it isn’t very hard to do”, go the lyrics of a famous song from ages past. I could go on, and sing the whole song for you, the Lord knows, I have sung it, many times, but folks, it was much easier to “pretend” in the good old days. Back in the ancient past, when I was a boy, in the “Ceylon” that I knew, there were certain days of the week set aside just for “pretending”. I am sure that I wasn’t the only one to do this, but, on these days, from morning to night, wherever I went, whatever I did, I used to pretend that I was “acting” the role.
Because I wanted to be an entertainer, from a very early age, including the time I was “on-stage”, around 1945/6, singing “kunuharapa-baila”, I had picked up at the age of around ten, I pretended/acted, that I knew what I was doing, when I really did not know what the hell I was singing about.
My audiences were NOT pretending. They were having a ball, laughing their heads off, that’s all that really mattered to me.
In this day & age, to make a long story short, I still am attracted to pretending, but this is certainly not “Pretence on my Part”anymore.One only has to just look around to see “Politicians” pretending to be for the “People”, when all they really want to do is to line their own “Pockets”, to see “Millionaires” pretend to maximize “Trusts”, in order to minimize TAXES (that they hardly have to pay, today, anyway), to see so-called “Musicians” pretend that it IS “Music”, not “Mayhem”(they’re now deaf in one ear & can’t hear with the other), to hear “Singers”, who pretend to sing by “Slurring” their lyrics, to pretend that China only wants to take-over the Southern “Hemisphere” and does not, now own “Hambanthota”, to do this & that & pretend it is really that & this, (& I could go on all day, but let me now simply say), please listen to this song which is the ultimate pretence of two great Artistes of Country music, Leona Williams & Merle Haggard.
feel sure that most Musicians around the World know about the above “hard-rock” band I am now immortalizing on eLanka. A few years ago, this band was appearing in Melbourne, while on tour around Australia, and my eldest son, Michael, who was a “fan”, wanted his mother & myself to also have the benefit of seeing this fabulous band in action, bought our tickets and decided to drive us to the venue himself, knowing that the both of us might opt out, simply to keep our “hearing” intact. I already knew that this group was one of the “loudest” on Planet Earth. It is not “decibels” we are talking about here, (being a word-smith of sorts), I would call them “maxibels”. AC/DC played their music in maxibels of maximum degrees, to make a long story short. Anyway Cynthia, God rest her soul, and “yours truly” bought ourselves two pairs of the best ear-plugs we could get, Michael, our erstwhile son picked us up, and drove us to this venue, to listen to AC/DC.
We arrived about half an hour before “the show”. Mike dropped us off and said that he would pick us up for our trip home, to Dandenong. The main door to the hall was locked, so we walked around the foyer, looking, for all the world, like two middle-aged “groupies” as they were called at the time.
AC/DC were rehearsing back-stage, behind locked doors, and, to explain quite simply, what two middle-aged groupies and about 500 15 & 16 year old, one-eyed fans were hearing even before we were ushered into the hall, were sounds, very much like rumbling thunder. Cynthia & myself quickly put our ear-plugs on and took our seats, amid strange looks and silly-smirks from the much younger lot, waited for the show to start. 8.30 pm was curtain-raising time. No more thunder could be heard, and apart from the chatter of the young fans & ushers (about a dozen of them), it was very quiet now.
have to admit, the concert promoters got their timing right. At 8.30 pm, sharp, the curtain around the huge stage opened up. Nobody was on-stage, but then, with the humongous CRASH of drums, cymbals, plus about 52 other percussion instruments, the FLOOR of the stage opened up and AC/DC appeared,with Angus, their lead guitarist, dressed in his favourite “School-boy” rig, ran directly to the very front of the stage, then running the entire length, forwards & backwards, playing his guitar to “back” their front-man,(vocalist), his instrument already sounding like a dozen cats screaming in anguish as they were being strangled.
