Sunday, May 29, 2011

Food for thought in Colombo

Sunday Times May 29 2011

Colombo, here we come!

Smriti Daniel checks out some favourite night-time hangouts
Colombo is transformed by nightfall. The streets empty of traffic as most of the city falls asleep but in smoky clubs the strobe lights begin to flash and along Galle Face, the vendors light up their lanterns. Every night owl has his or her favourite spot – the kade that’s always open for a snack at 4 a.m., the club where the beautiful people gather, the quiet walk that takes you past old, moonlit buildings. This week, we’re asking “what do you do in Colombo after dark?”
Pilawoos: For cheese kottu and lime juice
Here are some answers we received:

It’s not your typical girl’s night out. “Sometimes, after dinner we just go to Carnival and get some ice cream. We’ll take it with us and hang out at Galle Face or Independence Square,” says Iromi. Iromi can count on Galle Face Green being alive with people on any day of the week. “Even if you go on a weeknight, there’s a lot of activity,” she says, explaining that people are still around as late as ten.

“Galle Face was closed for so long, so it’s nice that people are taking advantage of it now.” If they’re looking for something more substantial than an ice cream cone, Burger’s King at the Malay Street Junction in Slave Island is guaranteed to sate any appetite. If the budget allows for a more upmarket venue, she says 7° North at Cinnamon Lakeside is a great place to relax. Her favourite dish is not on the menu – you will be served Hot Butter Cuttle Fish from the Royal Thai on request.

For dancing Iromi prefers either Silk or Amuseum they come out ahead of other city nightclubs because she likes the crowd and the music, which she describes as “really trashy pop.” After a night in the close confines of the club, they like to go for long drives through Fort past the old Parliament, and buildings like the World Trade Centre and the Old Dutch Hospital.

Adalia* is a German who has lived in Sri Lanka for 16 years, and says she no longer enjoys going to the local clubs. It takes a restaurant to tempt her out – she recommends Shri Vani Vilas on Messenger Street which she describes as a “a brilliant Indian vegetarian restaurant, where the kitchen is cleaner than the one at the Hilton.” Adalia doesn’t always want company, but she says women eating alone in local restaurants can feel very uncomfortable. She’s opts to go here because “the entire staff watches out for you.”

Shanmugajah’s is another favourite.

To begin his night out, Andre might go to Lani's Sea Food Restaurant in Dehiwala – he describes it as undiscovered and cheap, and notes the restaurant has good service. It’s secluded, he says. (Lanis is down Windsor Avenue.) Flag & Whistle is another restaurant he would recommend – this one comes with a glorious view. Since the restaurant overlooks the port, it’s a good idea to get their around 5 p.m., just in time to catch sunset over the harbour.

“Entertainment in Colombo is basically broken down by age,” says Andre, explaining that the city’s clubs each cater to a specific age group and its tastes. Club hopping is still popular and Andre says the usual round takes dancers through Mojo at the Taj, R&B on Duplication Road and Amuseum at Galle Face. (Different bands step up to the mike at R&B for rousing live music.) Eating out late used to be about stopping at Pilawoos for a cheese kottu and a lime juice, but Andre says there are plenty of better options. The Gardenia Cafe at the Ramada Hotel (the old Holiday Inn) is a coffee shop that’s open all night.

Of late, Prasad has found himself at Sopranos (Maitland Crescent) surprisingly often – “for reasons I can’t quite fathom, I like going there,” he says adding that his signature number is ‘Bed of Roses’ by Bon Jovi. “I think it’s the company...the crowd I go with is a lot of fun.” Their raucous night is typically fuelled by food and drink from one of the local clubs such as SSC, CR&FC or CH. Once at Sopranos they tend to stay and sing, well into the night. If anyone feels like dancing Clancy’s is one floor up and Silk is just down the road.

French restaurant 'La Voile Blanche' in Mount Lavinia is a bit expensive but serves excellent food says Ramesh. Billed as a ‘Gourmet Beach Lounge,’ the restaurant is known for its seafood, but Ramesh who is a vegetarian still finds something to suit his taste. (The restaurant has a menu up on their facebook page). Another favourite by the Beach is Buba. They’ve preserved some of the mangroves and Ramesh likes to find one of the tables tucked into a corner. For entertainment later in the evening he might opt for a party. But for most part, he’s disappointed with what the city has to offer: “I think Colombo absolutely lacks relaxed, tasteful places to hang out with good music and friendly atmosphere, professionally organised private parties in houses and out of town places are the ones that are really special.”

