ROOKANTHA A TRUE FAMED MUSIC GENIUS IN EFFERVERSCENT VOYAGE IN CELEBRITY FOR OVER FOUR DECADES – by Sunil Thenabadu
Mario Glory Rookantha Goonatilleke was the only son apart from his elder sister born to his parents, mother had been a teacher. it is his innate talent in music that had made him the significant musician he is.He has not had any hereditary affiliations from the family or his ancestors for music.From his very young days he has had a liking for music ,when he was just three years ago as a toddler had a liking to hear the sounds from the piano they have had at home.Asa he was short had insisted mother to carry him so that he could drag the keys of the piano from left to right and vice versa, the beat that came out sounded so well.Mother had known that he has an innate talent for music. As he grew up Rookantha used to hear the songs the sister used to sing.Later when the sister became a girl guide, she had sung songs in all three languages. The songs that his elder sister sang Rookantha had learnt with sheer enthusiasm.Mother to encourage him had asked the students to find her the lyrics of the song ‘Amma” which she had thought Rookantha.Mother had sent him to piano classes to a teacher.Though Rookantha was a bit exuberant he had received attention from the home folks’ relatives and friends. At the Montessori Sheryl Perera teacher who had thought his sister had been his teacher too who had thought him to play the piano.
Then he had entered St Mary’s College Kegalle for the primary education.After the third standard Rookantha had been admitted to St Anthony’s Katugastota as a ‘boarder’ particularly as he was stubborn and aggressive.The period in school as a boarder prevented Rookantha been violent as the students had to follow to a strict time table.He had been able to play the piano with the assistance of ‘guru’ Samare Sir had followed Trinity College of Music stream.Though he was able to play the piano what had been craving for a guitar which was lingering in his thoughts.Rookantha had known that a new guitar was expensive and would be a huge burden for mother as her salary was around rupees three hundred then.After persisting pestering the mother she had reluctantly bought him a second-hand guitar for rupees two hundred and fifty.Rookantha had been overwhelmed had endeavored to learn as soon as possibe.An elder boarder Mano Paul had consented to teach him the chords which he had practiced hard to be able to more or less master it.In school in addition Rookantha had participated in dramas, concerts had once been a “Pothe Gura” for a school’s drama ‘sakunthala”.At that stage Rookantha had laid the ground work as a potential musician.
Rookantha Goonatillake born on 5 September 1959, in Kegalle to a middle-class family is presently an accomplished Sri Lankan singer, musician ,composer and songwriter. Presently One of the most authoritative musical artists in Sri Lanka, Rookantha started his career as a solo singer in late 1980s after few stints as a keyboard player but his passion is composing music playing the organ. He frequently performs duets with his wife, Chandralekha Perera which are known to all. His daughters Raini Charuka and Windy who are also singers having inherited hereditary affiliations to music from the parents.As a father Rookantha had given them freedom to do what they liked though he had preferred the duo to follow his footsteps. Windy it appears takes more interest in learning music which Rookantha had himself observed.
Rookantha is one of the most successful musicians in Sri Lankan pop and sentimental music industry. He is well known as the King of Pop amongst Sri Lankans.But he sings in western,eastern ,soul , rhythm and blues too His albums have been sold in thousands, picked up as hot cakes in Sri Lanka and abroad. He is known as the person who changed the Sri Lankan music industry by revolutionizing the hitherto compositions with new brand of songs in the 1980’ s which the fans still wish to hear.Rookantha was fortunate to meet great musicians like Stanley Peiris and Cyril Brown during his tenure in Kandy.Rookantha married vocalist and actress then Chandralekha Perera .The duo are blessed with two daughters Raini Charuka and Windy.Rookantha had first met Chandralekha when he was 17 years old and Chandralekha 15 years old through music.The duo had been members of two separate bands in Kandy.The one Rookantha was in has had sound whereas for Chandralekha’s band was devoid of sound.Hence they were compelled to hire sounds from a place in Kurunegala.The owner had asked whether they needed an organ.When it was expressed that do not have some to play Rookantha’s name had been suggested.That is how the two had come to know each other.Rookantha had been invited to sing and play at a show in Medirigiriya when he was able just to talk to her only but her father had inquired about the family.Rookantha had got more familiar with her father as he had known Rookantha’s aunt (mother’s sister) who had been teaching with her. However, the link had got terminated for a number of years as Chandralekha’s father had wanted her to join the National Youth Services Centre to pursue a higher education in music.During this period Rookantha had thought of owning his own band with musicians like Raju Bandara in Kurunegala where the band had got many music contracts.
