A Conversation on Conservation – BY Kalani Kumarasinghe

Source: Daily Mirror

Alston Koch

Kalani_KumarasingheEfforts aimed to reverse environmental damage and help people reconnect with nature, are all part of a growing global consciousness of caring for the world we live in. Although a relatively new phenomenon for many, Sri Lankan born singer-songwriter Alston Koch distinguished the potential impact of climate change, almost three decades ago.   

Mr. Koch, the global artiste, who played the lead in the Chandran Rutnam directed biopic ‘According to Matthew’ was recently in Sri Lanka to partner with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The 18th meeting of the Conference of Parties is scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka in May, along with the meetings of the CITES Standing Committee.   

CITES is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals. It was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Brand Ambassador for the event, Mr. Koch, in an interview with Daily Mirror, shared his enthusiasm in partnering up with the global platform.   

  • CITES is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals
  • My motto has always been ‘prevention is better than cure’
  • I think we all have to take a lesson here and do what we can in our own little way

“I think it’s a very valuable and necessary thing because the whole world is threatened with our collective inaction. And it’s not just limited to the trafficking and sale of protected species,” the veteran entertainer said. “I’m thrilled that some people and organizations are taking a stand against global practices which cause harm to our environment, including one of the world’s greatest actors, Leonardo DiCaprio,” he said.   

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ALSTON KOCH in one of his rare performances in Sri Lanka at a fireside chat at The HILTON HOTEL – ICC performance

ALSTON KOCH in one of his rare performances in Sri Lanka at a fireside chat at The HILTON HOTEL organized by the advisor to both The President & Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Dinesh Weerakkody & this time for a very exclusive gathering of dignitaries from all over the world and an audience of over 1200 enthralled VIP’s including The Prime Minister, Her Worship The Mayor of Colombo Rosy Senanayake, Cabinet Ministers of the Govt. Of Sri Lanka, The special envoys of countries overseas and The Diplomatic Corps, Heads of the various religious institutions,and the cream of prominent high profile business men like Harry Jayawardene,Dhammika Perera, etc. Courtesy and thanks to the late Peter Allen and Australia.

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ALSTON KOCH & JACQUI FERNANDEZ’s  performance draw thousands to the cinema!


The film critics and the public acclaim the long awaited ‘ACCORDING TO MATTHEW’ that opened in Sri Lanka this week as a ‘Star Studded’ romantic thriller and an ‘Eye opening cinematic experience’ directed by Chandran Rutnam.

Recently completed in Hollywood with a new edit and the latest in post production & recently accepted by theACADEMY AWARDS 2018 has placed this engrossing film in a very enviable position.

Jacqui Fernandez in a sensual performance and a brilliant acting debut by the Richard Burton of the Asian Cinema Alston Koch has attracted the cream of the Colombo social elite to cinemas across this island paradise.   

Reviews across the board call it a ‘revolutionary cinematic experience ‘ for the Sri Lankan 

cinema while others call it a transcendent theatrical experience.

A majestic performance by Alston Koch who in the past 2 weeks carried away the ‘SRILANKAN OF THE YEAR’award in Sri Lanka and the ‘EXCEPTIONAL ACHIEVEMENT award in the USA stunned cinema goers with his amazing portrayal of Fr.Matthew Peiris that is better or on par with the best out of Hollywood.

The film will open on the 14th December in the USA.



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Alston Koch – Always in the limelight – In Colombo!

Singer Alston Koch, who is known for his mega hit, “Disco Lady,’ is very much in the news these days – not as a performer, though, but as a speaker, at various events, connected with the environment.

Early this month, he was the keynote speaker at ITB (Ecuador), Central America, on the effects of pollution of the environment in the world.

Alston also came out with a song, titled ‘Symphony for Change.’

Performed by Alston himself, it was written by the singer and A-Z Sheriff and produced by the same team, with Frederick James as director of the video.

The concept and the song were developed in collaboration with Symphony Environmental Ltd., to raise awareness of the problems caused by plastic pollution in the environment.

Perhaps a memorable moment in Alston’s illustrious career is when he met the legendary cricketer, Imran Khan, who is now the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

According to Alston, the meet up took place when they were both special keynote speakers at an event, in 2009.

Alston is in Colombo at the moment.

