VISHARADA NIHAL GAMHEWA MUSIC MAESTRO FOR COMPOSING MUSIC WITH LYRICS HAVING TRAINED A GENERATION OF PHENOMINAL VOCALISTS AND PLAYERS – by Sunil Thenabadu
This article written by me to my BLOG www.info-rain.com based mainly on the program “Siyapath Pokura” involving Visharada Nihal Gamhewa, telecast in the ITN on the 24th April 2022 compered by the award winning television and radio presenter Indrasiri Suraweera,
Presenter described the musical genius as a unique music maestro who groomed a generation of popular singers in the 1980 –1990 decades created a gigantic river with fountains which was never allowed to evaporate. This presenter who presented this musical concert quipped that ten artistes of the 1990 decade had all sung popular songs for the musical compositions of Visharada Nihal Gamhewa for his own lyrics. One familiar name that was not there unfortunately was that of deceased Prince Udaya Priyantha. Nihal Gamhewa an exceptional lyricist, composer,singer cum a music adviser/counsellor who had Joined the NYSC in 1983 to a void created by an adviser who had left the Belwood music institute. There had been a music group called ‘Yovun Gee ‘ .The chairman then had been Charitha Ratwatte.The Chairman prudently had suggested to have a study course in music as students needed to find employment.Nihal had suggested to form a syllabus for the students to obtain a teacher profession after following a course Bellwood Lalithakala diploma course. There had been a number of vocalists who had reached to a certain standard through practice.Then the worry was about the musicians.Before Nihal Gamhewa wasappointed the students had already been there for three years. The proposed Bellwood Lalithakala diploma course had commenced by bringing in experienced personnel from Giragama teachers training school.The students were thought classical music in addition, by year 1985 they were qualified to apply as school music teachers who were scattered all over the island.These students were thought to sing well for writing lyrics and composing music all by Visharada Nihal Gamhewa. He has had the knack for writing impressive lyrics as he has had read many books and learnt the meanings of many words well. When he was new he had attended a funeral of student Chandana Liyanarachchiis elder brother held at a coconut estate in Kuliyapitiya, after which Chandana had requested ‘guru’ to do a song in his memory.One of the first songs he had written and composed music as an affection song as people would embrace it.
For Chandana Liyanarachchi ,Nihal Gamhewa had composed about thirty five songs with appropriate lyrics He admitted that he first composes one music line by line and then add words as he says comes to him with some super power also recollects some words he had read in books.He says it would be an hour most after he sits down for a solitary song.Then he gives the composition to the musicians to complete with proper chords. According to him love is within the hearts of everyone which he says is very fine and delicate. Which could be aroused which helps him in doing lyrics.
Nihal hails from Negombo, where there is lot of music played and heard,mother is catholic father Buddhist .Nihal was one of the ten siblings . A close family member of his mother had been a tower hall artiste ,Simuna Perera who had portrayed women roles after such roles were portrayed by men in Tower Hall stage plays..Father could play the harmonium well all siblings has had music instincts but it was only Nihal who had prolonged a career in music.When young had watched many films, Hindi,Tamil and Sinhalese for which his mother had said ‘ are you going to be blind” With his singing ablities had sung at various concerts Hindi and Tamil songs.He had made lyrics for church ‘geethika’ and sung in churches too.During this period after his advanced level Nihal had been invited by Fanta Fernando to join the band in Negombo named ‘King Fishers’.Then only a newspaper advertisement had appeared that an immediate vacancy exists for a music adviser/counsellor at the Bellwood music academy .As he had the necessary qualifications nihal sent in his application to the NYSC office which was housed in a small premises at Fonseka Road in year 1983.Initially the related authorities had selected seventy five which after initial tests was pruned down to ten when the real testing was made by about fifteen qualified musicians in the calibres of DR Pieris,CDe S Kulatilleke,Victor Perera and other legends in the field.There was no theory only practical, singing and knowledge in playing instruments were tested.Fiannly the ten after been tested for around one and half hours.Finally they had been give a set of lyrics to compose a melody and sing.Nihal had done exceptionally well having got a set of lyrics for a patriotic song to be adjudicated the winner.The then Chairman Charitha Ratwatte had come to him and conveyed “Nihal you are selected”.The following day as in that era a telegram had been sent to confirm his selection.
