The distinguished Sri Lanka born singer/songwriter Nimal Mendis
|Born||March 29, 1954|
|Origin||Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Genres||Rock, pop, piano rock, Sri Lankan music|
|Labels||Decca, Media Eye Music|
|Associated acts||Mary Marshall sang 'Kiss Kiss Kiss' on Columbia Records in 1958, Singing 'Feel Like A Clown' - Raja and Rani - with Sandra Edema on BBC TV'S 'Top of the Pops' programme in 1968|
Mendis was discovered in the late 1950s by Radio Ceylon, the oldest radio station in South Asia. The radio station dominated the airwaves in South Asia in the 1950s and 1960s—the station backed his songs from the start, including "Kandyan Express", turning them into hits in South Asia. People from all over the Indian sub-continent wrote in to Radio Ceylon requesting his songs.
Mendis had been involved with music from his childhood, and has lived for many years in London travelling often to Sri Lanka. He lived in Uxbridge with his wife Ranjani. Currently he has moved to Sri Lanka and started working on a Sri Lankan film.
Mendis was so moved by the devastation of the 2004 tsunami that he composed a Tsunami song to aid the victims. British Parliamentarians commended his composition in a motion in the House of Commons. The British Parliamentarian, Linda Perham MP sponsored early day motion 638.
His Tsunami song has been recorded in Australia, Canada, the United States, Germany, Sri Lanka, and in the United Kingdom.
Early years: 1950s–1960s
Nimal has 22 songs published in Britain and has written music for films in Sri Lanka. "Kiss Kiss Kiss" was Nimal's first song that was recorded in Britain and sung by Mary Marshall on the Columbia label. "Kandyan Express", "Cherry Blossom Tree", "Oh My Lover", "Butterfly in the Rain", "Champagne Blues", and "Goodnight Kisses "' were number-one hits in Sri Lanka in the late fifties.
"Kandyan Dance", an instrumental, was his second piece in the West. Recorded by Friedel Berlipp and his Orchestra in Germany it went on to be number two on Radio Luxembourg. It was also released in the United States. Black Pearls & Green Diamonds has eight of Nimal's songs on an LP for Decca by One Two and Three, a folk group in Britain.
Mendis appeared on the popular BBC television music programme Top of the Pops with his singing partner Sandra Edema in 1968 as guest artists with his song "Feel like a Clown". They were also featured with the song on Beat Club in Germany that year. Eugene Wright bass player with the original Dave Brubeck Quartet arranged and recorded five of Nimal's songs only with him playing bass. He also arranged and produced one other song "Singing Fish" with electric guitar, bass, and piano. They were sung by Sandra Edema.
In the seventies he recorded a number of songs in London. Many of these songs were of a spiritual nature. He made a twenty-minute audio documentary on the Way of the Cross called The Passion Report. Another audio documentary called Ferryman was about the tea estate worker and the farmer in Sri Lanka. It traces their history from the British colonial period. He also wrote Bread of Life for the Eucharistic Congress in Sri Lanka.
Mendis has written several memorable songs for Sri Lankan films. Nimal wrote the song "Master Sir" in Sri Lanka for a film, Kalu Diya Dhahara (A column of black water). "Master Sir" is about colonial Sri Lanka; the words tell a story about the dignity of labour, a story not about wages but about social justice. The song was recorded both in English (by Mendis and Sandra Edema) and Sinhala (by Neville Fernando,with lyrics by Karunaratne Abeysekera) and has remained a hit in Sri Lanka for over thirty years.
His composition "Ganga Addara" ("By the Banks of the River"), written by Augustus Vinayagaratnam, and sung by Vijaya Kumaranatunga) for the film (Directed by Sumitra Peiris) of the same name, is also a very popular song in Sri Lanka. "Ran Tikiri Sina" was written for the same film, and was also a hit. "Upul Nuwan" was another classic composed for the 1978 Lester James Peiris film White Flowers for the Dead. Indeed, all the songs he wrote for Sinhala films have been popular with the public in Sri Lanka.
