New Special Cover: Tribute to late veteran musician Commander Premlal Danwatte

A special cover was issued on 7th October 2023 to pay tribute to late veteran musician Commander Premlal Danwatte. The Special cover can be ordered online via this link:

Don Laydiris Danwatte and Jayaneththi Koralalage Adlin Jayawardena, Don Premlal Danwatte was a proud product of Kalutara Vidyalaya. Young Premlal Danwatte possessed a natural talent for music, and his music instructor at Kalutara Vidyalaya was Mr. Seeman Lokuliyana. In 1957, Premlal Danwatte joined the Naval Band of the Royal Ceylon Navy. He sought to innovate in music by combining his mastery of Hindustani classical music and Sinhala folk music with the melodic elements of Western music, thereby creating a fresh musical style rooted in local melodies.

With a harmonious journey from 1964 to 1966 at the Royal College of Music to the Royal Naval College of Music, his melodic education soared to new heights, transforming his music theory and practice into a symphony of brilliance. In these esteemed institutions, he embarked on a musical journey, unlocking new dimensions of his talent and taking his prowess to new heights. In 1965, the appointment of Commander Premlal Danwatte as the Director of Naval Musicmarked a significant moment for the Naval Music Department. This event brought about a notable change as Commander Premlal Danwatte introduced a fresh perspective to the department, aligning it more with the local culture, which had previously focused solely on Western music.

Premlal Danwatte’s high hopes gradually materialized as the Western music performances by the Navy Band underwent a significant shift, incorporating elements of Hindustani classical music and Sinhala folk music. This fusion attracted a growing audience and led to the Navy Band’s involvement in the Lakhanda radio programme and concerts featuring renowned local artists.

Commander Premlal Danwatte not only brought about significant changes in the Navy’s music department but also played a crucial role in expanding the band by introducing diverse elements. He introduced bagpipers to the Royal Navy Band for the first time in the year 1966. In 1968, he proactively introduced Gataberaya to thewestern music and enrolled talented Kandyan drummers into the Navy. The establishment of the Naval Cultural Troupe at a time where there were no Army or Air Force Cultural Troupes and the temporary inclusion of women dancers to the Cultural Troupe also took place with the contribution of Commander Premlal Danwatte.

Commander Premlal Danwatte married Mrs. Vijai Varnakumari Weerasinghe on 29th December 1965 and they have three sons and one daughter.
Commander Premlal Danwatte’s introduction of diverse experimental musical compositions led to the incorporation of vibrant and groundbreaking musical creations into both the navy and the nation’s music industry. The Sri Lanka Navy song ‘Sagara Gamana’ composed by five elements of music and Daul Tammattm, was a successful experimental musical composition by Commander Premlal Danwatte.
It also effectively nurtured a sense of national pride among the naval personnel during their parade ceremonies.

Commander Premlal Danwatte spearheaded and coordinated a musical event known as ‘Rata Vate’ that took place across various locations in the country from 1965 to 1967. In an era when the general public lacked access to televised or internet-based music concerts, Commander Danwatte’s nationwide concert successfully introduced a fresh musical experience to theaudience. Further, he played a key part for the composition of music of the National Anthem, after its lyrical change to ‘Sri Lanka Matha’.
During the 1970s, Commander Premlal Danwatte achieved a significant feat by reimagining ‘Mara Parajaya,’ a song drama composed by WB Makuloluwa, a renowned Sri Lankan musician. By blending traditional sounds of Getaberaya and Yakberaya with the Ceylon Symphony Orchestra, Danwatte successfully sparked a revival in Sinhala Buddhist culture during that era.
Commander Premlal Danwatte took the lead in training the initial band that formed the Music Section of the Sri Lanka Air Force in 1971.

Commander Premlal Danwatte has also made significant contributions to the advancement of the country’s music industry as an author, He has published a book titled “Western Music Entrance in Sinhala.” The book was great guidance to the music studies of the students of schools, universities and national youth services council, as well as naval personnel. Under the leadership of Commander Premlal Danwatte, the special tri- service band concert held at the Sugathadasa indoor Stadium in 1975 for the 25th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Navy became very popular as ‘Military Tattoo’.
During 1976-1978, he demonstrated his musical talent by assisting Dr. Lester James Peiris and Mrs. Sumitra Peiris, prominent filmmakers in Sri Lanka, in shaping the musical direction and composition for their movies ‘Madol Duva’ and ‘Gahanu Lamai.’ As such, he directed and composed the famous song ‘Viyo Gee Gayena’.

Commander Premlal Danwatte, the maestro behind the harmonious evolution of the Navy Music Department, set sail into a well-earned retirement on 01st April 1983, leaving a symphony of legacy behind. Commander Premlal Danwatte, despite retiring from the Navy, continued his passion for music and served as Director of Music, Oman Air Force. Returning to the motherland, he served as the Music
Director of the Volunteer Force of Sri Lanka Air Force from 16 January 1985 to 1 September 1989, Music Director of the National Cadet Corps from 1 March 1988 to 1 September 1989 and Music Director of the Sri Lanka Police attached to the Sri Lanka Police Reserve.

Sadly, he passed away on December 21, 1989, leaving behind a profound impact on all of us.

Source: FDC cover bulletin


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