Born in the rural hill station of Haputale in Central Sri Lanka, Clarence moved to Batugedara, Ratnapura with his parents in 1966.
Under the aegis of Sri Sangabo Corea he was offered the first opportunity to record music, however with the challenge of finding a suitable vocalist. Clarence contacted his friend Premasinghe Maramba for help and eventually was introduced to Annesley Malawana. This marked the beginning of musical careers of both Annesley and Clarence and also the formation of the new band named ‘The Moonstones’.
After several practice recordings at Sangabo’s house, Sangabo arranged a meeting with popular radio host Vijaya Corea of Radio Ceylon, who went on to record a few songs at the Radio Ceylon’s studios. Radio Ceylon broadcasted the songs on a program named “Saturday Stars” which made them stars overnight.
“Dileepa Podi Puthu” the first song composed by Clarence and the first song performed by The Moonstones which was written by Karunaratne Abeysekara for his son.
Clarence’s first album release was on the Philips label catalogue number JPVC 007 including the smash hit “Mango Nanda”.
Clarence was the first to introduce electronic instruments to Sinhala pop, inspired by a performance backed by ‘The Beacons’ at a friend’s wedding.
This opened the door for a brand new genre that was unheard back then.
Clarence’s compositions were always with simple yet meaningful lyrics which often related to true incidents which touched the hearts of listeners.
In 1970 Clarence decided to leave The Moonstones and went on to form a new band which Gerald baptized as ‘The Golden Chimes’. As fans by now knew of Clarence’s amazing song writing ability and lilting melody compositions, literally every one of his creations proved to be a smash hit. The first release of The Golden Chimes was on the Sooriya label bearing catalogue number CHB 014.
In 1972 Clarence left The Golden Chimes along with Dixon Gunaratne and rejoined with Annesley. They went on to start a new band in 1973, which Gerald named ‘The Super Golden Chimes’.
The song “Kataragama” which was composed by Clarence for The Super Golden Chimes was awarded as the “Best song in Sri Lanka” in the year 1974.
Clarence was awarded the ‘most popular lyricist’ in Sri Lanka for the years 1974 and 1976 by a pop poll conducted by ‘Pop and Teen Fanfare Magazine”.
Not only as a composer of popular music but also as a music director of motion picture films, Clarence was always known to pin rock solid hits. His first film score was for the Sinhala film ‘Sikuruliya’ in 1975. The song “Wasanthaye Mal Kakulai” composed for this film was the first song in Sri Lanka which consist of a chorus with five lines. The film also features Clarence performing with The Golden Chimes at a party.
‘Mangala’, ‘Apeksha’, ‘Chathumadura’, ‘Chandi Shyama’ are some of the other films for which music direction was done by Clarence. He also sang songs for few films: “Nelum Pokuru Wage” for the film ‘Colamba Sanniya’, “Loke Jeewath Wannata” a duet with the famous playback songstress Latha Walpola for the film ‘Janaka Saha Manju’ etc.
In 1975 Clarence was credited for composing and directing a song named “Maha Balawathune” for the conference of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Sri Lanka.
Clarence directed the music of the first cassette released in Sri Lanka in 1978 titled ‘Anytime-anywhere’.
In 1979 with Annesley’s move from the group, Clarence left The Super Golden Chimes and ventured into a solo career. This marked the creations of songs such as “Malata Bambareku Se”, “Sende Walavan”, “Dineka Me Nadee”, “Aruna Kirana”, “Kumariyak”, “Sanda Pane”, “Hada Vile”, “Hanthane”, “Ran Dunuke Mala Se” and so many more, which like all of Clarence’s creations and compositions are still immensely popular today.
Clarence produced an album titled ‘Test Cricket Souvenir’, when the Sri Lankan Cricket team got the opportunity to enter the world of test cricket in 1982.
He composed and directed music for the SAARC Conference as well. At the same time he sang the song “Duwani Sirima” when former Prime Minister Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike arrived as the chief guest for the opening ceremony of Ceramic Corporation.
He composed the song “Daesawan Dase” about child abuse and other prohibited happenings in present society, “Kandu Sikarin Wata Senkadagala Pura” about the royal tusker of the Temple of Tooth Relic performed by the group ‘Siha Shakthi’, “Sigiri Ru Ladun Paradai” dedicated for the beauty queen contest.
In 1985 Clarence formed the band “Madara” with Rookantha Goonatillake (Keyboards), Mariazelle Goonetilleke (Keyboards/Female Vocals), Raju Bandara (Lead Guitar), Kenneth De Silva (Bass Guitar), Prabhath Bandara (Lead Guitar) and Ajantha Dhampa Gamage (Drums). During the 1980’s he composed and directed music for number of new songs and also performed in collaboration with well-known music directors in Sri Lanka.
Clarence directed music for Sinhala teledramas “Susima” and “Nidikumba Mal” and also composed many jingles for advertisements; Elasto, Bata, Astra, Arpico etc.
He has directed music for more than 100 artists and for more than 1000 songs.
He toured many countries including Thailand, Singapore, United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Italy, France and finally to United Arab Emirates.
Clarence pioneered in introducing the Sing Lanka label: first recording studio in Sri Lanka with multi track recording. With his profound knowledge and talent, at a larger stage in his career he joined as its General Manager.
Clarence without a doubt, revolutionized Sri Lankan music in the 1960’s and truly must be named the father of Sri Lankan pop music.
Clarence passed away on the 13th Of December 1996 at the age of 53. However, his songs remain evergreen and are still as popular today as they were back then in his hay days.
Annesley and Indrani continues to bring back the golden memories of ‘The Original Pop Trio’ time to time.
Special thanks to Rukshan Karunanayake