Sunday, November 04, 2007

Erin Kelaart

MULTI-FACETED NIGHTINGALE - A voice that still resonates with quality, is evergreen Erin Kelaart, of “Kelaart Sisters” fame…

The halcyon 1960’s was an era which gave Ceylon’s (as it was then known) music industry a much-needed head start and shot in the arm; producing some of the most dynamic, versatile and flamboyant performers.

Some are still pro-active, others have passed on, while the rest sadly languish on the backburner.

One singer however, whose voice still resonates with quality, is evergreen Erin Kelaart, of “Kelaart Sisters” fame. Still held in high esteem, respected, admired and emulated by her peers, she traverses life’s odyssey with gusto and resolve.

In a soul-baring, exclusive interview with Joe Van Langenberg of The Sri Lankan Anchorman, Erin highlights her musical milestones during that golden era and talks about the battle with personal demons, which not only threatened her sanity, but also almost destroyed her life.

Regarded as one of the linchpins of pop music in Sri Lanka during the golden sixties, she was the youngest singer to blaze a trail in the corridors of entertainment; a phenomenal success and multi-talented nightingale who reached the pinnacle of fame in a relatively short time frame.

Born to Erwin and Anne Kelaart, Erin was the second of six children. Given her parents’ musical prowess, it was a foregone conclusion the lass would eventually follow in their footsteps.
Erin cut her musical teeth under the tutelage of Doris Forbes, who persuaded her to follow her dream and hone her singing skills.

Though guided by Estelle de Niese, Erin was not professionally trained. Through sheer perseverance and invaluable know-how from her Mum and Dad, Erin’s vocal range became enriched and took on an unique edge.

Improving in leaps and bounds and gaining in confidence, Erin decided the time was ripe to start firing on all cylinders. “I felt sure of myself and knew I could make an impact,” she said.
Erin made her singing debut at aged fifteen. “I sang Stupid Cupid, which later became my signature piece. Then, at a Father’s Day concert, I warbled my vocals to great effect around Silver haired daddy of mine added Erin, her voice laced with emotion.

She started singing on radio, also at fifteen, later entering the “Airship Talent Quest” with the melancholic Jim Reeves hit, Dark Moon. “For some strange reason, the number appealed to me,” she said laughingly. Erin and her sister Erma, entered the Maliban Talent Quest in 1965 and came second with You’ve got me under your spell again.

Erin was adjudged winner of the Maliban Talent Quest for 1965 with her powerful rendition of Kiss of fire.

She was over the moon and floated on Cloud 9 when her name was read out by all-time great, Livy Wijemanne.

The thunderous applause was sweet music to her ears. “It was pretty exciting,” said Erin.
Dubbed the local “Connie Francis”, Erin became an overnight sensation. She was spotted by legendary talent scout cum showbiz personality of yesteryear, Decima de Kretser; who opened doors of opportunity, by giving her top billing on all her shows.
Erin’s performances were classy, breathtaking and spectacular. She moved on stage like a soft, summer breeze. Soon, everyone wanted a piece of her. “It was intoxicating,” she added, peering through the mists of time. The sixties was a time when entertainers of the calibre of Gerry Crake, Papa Miskin, Wadham Dole, Harold Seneviratne, Adrian Ferdinands, Jimmy Weerasinghe and Galali Ahmith held sway.

Now it was Erin’s turn to join the elite ranks. She became the new kid on the block, causing quite a buzz on the circuit.

Erin’s repertoire comprised a blend of soulful ballads, stimulating tempo, pulsating rhythm; even including a few of Chubby Checker’s gyrating hits, notably, Let’s twist again.
Her glossy, luxuriant black tresses cascading to her shoulders, enhanced her natural beauty and youthful exuberance, with her face bearing the hallmark of childhood innocence. These attributes not only endeared her to an amalgam of audiences, but also warmed the cockles of many a male admirer’s heart. Some even called her “Lady with the mystic smile”.

Erin, along with her mother and siblings migrated to Australia in 1972, but shortly after arrival, moved to London and resided with her partner for five years; thereafter returning to Australia in 1977. “My marriage unfortunately didn’t work out. I reckon it wasn’t meant to be,” she said, her voice tinged with an iota of regret.

Erin has been battered and bruised by the vicissitudes of life, an emotional roller-coaster and prolonged confrontation with the “black dog” called depression. She was forced to run the gauntlet, but emerged stronger, despite having rolled with the punches.
Her troubles, later developing into a nightmare, began at a time when life was full of fun and laughter. She was only nine; a mere kid.

Both her Mum and Dad were blissfully happy, together with the rest of her siblings. The Kelaart’s family was closely-knit, bound by sterling Christian values. No one expected the bubble to burst, but it certainly did.

Everything was hunky-dory until satanic forces cruelly ripped their parents apart, driving an irreparable wedge between two compatible people.

What transpired in 1955 was the beginning of a vicious cycle. “My Dad was a wonderful man, deeply devoted to Mum. She was his world. It was devastating to see him change into someone unrecognizable through no fault of his,” said Erin sadly.

Her world was torn asunder. Watching helplessly, as her mother stoically suffered in silence, Erin’s life took a turn for the worse.

She waded through rapids of rock-bottom lows, suffocated by quicksand's of despair. This was the start of a protracted depressive spiral, culminating in a propensity for self-destruction. She found herself floating in a vacuum; disorientated and wiped-out.

Resilient woman

However, this courageous, resilient woman, like her mother, has overcome monumental odds in the face of adversity; finally putting the ghosts to rest. “Dwelling on the past is an exercise in futility. Focusing on the positives should be the bottom-line,” says Erin realistically.
O Father Mine, is an awe-inspiring chronicle of Erin’s true-life encounters which gives a spine-tingling, mind-boggling, in-depth insight into the supernatural and despicable levels one could descend to, by not only violating every canon of human decency, but also surreptitiously robbing another of tranquility.

Her literary skills are impeccable, writing style exquisite; bound to keep readers spellbound and riveted to their seats. “I have dedicated this book to my beautiful mother, who was my anchor on life’s turbulent ocean,” Erin emphasized.

Not one to rest on her laurels, she has now released a CD of gospel hits. Many books, poems are in the pipeline, along with a few irons blazing in the fire. Erin’s life has come full circle since those traumatic days, which she likens to an experiment gone horribly wrong.

Now a committed Christian, who sings in her local choir in Auburn, New South Wales, Erin at 60 years young, is a boon to those standing to gain by her sagacity and inner strength.
A humanitarian in her own right, Erin’s commendable deeds involving helping disempowered women and kids, have spread far and wide. She is particularly concerned about human rights abuses in impoverished Sierra Leone and raises funds for the underprivileged.
Erin is a heroine who feels no bitterness towards those who wronged her. This speaks volumes for her integrity.

She has not only done her motherland proud, but is also a role model for the younger generation. What makes her so special, is her ability to separate the


[The SrilnkanAnchorman Nov 4 2007]

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