Source: Island

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While we can “boast” many “Legends of Lanka” both past and present, Legends in almost every field of Endeavour, there would also have to be the journalistic “Legends” to write about all the  singular achievements of these people, and today, I would like to introduce a Lankan Journalist who has really “been there & done that”. To “face-book” fans, he needs no introduction at all. He makes his “comments” regularly on F.B., pulls no punches, with articulate abandon, and, best of all, (for me), is a personal friend. 

     I speak to Joe Vanlangenberg often and never fail to be amazed by the fact that there is hardly a single Vocalist, Male or Female, Group, Band, or Music Conglomeration that Joe isn’t familiar with. This particular article goes back to the days of Donavan Andree, Entrepreneur Extraordinaire, in old Ceylon, as we knew it. I have just received this very interesting e’mail from another friend in Melbourne, named Prasanna Mendis, and feel proud and privileged to present it to all Lankans & especially to more than 20.000 members of eLanka, the reason being, “Memories are made of this”

Here it is, folks. “Lifeblood Of Sri Lanka’s Music Industry,  

                              Remembering Performers, Past & Present”






Desmond Kelly –
The ‘Star of eLanka’




Walking down the musical corridors, while turning back the pages of time, it’s amazing to listen to melodious sounds of bygone eras, resonating through the nooks and crannies of its sacred precincts.

From the outset, it needs to be pointed out, that names of musicians stipulated below, have been listed in no particular order of importance. Any other names omitted, have been unintentional and is in no way meant to either upstage, or marginalize any performer. Every artiste, regardless of his or her experience, is the lifeblood of the industry.

Over the passing decades, there have been quite a few, who have gone that extra mile, to nurture and promote our music industry. Rest assured, their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.

Nevertheless, there was one gentleman who outshone everyone else; one whose name has been written in letters of gold. Fondly and gratefully remembered even today, was showman beyond compare, Donovan Andree.

The spectacular “Three clubs” owned by Mr. Andree, was located in the heart of Bambalapitiya. Initially a gaming centre, it was later turned into a virtual mecca for gifted musicians, endeavouring to make it to the big time.

Donovan, been one to spot talent, wasted no time snapping up artistes such as Clifford “Cliff” Foenander, Bill Forbes, Desmond “Des” Kelly and Dallas Achilles, to name just four. They were young, fresh-faced and ready to go; just what the Great Man required. And the rest as they say is history.

Cliff Foenander became the frontman for the “Echoes”, an Indonesian-based group, which dominated international charts, in the teeth of stiff competition from brothers Rudy & Rein, of “Blue Diamonds” fame.

This was during the young and carefree days of the heady sixties, when Sri Lanka’s music industry was in its somewhat infant stages.

Former petrol pump attendant Bill Forbes rose to stardom with “Acha England” a deliriously pulsating hit about English beer and Yorkshire pudding. In a relatively spot-on South Asian accent, it is a number which still titillates the musical taste buds of many, even in this day and age.

“Believe in me” and “God’s little acre”, were two more of Bill’s, receiving ticks of approval.

Desmond “Des” Kelly of “Dreamworld” fame, was yet another who owed his success to Mr. Andree. The navy lad, who through sheer guts and determination, rose to the pinnacle of success, continues to shine, offering advice to many, holding him in the highest esteem.

In addition to being a versatile singer who has collaborated with the cream of the crop, Des is a competent instrumentalist.


Dallas Achilles, affectionately dubbed “Houndog”, by virtue of his perfect rendition of Elvis’ mega hit, was another to have made the grade. Donovan was the complete package. He moulded Erin de Selfa, who consequently gained prominence with her sultry vocals. Erin later became Donovan’s life’s partner.

The Great Master’s achievements were colossal and diverse. “Holiday on Ice” featuring skating greats and musical giants of the day, was his brainchild.

Then, there were the “Orchid Girls” an ensemble of tantalizingly-clad dancers, who thrilled patrons beyond their wildest expectations.

He also made Tony Brent (who in song extolled the virtues of “Cindy” the girl of his dreams) the headline act, in one of his many musical extravaganzas.

Kelaart sisters Erin and Erma were two artistes who held audiences spellbound, with their renditions of Connie Francis’ “You got me under your spell again” and “Stupid Cupid”

Enter “pocket rocket “Lawrence Theuring, who never failed to mesmerize fans, with sizzling performances and well-controlled pelvic gyrations.

Making their foray into the music arena, at almost the same time, were Sohan & The Experiments, Manilal & Upekha, Gabo & the Breakaways.

Sohan, who was regarded as the “Godfather” of local musos, later in his career, formed the Sri Lanka Association of Musicians (SLAM), aimed at helping fellow artistes going through rough trots.

