Mariazelle Goonetilleke is held in such high esteem in the Sri Lanka music industry for so many reasons. She is an inspiration for all young girls due to her phenomenal success as a female artiste.
She has been in the music industry since the 1970’s and is still delivering powerful performances. In 2008, Mariazelle celebrated 40 years in the world of entertainment proving that youth is not a time of life but a state of mind. But the reason she looms large in our consciousness is because of her down to earth quality.
She has collaborated with the greats in the music industry like Sunil Perera, Dalreen Suby, Clarence Wijewardena, Stanley Peiris, Mignonne Fernando, M S Fernando, Raj Senewiratne, Keerthi Pasquel and Desmond de Silva but she still retains that humility so necessary for a performer. She began her career at the age of ten and since then has never looked back. Her first band were the ‘Junior Rhythmiers’ and then went on to perform with the ‘Emeralds’ and ‘Midnight Mist’. Melodies speaks to Mariazelle Goonetilleke.
“Currently I am busy with my school, because a lot of people wanted me to start this school – mainly Mary Anne David - and impart my knowledge to the next generation. So now I feel that the time is right. I have a lot to share with my students and so Zelle School of Vocal Music is here. So far it has been good and it is progressing well. I have individual and group classes. “
“Recently I was in New Zealand, for a short time, I was invited by Nalin Wickramasinghe and his wife Yasmin on behalf of the Ex- Servicemens’ Association of Sri Lanka, made up of Ex-Service personnel from the Air force, Army, Navy, and Police. All of them who have retired and are based in Auckland, have this association, where they do something annually to raise funds for either disabled servicemen or their children (offering them educational scholarships). It was a dinner dance,” said Mariazelle.
These days Mariazelle is extremely selective about her performances, not doing open air concerts anymore. She walked away from that arena twelve years ago and she has no regrets. After leaving the open air concerts she played with a couple of bands. Now she has broken free from all of that and is continuing with her solo career. She is content with life now and with her school with no encumbrances. Her life is now relaxed, doing musical shows at indoor venues. She has done a couple of concerts in August and the tour to New Zealand was in September. She has some concerts and a couple of tours coming up.
“The tour to New Zealand is etched in my memory because the people were so friendly and the country had this refreshing feeling about it. It was my first visit to New Zealand. The dinner dance went down really well. I was the supporting act for Desmond De Silva. We shared the stage and it was his band members coupled with some very talented musicians based in Auckland that provided the musical backing for us. Judging by the comments received, everyone really enjoyed it,” said Mariazelle.
“As a Christian I attribute everything I am, my success, talent and gifts to my God. I believe that without his hand over my life, none of this would be possible. He has sustained me and brought me through 50 years in the industry and that says a lot. He has certainly blessed me,” pointed out Mariazelle
Originally Mariazelle started off doing Western Music and Western cover versions. And in 1976 she decided to move out of the Western Music Industry. Desmond De Silva was a big name at the time doing ‘Singlish’ songs. That inspired her to do ‘Kandy Lamissi’. It was originally written by her friend Kito Chandrasena for a male to sing, and Mariazelle took the song and turned it around and wrote two other verses and sang it.
Mariazelle has put out quite a few originals, an album consisting of her originals was last released in 2011 under the Torana label. She is currently working on some more originals with the 70s touch composed by Cameron Colombage domiciled in Melbourne Australia. She has put out countless albums (E.P’s) and singles, so many that she has lost count! When it comes to lyrics she does not write them but shares her thoughts with the writer, guiding him/her to write what she requires. For example there was a song she sang with Samitha Mudunkotuwa called ‘Mulu Rayak Pura’ and it was based on a song she heard on country and Western charts.
“The song was called ‘Does he love you does he love me?’. I thought this whole concept of a triangular love affair is pretty common in the West and Asia, though people try and downplay this situation. Maybe it is the shame, stigma and insecurity. I thought that it really did not have to be like that. You ought to be able to face it. So I thought maybe we should sing something like that in Sinhala, and Samitha loved the concept” explained Mariazelle
This song has been well received with people telling her that it relates to them saying that they are going through similar situations. “It is humbling for me to think that a song I have recorded has made a difference in the lives of people” she said.
“I get into whatever song I sing. All the original material I have recorded and sung, part of its success is that I let the lyrics sink into me and it becomes me. That is how I bring emotion into it. There is a song that was written for my son that has such a great story behind it. It is amazing that a song which is so personal to you and holds all your dreams, aspirations, hopes, and schemes for your child becomes the unofficial anthem of Sri Lankan parents around the world. You are amazed how mothers and fathers around the world have embraced this song and made it a part of themselves.
Music should be enjoyed by young and old and young at heart. Be yourself and don’t try and imitate anyone. You are unique. You are you!” said Mariazelle.