The show had started, the young audience, on their feet, were already screaming too, adding to the deafening sound of the band. I actually felt sorry for the ushers trying to control them. Cynthia & I had our hands over our earplugs, but it didn’t matter. The SCREECH of Angus’s guitar seemed to make it’s way into our plugged ears, travelling from the stage, underground. I have to sum it up, by saying that, as a band, they were professional and did what they had to do.
However we couldn’t hear a word that their vocalist was singing, I didn’t know HOW that guitar was played without all six strings snapping, Cynthia was already making motions that we should make our exit, when we noticed, through the din, that there were, what looked like two CANNONS on either side of the stage. I agreed with her.
Me & myself were already used to hearing loud bands doing their stuff, in the various venues around Melbourne, but, Michael wanted his parents to “see & hear” the LOUDEST BAND IN THE WORLD, and we did, getting out, just before the band ended that particular show. We walked quickly, away from the hall, but still heard the ROAR of the two cannons, finishing off the show, quite some distance from the venue. How everyone there (without ear-plugs), escaped becoming as deaf as doorposts, I will never know.
Now that all is said & done, AC/DC is not my primary reason for writing this story. This is happening right now.
Our new P.M.(“Say no more, SCOMO, is my name, you know”, as he said himself, to some of HIS fans), has just authorised an AC/RC (Aged Care/Royal Commission), even before the subject is brought up on the ABC/TV Channel, this evening, the 17th of September 2018. Let it happen, I say. I will watch it (because I have nothing else to do, being AGED, myself) & bring a more detailed account to thousands of eLanka readers, in the process. Please bear with me for my next episode “From AC/DC – AC/RC”.
“Birds of a feather”, (flock together) – By Des Kelly
Still another beautiful English phrase. Yes, birds (of the feathered variety), do flock together, and where better in, than in “Ceylon, my Island of dreams”?, another original composition of this writer. This most interesting article on
“Endemic Bird-Life of Sri Lanka was forwarded to me, by a good friend, Maxwell Gerreyn, once again bringing back memories of our bird-watching days in Ceylon, as we knew it, in the magnificent “fifties”. Yes, Max & I did quite a lot of this pleasurable-pastime, watching “birds” of various-variety
and, not always, the feathered kind.
Still, let me hasten to add that this superb article was written by Vimukthi Fernando & also features renowned Naturalist Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, but readers, please excuse the left-hand marginal errors of this article, because, technically perfect as our “writings” should be, unforseen errors such as these do occur sometimes, annoying, although they are. To compensate for this annoyance, I will add, as I now do, with nearly every “story” I write, some beautiful music to enhance the “endemic bird-life of Sri Lanka”.
Rich. That’s what you can call this small island nation Sri Lanka. It hides jewels not only in its soil but in the air as well. Famous for its biodiversity, the country boasts having 464 bird species (varieties) recorded of which 34 are found only within its shores. According to wildlife experts this is a huge claim for a small country. Endemic birds enthralled wildlife enthusiasts when renowned naturalist Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne recently delivered the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society’s (WNPS) monthly lecture titled, Endemic Birds of Sri Lanka. Here are some excerpts from the lecture and presentation.
What makes Sri Lanka a ‘super rich wildlife destination’?
Sri Lanka’s richness of wildlife rests in physical, evolutionary and human factors. Being an island with land bridges to the mainland had brought in a variety of wildlife into the country. The mountainous core and two diagonally blowing monsoons had created a luscious wet zone making it the richest rainforest in the region. The mountains also work as rain shadow creating dry conditions in other areas. The mountain ranges had further cut off some areas of the country isolating them as niches of specific biodiversity conditions. This had created ideal conditions for speciation or for wildlife to get conditioned to the specifics of a geographic area and evolve to be different from other members of the same group.
Thirty four bird species had been identified as ‘endemic’ in Sri Lanka. The number of endemics could change from time to time. Modern technology, such as, molecular studies had helped the identification of endemic birds. Molecular studies had revealed that the Ceylon White-eye is of a different origin and not a sister species of the Oriental White-eye, as was believed. It had also helped in identifying the Red-Backed Woodpecker as a different species.
