It teaches how to face challenges, face difficult situations, and even to take decisions with a clear mind. Those who have learnt to appreciate any type of music can be considered as sensitive individuals who always see the beautiful side of life. The power of music is such, that it can affect a person in a most amazing way, in the long run. Including music as a subject in the school curriculum is a great decision, since it helps to nurture a child from his younger days, helping him to develop his language skills and mind. Research has shown that one of the best methods of developing a child’s knowledge is to play some kind of an instrument.
There are a few who wants to give what they learnt to the society, who will put their heart and soul to educate the general public about the power of music and try to create a successful individual, and expecting nothing.
Our interviewee today is Chandrasiri Ranasighe, Music Director, teacher, composer and a lyricist, all in one. He recently launched a book, titled ‘Swara Puwaru Mihira Sara 1’ on January 23, 2020. Apart from that he has written several other books on playing the Violin, Singing, and also the guitar. Chandrasiri Ranasinghe finished his primary and High school education at the Bandarawela Central College. He graduated from the University of Visual and Performing arts as a specialist in Sitar and Hindustani classical music, in 1984. Afterwards he studied Western music and Gamelan music at University Gaja Mada in 1988, further pursuing his education by receiving the postgraduate diploma in education from university of Colombo in 1996 and completed a master’s degree in science on curriculum designing in the year 2000 at University Putra, Malaysia. Then he went to India to study curriculum designing and media instruction for teach.
That was a three month course at Indira Gandhi Open University. He followed another course on media for teaching, at the Kesetsart University inThailand.
Starting his career as a music teacher in 1984, Chandrasiri Ranasinghe continued with it for four years, until he was employed by the national institute of education (NIE) as a lecturer in music and got promoted as a senior lecturer in music and the chief in command of western music department at NIE in 2006.
Then he followed another course on media for teaching at Kesetsart University in Thailand. He was the first person to develop trilingual music learning software for sri lankan school system. It was a project by National Institute of Education (NIE). Currently he is the director of the electronic dissemination department at NIE.
The Eastern music curriculums from grade six to 13 between the year 2000 and 2010, were made by him, and he has been working as a private tutor for more than two decades and his students are currently working as music teachers in government schools around the country.
His wife is currently a dancing teacher and daughter, Sandheera, is a western music teacher who graduated from the University of visual and performing arts with a Bachelor of Arts degree on Western music. She also has published a few books on music. His only Son Janaka is currently studying sounds and music production at Murdoch University, Australia. We had a brief interview with him to know about his latest book launch, and his views on music in general.
Q: When did you first learn music as a subject? Were you interested in music even during your younger days?
I had my primary education from the Bandarawela Central College. After completing my education, I got appointed as a teacher in a school in Horana, and then went through many stages of my educational career, and also had the opportunity of studying in Malaysia and Thailand. I gained a lot of experience by studying in these countries. I also joined the SLBC as a sitarist.
Q: You recently launched a book.
Up to now, I have released around five books, based on singing , playing the guitar, keyboards, etc. The book which was launched recently was focused on developing the knowledge and brain function of the primary school students by teaching them to play the melodica, Electric organ, etc and to use the 5 fingers. A most beneficial activity for a child is to learn how to play a keyboard from his early childhood. Using the five fingers and playing an instrument is a well-known method for developing a child’s language and knowledge skills. It also develops the brain development of a child. This book has both Sinhala and English notes to practice. I also make use of raw material instruments and sounds of animals to enhance the music chords and notes.
Q: As a music director , lyricist and a composer, what are the main musical genres which you focus on ?
I have composed music taking down the elements of folk music and Hindustani music. My daughter also has completed a Degree in guitar. She too, pursues her music career in her own style, and has shared her knowledge of music.
Q: When you compose music is there any particular theme you focus on?
As a teacher , I composed songs by referring to nature , and also created tunes for religious songs. There were famous artistes who contributed with vocals for these songs, such as Amitha Wadisinghe, T M Jayarathne, and Victor Rahnayake. I composed music for teledramas as well. The person who inspired me in composing music was Shelton Premarathne , whom I greatly respect , and veterans like Stanley Peiris , and the media also gave us a sound knowledge .Even unknown to us , at that time we were able to learn something important.
Q: You’re also a lecturer and the director of the electronic dissemination department at NIE. How do you balance your music career with your professional career?
I joined the NIE as a lecturer in music and a performer. I learnt music on my own. There was no formal education. I used my knowledge and what I learnt to write a book and also a CD, so that anyone can read the book, practice and play. My opinion is, anyone who can talk can sing. But don’t now how to use proper vocal chords. You got to have practical experience, and also proper training exercises.
Q: How do you see music as a subject in the school curriculum? Do you see any improvements over the years?
We cannot be satisfied with the subject curriculum .What mostly happen is, that the curriculum is not adjusted according to the students’ needs but to fulfill the needs of certain people. Whoever does the thing, if its good it should be appreciated and if it’s bad, it should be discussed. I’m very lucky in that way, having come to the NIE, I can observe the entire process of the educational system.
Q: Your daughter, Sandheera, also has published a few books. Is she following your path in music or proceeds in a different way?
Yes, I’m very lucky in that way. I think both my children have chosen correct paths. Though I played the Sitar, it doesn’t mean that my daughter also has to follow the same. I never influenced them to do so. My daughter opted to learn the guitar because that was her choice, and is trying to move forward in the way she can. My son studies sounds and music production at Murdoch University, Australia. All my recordings, editing and so on are done by him.
Q: What was your experience as a music director and who were the veterans you met at that time?
I had the chance of being a music director when I was a university student. Then I met a veteran called Walter Wickramarathne. I also joined SLBC as a sitarist. And I was also able to compose music with Shelton Premarathne and add my contribution to many productions.
Q: What’s your experience being a music teacher and an instructor for so many years?
I can see changes are rapidly taking place in the music industry .If the modern musicians can do something which will be beneficial for the country by using their knowledge that will be a good thing.
Q: What is the support which you get from your family regarding your music career?
I get the maximum support from my family. When I was a student, selecting arts subjects was not much encouraged. Except me, all my other family members followed science subjects. Those days music as not given much priority. However, my sister had a good taste in music. She encouraged and helped me a lot.
Q: Looking back at your journey, how do you feel?
I feel so happy. Coming from a small school, I was able to come to this position thanks to the encouragement, and efforts of several people who helped me. I can still remember how my science teacher, Chandani Kulasinghe encouraged me and to pursue with my studies and passion for music, and helped me to gain an extensive knowledge and become the class monitor. I dedicated my book to her, at my launch. So I feel very happy that I was able to come this far, and will continue to share my music and academic knowledge in the best way I can , so that I can be happy that I have done something good for the society.