“Vale’, Gypsy King” – By Des Kelly
I met him for the first time, when in 1973 I visited Ceylon for the first and last time, after migrating to Australia.
Sunil Perera was 21 years old, and his Dad Anton who was responsible for the organization of the Original Gypsies, including Sunil and younger brother Nalin, met me and invited me to his home in Ratmalana to audition this young Gypsies band whose main jobs at the time, were to play music.
Anton Perera was indeed a remarkable father-figure. He provided Sunil, Nalin and the rest of the boys in the band, not only a spacious area in his luxurious home simply to practice their music, but also paid them each a salary to play music and become hopefully a band of renown. They had been at it, for a few months, and he now wanted me to tell him whether they would be able to play professionally, overseas and in Australia, and whether they would be accepted favourably, playing their style of music. I accepted Anton’s kind invitation, and this is how I met Sunil, for the first time.
Right from the start, I could see that Sunil was a born entertainer. He took charge of his Gypsies and played a few popular baila hits of that era. Anton and the rest of his family were also present, and after about an hour of listening to them, and watching them perform, I told Anton that although I liked what I had heard, the Gypsies were not ready to tour abroad.
I explained my reason for this. Sunil, I told him, was the only one, doing any actual “performing”. Although the music was good, the rest of the band, including Nalin, did their thing without too much action, and, at the time, as I had noticed, ALL Sri Lankan Groups and Bands played music as though they were half asleep, with no animation at all, and as if they could not wait for the song to end. Anton Perera understood exactly what was needed for his boys to improve, thanked me for my advice and promised to have them perform in Australia as soon as he fixed this minor problem. The Gypsies were, after all, still a very young band.
This group did everything that was asked of them. They did start touring internationally and always had the reception that their founder Anton wanted for them, and yet, it was his Son SUNIL who stood out in the crowd. While the rest of the Gypsies did not do any interviews with the Media, I watched Sunil on television several times and he was absolutely superb, not only with his English, but with getting his point across. He always had that stage know-how, and that cheeky smile under his hat, and he was enjoyed and admired by all who saw him.
Now, at 69+ years, and still, in my opinion, far too young to go, Sunil has finally left the Gypsies and his adoring fans, myself included. You did what you had to do, Sunil, and did it extremely well. On behalf of e’Lanka and many thousands of Lankan patriots around the World, let me send our sincere condolences to his family, and Sunil, rest in peace now, and may God bless you and your’s.