban Act Award 2012
Significant Contributions of Arjun
Arjun was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka to a Sinhalese mother and a Tamil father. He is a British Sri Lankan singer-songwriter, beatboxer, record producer, and actor. Besides, he also plays a number of instruments including, the guitar, piano, bass, drums, and flute.
In 2012, Arjun was selected to sing the official theme song for the ICC Cricket World Cup with Bathiya and Santhush. Then he produced music for the Sri Lankan Premier League. Accordingly, Arjun is well known for his fusion of contemporary Western and Eastern sounds, combining R&B with South Asian music.
3. Krishan Maheson
Full Name: Krishan Maheson
Birth: 4 May 1983 in Colombo
Songs: Album – Asian Avenue
- Raja raja Sozhaa
- Kaadhal Kadidham
- The best hip-hop solo act at AVIMA in 2009 – Amudhame
Significant Contributions of Krishan Maheson
Krishan Maheson is a Sri Lankan rap artist. In fact, he is one of the first Tamil rap artists in the world. He also works as a Music Producer and a Playback Singer.
Krishan together with his brother Gajan, helped start the Tamil rap scene in Sri Lanka. Krishan was a part of Sri Lanka’s first-ever Trilingual album by Iraj Weerarathne as well. Later, he released his solo album and hip hop album “Asian Avenue ” in 2005. Of course, it was Sri Lanka’s first ever Tamil hip-hop album. And yes, it magnified his talents, and significance in the field of the Sri Lankan music industry.
English Musicians in Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan music industry has had a great influence on western music over the years. Many believe that this influence came during the colonization era, as well as due to the globalization that happened in recent decades. However, there are many musicians in Sri Lanka who are mainly focused on the English language. Some of them are as follows.
- Cliff Foenander
- Desmond Kelly
- Natasha Rathnayake
Here are the details of those renowned English musicians in the country.
1. Cliff Foenander
Full Name: Cliff Foenander
Birth: In Colombo Sri Lanka
- Dancing on the Moon
- Another Saturday Night
- Another Romance
- I know
- The Wedding
- Skip to My Lou
- Way Back When
- Mashed Potato
- It won’t be long
- Day by Day
- This Land is My Land
Death: 21st November 2000
Significant Contributions of Cliff Foenander
Cliff Foenander was one of the great musicians in Sri Lanka. In fact, he was one of the Sri Lankan English singers widely known around the world. Cliff had a passion for music and was a pioneer in Sri Lankan music. His earliest hit was ‘Butterfly in the Rain’ composed by Nimal Mendis. However, Radio Ceylon, the oldest radio station in South Asia, discovered Cliff Foenander, and his music was played to a huge audience on the Indian subcontinent. Later, he settled in Melbourne, Australia, and became a regular entertainer at many entertainment spots in Melbourne.
2. Desmond Kelly
Full Name: Desmond Kelly
Birth: 1st January 1936, in Colombo
- Dream World
- Cha Cha Baby
- The Reason Being
Significant Contributions of Desmond Kelly
Desmond Kelly was one of the groups of talented musicians discovered by Radio Ceylon. Radio Ceylon gave him a platform for his songs and made him a popular singer not only in Sri Lanka but also in the Indian subcontinent.
His pop hit ‘Dream World’ was a hit in Sri Lanka and India. However, he migrated to Melbourne with his family in 1962 and worked as an entertainer there. Then, he became an actor and appeared on TV shows such as Homicide, Hunter, and The Flying Doctors. Besides, he performed as a solo entertainer on some of the top television shows in Australia. Des Kelly has also released CDs with the popular Sri Lankan baila music and calypso songs as well.
3. Natasha Rathnayake
Full Name: Natasha Rathnayake
Birth: 18th January 1989
- Shake that
- Takin’ It Off
- Worship My Body
- More than Free
- Play of the Game
- Set you Free
- Get up on my Feet
- Let it Go
- Best Movie Music Video – Derana Lux Video Awards
Significant Contributions of Natasha Rathnayake
Natasha Rathnayake is a pop singer and a songwriter originally from Sri Lanka. She began her career singing in the local church and school choirs. Besides, she joined her first band in 1998 and her first successful album is ‘Set You Free’. It is one of her most popular songs as well, and apart from that, her song ‘Shake That’ embraced a huge number of fans. She also works as a professional model, Musical Diva, Brand Ambassador, female activist, and social worker.
The Bottom Line
We believe that this article gave you an idea about the uniqueness of the Sri Lankan music industry, as well as about the famous musicians in Sri Lanka. However, please note that there are many more talented and significant musicians who have contributed immensely to the evolution of the music industry here. Besides, the works of these musicians are not just limited to what we have mentioned in this read. However, if you are interested in the works of these musicians, make sure you listen to some of them. Their rhythms and melodies are sure to delight you!