Where do you find endemic birds in Sri Lanka?
Endemic birds of Sri Lanka could be found at the most unexpected areas if one is alert. Some species such as, the Ceylon Small Barbet could even be found in the heart of Colombo. Ceylon Red-backed Woodpecker is spread through three fourths of the country while the Ceylon Swallow could be seen throughout.
However, endemics are mostly found in the wet zone rainforest and montane area. Sinharaja, Kithulgala, Bodhinagala and Horton Plains are the best sites to visit for sighting of endemic birds.
The Sinharaja Bird Wave is the easiest place where one could see many endemic birds. A bird wave is a flock of birds from different species who move together foraging. The Sinharaja Bird Wave is a natural marvel and is called the largest mixed species flocks in the world. Unlike in other countries where bird waves are gone within minutes, the Sinharaja Bird Wave happens at a very leisurely pace and could last a few hours. On average, a bird wave consists of about 41 individual birds from 12 species. However, the number of species could be as high as 21. The Sinharaja bird wave acts like a super organism with a fascinating social structure with some species playing key roles. Different species occupy different levels of the canopy. Some are fruit eaters, some catch the insects, while others are omnivores. There are
different bird waves that form in different parts of the forest. They have their routine and their order of crossing. The Ceylon Crested Drongo is the species who calls the gathering and one of the first to cross along with Ceylon Rufous Babblers. Next in the order to cross over are the Ashy Headed Laughing Thrushes. The Red-faced Malkohas are some of the last species to cross and could be seen in the canopy. White-faced Starlings, Layard’s Parakeet, Ceylon Hanging Parrot are some of the birds who join the wave from time to time though not permanent members of any flock.
While most endemics could be found within the wet zone the Montane forest and the dry zone are not without its share of the birds. The Yellow-fronted Barbet, Ceylon Wood Pigeon and the Ceylon Whistling Thursh (Arenga) could be seen at Horton Plains.
Ceylon Bush Warbler, Dusky Blue Flycatcher, Ceylon White Eye and Yellow Eared Bulbuls are some others found at higher elevations. The Ceylon Jungle fowl, Ceylon Green Pigeon, Ceylon Grey Hornbill and Ceylon Woodshrike are some of the endemic birds that frequent the dry zone.
Specialities of the endemic birds
Serendib Scops-Owl is a special bird, as it is a new species discovered in the early 2000s. They like secondary growth and could be found in places such as Morapitiya, close to human habitat. The Chestnut-backed Owlet is a day bird though many regard all owls as nocturnal.
Nine of the bird species show pronounced sexual dimorphism (difference of appearance between the two sexes) the Ceylon
Jungle fowl, Layard’s Parakeet and Ceylon Spurfowl being a few species where the male appear bright coloured and beautiful. The Ceylon Blue Magpie sports face decoration different to that of the female.
They have specialities in behaviour as well. The Blue Magpies are social breeders where the juvenile birds help taking care of the younger broods. The Yellow Billed Babblers are social nesters, everyone pitching in to share in the nesting process.
The ability to make and understand “puns” is considered to be the highest level of language development.
Many moons ago, I had some fun with another article on “puns” 1, so naturally, I would title this one “Puns are fun, two”.
A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead racoons. The stewardess looks at him and says “I am sorry,.Sir, only one carrion allowed, per passenger”.
Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says, “Dam”!.
Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were feeling chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.
Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, “I’ve lost my electron”. The other asks, “are you sure”?, The first replies, “yes, I’m positive”.
Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? , His goal:- transcend dental medication.
A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of his office and asked them politely to disperse. “But why?”, they asked, as they moved off. “Because”, he said, I just can’t stand these chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer”.
Mahata Gandhi, as you kniw, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of callauses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made hin rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.
