Cyril Tudor Fernando, better known to all as C.T. Fernando set foot on his celebrated musical career in the mid-1940s. His interest in the performing arts was evident from a very young age in how he took part in school dramas and in the choir at St. Mary’s College. As a child he won awards not only for singing and drama but also for elocution and oratory.
Fernando later went on to be the choir master of A.R.P Messenger service in Colombo. His musical career had just started taking form when he joined the Grand Cabaret to entertain the soldiers of World War II.
It was in 1946 that C.T Fernando became a regular radio artist at Radio Ceylon where he recorded his first song “Pinsiduwanne”; a heartwarming song about two birds building a nest and how they beg the children in the vicinity, not to tear it down.
His performances varied in how he gave different perspectives to each of his subjects. In one song, he would sing the perspective of a beggar boy and in another, he would sing about the world as seen from the eyes of a gram seller. This ability to give life to characters in his songs in such intimate detail in a way that his audience could relate to, gives his songs a time-tested warmth that is recalled even to this day.
In 1952, he signed with HMV label produced by Cargills (Ceylon) Ltd with which he recorded many of the songs that have truly touched the hearts of many generations.
Over the next few decades, his songs seeped into our lives from many a direction; “Ambilimame” which is an iconic song that is sung to young children and “Lo ada ninde” another song we are made familiar with in a grade five eastern music class.
Later he signed with the Lewis Brown Company where he recorded “The Golden Voice of C.T. Fernando” which was yet another collection of songs that are close to many Sri Lankan hearts. “Ma Bala Kaale”, a song fondly recalling a mother’s love and “Sanda Wata Rantharu” which speaks of a heart wrenching story of a son who does not realize the value of his mother were melodies that speak to us from within.
In 1967, he recorded “Paravuna Mal” which is another upbeat song frequently heard at jovial gatherings and parties. His partnership with Silverline produced an album titled “Sigiri Sukumaliye” which is indeed a jolly song that talks about a Sri Lankan lass comparing her to a maiden in the Sigiri frescos. “Mee Amba Vanaye” is another such song that praises a lady.
In 1970, Gerald Wickremesooriya of the Sooriya label organized the third popular Sooriya Show in association with C.T. Fernando. Thus naming the Show as “C.T. Sooriya Show”.
After his death in 1977 his wife granted permission to Gerald Wickremesooriya to re-produce ‘The Golden Voice of C.T.’ under the “Sooriya” label which resulted in the old hits becoming popular once again. The Tharanga record label later produced “Mal Loke Rani” which contained 10 songs.
Songs in his era boast of lifestyles and thought patterns of the generations that still sing along and tap their feet to the unique melodies. They’re catchy, fun to listen to and burst of life. C.T Fernando is truly a legend by definition as his voice and his music refuses to die even after the passing of over 6 decades. It is no secret that his legacy will live on, carried on by his loyal fans from generation to generation.
WRITTEN BY AMAYA SURIYAPPERUMA
EDITED BY NADEESHA PAULIS