A lot can be said about Patrick Denipitiya, but the beginning is as good as a place start. Born into a family of ten, Patrick Denipitiya was the son of a railway stationmaster. He studied at St. Benedict’s College and St. Aloysius College where he was considered an intelligent student whose future looked bright in the field of medicine. He stirred his destiny away from its intended course of being a medical professional to pursue a career in music which lasted well over five decades.
Patrick honed his skill at playing musical instruments. He wound his way through an array of musical instruments and found his musical soul mate in the Hawaiian (lap side) guitar which he used in many of his performances. His uncanny ability to whistle to any song highlighted his career too.
Patrick is famous for his notation writing skills and is considered the fastest notation writer having written music scores without using an instrument in both Eastern and Western notation.
He has been a part of over 200 film projects and takes credit for the composition, arrangement, music direction and performance of many Sinhala songs and films. He was the music director in movies such as “Sengawunu Menika” (1967) , “Senakeliya” (a box office hit in 1974) and “Loka Horu” (1976) and has co-directed music in several other films.
The first ever Sinhala group song “Udarata Menike Manahara Kandurata Thilake” performed by C.D. Fonseka, Razeena Yakim, Angeline Goonethileke and Shelton Mendis was also composed by Patrick Denipitya. His music composition was extended to many other famous songs including “Aatha Kandurali Simba Simba”, “Umayanganiyo Surralaliniyo”,”Nelum Male Pethi Kadala”,”Iwuru Thala”, “Ma Nisa Oba” and “Shreeni Vibushitha Lanka Babale.”
The success of many of C.T Fernando’s songs lies on the unique music direction and arrangements of this legendary musician. He has also sung in some of C.T’s songs such as “Sihina Lowe” and even in a few songs by Christopher Paul. Denipitiya was the music director for many individual artist shows such as ‘Baig Geethika’ by Mohideen Baig, ‘Wana Bamabru’ by C.T Fernando, ‘Rukmani Handa’ by Rukmani Devi and Helen Daniels, ‘Ranwan Gee’ by P.L.A and Chithra Somapala and ‘Sundar Geeth’ Hindi by Tudor Jayashantha.
Patrick was a man of ‘Firsts’. Thanks to him, Sri Lanka got the first sneak peek on what wonders a Hawaiian guitar could create. Sri Lanka also got a taste of what pop music was back in the early 1960’s, again thanks to Patrick. His work with orchestras including Radio Ceylon Orchestra was widely popular as well.
He was also the first ever Sri Lankan music director to travel across Europe on tour and he toured with C.T Fernando in 1969. The highlight of this tour was his meeting with George Harrison from the world renowned band “Beatles.” He also toured Canada and the United States with H.R. Jothipala, cities such as London, Zürich and Paris with Chitra Somapala and P.L.A. Somapala and many other countries with M.S. Fernando.
Sooriya recorded many songs with music directed by Patrick for C.T. Fernando, Christmas songs arranged by Fr. Marcelline Jayakody and Victor Silva.
With his band ‘Patrick Denipitiya Combo’ (formed in 1962) to lean on, the rare vintage music they created spanned 27 years. They performed at multiple occasions such as Lottery shows, “Maliban Guwan Totilla”, the “Elasto Show”, at the Kandy Lake Club, Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium shows and Tropicana Club. He also performed in many television shows and was the first to appear on BBC Sandeshaya Programme with C.T Fernando.
In 1961 Patrick married Celcie Fernando and had two sons and a daughter. His son Mahesh Denipitiya followed his father’s footsteps and is currently a well-known musician in the Sri Lankan music industry.
Patrick suffered a stroke in 1997 which left him partially paralyzed and lived under the loving care of his wife until he passed away in March, 2013.
WRITTEN BY AMAYA SURIYAPPERUMA
EDITED BY NADEESHA PAULIS