The Greenlands Hotel in Shrubbery Gardens, Colombo 4 is one of Colombo’s oldest restaurants serving South Indian cuisine. But just there on the side is the Greenland’s Bar, which Dominic describes as “an extremely fine and decent drinking establishment.” Though they will not bring your meal to the bar, they serve the best hot vadaai in town on the side, says Dominic. “It’s a place you might go by yourself to read the newspapers,” he reveals, “there’s no one screaming or shouting or jumping up and down.” His other favourite place has an equally respected pedigree – the Castle Street Hotel in Slave Island. “It’s a wonderful place with a long history,” says Dominic, explaining that during the colonial period, while the Grand Oriental Hotel near the ports used to welcome the owners of the estates, the clerks would find their way here. Several portraits hang on its walls – incongruously Napoleon Bonaparte, Mahatma Gandhi and Joseph Stalin all share quarters. “People from Slave Island itself always go there,” says Dominic.

Burger’s King: Something substantial at affordable prices. Pix by Sanka Vidanagama
Galle Face: Always a hub of activity (below)
J.R is a Chinese food aficionado and says the city offers plenty of choices – 88 and 168 are both favourites, as is Min Han. The latter, tucked away down Deanstone Place is run by a Chinese family, but attracts plenty of locals. Simple dishes like the garlic broccoli and the chilli pepper prawns come highly recommended.

The sports clubs have their own devoted fans. Nishan* recommends pubs like and Cheers, but Inn on the Green is his favourite. Why watch a football match in a group? In one word – “banter.” Anushan is a member of the Rowing Club, and will often take friends there but Machang in Nawala is one of his favourite new places. A sports pub, it has two large screens and a football and pool table as well. Plus some drinks come really cheap, says Anushan.

Though he hasn’t been there in awhile, Delon suggests you try to track down a man named Bulan who owns a small shop in Slave Island – “he’s like this massive Malay guy, with big arms and a gold chain around his neck.” Though he speculates that the likes of Burger’s King might have driven Bulan off, one hopes that Bulan can still be found on some nights outside his spot at the Nippon Hotel. Delon remembers the man’s usual menu clearly. “He has all sorts of weird food there – he’s got rabbit and quail, all sorts of offal. He makes a great rampe chicken,” says Delon, adding that “back in the day he used to be very, very popular.”
“I’ve always liked going to Summer Gardens,” says Subha describing the old beer garden on Greenpath, opposite Vihara Mahadevi Park. “It’s been there for a really long time and there’s a lot of nostalgia associated with it – going there when we were kids and eating chilli powder fries while our parents had a beer.” (Among other things, the restaurant is known for their steaks, served sizzling.) Today, she also recommends the hoppers, both at Summer Gardens and at Green Cabin on Galle Road. “You have to eat hoppers with tomato curry and cadju curry,” says Subha firmly. She’s also a fan of the Galle Face Hotel. “If you go there a little early, you can have high tea and then stay on and catch the sunset,” she says, suggesting you go on to drinks after dark. The clubs hold little allure for Subha, describing them as insipid, she says she’s frustrated at the lack of an alternative scene and would like to see more adventuresome DJs go beyond playlists made up of mainstream music.

Still, for some, Colombo’s clubs still have their appeal. “Nightlife? Amuseum because the music is super, the crowd is great and it’s a beautiful nightclub,” says Nehara.* Later in the night, Lakeside’s Kiribath with mutton curry “is to die for,” she adds.

Friday, May 27, 2011


 © stuart de silva inc.Sydney,Australia 2011.

JAZZ – the word has never been clearly defined. Someone asked Thelonious Sphere Monk in an interview “How would you define Jazz?” He answered, “Man, I don’t have to define it. I PLAY it. All you critics and non-players have to do is LISTEN!” No truer word was spoken.
I was born on the same day that piano virtuoso Art Tatum recorded his devastatingly stunning version of Tiger Rag. (He never ever played or recorded it again).

