Desmond and the Clan …. A true reflection of Sri Lanka’s rich heritage of musical talent
Vintage performance at the Grand on Princes
By TREVINE RODRIGO IN MELBOURNE
It’s little wonder when you hear bands of the caliber of Desmond and the Clan who dominated the music scene in Sri Lanka many decades ago, that the newer bands of today have had to strive to be as good or even better to gain acceptance and recognition from music lovers these days.
In a master stroke that was hatched as an idea by Sri Lanka’s versatile icon of many decades, Desmond De Silva in consultation with wife and event coordinator Phyllis managed to rope in his former band mates for a tour to Australia and they gave music lovers in Sydney and Melbourne a fantastic show that will be long remembered by those fortunate to be there. To paraphrase an old adage, “They came, they saw and they conquered” Australia with their exceptional musical prowess.
Missing from the original set up was master drummer, the late Harris Jurangpathy, whose place was filled with aplomb by Nimal Punchihewa from Desmoind’s Australian band the ‘Impressions’.
They played to sell-out crowds in Sydney and then announced themselves in no uncertain manner at the new place to be in Melbourne, The Library in Clayton, before delivering their versatile best to an appreciative albeit moderate crowd (Four functions in Melbourne that night), before parting ways and heading back to different parts of the globe where they now reside.
Desmond and the Clan ruled the waves in Sri Lanka during their heyday in an era when music was churned out on instruments with less sophistication and only the extremely gifted could survive the lofty critics of the time whose judgement could be drilling and hard to appease at most times.
They came together in Sydney, spent minimal time resynching their past, and then put on a masterpiece for a performance which brought out an ingenious array of life- like performances of some of the best musicians in the world from different eras.
The Melbourne performance at the beautiful Grand on Princes showcased the versality of this wonderful band.
For men of their vintage, they have matured like a good wine and proved that age has certainly not wearied them.
Chuti Padmaperuma who began his musical career as a piano accordionist and played keyboards with some of the best musical setups at the time such as Gabo and the Breakaways, Flame and the Oceanites. He has entertained audiences in Europe mainly, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Greenlands, Italy, Germany and Austria before returning to Sri Lanka where he now resides after a stint in the Maldives. He has now expanded his talents to playing, Keyboards, guitar, Sax, Trumpet and Panpipes.
Kitsiri Abeywickrema was an absolute delight to watch backing his exceptional guitar work with acts such as Michael Jackson and Tina Turner which had the crowd enthralled. He has had a wide connection with some of the leading musicians such as Joey Lewis before settling in with Desmond and the Clan which toured and made a big impression in Europe mainly, Norway, Sweden and Germany.
It seemed through the night that the versatility of the band knew no bounds as Tony Fernando bass and Elvis and Elton John impersonations, Susantha Perera Sax, Keyboards and vocals and then the maestro himself, Desmond De Silva stepped up by blowing everyone away with his rendition of the Bee Gees, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin which was as authentic as you would ever wish to see.
Among the crowd in Melbourne was former Red Dragons lead guitarist Chris VanCyulenberg in raptures labelling the band’s performance as ‘World Class’ and no one on the dance floor appeared to be in argument with him.
Desmond and the Clan certainly did not disappoint the high expectation of them and no sooner had they wound up their commitments, plans were soon afoot to have them back in Australia in the not too distant future.
Their next gig cannot come soon enough.