In the eighties, Mendis went into the production of documentary films with Ranjani his wife and Paulmarie their son. Paulmarie, deft with computers and editing visuals, assisted them. He was only seven years old when he accompanied his parents filming in the war zones of the North and East of Sri Lanka. Mendis also did a stage show It's What I Am with Sri Lankan musicians; the highlight was the song "July '83", a song on the riots of that year. He also made two audio cassettes, one for Air Lanka A Taste of Paradise and the other for the Ceylon Tourist Board Pilgrim Places of Sri Lanka.
"Ran Tikiri Sina" and "Ganga Addara" lyrics were written by Augustus Vinayagaratnam, music provided by Nimal Mendis.
In the nineties they formed their own enterprise, Mediaeye. In the new millennium they have brought out an audio documentary War is my Country tracing the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka up to 1994. This CD contains archive material over a period of seventeen years with narration, interviews with political and other personalities, songs, and poems. Three of the political personalities have since been assassinated.
Currently they have relocated to the United Kingdom. Together with son Paulmarie they are compiling the songs, audio documentaries, and film material on CD and DVD. New songs too are being written, such as "Tsunami Sri Lanka", "Earth Mother Crying" (on the environment), "The Dawn of Compassion", and the "Hail Mary" in song. They have also formed Mediaeye Music, the publishing arm of Mediaeye Productions founded in 1990.
Fans formed a Nimal Mendis Group on Facebook in 2008.
Mendis has thrown his weight behind the important Autism Awareness Campaign UK and the UK Autism Foundation. Mendis has backed the call of British musicians for better public services in education, health, specialist speech therapy, and respite care for all people with autism and Asperger syndrome. Mendis released 'Open Every Door,' a song for autism in May 2007 in the UK and dedicated it to the work of the UK Autism Foundation. The song for autism was personally presented to Prime Minister Tony Blair on April 25, 2007 and to the leading British parliamentarian Lee Scott (UK Politician).
Dawn of Terror, their first documentary, was filmed on the ethnic conflict, and could be called an anti-war film. It was made for the Centre for Society and Religion in Sri Lanka. The film, although made on VHS, was taken for distribution by Concord Video and film in the UK
Shattered Pearl on women affected by the war in Sri Lanka and the "right to life" was made for Channel 4 television in London. It was a major film by Sri Lankans on British TV at the time. It has been shown in many parts of the world.
Three Women Speak Out was made for "Article 19" in Britain on freedom of opinion and expression, and they edited Z for Zero Concern on homeless children in London for the Children's Society.
Water Water Everywhere, filmed in Bangladesh, is on women and water-management, made for CAFOD.
Blessed Are the Poor compares poverty in Britain and South India and the positive effort people make to change their lives. This documentary was made for the Methodist International.
They have also been researchers for three major British TV productions. Three of their documentaries were at the Monticatini Film Festival in Italy: Shattered Pearl, Seyllan to Paradise, and Stop Killing Start Singing (which was based on three songs). It was the first time that Sinhala songs were featured as a documentary.
Quotations about Nimal Mendis
- "A crusader for creative and original song writing, using the Sri Lankan folk idiom, Nimal Mendis was successful in influencing many a young lyricist and music composer in acknowledging the wealth in Sri Lankan folk music and adapting it with western overtones, to bring about a new identity in music..." (Mahes Perera, writing in the Sunday Observer Sri Lanka).Source: Sunday Observer Colombo Sri Lanka
- British Politicians Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Menzies Campbell given Song for Autism - Source: World Music Central
- Nimal Mendis Autism Song for Autism Speaks UK
- Tony Blair, Lee Scott Presented With A Nimal Mendis Song For Autism
- Nimal Mendis releases a Song for Autism in London
- Daily News Sri Lanka: Nimal Mendis composes tsunami song by Ivan Corea
- Sunday Island Sri Lanka - Two tsunami songs mentioned in the British parliament with kudos to Nimal Mendis by Nan
- The Guardian UK: Nimal Mendis composes Tsunami Song
- Early Day Motion 638 in the House of Commons, Palace of Westminster