My earliest memories are my father telling me that, in my first year of life, I would wake up in the middle of the night howling and crying and the only way he could get me to shut up was to stumble in the dark (we had no electricity in Nugegoda then) to the piano and play Hoagy Carmichael’s “Little Man You’ve Had A Busy Day’. Yes, my father, Herman, came from a musical family, where my grandmother played piano, grandfather on drums, dad & his sister (Cora) played piano and a brother Algernon (Uncle”Joy”) on banjo. Dad, before I was born, played for the Silent Movies at the Empire Cinema in Slave Island. He had a style of playing that I was to only recognise later when I first heard Errol Garner. That chunk-chunk-chunk left hand chords, while the right hand improvised. We had a wind-up gramophone on which he played his ‘78s, from Duke Ellington, thru James P Johnson, Fats Waller, Albert Ammons & Pete Johnson, the Ink Spots, Mills Brothers, Teddy Wilson and Billie Holiday and heaps of others.

Because of my growing interest in the music, when I was 4 years old he got me studying Classical piano under the Hungarian Hugo Wagn. He and his brother Victor were then living in Ceylon. It was Victor who started the first Symphony Orchestra in Colombo in 1939. My lessons with Hugo ended when I was 9 years, when he walked in 15 minutes early for my lesson he heard me playing a Boogie Woogie. Tearing at his hair, screaming at my parents “He’s playing that jungle music. I can no longer teach him.” He walked out. I never saw him again till 1959, I was on a bus in London with Rudy Bernardo and saw and recognised him. Naturally, we got off the bus, went and had some beers and told him of my career in Jazz. He was happy to hear of my Doctorate at Juilliard.
This is just a little background info.

In the late 40’s, Gerry  Crake on alto, brother George on tenor, and brother Ben on baritone saxes, with Dudley Pereira on vocals, rehearsed at my grandparents’ home in Girton School Road, Nugegoda, for the Band that was to soon become the Crake Brothers. My Dad played some piano (with Gerry clueing him on chords), grandpa on drums and uncle Joy on banjo. Naturally I was there.

My first introduction to a music that was to become a very fruitful career for 45 years as a professional Jazz pianist around the world.
In  1949, that Great Entrepreneur of Show Biz in Ceylon, Donovan Andre, held a Talent Quest at his Carnival at the SSC. I entered and won all of Rs 100, at that time a fortune. He then spoke to my Dad, who was a regular at the Nite Club, and offered to book me with a trio in his Nite Club, as intermission pianist to Gerry Crake’s Band. What a blast!
That same year, he had brought the Kamala Circus to perform in Colombo. In that Circus, there was a Trapeze Act, The Flying Bernardos. That was Barney and his wife, son Rudy and daughter Colleen. Rudy and Barney also played in Band. Sadly, Colleen contracted a disease and died and was buried at Kanatte. The Family Bernardo did not want to leave Ceylon and Donovan got them Ceylon Citizenship.

The trio I had in the nite club was with Barney Bernardo, (the father) on bass (he also played trombone) and Rudy on drums. The gig was only Friday and Saturday, so it would not interfere with my schooling. He even had his driver, Ian Dias, pick me up and take me home.
Gerry’s Band had, to the best of my recollection, Gerry on alto & clarinet, George Crake, tenor, Derek Evarts on tenor, Ben Crake, baritone, Latif Miskin or Louis Miskin,trumpet ( they alternated) Tony “Rocky” Latham, bass. Rudy Bernardo ,drums, doing a double gig with my trio.

Here were the giants of the Ceylon Jazz scene. What an exposure for a 14 year old. I lapped it up.

Then, the same year, Gazali Amit had heard me, came home and got permission from my parents to join his Quartet in Radio Ceylon broadcasts. The group was Gazali, guitar, Jimmy van Sanden ,bass and Cass Ziard,drums.

More into the learning curve.

In 1951, Donovan Andre, that Giant of Showbiz entrepreneurs in, brought a Variety troupe led by Marie Bryant, “The Harlem Blackbirds”. (She had been the choreographer on Nat King Cole’s TV series in the US).This was an all African-American cast of fabulous dancers, comedians and tap-dancers, whose entire repertoire was to the accompaniment (recorded, and sometimes played by Gerry Crake’s Band) of pure Jazz.
Then in 1953, we had the Horrie Dargie Quintet, the Australian Jazz Quartet, and Max Wildman’s Band, with whom our own Charmaine Drieberg sang (she later married Reuben Solomon and moved to Sydney, where she was to write her fantastic series of books on Asian cuisine).

