Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lucky Manickawasagar

The bass note is silenced...

He was not lucky to retire from music at a ripe old age....by a cruel twist of fate his elegant bass notes were silenced, last week. Lucky Manickawasagar left behind the legacy of his bass artistry that will only be memories to his many musician friends who performed along with him and respected his unique style and knowledge of music. He did not have a formal education in music, but he had a remarkable ear for music and pitch, a gift that only a select few are born with. Hailing from a family of musicians - of four girls, four boys, a violinist father and a pianist mother - Lucky once told us that their home at Mutwal was a musical haven and twenty four hours a day were insufficient for the family's music appreciation.

Where do we begin to tell the story of Lucky, whose dedication to music was intense. Like his brothers, pianist/bassist Valentine and bassist Nesan he was a total musician and wanted total freedom for his creativity.

When he was just thirteen and still in school St. Benedict's College he turned 'professional' played bass for seniors like Wally Murray, Clement Coomaravel, Alfred Perera and Duncan Clyde.
A multi instrumentalist who was cool in his drum artistry, Lucky joined the then popular pop group Spitfires before he was chosen by pianist Rex de Silva to sit at the drum stool for the band that enjoyed top rung popularity then - 388 Quartet which included Tom Menezes - trumpet/Milroy Passe de Silva - guitar/Valentine Manickawasagar - acoustic bass/Rodney van Heer - sax, Ishan Bahar and Marie Rosairo - vocals. But his great moments were playing with his brothers - a trio with Valentine - piano and Nesan - acoustic bass and Lucky on drums. This special jazz combination 'The Manickawasagar Brothers' were featured at many concert shows and radio shows and festivals by themselves, as well as in the popular radio show 'The Nightbirds' with Tom Menezes and Percy Bartholomuesz. His rare knowledge in music and the bass in particular required no guidance in chord structures and key changes. He knew how the standards in music should be played and was ready to teach those musicians who wanted to learn.

Free lance on the music scene, Lucky had his moments with other groups as well. He was a regular with the Harold Seneviratne Combo, Harsha and Khrome, Cecil Rodrigo Quartet, Marie Rosairo Quartet and he enjoyed his era with Milestones led by saxophonist Rodney van Heer. He won the Golden Clef Award '93 for the Jazz Musician of the Year presented by the Sunday Observer which rightly recognised his awesome artistry on bass.

Lucky had a style of his own and fitted in with diverse groups, except the bands that played funk and rap. He had his own verdict on that kind of artistry.

Although he listened regularly to many of the global greats in bass he was never a slave to their styles. He had his own theories and his own creative style in playing the bass. He may have borrowed ideas from his brother Valentine who now plays bass in London, or from the late Nesan whom he idolised, but when he took the stage to play with a band he was a solid back bone to any jazz or popular band, making a tremendous impact with his fretboard finger work which left you voice the thought "Man, you are well ahead of your time, you should have been on the global stage!"

Mahes Perera

Sunday Observer Sep 22 2002

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