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Sunday, 16 November 2014





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Latha’s lilting songs still reverberate

Latha Walpola, the living legend of playback singing turned 80 on November 11. She sang over seven decades for many Sinhala films.

Latha was born into a family of six. Her father was Joseph Leenus Fernando. He did not encourage her to sing. Her mother Elizabeth Muriel, however, always encouraged her to sing.

Latha Walpola

As a student at St.Anthony’s College, Mount Lavinia she honed her skills singing in the Church choir. She also led the Church choir as a small girl. She was introduced to the then Radio Ceylon (Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation) at the age of 12 with her mother’s permission by her family friend C.A.Fonseka, a popular radio dramatist at the time.

At the beginning she sang for C.A. Fonseka’s Sarala Gee program as a member of choir with his son C.D Fonseka.


In 1947 she made her debut as a singer by singing Kandulu Denethe Vehena, written by Sarath Wimalaweera.

The music was composed by Vincent de Alwis, the versatile violinist. She later sang duets with him in his Sarala Gee programs. Vincent de Alwis introduced her to Susil Premaratne and C.T.Fernando.

Her song Namo Mariyanee was recorded in 1948. it became an instant hit. Then she sang Seethala Duruthu Mahe, Mihiri Suwanda Vihiduwa, Nunwa Jaya Handa Pem, Soka Nege Den, and Oba Prema Raja Mage.

She sang a few songs such as Sukomala Banda Lelawa, Dunhinda Helena and Diyaluma Helena originally sung by Chitra Somapala. In 1950 she became the leading female singer. Sri Lanka’s celebrated musicians such as Mohamed Ghouse, P.L.A. Somapala and B.S. Perera immediately recognised her talents and invited her to sing for their creations, upto now she has sung.

Latha made her debut in playback singing for the film Eda Rae in 1952. Latha and Dharmadasa Walpola began their career as the most successful playback singers by singing in Prema Tharangaya for the first time.

It was music director Muttusami’s first film.

The melodious songs such as Honda Hondama Veya Lowa Kisima Thenaka Nehe and “Pera Kala Pawa Paladee Pape Gewawi” still remain etched in our memories. The singing duo got married and Latha became known as Latha Walpola. By 1958 Latha and Dharmadasa were the only two leading playback singers in Sri Lanka. Latha has sung for 22 films.


Latha has made a great contribution to the Sinhala music scene with her unique style of singing in a lilting voice. Latha and Walpola sang to Ahankara Sthree for which the music was R. Muttusami.Latha has sung for almost every actress in the Sinhala cinema except Rukmani Devi.

Latha sang for Khemadasa’s Gee Nalus such as Bari Sil, Kela Mal and Nawarella. Latha also sang for Daskon drama produced by Herbert M. Seneviratne and Kumara Kassapa an opera.

Even at present she sings the theme songs for teledramas. In addition to her singing she has played a few minor roles in Eda Rae, Prema Tharagaya and Radala Piliruwa.

Latha has won the Sarasavi Award, Golden Conch Award, Golden Jubilee Presidential Award, OCIC Awards, Golden Swan Award, Lake House Award, Deepasika Award, U.W.Sumathipala Memorial Award and Swarnabhimani Golden Award.

The writer is a former Head of Corporate Affairs and Communications, Sri Lanka Export Development Board and former -Director of Sri Lanka Trade Centre in Maldives. [email protected]

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