In 1955, at the bottom of 8th Lane, Bambalapitiya, Donovan brought a troupe from Paris, “The Parisian Follies”. One of the people in the show was Jazz solo pianist Aaron Bridges (African-American, then living and playing in Paris), who had studied under Art Tatum and Billie Strayhorn. Naturally we became good friends and he visited our home on many an occasion, showing me different chord voicings on the piano. His regular gig in Paris was at the Mars Club, an American owned spot just off the Champs Elysees, a hang-out for Showbiz folks, mainly visiting Acts and ex-pat Americans living in Paris. Ironically, 5 years later, I would take over his gig there and stay on at the Mars for 4 years, playing 7 nights, Art Simmons and I sharing the solo piano spots.

Also in the troupe was Duke Diamond, a fantastic jazz tap dancer, who was to later appear in a sequence in the original movie “Moulin Rouge” as an acrobatic and tap dancer.

In 1951, Radio Ceylon inaugurated the Commercial Service, bringing two Australians, Clifford Dodd and Graham Evans to take charge. They wanted a greater emphasis on Jazz in their broadcasts. To this end, they negotiated a deal with Gillette to sponsor a weekly live Jazz programme for a period of 52 weeks. Gazali Amit got the gig. With Gazali, guitar, Jimmy van Sanden, bass, Cass Ziard, drums and myself on piano, and two vocalists who alternated, Yolande Wolff , who was to make her name in US jazz circles as Yolanda Bavan, and Bill Forbes. The group was called “The Airwaves”, as was the live broadcast programme every Saturday nite.

The contract was for a whole year, but Gazali moved on, Mervyn Cherrington took the guitar seat, Jimmy van Sanden left for the US and Tony Blake came in on bass. Sometime later, Mervyn left for the UK and Percy Bartholomeusz came in on guitar. Again a great learning curve.

I worked at Donovan’s night Clubs, with a short break from 1953 to 1955, with my trio, right up the Purple Orchid Room in Victoria Park, when I left Ceylon in 1958 on a scholarship from Dave Brubeck to Berkelee College in Boston.

Some of the foreign Bands that influenced the Jazz scene in Ceylon.
1939 thru 1941- Teddy Weatherford’s Band at the Galle Face. (see his profiles on Wikpedia)

This was a legendary Band under a legendary leader. Weatherford had been in Asia since 1930, in Shanghai, Burma, Indonesia and Bombay, India. In 1937, he was working in Cricket Smith’s band, playing piano and singing, at the Taj Mahal in Bombay (other reports have the same band in Java, Indonesia at that time), when they moved to the Galle Face Hotel, Colombo as resident Band from July 1937 through 1942.
Story has it that Weatherford took over the Band from Smith for this contract and they arrived in Colombo in July, 1937.

The Band that played in Colombo definitely had Reuben Solomon (alto & clarinet), Rudy Cotton (ten), Rudy Jackson (alto sax/clarinet), Louis Moreno (trumpet & violin) Paul Gozalvez (tenor, from 1940 to 42), Tony Gonzalvez, (bass) Trevor McCabe or Luis Pedroso (drums). There was a 2nd trumpet, who could have been George Banks (Nepalese born: Pushkar Bahadur Buddaprihiti), and trombonist George Leonardi. On guitar was Cedric West, who, with George Banks, came out of Burma with Reuben Solomon’s Jive Kings in the early ‘30’s.

My father had befriended Weatherford and (from 1939 to 1942) took me to the GFH to hear the band in their Sunday afternoon shows. Weatherford also visited our home on many occasions.

Paul Gonzalvez, the tenor player who was later with Duke Ellington and featured at Newport in that fantastic “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” solo, told me in Paris that he was stationed in Colombo with the US Army and that he did play in Weatherford’s Band 1940 to ’42. Other reports have him stationed in Bombay, but, from what he told me personally, I’ll stick with this.

Rudy Jackson, alto sax and clarinet, was in Duke Ellington’s first band, I think from 1916. I know he recorded with Duke in 1926 and left Duke’s Band in 1927.

