Nirosha Virajini was born Virajini Lalithya de Silva on 13th January 1973. Her father, Mervin de Silva a moderate income earner and some what an adventurer cum radical in social perspectives, though working for a leading mercantile sector establishment in Sri Lanka provided her with an atmosphere that was free of shackles and inhibitions – free to think, free to breathe, free to develop what ever skills you may be endowed with. Her mother Virjinia , a woman with a lot of natural talents and great resolve, in addition to a very attractive personality (who would, with her single minded determination and dedication, later guide Nirosha in all her endeavors) easily adopted to a lifestyle that was different, less traditional and some what unconventional even though she did come from a family of the established social order. Basically Nirosha was not subjected to the usual ordeal of having to fulfill some “distant dream” the parents had for her. The parents were “ more or less dreamers or optimists ” to the point of believing that destiny would take care of their children’s lives; provided they (parents) laid a foundation of – protection, basic education, financial stability, amenities etc. with minimum interference.
Nirosha grew up with a sister and two brothers, all younger. To say that the entire family had a penchant for music is not entirely wrong. They all listened to music and enjoyed it thoroughly. While the father would generally like Sinhala classics and some pop, the mother was less discriminatory. The sister was inclined towards western and the elder son (3rd in the family) enjoyed contemporary Sinhala pop (today he is an extremely gifted hard rock guitarist). The mother was more serious in that she not only tried intensive musical lessons, but she also became successful in gaining recognition in a limited sense – background singing in drama and a few films. It is not entirely wrong to say that her mother’s career though limited in scope and substance actually paved the way for Nirosha to be accepted into the sphere of music. Nirosha did dancing at school and did sing for her school (St. Joseph’s, Grandpass (Colombo), one of the oldest girls schools in Colombo).
At Nirosha’s mother’s fervent request, her music composer for drama (well known Austin Munasinghe) agreed to try Nirosha at chorus singing in the educational program of Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. The program, a traditional on-going item, was meant for school going children. Munasinghe also looked for an able child singer to lead the singing. After listening carefully he realized that Nirosha had a natural talent and asked her to lead singing. Thus began Nirosha’s career . Singing began to be a major past time, and a local band Super Sons , popular at that time for backing Tamil and Hindi stage shows, decided to try Nirosha’s ability. Surprisingly she easily blended with the requirements; with her natural high pitch voice range combined with variations.
At Virjinia’s behest Nirosha interrupted her local career to go to Chennai to stabilize her singing and dancing skills. She did this at Odayar Lakshman’s at Gandhi Nagar. She could not complete her serious studies as on one of her visits on vacation to Sri Lanka, the group that initially launched her on the stage – Supersons , persuaded her, that her career was already there even without any substantive testimonial as to her ability to sing, and sing she did, with a captivating voice.
Accordingly she was compelled to postpone her return to India in order to commercial assignments, which were getting abundantly available. While Mr. Abdul Hamid of Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation a leading announcer in Tamil channels, realizing a truly natural talent with enormous scope decided to back her with what ever he could do, Mr. Ramdas (businessman/actor – Tamil Drama and Sinhala Films) followed suit. She became an enormous hit with the Hindi / Tamil audiences. People even thought that she was Tamil, as Nirosha had the extra-ordinary talent to pronounce Tamil extremely well. Commercial enterprises had the trust in Nirosha’s ability to project the message via her voice, and accordingly she became synonymous with jingles, especially in Tamil at this stage. Simultaneously her singing popular Hindi songs, was on the increase and within a short time Nirosha achieved the enviable position of a mandatory stage artiste especially to sing Hindi songs.