Regrettably, despite an impressive head start, it fizzled out, due to unforeseen circumstances.

Gabo remains no longer a part of the industry. He runs a reputed travel firm, but will always be remembered, for touching peoples’ lives with his inspirational music.

Steve de Silva, son of Desmond, was another young artiste with the world at his feet. Kick-starting his career with “Burn”, he later formed his own clan “Go Public”. Unfortunately, this once-bubbly guy lost his battle with cancer.

Who can possibly forget Harold Seneviratne and Mario Manricks, two elder musical statesmen, who dished out a brand of champagne music, as only they could?

Nimal Mendis was an illustrious student of music, who later turned to composing. “Kandyan Express” was just one of his many success stories.

Nonetheless, he owes his brilliance in greater part, to drummer Adrian Ferdinands.

Sister Noeline, who wed Kenneth Honter, was a multi-talented nightingale, who besides her vocal skills, went on to become an accomplished journalist, newsreader and musical mentor.

“Priya Entertainments”, a weekly musical feature held at the “Atlanta Club” in Kollupitiya (Colombo3), highlighted some of the country’s future potential trailblazers. The star-studded show organized by business magnate Mubarak Thaha, continued to hold sway for many years.

Amongst a host of many others, were calypso legend King Kali, Maxwell Mendis, Arthur Speldewinde, Denis Roberts, Jimmy Weerasinghe, Latiff “Papa” Miskin and his son Ahmed, who was undoubtedly Sri Lanka’s answer to Jim Reeves.

Tragically, his life was snuffed out at the young age of 35.

Lest I forget, amongst other gifted singers were baritone Lylie Godridge, opera artistes “Italiares” comprising Bede de Zilwa, Reggie Perumal, Basil Joseph and Raja Christopher, who now resides in Oakville, Ontario Canada.

Two more tenors who deserve special mention, were siblings Nihal and Trevine Fonseka.

The Jetliners, whose founding members were Lucien Perera (lead guitar), Felix Fernando (bass), Anton Gunawijeya (rhythm), Harris Jurangpathy (drums), with Mignonne Fernando (vocals), was a much sought-after band, very much a pivotal segment ofthe trendy sixties.

Many others like Budrin Musafer, Sohan Pieries and Conrad de Silva, to name a few, shared the vocal spotlight, in addition to Mignonne, who later turned to full-time composing.

Her song “Mangala Motha” won her international acclaim, resulting in her clinching a prestigious award at the Japan Song Festival.

Then, came in golden boy Ishan Bahar, a flamboyantly-charismatic entertainer, who was able to feel the pulse of the most demanding audience, at any given time.

Ishan was, without a doubt, one of the most versatile and exciting singers of his generation. He has now passed on the baton to his son Ricardo.

Other big names like Raj Senewiratne & The Savages with Dalreen who proceeded to war-ravaged Vietnam to entertain the troops, Alston Koch, Joey Lewis, Hussain Jiffry and Brian Feltman also come to mind.

The eighties gave birth to a new group of musos; amongst them Apple Green, Aloha, Cardinals Ourburst, Maxi Rozairo, baila exponent Desmond de Silva and the P&R Connection Raja & Priyanthi Jalaldeen, Venom with flautist Keerthi Fernando and Mayo brothers, Stuart and Gordon.

Few can forget Keerthi’s “Excursion 1V”, a rock concert amongst many others, highlighting hits from the repertoire of Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Iron Maiden and Deep Purple.

During their heyday, the “L Brothers” Lucien and Lennie, were very much in demand, following in the musical footsteps of their idols, Phil and Don Everley.

It will be unfair should no mention be made of Clarence Wijewardena, Mariazelle Goonetileka, Dharmaratne brothers, Victor Ratnayake, H.R. Jothjipala, Latha Walpola and Nanda Malini.

The early nineties paved way for many bands to stamp their personal identity.

One of the first to make the most of this opportunity was Peter Almeida’s 20th Century, closely followed by Sunil Perera’s Gypsies, rock revivalist couple Prasanna and Thusila, balladeer Lorenz Oorloff, guitarists Derrick Wickremaratne and Ghazali Ahmet, not forgetting Duncan Clyde.

M.S. Fernando, otherwise called “Master Sir”, was another of repute. So was A.E. Manoharan, W.D. Amaradeva and Victor Ratnayake, just to name a few who were maestros in their own right.