Rudy Cotton came back with his own Band to play for Donovan, around 1952, either at the SSC or BRC. Jimmy Emmanuel, piano player, who stayed on in Sri Lanka till his recent death , came over with him. They both, together with Luis Pedroso were in Louis Moreno’s Muchachos at Donovan’s Silver Fawn in Union Place in 1940, where Erin de Selfa started singing, aged 16, known as Dinah of the Red Tails. The Band there was the Red Tails Minstrels.

Moreno, Pedroso and Reuben Solomon, together with Mario Manricks were in Sacha Borsteins’s band at the GFH, with Mickey Borstein, on piano and our own Frosty Vanlangenberg on bass. Moreno also played vibraphone. Mickey Borstein took over the piano chair from Ossie Halpern around 1955/56 when he left the Band.

There are people who have claimed that Buck Clayton played with Weatherford in Colombo, but records show this cannot be true. Till 1937, he was leading his own Band at the Canidrome in Shanghai, but left China just before the 2nd Sino-Japanese war and returned to the US in 1937, the year Weatherford came to Colombo. That same year he joined Willie Bryant’s Band and while on a tour date in Kansas City, joined Count Basie, where he remained, recording with Lester Young, Buddy Tate, Ben Webster, Billie Holiday, the master Joe Jones, Freddie Green (the rhythm guitarist who never took a solo) and others in the band, with Basie on piano.

1940 thru 1944 –at the Hotel in Slave Island, near the roundabout, owned by Greg Roskovski’s mother, was another Jazz piano player: Dr Jazz. Also African-American, he played a lot of Fats Waller, Willie “The Lion” Smith, James P. Johnson. I was taken often to hear him. He too was a friend of my Dad.

Through the war years, when Colombo was South East Asia Command (SEAC), there was a radio band called the Squadronaires, who did concerts and Radio Broadcasts. They were British, but played a lot of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw arrangements. Never got to meet them, but did get to hear them live. Great music.

Some foreign Jazz Groups that played at Donovan Andre’s Nite Clubs.
Horrie Dargie, who played chromatic harmonica, brought his Quintet from Australia and played for month. I have not been able to identify the other musicians, but the band comprised of his Harmonica, tenor sax/violin, piano, bass and drums. They played opposite Gerry Crake’s Band.

The Australian Jazz Quartet, based on the Modern Jazz Quartet, had Jackie Brockensha on vibes and drums, Bryce Rohde on piano, Errol Buddle on tenor, alto, soprano and baritone saxes and Dick Healey on bass. They did a one month stint at Donovan’s and were on their way to the UK after. Errol Buddle lives in Perth, Australia, and is still active on the jazz scene here. Brokensha went onto the US and made a name for himself there.

In 1955/56, there was a Band from Singapore, Placido “Ido” Martin’s Quintet, with Jimmy Aaron, alto, Benny, his brother, drums, and guitarist and vocalist, Benny’s wife, Eva. Ido played trumpet, piano and vibes and was superb on all three instruments. Their style was heavily influenced by Bebop and West Coast Jazz.

In more recent years, Albert Mangelsdorff (a superb trombonist) and 
Joachim Kuhn,piano, and bassist Eberhard Weber, bass, came over with a Quartet, sponsored by the Goethe Institute. All three of them turned up at Jazz Unlimited session and played.( I remember this because Joachim called me up to play while he took a break.) I knew all three of them from Munich in Germany, where I had a 3 month stint in a Jazz Club there.

Then, in 1984, the Australian Embassy brought “Intersection”, a very modern, avant-guard  band. Two of the members, Roger Frampton, piano and soprano sax, and Guy Strazzulo, guitar, turned up at JU at the Capri and we jammed a couple of sets with Lucky Manikawasagar on bass and Aruna Siriwardene , drums and myself on piano, Frampton played soprano sax. Frampton passed away 11 years ago. Strazzulo and I remain in contact in Sydney.

To get back to Commercial Radio: in the 50’s, Greg Roskovski, Mil Sansoni, Chris Greet and Dan Durairaj played a lot of Jazz on Radio. At the time, Dan was the only one into Bebop and played a lot of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, the Dutch Bebop piano-accordion Quintet of Art Van Damme, the Jazz piano/singing Duo of Jackie Krall & Roy Crane and many others.

At the time of the “Airwaves”, I had connected by letter with Bud Powell followers “Dizzy” Saldano in Bombay and Toshiko Aiyoshi in Tokyo. Strangely, Toshiko was at Berkelee 2 years before me and “Dizzy” one year before. We never met.

