Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Labambas In Srilanka
During the time the music of Shadows, the Supremes and Ventures, Tony Brent and Ricky Nelson dominated the world music and fascinated Sri Lankan music fans in the early 60s , the
drummer(Congo) Brian Fenando’s Trevor went on to form a group called The Vampires.There were but a very few beat bands in the country at the time. “ Wheels and Beacons were among them,”remembered Brian , the leader of La Bambas as he leaned against the chair with his eyes
shut, delving into a musical past that most young musicians and music lovers of Sri Lanka have scarcely opened their minds to. There was bass , rhythm and lead guitar and drums.There were no keyboards. Infact nobody knew that keyboard existed at the time,” he exclaimed. “ But the sound was full and complete even without the keyboard.”Brian, his Thomian schoolmates Priya Peiris, Erinton Perera , Malsiri Wijesuriya and Rollinson Ferdinando, all members of the Labambas were in an interview with the In Tune last Tuesday about their evolution as a group in the 60s and their music. La Bamba stands out as a beat group that emulated voice harmony in their rendition of songs in the Sinhala language.The genre is popularly known as three and four part harmony in Western music. La Bambas was special because they carried originality with their creations inasmuch to represent Sri Lankan identity in their songs at a time the popular demand was for another Elvis or a local Tony Brent against their music. The members of the group were met at the residence of Interior designer Yohan Fernando, who plans to promote the band in 2009. La Bambas have produced four EPs (extended play records) for record labels,
Paradise in 1968, Philips in 1970, Sooriya in 1971 and Macbertan in 1972 including their popular hits such as Enna Yanna Nelum Wile,
Kurulan Piyambala, Lak
Nadee and Piyakaru Mala, and also evergreen singles in Sri Lankan pop such as Cock A Doodle Do and Nuwara Menikela.La Bambas have produced over 80 songs , among them “Welcome to Sri Lanka,Ayubowan and Cricket Lowe Jaya Apatai , which they released just after Sri Lanka
winning the World Cricket Cup in 1996. They also gave life to the Sri Lankan tea with their song “ Wake Up Sri Lanka To A Nice Cup of Tea.” As pointed out by La Bambas members they did not have a front line singer because their style of music did not need one for they were singing harmony. NEW CD They have remained unplugged for over 40 decades in spite of the advent
of electronic guitars and amplifiers in the late 60s into the local scene by various beat bands and now planning to release a CD album with a selection of their original songs , which they plan to
draw from their shelved reserves as well as from their discography of “best loved singles.”
Brian started his musical career as a congo drummer in the early 60s with Vampires
before he decided to form La Bambas after seeing a performance by La Ceylonians in late 1964 at Moratuwa Buddhist Halle. This is how Brian explained his La Ceylonians experiece. “This was amazingly new and soothing to the ear. La Ceyloneans played a style which was quite different to
what other musicians have been playing or singing at the time. I was wondering to which category of music that one can assign their music. Their music was initially Western with a Spanish blend with some characteristics of Sinhala folk , I would say although it was difficult to
describe.” “I can still remember how they came out with their single tiled “Hoiya Hoiya.” A
single like Hoiya Hoiya had never been been heard. There were songs by H.R.Jotipala and Milton, but this song was never to be identified with that category of songs. It was completely different.” “ I became an admirer of La Ceylonians , thereafter. And with that influence I
wanted to start a band that could play something similar to that of La Ceylonians’ flavour of music, which is the reason for the appearance of La Bambas.” Then the opportunity
presented itself on a newspaper, The Observer Talent Contest for the first time. “Welcome youngsters apply, here’s the coupon. I knew Priya whom I called over and went out together in
search of a guitarist. We found , who had a guitar and was trying to pick up his first few chords. We opted Rollinston to play the lead guitar and we found a singer in Lasla Fenando, the present
Choir Master of Holy Emmanuel Church in Moratuwa.” “Thus the band was formed and we wanted to compose two original songs. So we composed Poya Da and Menika.to slow tempo
compound duple meter for we had the influence of South American music,” said Priya Peiris. “ We named the band La Bambas because the song La Bamba was popular at the time.” LaBambas are planing to include Poya Da and Menika on their new CD. The songs are being recorded at
EV Creations recording studio at Moratuwa. THE AUDITION La Bambas applied for the
Observer Talent Contest .They were asked to come for an audition prior to the event.
The audition was held at Louise Brown Studios in Colombo. Brian , Lasla, Priya and Rolinston had to wait for months to get their letter of invitation for the audition.Mignonne Ratnam of Jetliners was conducting the audition together with the rest of the members of the Jetliners.
La Bambas passed their audition under the supervision of Jetliners. They gort therough the test just after singing the first two or three lines of their songs and were asked to come and perform at the Coconut Grove night club at the Galle Face Hotel, Colombo on May 25, 1966. La Bambas’ performance at the Coconut Grove was only to be rejected by those patronized the club for all the others sang in English that night although they were not originals of those artistes who
performed them.“ We went there that night with a lot of expectations which turned its back on us very badly with the crowd shouting at us in disagreement with our music and appearance,” remembered Priya Peiris. This was a too heavy a blow for a young musical outfit. “However, we
recovered from that incident with determination to make a name for us, We did not let
that debacle to pin us down . Instead we made it an opportunity to come out with best results,” he added. COCK A DOODLE DO The main figure behind the creation of La Bambas’ smash hit Cock A Doodle Do was Priya Peiris. Cock Adoodle Do was not aired by Radio Ceylon ( present
SLBC) during the time because there of the security situation prevailed in the country under JVP insurrection in 1971, Priya said, “Radio Ceylon did not broadcast , Cock A -Doodle Do because it had a line “half past two” in the middle of the song in 1971 stating that the rebels might use it as a time signal. They said, the rebel might use it to blow a police station or something. After Labamba’s experience at the Coconut Grove, Erinton stayed close with the
band playing occasionally on their stands whenever somebody was absent or sick, playing bass or rhythm instruments such as guiro, kaithalam, marakkas (shakers) or temple bells while
providing baritone for their songs who eventually becomes a permanent member. Malsiri Wijesuriya ‘s influence as a member of the outfit has been invaluable in producing various percussive effects for La Bambas tracks with percussion instruments and guitar.
Rolloinstone plays a prominent role with his nylon stringed guitar which he plays with a way of his own. He let his fingers speak for the most part, but sings as is required by the band. He is a
self-taught guitarist for that matter all the member of La Bambas are self taught musicians
with the background of church music associated with harmony as its intrinsic driver.
As a music group La Bamba didn’t do one thing. They did not change their original identity to suit the modern times in anticipation of commercial gains.
La Bambas after 42 years in music scene: (from left) Rollinson Ferdinando, Malsiri Wijesuriya, Erinton Perera,
Priya Peiris and Brian Fenando.