The first “cassette” was produced during this period . “ Sitha Handai” (Heart Cries – 1993) though emulating popular Tamil and Hindi songs, was a sell-out, specially because of the catchy melodies, lilting music and above all, Nirosha’s powerful singing. Mr. Sarath Galappatty a leading “ cassette” producer and distributor was responsible for this pioneering effort in the case of Nirosha’s career. This was followed by a one-man musical show named after the cassette. The show held at the prominent Elphinston was a success too. Years 1994 and 1995 were extremely productive in terms of Nirosha’s involvements in the sphere of music. In acknowledgement of her special skills at singing in Tamil, the foremost trend-setter in terms of music in Sri Lanka, Maestro Premasiri Khemadasa chose Nirosha to sing the famous “ Ven Purawe” ) peace song in Tamil quite to the chagrin of artistes who could not find sense in a Sinhala artiste singing so important a song in Tamil. Nirosha with her usual demonstration of unique talents sang and silenced those critics who had questioned the wisdom of a Sinhala artiste singing in Tamil (and for that matter a crucial piece of lyrics). The song gained nation-wide recognition and popularity. Nirosha’s singing under the expert guidance of Maestro Khemadasa simply blended with the message, the feeling and the objective.
Nirosha knew that eventually she would have to enter the real fray where alone she would create a niche in singing – the Sinhala musical field. Very few granted Nirosha any chance of succeeding in this highly competitive sector that was already glutted with all sorts of vocalists. Most of the top layer had powerful qualifications from Bhatkanda in India. It appeared that it was only Nirosha who had had exposure to Karnataka music (though in a limited sense and incomplete). At Nirosha’s request, Samantha Perera the promising young music director initiated the first move “Sitha Obata Muwawi” (Heart hiding from you) an original Sinhala song that spoke of a love and deceit. Both the lyrics and melody were instantly popular. Dr. Ajantha Ranasinghe’s (leading journalist and lyricist) Yasodhara (Lord Buddha’s wife in his secular life) was another creation that amply demonstrated Nirosha’s unique talents and it helped enhance her potential.
The second one-man show too, was successfully organized. This had a different formula. It included Hindi and Tamil classics and for the first time original Sinhala songs.
Following very encouraging response from all quarters, the second cassette and the first CD was launched. “Nandunana Sihinaya” (Unrecognized Dream). This was a land-mark achievement with its original lyrics, music and absolutely fascinating singing. It was experimental yet very mature. One of it’s presentations, “Pun Sanda Reta” (The full moon in the night) written by one of the most gifted lyricists – Ratna Sri Wijeysinghe completely captured a nation-wide audience. Based on a rural settings (the apprehensions of a woman left in her hut thinking of the husband who is far away in a jungle cultivation eking out a living, and her dreams) the simple lyrics coupled with Nirosha’s unique synchronizing of her singing style with the concept the song attempted to project, touched the hearts and souls of the widest range of listeners and it is not an exaggeration to say that Nirosha carved out a “ niche” for herself. Her place in indigenous music was assured.
In the interim several cassettes were made by other producers and distributors who catered to the large segment of listeners of Hindi music.
There were several other note-worthy achievements. Singing in Malayalam for a Sinhala TV drama whose location shooting was done mainly in Kerala. The director Jayantha Chandrasiri one of the most pre-eminent dramatist/playwrights in Sri Lanka, whose originality and daring experiments have made him a unique artiste in the field of contemporary arts. Again it was Maestro Khemadasa who had the confidence to have Nirosha sing the theme song.
Almost at the same time, Nirosha attained a pinnacle of sorts in this field when she overwhelmingly passed the audition for Tamil Classical singing conducted by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, with the ultimate level of “ Super Grade” singer.
This was the peak of her career in a commercial sense (the actual peak in aesthetic terms was yet to come ). While at home she was the quintessential stage singer she also had several overseas tours including Canada, London, Oslo, Paris, Dubai, Beirut and Doha. At the behest of Mr. Sivadasan the well known film maker in Sri Lanka, producers in Chennai tried Nirosha at play back singing for a Tamil film being made in India “Urawaku Mariade” (respect the relationship) Under the musical composition of Udaya. She eventually sang two songs; one of which became a hit during the year. The period also saw her second “original cassette” being presented – “ Sanda Diya Uthura” (Overflowing rays of the moon). This contained an all time hit in “Sanda Sakki” (Let the moon bear witness), styled in the extremely popular and catchy classical Portuguese trend – Kapiringngaa.
The song of sublime, unselfish love, bordering the spiritual – “ Sina Podak” (a drop of smile, written by the most promising of the contemporary lyricists – Bandula Nanayakkarawasam) achieved unprecedented success in reaching, and addressing the deepest of emotions. Lyrically, musically and of course vocally, the song remains a mile-stone in her career as well as the sphere of Sinhala music.