Now, to an appreciation of our Ceylon/Sri Lankan musicians:
Piano: Christie Bartholomeusz (played at The Silver Fawn with The Red Tail Minstrels); Sonny Bartholomeusz (stride piano in the style of Earl Hines/Teddy Wilson – I had a series of lessons from him), his sister, Phylis, who played a mean two handed piano); Gerry Crake (a style reminiscent of Count Basie); Chitra Malalasekare( later Ranawake) (who although being a 1st Prize winner in Classical music at the Paris Conservatory in France, was intent on playing bebop piano); Rafe Jansz (boogie-woogie and jazz);Mickey and Helen Menezes; Tom Menezes’ daughter, Cathy; Raddy Ferreira (who led a jazz Big Band in Sydney, played for 18 years at the Hilton Hotel, Sydney, and is now on a World Cruise Luxury Liner with his Trio for the past 5 years); “Doc” Gulasekaram (Gulli) ,who led a long-standing Trio with Gazali and Frosty Van Langenberg, playing Art Tatum Trio and Nat “King” Cole Trio arrangements, which he transcribed from the records); Jimmy Emmanuel (need I say more-he was a great pianist); Gerry Crake’s daughter, Heather Crake; Eric and Conrad Martinez(twins) ( Both taught jazz piano. Conrad moved to Denmark.); Ossie Halpern and Mickey Borstein who were with Sascha Borstein’s Band at the Galle Face Hotel ( both superb and modern jazz pianists); “Blind John” – used to play the Hotel in Slave Island where Dr.Jazz played and in later years at lunchtime at The Pagoda in Chatham Street. Claire Croner, (he also plays accordion, but for a while, was the pianist with Gerry Crake’s Band. I took over the piano seat from him).

To these I must add: Patrick Nelson, Desmond Pompeus, Peter Prins, Harsha Markalanda, Dilup Gabadamudalige, Mignonne Fernando, Neri Fernandez (Erin’s husband), Debbie Arnolda and, I am sure a host of young players I’ve never heard. I never met or got to hear Valentine Manikavasagar, but, from what I’ve been told, he is superb.

Bass: Leonard Francke, Jimmy Van Sanden, Tony “Rocky” Latham, Frosty Van Langenberg, Barney Bernardo (Rudy’s father), Ralph de Silva (my cousin, who moved to Australia and played with Graham Belle and other jazz groups, including my Trio), Nesan and Lucky Manikavasagar (both great), Tony Blake, David Sansoni, David Bartholomeusz (Ronnie’s brother), Nilantha Ariyaratne, Nihal Jayewardene (he played beautifully on that Trio I had at the Galadari with Farouk Miskin on drums) Errol Mulholland, Ray Gomez..........A Special Mention for the ever-young Alston Joachim. What a bass player, who can play in any style and make it sound fantastic!

Drums: RUDY BERNARDO! Wadham Dole, Godfrey Davidson, Louis Pedroso, Cass Ziard, Faleel Ziard, Adrian Ferdinands, Farouk Miskin ( Latif’s son), Aruna Siriwardene, Hassan Musafer, Mohan Sabaratnam, Lucky Manikavasagar,  Diren Sabaratnam, Chris Dharsan, Christo Prins, Harris Juranpathy...................

Guitar: Gazali Amit, Milroy Passe-deSilva, Mervyn Cherrington, Percy Bartholomeusz, David Sansoni, Raja Jalaldeen, Revel Crake, Rodney Rabot,

Sax: Gerry (alto/clt), George (ten) and Ben(ten/bari) Crake, Derek Evarts (ten), Clem Croner(ten/clt), Rodney Van Heer (ten), Reuben Solomon (alto/clt), Randy Peiris (ten) Kumar Mollegoda(ten), Harold Seneviratne (alto), Edgar Heber(alto), Malcolm de Zilwa (ten/alto), Freddie Diaz (ten)*
*Freddie was a Major in the Army and couldn’t play professionally. However, Ariya & Chitra Ranawake, Cass Ziard, Tony Blake and I met on Sundays at his house to go through bebop charts. He had a hard-reed and a style like Coleman Hawkins in his bebop phase.

