I studied in Peradeniya Maha Vidyalaya. Thereafter I studied from St. John College Gatambe. Then as I failed J.S.C examination I was home and hoping to do a job of any kind. My father’s younger brother had a garage in Kandy and when I told him that I was hoping to do a job he asked me to come and learn about work in his garage. Then I went to learn and work with him. There was a technician called Appuhamy and I was assigned to him to learn the work under him.
There was an uncle in Colombo who was a distant relation of us. One day when he met me in another relative’s house he asked me what I was doing. I told him about what I was doing. Then he asked me to come to Colombo with him. In 1957 December I came to Colombo.
When I came there was a nephew of that uncle called Mervyn Rodrigo and I was introduced to him. He worked in broadcasting corporation and also worked in Sarasavi recording studio. He took me to Sarasavi. At that time it was owned by M.S. Perera. He was living in Padukka. From that day onwards I worked in Sarasavi recording studio.
By the time of 1950-60 we even started recording movie songs. Till that we only recorded for discs. We even recorded songs of singers such as C.T. Fernando, Sunil Shantha. After them only we started recording movie songs. It was started by a suggestion of Mr. Lester James Peiris. Even at that time we did not have the equipment to record movie songs. When it was told to Mr. Perera, he told ‘I will bring the equipment, and let’s start working on it’. As I remember we first dubbed for ‘Gamperaliya’. I have worked with my guru to record around 190 movie songs. In the early days I remember that we did ‘Subhasarana sapa sithey’, ‘Patachara’. In that time only Mr. Wickremesooriya got in line to produce songs discs. The first song he did was ‘Konda Namagena’. There on recorded a large number of songs to discs .Then on recorded for Maxwell Mendis’s songs, Clarence’s group Moonstones and also recorded songs of bands like La Ceylonians and La Bambas.
In 1965 the studio was moved to Dalugama. It was a new place and also it was a big place. And now it is the studio which is owned by the cooperation. Mr. Wickremesooriya came there as well. There after music bands started coming there too. We also did recordings for songs of Milton Mallawaarachhi’s, Desmond De Silva’s and also New Sound Enterprises. Desmond De Silva’s ‘Yanna rata wate’, ‘Chuda Maanike’ were also done by us for Gauri Cooperation. Till about 1973 Mr. Wickremesooriya recorded discs. Mr. Wickremesooriya in recordings used instruments such as box guitars, pianos, organs, drum sets and congo drums. Mr. Wickremesooriya was a very calm and a quite person. He gave us the freedom to work on our own. I can remember he bringing his wife and son to see recordings but never interrupted anything unduly. We were given full freedom to work.
After that time the most what we did was movie songs. ‘Sihina ahase wasanthe’, ‘Tak tik tuk’, ‘Gahaniyak’ were amongst the many movies we did. At that time we did not have highly developed equipments as we find now a days. We had only 4 microphones and a small mixer. From them only we did all the work. The 4 microphones were put to 4 channels. We recorded everything at once, later only they changed. We even by using those equipments have recorded 45 music instruments. In the movie ‘Sathsamudura’ they used 45 music instruments. Violins, thablas, guitars, organs, Cellos, Violas, Trumpets were among them. For all that we had only 4 microphones. From those 4 microphones one microphone was a Simmons brand one. That was the one which was fixed to the boom. We had a thing called ‘kaju laella’, they still have it at Sarasaviya. The instruments were arranged around it and from the microphone there only we managed lots of instruments. The final outcome comes from all 4 microphones. We had a Coating recorder called Aerograph. We take them separately and mix it to the 35 recorder. We had a 35 film recorder which was a magnetic one, from that only we took the final one.
Those days music bands and singers worked together very closely and very friendlily. As there were only a limited number of equipments. At most times they had to share one microphone and do the recordings. If to record a song and to put in to a disc we were given a time to prepare the necessary 4-5 songs. We had to record in that way until the 12 channel mixer came in the 1980’s.
Many numbers of bands came to do recordings at that time. Amongst them there was a band called ‘La Ceylonians’ which came to record 4 songs. Milton Mallawaarachchi was also in that band. He was there to sing chorus. While on recordings my guru Mervyn told me “George that guy has a very good voice, talk to him and get his address”. Thereby I got his address. And the address he gave was in Nugegoda as he was in Nugegoda at that time.
After about 6 months Gauri cooperation came and asked “there are 4 songs to be done, find us a good voice”. At that time Mr. Mervyn told me to give them the address of Milton’s. Thereafter Milton recorded a number of songs with them. ‘Oruwaka paawena rae ghana andure’ was also amongst those songs. From that time only Milton came up as a singer. The music for them was composed by Mohomed Saaley.
