1964. Inspired by a performance of La Ceylonians led by Noel Ranasinghe at Moratuwa Buddhist Hall, Brian Fernando’s ambition was to form his own group following the flavor of La Ceylonians. He was already a member of the group “Vampires” as a Congo Drummer since early 60’s.
With the help of his nephew Priya whom he knew to be talented, Brian gathered a few of his schoolmates from St. Thomas’s College to apply for the ‘Observer Talent Contest’. The group consisting of Brian (drums), Priya (rhythm guitar), Rollinson (lead guitar), Lasla (box guitar) passed the audition which was conducted by Mignonne Ratnam and The Jetliners at Lewis Brown’s Studio, Colombo.
The group was named ‘La Bambas’ after the popular Spanish hit of 60’s: “La Bamba”.
In 25 May 1966, the group had their first performance at the Galle Face hotel, Coconut Grove night club where they performed their own compositions: “Poya Da” and “Menika”. Their style of singing along with the Sri Lankan attire of Batik Sarong and straw hat was refused by the Westernized crowd. The group was thus determined to make a name for themselves and wow the crowd’s one day.
In 1968, the “Paradise Label” of Oriental Musical Stores gave the break for La Bambas. They recorded four songs for this first album: “Samanmali”, “Atha Sarasanna”, “Handa Paane” and “Nelum Vile”. The song “Nelum Vile” was a duet which introduced Christine Gunewardene to the music scene.
New members added to the line-up: Errington on bass/rhythm instruments (guiro, maracas) and vocal baritone, Malsiri who produced various percussive effects for their songs.
During their musical journey La Bambas recorded for three more EP’s. Their second recording opportunity was in 1970 with the Philips Label of the Gowri Corporation. This included four songs and also made the debut for the popular Estelle Gunesekere.
In 1971, the group had their next release with the Sooriya label reaching a peak in their popularity with the hit songs “Cock-A-Doodle-Do”.
Initially the song “Cock-A-Doodle-Do” was not aired on Radio Ceylon as it was considered to be politically hot, but eventually the song had to be played due to never ending requests by the fans.
A popular story was that the Rooster in the photo of this album cover was stolen from Gerald’s residence in Colombo for the photo shoot. However, eye witnesses state the Rooster came from Gerald’s neighbour’s residence.
La Bambas also composed English numbers like the popular “Island in the Sun” sung by Priya. The song “Wake up Sri Lanka to a Nice Cup of Tea” dedicated to the tea industry and “Cricket Lowe Jaya Apatai” released just after Sri Lanka Winning the Cricket World Cup in 1996.
Apart from their originals, La Bambas also performed songs in Spanish, French, Italian and Hawaiian languages.
Another uniqueness of La Bambas is their unplugged music with three and four part harmony used in all their songs. Comprising of talented members, Brian being a Jazz drummer, Rolinson being a Hawaiian/Spanish guitarist and Malsiri being a Fleminco guitarist, the group continued to play with box guitar throughout their period as it enhances the beauty of their group harmony.
The group has all its founder members intact to-date though they seldom appear on stage since Brian passed away in 1993.
La Bambas continue to appear on stage for nostalgic shows on 70’s music. Their last release was in March 2011, a CD titled “The Fabulous La Bambas” of which the recording and mastering was done by Eranjan and Viranjan Perera, the twin sons of Errinton.