Multifaceted Melroy- five decades of effervescent voyage in celebrity Photo courtesy : Sooriya Records
Jul 17, 2020

Multifaceted Melroy- five decades of effervescent voyage in celebrity

Would anyone ever believe that flamboyant musician Melroy Dharmaratne is inept in reading or writing music notations.

Yet even sans inheriting musical instincts he is now an acclaimed music prodigy having dominated the music arena in Sri Lanka for over five decades having initially formed in late 1960’s the quartet, first Sinhalese family pop group, the sought after “Dharmaratne brothers” with his siblings Christie, Maxwell and Ronald. Melroy has diverse talents with natural cognition which makes him elusive among all artistes with his vivid knowledge as a singer, music director, lyricist, playwright, dramatist and journalist.

Melroy was born to his parents Clarence Vernon and Stella Dharmaratne in year 1947 had attended St.Benedict’s College located in a suburb of Colombo ‘Kotahena’.Having lost his father early in his life, mother Stella had shouldered the robust burden of the family. Like many talented artistes Melroy’s innate talent had been sensed early in College by Brothers Edward and John when he was a student in grade six. He had been encouraged to sing on College stage in front of an audience of school mates every Friday for about an hour. The Brothers had been impressed when Melroy had sung the song “ seetha sunil diya dhara” which had prompted to spur them to expose the talents of  young Melroy at a school concert “our own songs”.Concurrently Melroy was invited to St.Lucia’s church choir located in the vicinity to College.The quartet were further acclaimed when they composed and sang the Sinhala version of everlasting English carol song “Mary’s Boy Child” which is now sung in every local church during Christmas,”Kalakata Pera Bethlehene”.

It need to be emphasized that young Melroy had been inspired by  the then veteran radio singers, giants like Christopher Paul, Vincent de Paul Peiris,HR Jothipala,Mohideen Beg.Milton Perera and Sunil Shantha.It needs to be emphasized that Melroy is ‘self thought exceedingly persevering consenting to accept any challenge in music of even any vast magnitude. After his talents were properly identified, Melroy had been invited by the school regime to draft the script for a school play for the “ school literature day”. He had not only written it. but had portrayed aptly the lead role in collateral to his innate skills.It was that time Mum, Stella had formed the two member tiny group with Melroy and Ronald ( no longer living) titled ”Dharmaratne Brothers”. Subsequently other two brothers Christie and Maxwell joined forming the “quartet” which initially took part in school functions,parties and weddings.The lyrics which were very simple and music of almost all songs,like “Varsity kollo’, ’Priyangika’, ’Wessa’, ’Awwa’, ’Suhada Pathum’ were the brainchild of  Maestro Melroy himself.These songs with simple lyrics echoed in the hearts of fans which revolted to fame abruptly.These songs were recorded under the Phillips and Sooriya labels with the able counseling of Vijaya Corea.It needs to reminisced that it was Vijaya Corea who influenced Sinhala songs to be heard  in English airways.It needs to reminisce the then prodigious showmen Malcolm Andree and Jayatissa Hettiarachchi who had boosted the quartet.

The instruments that backed then ,the four salient singers were only an acoustic and a traditional hand drum the “Rabaana”, while all other pop bands that existed then  were stirred with guitars and percussive instruments with Congo drums. Melroy confessed that usage of such fewer and simple instruments was to preserve the national identity to be not too sophisticated and swelled. Before the foursome quartet was formed Melroy and Ronald participated in a singing contest at Methodist College along with niece (sister’s daughter) Shiromie Fernando, “baby Shiromi” singing prodigy of “Kondenamagena fame”. Melroy was not only the instrumental figure behind the child ‘superstar’ Shiromi but also composed and directed music for almost all her blockbuster songs. The trio triumphed coming to finals which was somewhat stiff for the trio as novices. Melroy is a famous lyricist having penned many hit songs from his repertory. The most popular of them “Ayubowan, Ayubowan” and for the music score of“ Me Mei Gaha Yata” sung ,even heard often today sung by evergreen duo , HR Jothipala and Milton Mallawarachchi. Many Sinhala songs carry his music  emblem surprisingly  sans his  inability to read music notations.A few such songs with his music signature are HR.Jothipala’s ‘Durakathanayakin”,”Oba nidanna”, ”Gangawai Mahamuhudai”, Paul Fernando’s “Egoda Gode”, Felix Anton’s “Sulang rella”,Milton Perera’s “Punchi Punchi Tharaka”There are also many children’s songs with his music creations under the ‘Sooriya’ label.It  was for Melroy’s lyrics Raj Seneviratne sang the song “Mal Mee Wasanthey.” .In all during his music tenure of 55years had written lyrics for 200 songs and had composed music for 250 songs.In the year 2018 a book titled “Kavi Gee Sarasa” was launched by Melroy consisting of 100 of his songs at the Sooriya village in Colombo.

Although Melroy composed melodies and directed music for two Sinhalese films, “Pathini” in 1978,”Weswalagath Tharuni” in 1986 owing to production conflicts were never shown.

Melroy has been a member of OCIC foundation from the inception and had been in the Judge panel in 1969 and 1970 for selecting winners at the award ceremony.

As a flourishing journalist Melroy had excelled to unprecedented heights.Melroy had joined the”Sawasa” newspaper as a journalist then in the “Dawasa” turning a cartoonist in a series named “Sapinna” in year 1971. He was a popular journalist as he was the pioneer in publishing the Sinhala versions reviewing via commentary English films in local Sinhalese newspapers.His launched his first novel in 1971 “Malawunge Kathawak”which was eventually scripted to a film “Kavuluwa”. In the early decade of 2000 Melroy launched two more novels” Vineetha Roshisha”, ”Premaye Vairaya” and in year 2014 the book “Pavu Saha Pin”. Melroy had been a ‘log writer’ at the Supreme courts Hulftsdorp where he fell in love with his wife Theresa Antoinette also a ‘log writer’ then tying the nuptial knot in year 1976 blessed with a daughter Sinali Mary. His journalistic talent was further exhibited when he made contributions to popular magazine “Cine” named Kala (Arts)

As an acclaimed dramatist Melroy staged in 1960 “Maya”, the first solo drama staged in motherland.In 1977 multifaceted Melroy scripted a drama “Nava Magaka Yanno” for the All-Island drama contest which won awards for best actor, best production and best  make up artist.Then he produced “Sivil Uddhaya”(civil war)

From the foregoing it is proved beyond any doubt what enormous contributions Melroy had made to our Art, music, stage and journalism. During the past five decades Melroy had organized concerts to mark milestones like completing decades of singing.The writer believes the state should intervene to felicitate this wizard artiste for services rendered so massively to our arts and culture.

- Sunil Thenabadu in Brisbane