Clarinet: Gerry Crake; Mario Manricks; Reuben Solomon; Clem Croner; Ronnie Bartholomeusz.............

Trumpet: LOUIS MISKIN! What can I say about “Rafai”, as we all lovingly called him? His thirst for playing and booze is legendary. When the Band at Donovan’s took a break, he’d run out to the Carnival grounds and play with the Merry-Go-Round Band. Louis NEVER slept. He was in the CLI Marching Band and he would go straight from the Club and join them in their morning march from Maharagama to Reid Avenue. He also played in Major Perry’s CLI Dance Band and Concert Band (Classical). He lived for music. He had a tremendously powerful sound. There’s only one trumpet player I’ve met and played with, on a tour in Germany, with that sound: “Wild Bill” Davidson. That was with the Buddy Tate Quintet in 1973.
During the “Parisian Follies”, there was Sammy Wilde (Fire-eater/Dancer), who danced to Dizzy Gillespie’s “Cubana Be-Cubana Bop”, and Louis handled Dizzy’s solo with ease.

Others. Latif Miskin (Crake Bros); Tom Menezes (one fantastic trumpet player); Ariya Ranawake (Bebop only); Luis Moreno; Dallas Achilles; Eden Pompeus.......

Vocalists: ERIN de SELFA!!!!!!*; Eileen Nathanielsz*; Dudley Perera*; Kingsley de Mel*; Yolande Wolff*; Jean Van Heer*; Chris Greet*; Gerry Crake*; Marie de Rosairo*; Noeline Honter; Mifanwy Pompeus; Scarlett Hannibelsz;  Mike “Hootie” Gibson (sang only with Doc “Gulli’s Quintet, with Gerry Crake(alto) and Rudy Bernardo added). His repertoire was from Louis Jordan’s Tympany Five Band – the very first R & B/ Rock & Roll Band ever; Bill Forbes*...........

Vocal Groups: Gerry Crake & Dudley Perera; The Three Crotchets (Joy Ferdinando-piano/vocals, Lylie Godridge, Bede de Silva); The Kelaart Sisters  (Decima & Mignonne)*; The De Bruin Sisters* (June,  ? and ?); The Four Sharps* (Gamalathge Bros, Roland & Victor, ? Seneviratne and ?);
*These are singers I had the pleasure of accompanying on Radio and Concerts.

Other: “Whistling” Georgie Siegertz. He could whistle and improvise on the hit tunes of the period. He had his own 15 minute program on Radio Ceylon in the ‘50’s. Anyone who saw “The Bridge Over The River Kwaii”, will recall the soundtrack of our Georgie whistling “The Colonel Bogey March” – he also acted in the movie as a prisoner of war. (George Siegertz passed away in London in March, 2002, aged 82, in London.)
Footnote: In early 1953, my father and I bought the remaining 2 year lease from Julius Mather on the Pigalle Nite Club in Colpetty (3-storey building next to Kreme House), with Donovan Andre’s blessing, help and advice.

I had a Trio, with Wadham Dole and Tony Blake. The Club operated as a Members Only Club, open six days a week, Monday’s off.

Of the Members were Mike Wilson, Sampath Nandalochana and Viswa Selvaratnam, keen Jazz afficianados. After some discussions, we decided to turn Monday’s into a Jazz Club night. With the backing of the USIS in Miller’s Building, and a great deal of help from Ms. Diana Captain (Soli’s sister), who worked there as Manager, we managed to secure an Affiliation Agreement with International Jazz Club in New York to run under their banner.

The Office bearers were Mike, Viswa, Sampath (Treasurer & Accountant) and myself. This Committee was Notarised and Registered, a requirement under the Agreement with New York.

To say it was a success will be an understatement. A lot of the musicians named above would turn up to sit in.

In 1955, when the lease ended, with Sardha Ratnavira (jeweller and gem merchant and fabulous artiste) signing a new lease with Maliban, I went back to playing at Donovan Andre’s Purple Orchid Room in Victoria Park with my Trio. From that time on IJC was held on Sundays, morning and afternoon, at the Greenhouse, the other Room at Donovan’s, where he had his foreign Shows.

I continued to play and the IJC Committee remained the same until I left Ceylon on the Brubeck Scholarship in 1958. When I left, Wadham Dole took my place on the Committee.

Subsequently, IJC made way for Jazz Unlimited under Tommy and Mahes Perera and is still going solidly strong.

