The name Dixon Gunaratne makes one feel pleasantly nostalgic for the revolutionary style of guitar music that emerged when his liquid like fingers touched the fret board. Dixon is known among music enthusiasts for his unique contribution on lead guitar to the Sinhala pop industry.
His first introduction to music was at home, as his father was a music enthusiast who played violin and the English mandolin. A fact that made him acquainted with music from a very early age.
However, his musical career developed much later while at school. As a student of Isipathana Maha Vidyalaya he initially played the violin for a year and later played the sitar. The Guitar, which was self-taught, came much further on. No doubt living and breathing music from an early age fostered his interests in music with glittering career as a celebrated guitar virtuoso.
His debut in the music industry was with the band ‘Pioneers’ led by Raj Dassanayake, brother of Srikantha, drummer of the famous Super Golden Chimes.
During this time, he had a chance meeting with Clarence Wijewardena while performing at a wedding. Maybe it was Dixon’s unique musical vibes that called out to another like-minded soul. “At the time, Clarence had left Moonstones and was looking for members to form a new group. He asked whether l would like to be a member and I said l needed to ask from home,” Dixon reminisces. At that time his father had passed away and it was his brother, father substitute who made all the big decisions. With permission obtained, Dixon collaborated to form Golden Chimes with Clarence, Chanaka Perera as the bassist and Wijith Peiris as the drummer. The group first recorded with Gerald Wickremesooriya and their debut album came to life with the Sooriya label.
As this point of our conversation, Dixon traverses to the past to a memory he holds dear even today; His first ever professional recording which was done by Sooriya label for The Three Sisters; Indrani, Mallika and Iranganie Perera in 1970. This was for the EP titled ‘The Sensational Three Sisters’ which included the songs “Sihin Sinidu”, “Mama Kirilliyak”, “Pipena Piyum” and “Mae Geeya”.
After few years, Dixon and Clarence left Golden Chimes. “We contacted Annesley Malawana and asked whether he would like to collaborate with us to form a new group. Annesley readily agreed and thus was born Super Golden Chimes,” he says. Their first recording was also under the Sooriya label in 1973. This was for the Extended Play (EP), ‘The Super Golden Chimes at Kataragama’ which included “Kandasurinduni”, “Seetha Sulangak”, “Sathuta Senasuma” and “Pena Bubula”.
Dixon fondly recollects the good times they had, particularly at the Children’s Book Shop in Fort, owned by Gerald Wickremesooriya. “It used to be like home to us. Clarence, me, Annesley, used to hang out there during lunch time. We also used to meet up at Gerald Wickremesooriya’s house in Colpetty. We used to do recordings and have practice sessions there,” he shares.
The Super Golden Chimes was the last band Dixon played for in Sri Lanka. “By 1980, the band had disbanded, Clarence was already performing as a solo artist and I got an opportunity to settle down in Switzerland,” he says. He was in the music industry in Switzerland for seven more years.
In 1987, he gave up music and took up a career in Information Technology (IT). Since 2003, Dixon has been participating in reunion concerts with Annesley and other members of the Super Golden Chimes. “This gives me opportunities to travel to different countries. That’s life now,” he says in conclusion.
His fans around the world would continue to be thrilled by the pleasurable harmonies springing from his guitar. No doubt they follow his music and go back in time, to their youth, to celebrate the first moments when his music embraced their souls.