Thereafter Rookantha despite his busy schedule with the band pursued a career as a composer from the year 1976 when he developed his musical instincts with his intuitive way of thinking always needing to revolutionize our music patterns. He was not concentrating on his own vocals much though he had innate talent in abundance.He provided his music compositions with ultimate enthusiasm to others.But in year 1985 failing to find a vocalist had himself sung songs for his “Bambara Pahasa “ cassette which was a huge hit released on 31st October.In 1988 he commenced providing vocals himself beginning a career as a vocalist.His fourth album was named Charuka after his daughter “Raini Charuka” was released in year 1998.
He first composed the music for Jaliya Ranatunga’s collection of 12 songs where he did lyrics for two songs. The exclusive concert of Rookantha and Chandralekha is ‘Ru Sanda Rae’ which means “Beauty Moon Night”. The first concert was staged at the Elphinston Theatre in Colombo, Sri Lanka in February 1993. To-date it has been staged in many places in Sri Lanka and around the globe including Italy, France, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UK, USA, and the UAE. The ‘Ru Sanda Rae’ concert has been staged more than 300 times .
The mega show of ‘Rookantha-Chandralekha’ live show was held in August 2009 at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium. Many fans had to turn around as the tickets were sold out weeks before the concert overcrowding the Sugathadasa Stadium with over 15,000 people had thronged the stadium. Since then, the family has been traveling back and forth holding ‘Ru Sanda Rae’ concerts around the country. A special concert was held on the 11 August 2012 at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium, Colombo again to a packed enthusiastic audience.
In 2019, he worked as a judge in the television reality show Hiru Star. However, he was assaulted by some group of people and damaged his vehicle by stating that Rookantha did not give his vote to a contestant.
On January 26, 2000, at around 9.00 pm, Rookantha and Chandralekha were raided by members of the former President Chandrika Bandaranailke ‘s security forces, who cut off their hair. They had thrown petrol at the body, looted a jeep belonging to them, also gold and other belongings and fled. The personnel who were found guilty by the Panadura High Court sentenced them to four and a half years in prison. in 2013. One of the defendants, who was completely disabled, was given a lenient sentence. In 2014, Rookantha granted a presidential pardon to the defendants and later released by President Mahinda Rajapaksa ‘s pardon. One person in Welikada Prison and eight others in Kalutara Prison were released on bail. The case had gone on for over thirteen years in courts. According to Rookantha the convicts were not the real culprits. Those who were actually involved in acts of criminal intimidation and physical harassment had gone scot-free. They had committed those offences on the instigation of their masters. They were well armed with weapons when they came to their residence. Actually, some of them didn’t know what they were up to. When the attackers on their way back had questioned their leader, Baddegane Sanjeewa as to why Rookantha’s house was attacked, he had bluntly told them “ It is none of your business to question me, I have received orders from the top.” With evidence being proved, the offenders were sentenced to two-and-half-years to three years. So out of compassion they were pardoned because they were merely carrying out the orders of their masters. After that incident through frustration Rookantha and family left to the USA had returned only after thirteen years. in year 2019 with the intentions of entering into politics, he was appointed as the electorate organizer of Dambadeniya of the united national party.
Rookantha had made a lot of music tracks, some of them were Hitha Newathuna Thena,Sangawanna
Rookantha had not sung many songs but it is learnt had sung only two hundred songs most of which have become popular hits.Some of them are Dasama Riddana,Manaloli
Mahinda Bandara in a television interview had stated that he had known Rookantha for over forty years as both have grown up in the same vicinity in Kegalle.He had praised him for been an updated person always, very humble willing to help anyone.Rookantha is more competent in composition of music, a lyricist , pianist and a dynamic organist. He was more concerned on creative music deviating from the normal compositions, but a very emotional person, a good companion to associate.Similar comments were made by legendary musician Rohana Weerasinghe on Rookantha who was full of praise for his creative work. with many diverse compositions which are very rare and soothing to hear.Rookantha’s music talents were highly hailed and applauded.
In the context of the above Rookantha Gunatilleke could be easily classified as a genius in music compositions, lyric writing and vocals who had contributed immensely to the music in Sri Lanka.All his fans would no doubt wish him success to continue in the same vein.
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