When the presenter asked how he confronted Late Prince Udaya Priyantha Nihal added that he had come to join as a violin player for a music group started by NYSC in 1989 in Elpitiya.Owing to the crisis in the country at that time they had to abandon the group thereafter he had been absorbed to Belwood music group.One of Prins Udaya Priyantha’s songs was recollected “Pemwathun Sinase” .This song was sung in the program excellently by his only daughter Nirma Sarang a qualified engineer havin inherited singing skills from her family father in particular. .Nihal Gamhewa had written lyrics for many popular songs and composed music in the decade of 1980 and 1990.He says the figure is around one thousand five hundred songs. In addition to Nihal’s immense talent in writing lyrics and composing melodies he is a very competent ‘Sitar” exponent. After his final interview before he gained admission to the Belwood music school the then Chairman Charitha Ratwatte had confessed that he had seen India’s Ravi Shanker playing the Sitar so well but in Sri Lanka he had not seen any one like Nihal who plays the Sitar so well. He had studied advanced level on commerce stream but was keen to learn the ‘sitar’ earlier on under Principal of youth centre Wijeratne Sir.
He is one humble person who never stood on a stage attempting to describe his massive deeds to anyone stayed humble and unassuming always.When the Yovun Gee Group is playing and his students sing he usually goes and walks around the audience area, to find the feeling and the appreciation of the viewers.He has found out that the audience needs fast numbers for their feet. Nihal is not afraid of modern technology. He is perhaps the first person to use a Octopod normally not used in music orchestras hitherto then.The orchestra of the “Yovun Gee group” comprised of the cream of players then who are even today well known. .They were Hector Dias, Jagath Wickramasinghe, Mahinda Bandara , Niresh Perera, V.Hemapala , Hemalal Girideva, who comprised the orchestra all very competent in respective fields.
The name list of the vocalists who were trained under Nihal is very long.To name a few Chandrasena Hettirachchi,Roy Pieris,
Nihal had confessed that keeping the young vocalists occupied he has had a strategy.AS he was all the time involved in composing new songs after the initial spade work of writing the lyrics and composing the music tracks, he used to entrust the young set in the orchestra to finalizing the song by applying the chords with fine tuning, while he trained the vocalist in singing .Then he was faced with a challenge as one cassette needed to be completed every six months which was a bit cumbersome but he somehow met the dates needed by the authorities at the NYSC.Nihal recollected the song he did at the request of late Prins Udaya Priyantha who needed a song made for his bereaved father.He had thought of his own father too had composed lyrics for the song titled “Sudu Mal Pokurak” which had benefited many to recollect to pay tribute to all fathers bereaved.
He recollected how he identified the innate talent of Wijeybandara Welituduwa when he went to adjudicate a music concert in a remote village in Laggala.He had groomed Welituduwa who has so many popular songs in cassettes too is now for a number of years the music teacher at Prince of Wales College Moratuwa.At this program when inquiries made about the lyrics of the song “ Nawala Annasi’ very popular song sung by Chadrasena Hettiarachchi.
The question of why the present generation is not working in the manner Nihal had performed. He had replied there is less interest -the present generation do not sacrifice by giving the best though they have not lost competency and knowledge.
Nihal is an auditioned graded singer at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation had sung about thirty solo songs.During his tenure at the Bellwood music institute and the NYSC his did not concentrating on his singing ability but did for many amateur singers.The songs he had composed music and written lyrics are heard over the SLBC,FM radio channels,television and cassettes in many rural dwellings scattered in the island.He had confessed hearing them is his huge satisfaction.Some of his solo songs recorded in Mp3 discs are Mangala salu,Obe Sumudu Athin, Oben Samugannam Pathum,Mahada
After his tenure at the NYSC Visharada Nihal Gamhewa the genius musician who has successfully made many vocalists famous during his tenure at the Belwood Music institute where his contributions to music in this country would never be paralleled in this century. He is conducting music classes at his residence to which his wife and only daughter help him .All fans would wish him good health and longevity.
Sunil Thenabadu in Brisbane