By this time the girl who only a few years ago had fretted in front of TV cameras, and looked uncertain in front of large stage crowds had achieved a level of success which was unparalleled. Nobody begrudged the fact that she was the best thing to happen to Sinhala Music for a long time to come. What was inextricably woven with this whole process of progress was Nirosha’s mother’s (Virjinia) own contribution. She (Virjinia) was behind her at every step, big and small, guiding her, nudging her, over all the intricacies and complexities; which had to be expected. From across the seas her father was content to be the silent contributor while the mother steadfastly bore the brunt of a rapidly developing career.
By now Nirosha’s enviable repertoire included Stage Shows here and abroad , Commercial Cassettes, Films, TV Dramas, Jingles etc. She was also accorded the rare honor of being enlisted as a singer of Islamic songs, in the radio channel. Her singing had reached every nook and corner of the country. While on the whole she unswervingly adhered to the principle of sticking to Sinhala Original Songs, and even though her place in Sinhala musical field was on an elevated scale, on stage however , she still had the humility to respond to audiences that needed the Hindi or Tamil Song.
Both Meastros Ameradeva ( winner of Padma Shri and Ramon Magsaysay), the foremost Sinhala musician and Premasiri Khemadasa the foremost trend setter in the Sinhala musical field, had no hesitation in paying their highest compliments to Nirosha’s talent. She was singled out as one the few vocalists who would do absolute justice to lyrics. Lyricists agreed that Nirosha’s voice coupled with her unique ability to convey feeling as conceived and her variations, made their songs, wholesome.
1999 saw yet another achievement – acting in a TV drama. One of the most creative directors of contemporary TV drama, Betram Nihal had a special role in a play adopted from Japanese – “ The Lantern”. A young woman caught between desire for materialistic values and her down-trodden family, ending up in petty theft and becoming the scapegoat for police crime detection. This she did after turning down several offers to act, on the assumption that she was more suited for “singing” rather than portraying characters. However while with he debut in acting she hardly left any room for criticism, more, her reception was very encouraging.
Nirosha’s fourth cassette and CD were out in 2000. Sigiri Geeyak (Song of Sigiriya) written by Dr. Sunil Ariyarathna the eminent intellectual (Professor at Jayawardenapura University) was very well received. Nirosha continued with a trend of creating some thing different. The special feature of her cassette and CD productions was, her total involvement with the entire process – lyric selection, selection of music director and even composition. This is a rare privilege she enjoys when producers and distributors are willing to fund the projects accepting Nirosha’s judgment on these crucial matters. This is also an indication of her credibility. Overseas visits during this period included Japan and Cyprus.
Nirosha first accomplished the fete of being selected the Best Singer in Sinhala Films in 2001. “ Rajya Sevaya Pinisai” (For her Majesty’s Service) a cynical social commentary for which Nirosha received the prestigious President’s award. The songs created by the radical and experimentalist Lalith Gabadamudali strived and succeeded in getting the best out of Nirosha’s unique singing ability. In 2001 Nirosha was invited to sing at the Wembley theatre in London along with a few other leading vocalists of the top most layer in Sinhala music.
Year 2002 was still greater in terms of achievements. The prestigious “Sarasaviya”, Sinhala Film Weekly that organizes the only film festival of Sri Lanka selected her as the best Female Singer. It was followed by the only TV Drama Festival organized by the prestigious news paper establishment Sumathi. . Again Nirosha was selected as the best “Singer” in TV dramas shown in 2001. Visit to Australia for several musical shows organized by the Sri Lanikan community marked a special event for the year.
Nirosha Virajini continues to enjoy the confidence of her extremely wide audience as she continues to make a contribution with a difference. Her highly discriminatory and professional style of selections in terms of all aspects of cassette and CD production was much evident from her latest and fifth cassette and CD “ Duhulu Malak” (a frail flower)
Nirosha remains one of the most successful of the new generation of artistes, some one whose credibility has lasted over years of tests and tribulations. An artiste with a talent of scope and range in the widest sense.