© stuart de silva inc.
Sydney Australia. 2011.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Donovan Andree

Island 16 Nov 2003

Malcolm Andree follows father Donavan Andree’s footsteps
by Kalinga Weerakkody

Malcolm Andree follows the footsteps of his late father Donavan Andree who was the country’s leading showman.

Malcolm though 70 now continues in the same spirit as the began 47 years ago into the show business.
He still talks of his earlier days and calls them moments of a lifetime.

His very first show was for the Ceylon American Youth Society ‘Melody Damour’.
The signature tune of his radio show ‘a certain smile’ was
sung by Heather Crake, Loreta Ohlmus and Keen Hangier. It was originally sung by ‘The Johns Boys’ and the show was compered by Bob Harvey, the band members being Harold Seneviratne, Gerry Crake, Erlene Peck and Patrick Nelson.

The other members of the show were Lauren Grahaem, Noeline Honter, Dalrene Suby, Pat Clyde, The Jay Brothers, Denzil and Vasco duo, Denis Roberts, Sharmine Andrado, Doreen Steuwart, the late Lylie Godridge, the late Gerry Crake and Dudley Perera.

Malcolm was paid only Rs.250/- for producing the show — a poultry sum compared to the total returns from the show. When Bob Harvey often asked him how he managed with that paultry amount his answer was ‘I do it for fun kicks’.

Malcolm also had many other radio shows and three of them were sponsored such as "The Elasto (S.L.Marketing Services), Talent Show and Star’s of Lanka.

Malcolm describes the artistes of yesteryear as just wonderful
Malcolm also produced stage shows from 1959 at the request of Kandy showman E.W.Balasooriya.
They begining with English shows around 1962/1963 and later
oriental shows with the help of showman Jayatissa Hettiarachchi.

The artistes who appeared in such shows were La Ceylonians, Three Sisters, Saman de Silva, M.S. Fernando, H.R . Jothipala, Sujatha Attanayake, Nuwan Gunawardena, Derrick de Silva Kumudini (The Rimbo girl) and the duo of the famous Jet Liners fame Tony Fernando and his wife Mignonne.

Malcolm is the youngest of a family of three boys and three girls.

Malcolm talked his father and what he did to promote show business here during the early years.

Donavan had many clubs such as ‘Stadium Sports Club(SSC) and also had carnivals to raise funds.
One of his best shows was ‘Holiday on Ice’ which featured the famous Harlem Blackbirds.

"My father also helped in sports at the request of the then President of Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) Julian Grero and one to benefit was Sri Lanka’s high jumper S.Ediriweerasingham who won the first Asian Gold medal for Sri Lanka in 1958.

Donavan gifted Ediriweerasingham with Rs.3000 (then big money) for his feat.

Among Donavan Andree’s other shows were the Golden Gate Quartet (group of four), Belly dancers.

My father also encouraged boxing, wrestling, netball, football and cricket. The famous Erin de Selfa who sang under the stage name of ‘Diana’ accompanied by a musical group called the Tails was my father’s second wife.

Erin Selfa was also the only local vocalist to sing before the King and Queen of England at the London Palladium.

Following the demise of his father Malcolm took over supporting sports -netball at Stadium SC in Bambalapitiya and among the players such as Pamela Thajudeen, Christine Blake, Mignonne Fernando, Seetha Weerasooriya, Rani Herath, Kildy Kretser, Tony Joseph, Patsy Herath, Anne de Silva and Rio Ramlan to name a few.

He thanked the late Trixie Jayasooriya, late Kusuma George, Ransilu Wijedasa, Ovone Poulier, Rio Ramlan, Margaret Perera and Dasie Kuruppu, for helping the netball team and also helping him to become a netball coach.

Malcom also spoke high of the golden greats of broadcasting such as the legendary Livy R. Wijemanna, Jimmy Barusha, Vernon Abeysekara, Thevis Guruge, Nihal Greg, Harold Fernando, Derrick Meloney, Shirley de Silva, Shirly Perera, Norton Perera, Cris Jayamanna Leon Belleth and Vijaya Corea.
He finally thanked Padmasiri who is looking after him like a father.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Raddy Ferreira Moves On

Just received information that Raddy passed away while performing on a Cruise Liner

May he rest in Peace!