Rita Jenevi Fernando, better known by her stage name Latha Walpola (Sinhalese: ලතා වල්පොල) was born on 11 November 1934 in Galkissa Colombo, to Joseph Fernando and Elizabeth Muriel. Latha was then one of five children. Her mother Elizabeth, a teacher, encouraged her daughter to become a vocal artist.
Latha received primary education at St. Anthony College in Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia wherein she led the Church Choir. It was at this time that Latha began to pave her path to becoming Sri Lanka’s premier singer of her day. Today her fans remember an honor her with the title of “The Nightingale of Sri lanka”.
Latha Walpola just was 12 years old when she was introduced to the country by Radio Ceylon as a member of Radio Ceylon’s Choir in 1946. C.A. Fonseka, a family friend and a Radio dramatist brought her to Radio Ceylon and let her to perform in his Sarala Gee program with his son C.D. Fonseka. In 1947 Latha sang her first solo song, ” Kandulu Denethe Vehena”, with lyrics of Sarath Wimalaweera, music composed by Vincent de Alwis, the versatile violinist at Radio Ceylon. And then, she began to sing under direction of Mohammed Gauss, P.L.A.Somapala and B.S.Perera the famous musicians at the time brilliantly utilized her harmonious voice of high-pitched tone into their musical creations. By 1950 she was a well known female singer in the country and coped with Sukomala Banda Lelawa, Dunhinda Helena and Diyaluma Helena originally sung by Chitra Somapala. Latha has recorded her voice for both Columbia and HMV record labels. The song “Malbara Himidiriye Pipune Esala Araliya Mala”, sung with C.T. Fernando is one of her most popular songs.
Contribution to Sinhala Cinema
In 1952 she gave her first contribution to the Sinhala Cinema as a play back singer for the film, Eda Rae, which was publicly screened in 1953. She was able to make her debut in playback singing for three films with Dharmadasa Walpola during the same year. As one of them, Prema Tharangaya was remarkable because it was Music Director R. Muttusami’s first film. The melodious songs such as Honda hondama veya lowa kisima thenaka nehe, Pera kala pawa paladee pape gewawi have remained etched in our memories for decades. By 1958 Latha Walpola had contributed to a record number of 22 films after five years of her debut in film industry. So far, has made a reputation of recording for nearly 600 films. She holds the record for being the only artist to have sung with South Indian musicians like Dakshinamurthi in film ‘Duppathage Duka” and “Suraya”, Sathyamurthi, T.R.Papa, Jamuna Rani, K.Rani, Saraswathi and Sri Lankan film stars Herby Seneviratne, Dommie Jayawardana, Fredi Silva , Vijaya Kumaranatunga and Ravindra Randeniya.
Embraced with abundance of affection and attachment, Latha Fernando got married with Dharmadasa Walpola in 1959 and became known as Latha Walpola latter on. A ceremonial wedding was held at Siri Kotha, Kollupitiya with a huge gathering of guests and artists. Past memories reveal that Police had to deploy a special group of policemen to control the massive crowd gathered outside Siri Kotha. They have three sons and a daughter. In 1960s and early part of 1970’s both Latha and Dharmadasa were the most popular singer and songstress. It is very rare to find such great golden voices as husband and wife in cinema industry anywhere in the world.
Latha Walpola has won the Sarasaviya Awards the most prestigious awards presented to distinguished individuals involved with the Sinhala cinema four(4) times. A list of awards by means which she has honored as follows;
- Deepasika Award in 1974.
- The Golden Swan Award presented by the Lake House of the Associated Newspapers in 1992.
- The Golden Conch Award in 1995.
- The Golden Jubilee Presidential Award for Pioneers of Film Industry in 1997.
- The Appreciation Award of OCIC in 2006.
- U.W.Sumathipala Memorial Award.
Latha Walpola, The undisputed Nightingale Of Sri Lanka was profoundly honored by Sri Lankan Government with the reputation of Kala Suri in 2005.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia