POPULAR ENTERTAINER DESMOND DE SILVA NO MORE! (13 JULY 1944 – 09 JAN. 2022) –
Iconic entertainer bids farewell – by Upali Obeyesekere
It is with profound sadness we learn that popular entertainer Desmond de Silva succumbed to a heart attack whilst in Melbourne today. A living legend he was born in Matara but bred in Colombo. His versatility was limitless – singing in both English and Sinhala with relative ease and sometimes even in Tamil.
Des was 77 at the time of his sudden demise. He was one of the greatest Sri Lankan entertainers of our time with a super stage presence. A resident of Sydney, Australia, Des was in Melbourne to perform at the New Year’s Eve dance on December 31st.
Desmond Anaclitus Rajiva de Silva launched his music career in 1963 or 1964, as lead vocalist of FIREFLIES band led by Milroy de Silva with Darrell de Silva, Anton de Mel, Anton de Zilwa, Basil Paiva, and others. His music was widely featured on Radio Ceylon and later on the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, the oldest radio station in South Asia. Desmond has also performed with leading Sri Lankan pop groups – “Spitfires,” “Gabo and the Breakaways,” and the “Jetliners.” He sang a song titled ‘Oba Nisa’ with Mignonne Fernando and the Jetliners – it was hailed as a musical masterpiece at an international song festival. In 1976 he formed his own band, “Desmond and the Clan”, which performed in various countries in Southeast Asia.
Desmond has lived semi-permanently in Los Angeles, London, and more recently in Sydney. With the turn of the century, Des became a solo vocalist/entertainer playing with various popular bands. He once told me in Toronto that he would go round the world singing if he was backed by ‘The Gypsies’ band as they jelled beautifully.
Desmond’s on-stage persona and performing style together with his easygoing nature inspired many generations of local musicians through whom his musical legacy will live on for decades to come.
Des, you lived a charmed life! You will now be reunited with your beloved son Steve and other family members, including your brother Milroy, who passed away recently in Vancouver, B.C. You will also be joining your good friends Sunil Perera, A.E. Manoharan and Clarence Wijewardena, in heaven!
Desmond’s first gig in Toronto was presented by veteran music promoter Ranjit Wickramasingha of Voice of Lanka. This was in early 90s. It was Tissa Gunasekara who backed him for this performance. He has been to Toronto many times after that.
Just over a decade back, my dear friend and business partner the late Nirantha de Silva and I presented a super gig with Desmond as feature artist accompanied by The Gypsies with Sunil & Piyal Perera, Dushan Jayatileka (Keyboards), Derrick Hepponstall (Base guitar), Niresh Perera (Drums), and Radika Rajavelu (Vocalist). To add to this star studded cast, we got down Ronnie Leitch for the benefit of our audience. The dinner dance was on Saturday and Musical Extravaganza on Sunday in a sold out back-to-back weekend presentation of top stars together on one stage – never seen before in Canada by the local Sri Lankan community. All 1235 seats at the prestigious Ryerson Theatre were sold out two weeks before the musical show on Sunday. I picked up and dropped Desmond and his wife (living in London, England at the time) from the Toronto Airport and put them up at a hotel with The Gypsies. Got to know Des up close and personal, a friendship that has lasted the time until his untimely demise.
2 Sons and a Daughter
Desmond married his first wife Deanna de Zilwa in Sri Lanka and the couple had 2 sons – the late Steve de Silva, Sean and a daughter Jacqueline.
Desmond – A Class Act
Farewell Desmond, you leave a lasting legacy to the music world. We, your fans will continue to listen, enjoy and dance to your catchy hits and all too familiar voice. May the angels welcome you to God’s beautiful land! Rest in peace my dear friend!