Clarence came to the field with the band Moonstones. We did the recordings for them. After that his band was Golden Chimes and we recorded songs of them as well.
There were many special incidents which has happened when recordings songs.
We recorded Maxwell Mendis’s ‘mama bohoma baya una’. That was also done by Mr. Wickremesooriya. Even though he didn’t come when the song was recorded there was a message by him to include ‘a ghost and a dog’s sound’. While recording Mr. Mervyn told “George scream like a ghost”. I screamed very loudly and it came out very well. I also howled as the dog. They were very happy with it and gave me Rs. 700/= which was a very big amount at that time.
On another day while working in a film called ‘Hatharawate’ there was a fight between the producer and the director inside the studio. The director was L.M. Perera. In between the fight Perera’s watch got thrown away and couldn’t find the watch even though it was searched everywhere.
I was the one who was going on behalf of Sarasavi studio to provide play back music for movies when they were shot. I was the one who went for ‘Saaravita’ shooting as well. For that they took me bit early. While on the movie set because I stepped on the trolley which was used for video graphing, the videographer of the movie a Tamil person named Arasu shouted at me a lot. Then I also got angry and started assaulting him. Mike Wilson came running and stopped it and put us away. Mike Wilson had also complained our institution. Somehow when I left the place I threatened Arasu “never come around Sarasavi”.
After about 6 months later while we were recording songs for another movie I saw someone was standing outside. And to see it was Arasu who has come. As I went and asked him why he came, Mr. Mervyn came and shouted at me “Not to hit the person who comes home”. And the ironic thing was after about another 6 months Arasu died. There was a rumour in the field that “ Arasu died because George Manathunga assaulted him”.
I was given the responsibility to provide music for a movie which Ananda Jayarathne acted. The shooting was at Nuwara Eliya. At that night around 11 they came in a van to Sarasavi studio which at that time was in Kolpity. At that time also we were working. Then I left with them. I was seated next to the driver. And the others were fast asleep in the back. Around Mawanella in a big turn I saw that the driver was not responding at all and I figured if we don’t take the turn we would all end up falling to the river. I quickly jumped on to the brake and turned the vehicle to a side. Then only the driver woke up. Thereafter we had coffee and stayed for around 2 hours and we reached Nuwara Eliya in the early morning.
Sarasavi recording studio was moved from Kollupitya to Dalugama. When the government took over Sarasavi recording studio from private ownership I was the chief recording artist of it.
Sarasavi recording studio was owned my M.S.Perera. He took it from a person called Madanayake. When he took it there were only 4 concrete pillars which were made. Mr.Perera, Mr. Mervyn Rodrigo and I went to see the place. After we went and checked it was decided to bring Sarasavi recording studio there.
In 1965 Sarasavi recording studio was moved to Dalugama from Kolpity. But because of some problem in the lease or for some other reason regarding it Mr. Madanayake filed a case in 1973. Mr. Perera lost the case and it was decided to hand over the studio back.
When fiscal came to seal the recording studio we were working on the movie Tharanga. At that time I was in charge of the studio, Gerald Jayawardena was in charge of the lab and there was another person who was in charge of the editing studio. We came out and closed the studio and kept the keys with us. All of us employees lost the job at the same time. But every day morning we gathered and talked in a shop near the recording studio and leave back home in the evening. Some days passed like that and there were no signs of solutions for our problem. Because of that I talked with Gerald and went with him to meet Mr. Nihalsinhga who was the then chairman of the state film cooperation. As we worked in the movie Walikathara together we knew each other very well at that time. We went and met Mr. Nihalsingha and told about what has happened. He wrote down them and told that there will be meeting with the Prime Minister in the near future and he will discuss about it.
When this has been told to the Prime Minister, she has told Mr.Nihalsingha to take over Sarasavi recording studio to the government and carry of its work. Thereby we all got our jobs back. As my guru Mr. Mervyn Rodrigo was a United National Party supporter he did not like to work anymore in Sarasavi. Therefore I had to take charge of the recording studio. Even though from that day to until 1988 I worked under the cooperation in Sarasavi recording studio, my basic salary was only Rs. 3000. The cooperation did not take look after us properly even though we worked day and night tirelessly.
Mr. Atapatthu who came to do the movie ‘Peralikaarayo’ in 1982 became very close with me. Later he called me to start a recording studio. I agreed to it. Thereby only T.J recording studio was started. In 22nd May 1987 I resigned from the cooperation and came to work in T.J. Many who worked with me in Sarasavi came with me to work in it. We did about hundred movies in T.J recording studio. The recording studio was closed down in 1997 due to a personal matter of Mr. Atapatthu. I filed a case against them and got compensation.
I joined the place I’m currently working in the year 2002.