Finally, there was this character who sent ten different puns to all his friends & family, with the hope that at least one of the puns done, would make them laugh. NO PUN INTENDED. !!.
Sent to me, this arvo (6th Sept, 2018), by my good friend Charles Schokman, this video clip of a great Country song, written by Taffy Nivert & Bill Danoff, with, not only an input of his great songwriting, but also his tremendous popularity as a “Country-Icon”, none other than John Denver, this, my friends, is simply another “love-story” told Country-style, by many “greats” gathered together, telling us of a different, but equally important story about the love of one’s Country.
As I have said, and written so often, no music can convey feelings of patriotism, love, happiness & heartbreak, in fact, every human emotion, like Country Music. This particular “clip” is different, in that it combines “Country Roads” with the spectacular later “Hit”, “I will always love you” sung by
Dolly Parton, to end this fabulous offering. Many of my readers “on-line” with eLanka will, of course, recognize some of the other “Stars” involved, including a young Keith Urban, & a much older Statesman of Country music, Willie Nelson, still very much alive & kicking (the butts of the I.R.S.), thankfully.
The only one missing was John Denver himself who died in an airplane disaster in October 1997, aged just 54. Because he was unable to be there to sing of his love for “Country Roads, I have decided that an you-tube clip of him (as a fitting tribute), be also displayed on eLanka for the undoubted pleasure it will bring.
“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast,
to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak”-Congreve.
“There is no music quite like Country-Music”- Des. Kelly.
Too often forgotten, sometimes, are a few talented individuals, especially from the “Ceylon” of old. The talents I speak of, are manifold. In my time, just to name a few of the various characters, there were several “teachers” such as a British Nun, Mother Brittall, in my very first School, the Convent of Our Lady of Victories, Moratuwa, who was both the librarian & entertainment producer, a highly intelligent woman who, not only taught me the value of books, in general, but also saw the raw talent hidden in the person of a very young male student in an all-girl school, spoke to the Mother Directress (Seetha), to help her get this young man on-stage for the first time at the ripe old age of five, to sing his first “solo” song. Mother Brittall was indeed, a very talented producer who certainly knew what she was doing.
Later on, at St.Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya, the “boss” of the Music, Art & Drama Society was a gentleman by the name of Noel Cruz, a very talented Catholic priest, who took me over, with the help of Papa DeNiese, our Art-Master, who would carry a short rattan-cane UNDER his right hand coat sleeve and whip it out, gunfighter-style, whenever he came to a choir-boy who was singing either sharp or flat and give the unmusical scholar a taste of “rattan”. I was lucky to not ever have the taste of it. Never a “great-singer”, but at least, I sang in-tune. Papa DeNiese was also a great “Artist” (painter) of his time, but it was his son, who outshone the “old man”, and his paintings adorn the walls of many Sri Lankan homes, to this day. We had a couple of other “musical priests” at St.Peter’s. The one I still remember well was fondly & respectfully nicknamed “Jive-boy”. Father Noel Cruz, did the correct thing, by the Church, later on, and gave up the robes of the Catholic Church & it’s rules of Celibacy to marry the woman he loved. If the former King Edward VII of England could give up his throne & Kingship to do it, Noel Cruz did it to respect the Religion he served, rather than shame the robes he wore, as Priest. I totally agree with him and also agree with our Pope of today, who, although he will NOT permit the laws of the Confessional to be broken, may well look into the Celibacy-Laws of the Catholic Church at the moment. My own belief is, that if a man OR woman do not believe that they can obey the celibacy law required by the Catholic Church, they should look for another occupation.
Coming back to my lesser-KNOWN talents, I cannot ever forget my “prayer- monitor” in the most notorious Junior D form at St.Peter’s, my late, great mate, Denis Roberts. We were also together in the Royal Ceylon Navy, later on. Talk about singing, suffice to say that if you closed your eyes, you would swear that it was “old blue-eyes” singing. Den. loved everything that Frank Sinatra did, & would emulate his idol so perfectly, he was given the title “carbon-copy” of Sinatra, at a talent quest held in England.