He was respected by a litany of performers, many of whom cut their musical teeth, under his tutelage.

“I’m catching fish”, was an English hit, which was a cross between reggae and baila.

We were also fortunate to have had four decades of Clair Croner, an accordionist of impeccable quality.

Sohan, Manilal, Desmond, Corinne, Ronnie and Misty, perform regular gigs Down Under and show no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Our Motherland needs entertainers of this calibre, ones who keep the national flag flying high, while ensuring the wannabees are well groomed for the future. The show has to go on.

To all of them we say, Thank You for the music and the golden memories. You have done yourselves proud.

To the friends we lost along the way, may you rest in peace. It was great as it lasted.

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Sandra Jackson plucked away in her prime –

Trevine_RodrigoPlucked away in the prime of her life through a cruel twist of fate, the power packed voice of Sandra Jackson will resonate no more.
Lead singer of Melbourne’s top band Replay 6 and leader of the band for many decades, Sandra Jackson left this world suddenly after a short battle with lung issues later compounded by the discovery of blockages to her arteries which left the medical staff at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne with no recourse to save her life.

Her sudden passing has sent shockwaves through the music industry in Australia, Sri Lanka and throughout the world of musicians who knew of her fantastic talent and endeared her for it and her ever availability to nurture and promote aspiring artistes.

The overwhelming response of shock and grief expressed at her passing on social media is enough testament to the massive following, love and respect she has generated over the years among music lovers in Australia and many other parts of the world.

The warmth and caring nature she personified is universally acknowledged by the thousands of friends and fans that had the pleasure of getting to know her.

Sandra and husband Esric have been in the forefront of the Melbourne music scene for many decades since migrating to Australia from Sri Lanka where their careers in music began.

Since beginning her career as a singer with a band named the Pioneers in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sandra’s exceptional talent and explosive vocals soon had music fans clamoring to watch her perform everywhere the band played in Sri Lanka until she took wing to Australia in 1975. She wed Esric Jackson in 1976 and their partnership in love and their mutual passion for music soon saw them establish themselves in several bands for the past four decades and more gathering thousands of fans along the way.

Mixing their love for music with family life and raising two beautiful daughters was a challenging period for the singing Jackson’s but they carefully negotiated the challenge with great aplomb.

Sandra and Esric have matched it with the best in the music industry during their long stint rubbing shoulders with such wonderful world artistes as Smokey, Dr. Hook, The Village People, Marsha Hines, Ricky May, Jade Hurley and Allison Durban to name a few, most recently sharing the stage with legendary Frank Ifield at Alston Koch’s launch of the movie “According to Matthew”.

Although a star in her own right, Sandra has always acknowledged that she was blessed to share the stage with some of Sri Lanka’s legends of music such as Desmond Kelly, Desmond De Silva, Conrad De Silva, Cliff Foenander, Kamahl, Malcolm De Kauwe, Dalreen Suby, Mignonne Fernando, Noeline Honter, Alston Koch, Arthur Speldewinde and Arden Forster to name a few. Such was her humble disposition.

Esric and Sandra and the band Replay 6 have been featured at some of the best venues in Melbourne, Sydney and even travelled to Sri Lanka for a New Year’s gig in 2012 where they performed at the Galadari Hotel in Colombo alongside Mirage. Their popularity and versatility has seen them perform at most school dances from Sri Lanka and a wide spectrum of other events throughout the years.

What set Sandra Jackson as a standout from the rest was her uncanny ability to perform many genres of music from Rock, to Pop, Raggae, Country and she even gave the Bailas a go. She was indeed the consummate and complete entertainer. Replay 6 will never be the same without both of their well-known frontline singers who have complemented each other over such a long period of time.

Dubbed Sri Lanka’s answer to legendary Tina Turner whose hits she reeled off to near perfection, her rendition of “Simply the best” was so authentic that she was often compared to the great American wonder.

Among the plethora of achievements as a singer/ entertainer was the numerous CD’s she and Esric have recorded and sold with the proceeds mostly going to a worthy charity. They will surely be treasured memories of a fantastic performer taken too soon.

She leaves behind Esric and two devastated daughters Candice, hubby Toufic and Tatum and her husband Richard, and four grandkids she doted on, Mischa, Cruz, Makai and Brooklyn who are in shock at her sudden demise. Incidentally, both Candice and Tatum take after their parents possessing superbly talented voices.

May the stage that she commanded with pride and strode on so majestically lay lightly on her.

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