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The Dharmaratne Brothers

Formed in             : 1968

Original line-up   : Christie Dharmaratne, Maxwell Dharmaratne, Melroy Dharmaratne, Ronald Dharmaratne

Genre                     : Group Harmony

Hailing from the suburban city of Kotahena in Colombo, the four brothers Christie, Maxwell, Melroy and Ronald had a musical background from their childhood with their mother Stella playing the harmonica. The brothers were strongly inspired by their beloved mother who also acted as the manager of their group.

The two younger siblings Melroy and Ronald performed at school events calling themselves “Dharmaratne Brothers”, and were later joined by the elder brothers Maxwell and Christie. Their musical life began with performances at family gatherings and weddings.

Whilst they started off singing and performing cover versions of popular artists of the time such as Christopher Paul, Vincent De Paul, Sunil Shantha, soon the brothers went on to create their own music.

Image 1 - Sweety Dharmaratne (Sister of Dharmaratne Brothers) Image 2 - L to R: Ronald, Melroy, Stella, Maxwell, Christie

Their big break came when they were placed second at a competition of musical groups and were later given the opportunity to record the two songs “Kalakata Pera Bethleheme” and “Lantheruma Ellenne” at national broadcaster.

They are considered by many to be the first all family Sinhala pop group.

Debut

Dharmaratne Brothers performed on stage for the first time at St. Bridget’s Convent at a fund raiser titled “Asiri Kusum” organized by Maxwell Dharmaratne together with Noel Ranasinghe of “La Ceylonians”. The show featured harmony vocal groups of the group band association ‘Songs of Lanka Club’. Whilst all bands played with box guitars and congo drums, Dharmaratne Brothers replaced the congo with a hand drum (rabana).

Dharmaratne Brothers first recording at Sarasaviya Studio, 1969 L to R: Seated - Mervyn Rodrigo, Standing – Christie, Maxwell, Melroy, Ronald

Impressed by the brother’s performance at the show, Patrick Corera of the Philips label offered them a contract to record songs.

Released in 1968, their first EP with songs “Wessa Wahinawa”, “Punchi Hurathala,” “Kandukare” and “Nondi Kira” became an instant airplay success and catapulted the band into the charts.

Journey

Their next hit “Vasity Kollo” was more controversial and was much demanded at all their live shows. Initially the song didn’t have a recorded version as it was considered politically “hot” and many record producers were not willing to record or release it, fearing it a complete ban on air. It was then, that Gerald convinced of the song’s popularity offered Dharmaratne Brothers a contract to record the song on his Sooriya label.

This resulted in the EP titled ‘The Family Jewels of The Dharmaratne Brothers’ featuring “Varsity Kollo”, “Suhada Pathum” (Birthday Song), “Awwa” and “Priyangika” released in 1969.

Dharmaratne Brothers with popular film star Gamini Fonseka
“Engelbert and his albums” by Eustace Rulach, Ceylon Observer, 1969
Dharmaratne Brothers with Christie's Daughter Shirley & Maxwell's son Chula, who joined them and Shiromi in performing “Koheda Yanne Rukmani”.
At the Sooriya Show – Seated front L to R: Marcy Perera, Mrs. Mervyn Rodrigo, Mervyn Rodrigo, Dharmarathne Brothers grandmother, Dharmarathne Brothers Sister Sweetie

The brothers had their next hit release on Decca label, produced by Sooriya.

Most of their songs are written by Melroy and melodies done by both Melroy and Ronald. The group was popular for their compositions related to nature; “Kandukare” on hill country, “Wassa” on rain, “Awwa” on the sun etc.

Write-up by Weekend newspapers for their second album cover
Dharmaratne Brothers performing with Baby Shiromi at the Sooriya Show at Hotel Taprobane, September 14, 1969
Remaining three brothers on stage
Dharmaratne Brothers with Vijaya Corea

In the early ’70s, their niece Shiromie Fernando also entered the music field and had hits of her own. Together, Dharmarantne Brothers and Shiromi released an EP on the Sooriya label including songs “Boruwata Anda Anda”, “Wahidaka Gaganodare” , “Raja Kumari” and “Mutumenika”.

The brothers are grateful to-date to showmen Malcolm Andree and Jayatissa Hettiarachchi who gave them many opportunities to enter showbiz back then.

Over the years, the group slowly drifted apart; Christie moved to Middle East in 1978 causing the group to go on hiatus and Ronald passed away in 1987 in a bus accident.

In 1997 Melroy, Maxwell and Christie came back on stage after a silence of nearly ten years when Annesley introduced the ‘Stars of 70’s’ concept. Since then the three brothers have appeared on stage on numerous occasions.

They celebrated 40 years in music on the 27th December 2008 with a concert at Elphinstone Theatre featuring guest artists from the 70’s; Annesley Malawana, Indrani Perera, Anil Bhareti and compered by non-other than Vijaya Corea.

ALBUMS

"The Family Jewels of The Dharmaratne Brothers"
The Dharmaratne Brothers with Shiromi
Baila Session
Sahodarayao Hatharadena
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