And so, I come to my reason for this “true story”. Again, at St.Peter’s College, I was fortunate enough to befriend a young, extremely talented Patrick Nelson. He was “magic” on the black & white keys, played the piano “by ear”. I am not sure as to whether he went into music-theory later on, but Patrick could “play” and back any vocalist perfectly.
It would be remiss of me, not to mention an older Gerry Crake, here. I was privileged to know Gerry personally, and it was Gerry who accompanied me on the recording of my “hit-song” Dream-World”. Gerry could play the piano with or without written arrangements & never missed either a beat or a note. He was a superb pianist, gone, now, but never forgotten.
Finally, a lady who unfortunately, I never met. She HAD to be another superb pianist, her name ? Arlene Peck. I have tried many times to contact her son, Jerry, but, so far, not successfully. Anyway, this doesn’t matter Arlene, to put it musically, let me repeat the title of my story & God bless you, AND every single TRUELY TALENTED Musician from Ceylon (Now, Sri Lanka). Yes, Arlene,
A fairly common marsupial of Australia, which has no less than 9 different species. Cute, clever, cuddley little creatures that cannot be kept as pets, still exist quite well in the wild, will not attack man or beast unless threatened themselves, but will encroach into human habitat sometimes in order to feed themselves and their families when the going gets tough in the forests that are being “eaten-into” by humans, hungry, not for food, but, for WOOD.…
She has everything that it takes to be the Super-Star that she truly is. Born in Cambridge England, on the 26th of September 1948, this typical “English-beauty-rose” migrated with her family to Australia in 1953. She was just five years old and immediately made Australia her home. Right from the very start, this young lady typified a natural beauty that, together with the musical talent she possessed from a very early age, made her stand out as a potential “show-biz Star” in the making.
Olivia Newton John, the Star, began to “shine” in old Melbourne Town, a beautiful City that unfortunately, was always classified as 2nd to Sydney, Australia, in the “show-biz-scene”, of that particular era, anyway. She attended
School in Melbourne, becoming very popular among her schoolmates.This was simply because she could already sing those popular old hits, heard, at the time, on Radio, and, already, was a most caring “friend” in typical Aussie style. To put it in a nutshell, Olivia Newton John was, even then, so many years ago, a “good to be around” gal.
Then, in the 60’s, Olivia did, as many other show business personalities still do, went abroad,(she actually returned to her birthplace, England), to further her career, met, and played “Sandy” to John Travolta’s “Danny”, in the award-winning film “Grease”, showing everyone that she could also dance & act, with the best of them. Olivia was now a Singer/Songwriter, having written songs like “Don’t stop believin”, & “Landslide” among others, & also co-writing many songs with Cliff Richard & Barry Gibb, both, presently “Knights of the Crown”& referred to as “Sir Richard and Sir Barry. This being the case, I would have thought that this Aussie lass should have held the title of “Lady Olivia” cos she fitted the bill, perfectly. In addition, in America, Olivia became an Actress, playing her roles as one, admirably. John Travolta, for one, would tell you that the big screen literally “lit-up”whenever Olivia appeared on it. She sang, she danced and she “acted” so naturally, it was a pleasure to millions of movie-goers around the World.
As life moves on, like everyone else, whether in show-biz or not, Olivia had her “ups & downs” both in her personal life and her professional one. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, had what was termed a “partial- mastectomy”, recovered, “parted ways” with husband Matt Lattanzi, “lost” another partner, in Patrick McDermott, when he failed to return from a “fishing-trip” in California, was told by her medical Specialist that her cancer had returned, etc., these “downs” that would certainly have “downed” a much stronger person, but NOT Olivia Newton John. She picked herself up, now had a beautiful daughter, Chloe Rose, started her own businesses, “Koala-Blue” & “Wellness Products”(for women), still took part in many various enterprises to prove to the World that cancer CAN be beaten, carried on with her life of making music, and MOST importantly, as far as this writer is concerned, was featured over twenty times on the “Country Music Charts” in America, her very first hit on these Charts “Let me be there”, scoring her a grammy-award as the best Country “hit” in the mid 70’s. She was also featured on the “Pop-Charts” once!, in comparison to twenty two more times, on the Country-Charts, proof that she was indeed an Aussie Country Singer that we should all be very proud of.
