Baila icon Sumathipala Perera ready to mark golden jubilee

Published : 9:00 am  August 28, 2017 | No comments so far |  | 


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R. Sumathipala Perera – a veteran among vaada baila (Debate Baila) singers in the country will be marking his 50th anniversary soon. This form of baila, similar to ‘challenge songs’ which dates back to more than 5 centuries, is said to have been introduced to Sri Lanka by some Portuguese sailors whose ship had hit Lankan shores due to a cyclone in 1505.

Senior-most Baila expert Sumathipala Perera entered the scene in 1968.

“This form of baila is entertaining but it is different to the baila what people generally know. Vaada Baila as it is known, needs a lot of knowledge not only in music but also about the people, society and the world. The baila singer should be witty and should have a choice of words flowing, because he has to sing on any given topic instantly. I held my very first baila show on January 28 in 1968. Today I am the President of the Sri Lanka Baila Association,” he told Daily Mirror Impulse.

“The first all-Ceylon Baila Association was formed by B. Harischandra Mendis of Mount Lavinia. For the first time our association organized an award ceremony for baila singers in 2007, 2008 and 2009. 



Vaada Baila as it is known, needs a lot of knowledge not only in music but also about the people, society and the world. 


Over the years we have held a large number of seminars and workshops on this form of baila. Even last week we successfully held a baila workshop in Maharagama. We inherited 18 tunes for baila from the Portuguese but we improvised and created 36 tunes on which we base our baila creations,” said Sumathipala who is the only baila singer to receive an award at the 2015 State Music awards ceremony.

“I have also been bestowed with the Deshabhimani, deshabandu, Kalabooshana and baila Visharada honorary titles over the past few decades. I have released CDs, cassettes on this form of baila in addition to conducting free workshops and seminars. My main ambition is to seek government or private sector support to create a fund through which baila singers would receive a pension when they grow old,” he said.

S. M. Padmakumara who is another vibrant member of the baila Society said, he entered the baila scene singing songs of M. S. Fernando and Anton Jones. In a career spanning 44 years, Kalabhooshana Padma Kumara said he had released more than 15 cassettes and a CD too.




Text: Vasantha Wimalasinghe