Sunday, November 04, 2007

Musical Memories

Musical Memories

By Trevine Rodrigo in Melbourne

Evergreen trumpeter Dallas Achilles celebrated 50 years in the music business in style taking a trip down memory lane at a musical extravaganza featuring some of Sri Lanka’s best musicians of yesteryear at the Grand Hotel in Wantirna, Australia.

Among a galaxy of performers invited by Alston Koch, who was instrumental in drawing in the invitees to honour Dallas, were the legendary line- up from the 50’s and 60’s comprising, Des Kelly, Conrad de Silva, Malcolm De Kauwe, the latter a respected performer in Perth over the past 27 years, and Claude Selvaratnam who had the audience teary and spellbound with their breathtaking performance.

They were ably backed by guitar maestros Milroy Passe de Silva and Tony Fernando, with famed saxophonist Ernie Walker, Dallas’ Anglo Indian partner Derek Stewart, Elmo Mulholland, Eddie James, Rob Foenander, and among the younger generation, Cathy and Peter Menzies and Andrea Marr appearing as guest performers for the night. Incidentally, Cathy and Peter Menzies are the offspring of legendary musician Tom Menzies who was Dallas’ guru and mentor in his formative years as a trumpeter. Much like their illustrious dad, they were a class act.

There were also the musical comedy acts performed by Chris Pietersz and Arthur Speldewinde that had the crowd in stitches. I caught up with Dallas after his night of nights to capture some of his experiences as he journeyed through five decades in the music industry. He spoke of the days as a lad in Mount Mary where his dad who was a railway man, moved with his family to the railway quarters in Borella.

“My first real gig was in September 1957 where as a 16-year-old, I sang at the Christian Guild for the first time,” he recalled. His talent was soon noticed and before long he found himself moving into the mainstream of Sri Lanka’s music scene being hired by the biggest man in showbiz in the country, Donovan Andree.

Dallas Achilles has been a member of almost every single band of note in Sri Lanka especially the famous combos such as Raddy Ferreira Combo, Adrian Ferdinands Combo, Helen Lucas Combo, Peter Prins Combo, Rex de Silva and the Rhythm Dukes, Gabo and the Breakaways, and the ever famous Jetliners.After migrating to Australia in 1974 with his beauty queen wife Sita, (nee Gunaratne), he played at some of the biggest night spots in Melbourne notably the Swagman, teaming up with Ernie Walker, Tyronne Senn, Felix Fernando, Conrad de Silva and Milroy Passe De Silva who were other well known Sri Lankans to perform at this venue.

At 66, he still enjoys turning up for Replay 6 at their endless dinner dances in Melbourne proving beyond any doubt, that music is a talent that never dies.

Sunday Observer Nov 4 2007

COMMENT: Tom Menezies was also my guru and taught me the art of playing jazz drums and reading drum music scientifically at his home at Dehiwela in the sixties. Both Cathy and Peter were little kids then and used to sit around me and listen while I played rums and Tom played piano. On some practice sessions I remember Cathy, little as she was then, playing the piano while Tom played on his Double Bass and I belted out the skins. I simply cpouldn't hold back the emotions when I read the above news article in todays Sundat Times. Tom was a fantastic man and a great musician who will always linger in my heart. – Fazli Sameer


Ron said...

You've mentioned everybody else's name except Arden Forster and Bertram Daniel from the list.

Check out:

I am Bertram Ekenaike's brother-in-law.

Fazli Sameer said...

Sorry Ron, all my rantings are based entirely on what I can remember and the people who are still on my mind. At 62 its not so easy to keep everyone in the mic business of that era whom I knew sill fresh in my memory.Feedback like yours is certanly valuable to update the blog. Thanks

pierangeli Andrado said...

Can anyone give me info on the pianist Rex De Silva musician of the late 50's or early 60's? as I am writing an article on him.
My e-mail is Thanks Pierangeli