Finally, Olivia Newton John met this guy by the name of John Easterling. It was a very long “engagement”, as they met 15 years prior to becoming romantically involved in 2007. She was featured on a superb documentary on Channel 7’s Sunday-Night, still as beautiful as ever, but looking frail, still fighting this dreaded disease, something that comes and goes like a thief in the night.
One thing is certain. Olivia Newton John will NEVER give up the fight. She, and her caring husband now live on their beautiful ranch in California and, on behalf of every Lankan/Aussie, plus every Australian, in fact, I would like to wish Olivia all the very best with what I would term a “permanant-remission” of this cancer that has been plaguing her for many years now. Typical of this brave-“sweetheart of show-biz” is a statement she recently made on another t.v.show “today”. “I think you can live with cancer like you live with other things—if you look after yourself”. Spoken like a true fighter. Look after her, John, and God bless both of you.
Sons & daughters of the “Stars”. Fascinating subject about the “apples that fall closest to the tree”. Recently, in a series of articles I have written about this very subject, I chose to feature not one, but THREE sons of the late, great Merle Haggard, Marty, Noel, & young Ben, who, not only resemble “The Hag” as he was called, but also sing & play guitar (as Ben does), with a talent born & bred, naturally, in them. Strangely, as the story goes, Merle did not have too much time to spend with these talented boys, as they grew up. He was too busy “on the road” & when, not touring, he was too busy “getting married” & “producing” his “Haggard Hierarchy”.
Merle Haggard married FIVE times. His first marriage was to Leona Hobbs, had 4 children, Dana, Marty, Kelli & Noel, then divorced Leona in 1965, and later, the same year, married Bonnie Owens, past wife of Buck Owens (another great Country Singer), for 13 years, claiming that it was indeed Bonnie who helped him in his meteoric rise to fame. She also looked after his four “other children” and, when he finally divorced Bonnie in 1978 to marry another Leona(this time, Leona Williams), which lasted a further stormy 5 years, believe it or not, was the Maid of Honour when he married Debbie Parret in 1985, only to divorce her in 1991, marry Thersa Ann Lane in 1993, to produce his final two children, Janessa & Ben. From all this, it seems to me that Merle Haggard was restless soul, striving for greatness that, according to America, he ALREADY HAD.!!
This has been a look at the personal story of one of the greatest Stars of Country Music in America. A star that still shines in the talent of his 3 sons, Marty, Noel & Ben. I do try to feature the very best in music of ALL tastes, for readers of eLanka, and will continue to do so, God willing. Please enjoy more songs (ex you-tube), & treat this as a “series” in the same vein, especially for you. Please enjoy my “Stories-in-Song”, folks. Music like this will certainly take your mind off this Mad World we live in, at the moment.
Because of the fact that I love music in general, all types of music, but certainly music that “tells a story”, while browsing through the many CD’s I have recorded, I suddenly came across one with the “title” of the above article, containing songs that do exactly what I am talking about. They tell stories. Reminiscing on just one such personal experience, I decided to share this with all my readers of eLanka, numbering over 20.000, to date.
This happened in Melbourne, Australia in the mid 70’s. I was well into my 2’nd part-time job, as an “entertainer” & “floorshow artiste”, Venue being “The Rising-Sun” Pub., in Richmond. It was a Saturday evening, my 2nd appearance in as many weeks, at the pub, a large popular one, with a “dining room” adjacent to the massive “men-only” bar, as was the custom at the time. Ladies, with or without partners were always welcome to the dining room only.…