Author Topic: H.R.Jothipala: A national icon?  (Read 3708 times)

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Offline sithari

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H.R.Jothipala: A national icon?
« on: September 25, 2006, 12:29:43 AM »
by Jayantha Anandappa

The Sinhala print and electronic media have been bending over backwards for sometime in glorifying the popular play back singer of yester year - H. R. Jothipala to make him look like a national icon.

The underlying justification for Jothipala's "greatness" appears to be his enduring popularity. I am surprised how easily people are prepared to buy this theory without even blinking an eyelid or evaluating his contribution critically.

To me this illustrates to what levels standards have plummeted down in contemporary times, and how confused and bankrupt the media and people have become. In attempting to rewrite Jothipala's epitaph, one scribe recently went to the extent of arguing that if dramatists could win awards (summana) by adapting foreign plays (hinting probably at Sarathchandra, Dayananda Gunawardena, Henry Jayasena et al), why cannot Jothipala be honoured with summana for "adapting" Hindustani songs?

Fundamental to this topic are two separate issues. Firstly, what did Jothipala represent or try to achieve or contribute to his chosen field (music) during his life time? Secondly what is the reason for his "enduring" popularity? To diagnose Jothipala's popularity we must look at two distinctly different phases. Firstly what made him popular during his life time as a vocalist (1958-87) and secondly what makes him apparently popular today after two decades of his premature death.

With due respect to a man no more with us let me place on record what I honestly think of him. Though from time to time Jothipala sang original (uncopied) tunes, it is not unfair to say that he made a name and a living by generally singing copied Hindustani film songs (mostly for third rate commercial films, and for the radio or private recordings).

Mere vocalist
Unlike the creative musicians like Samarakoon, Sunil Santha, Amaradeva, Victor Ratnayake and Sanath Nandasiri (who had served to establish and popularise the art song) Jothipala was purely a vocalist.

As a talented singer he was probably at his best singing copied Hindustani film songs in a style that appealed to the populace or to the gallery-the very trend that was the bane of the creative composers and film makers. Even when singing uncopied songs for films or the radio, his vocal style was not different.

I leave it to the musicologist or the musicians to assess Jothipala's vocal technique and style, but personally I find Jothipala with his diction intended to appease the gallery, generally nauseating to listen and impossible to enjoy in terms of rasa vindana or rasa nishpaththi. (There may be a few exceptions, of course). However to be fair Jothipala should not be blamed in isolation for copying Hindustani or occasionally Tamil songs, or for his vocal style.

Film producers of the fifties and later the Rupasinghes, Moraes's et al who included copied songs in their films to ensure the commercial success and music directors such as P. L. A. Somapalas - (the willing allies who joined the party for a quick easy buck and popularity); were the real culprits.

Vocalists such as Jothipala, Milton Perera, Mohideen Baig etc were vehicles used by this group in transcribing the Hindi songs. Talented lyricists like Karunaratne Abeysekara were willing to churn out lyrics to suit the Hindi tunes no doubt driven by economic needs.

Jothipala had an advantage over many other playback singers in that he had a stable voice and proper Sinhala diction (in comparison to Baig or Haroon Lanthra) and more importantly a voice suitable as a playback singer.

Spanning more than two decades Jothipala became an essential part of commercial formula films as the playback voice for matinee idols whether this was Bonifus Fernando, Roy de Silva, Gamini Fonseka or Vijaya Kumaranatunge.

The glamorous charismatic Vijaya and the undisputed king of the screen Gamini, for whom Jothipala was almost always the playback voice, their popularity and the popularity of those commercial films was certainly one reason why Jothipala was popular while living.

Electronic media
From the nineties, the media, particularly the television had played its role in keeping Jothipala's popularity by frequently playing those popular film clips starring Vijaya, Gamini, Malini etc with Jothipala as the male play back voice.

In addition, popular artists of the modern generation viz Gratien Ananda, H. R. Soyza, Kamal Addaraaratchi, Rookantha Gunathileka etc have come forward to sing songs of Jothipala for television programms giving Jothipala a further fillip. Preference of the modern generation to rely on audio visual media (shravya-druhsya) as the principal means of listening to songs is why his popularity seems to be still intact.

Reached rock bottom
With the extraordinary and haphazard expansion of the media since mid nineties, standards have reached rock bottom and music (the song) has fragmented both in style and quality to "pathetic" levels. The media (and commercial CDs) is replete with melody-less mediocre substandard songs sung by amateur, untrained, unknown "artists" with highly questionable musical credentials.

It is weird how everyone seems to be happy to listen to this garbage and how a whole country can be fooled all the time by the media.

Against this background, it is not surprising that talented singers of a previous generation like H. R. Jothipala could stand high even now. But this does not mean that despite Jothipala's obvious but misguided talents we should be celebrating him as if he is a national icon particularly in view of the fact that he lived and thrived on plagiarism.

In a country that has seen two supremely gifted vocalists in the form of Sunil Santha and Amaradeva I am amazed how could a country rave so much about Jothipala's voice as if he was the golden Sinhala voice of the twentieth century?

Is constructive criticism and artistic taste in such dire straits in Sri Lanka?
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Offline weli_polonga

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Re: H.R.Jothipala: A national icon?
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2007, 03:01:58 PM »
I do agree with Jayantha Anandappa partialy. Jothi was singing Hindi songs in Sinhala most of his career. But he did it well. Also he was a very good gentleman. Once he was introduced by another singer of his era as Hadawatha Raththaran Jothipala. He sang two rhythm sinlaha pops of the day and few original material as well.

Now take Beatles. What did they sing. Also two rhythm pops in english in their early days. They too copied other artists at the begining. Do you think that they are not English Icons now? Where will you put them. The Best band to influence the early rock seen. But in their hey day they were just a teen age boy band, not favoured by the established (clasical) music world.

Their grateness is recognised by everyone nowadays. Some of their compositions are recorded by London Symphony. I happen to own "Get Back" at one time. The Grand Jury is not the Critiques, but the people. They decide what is Grate.

If a musician is still popular 20 years after his death, it means that even the generations that followed keep him in high esteem. Jothipala is no Sunil Shantha, or Amaradeva, no no, just Jothipala.

Grateness don't have to be clasical all the time. It can be popular too, these days.

A request to Sithari and all other contributers - Don't just publish other peoples work without adding your own views and comments on the subject.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2007, 03:09:14 PM by weli_polonga »

Offline uhoX

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Re: H.R.Jothipala: A national icon?
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2007, 01:14:50 AM »

Good topic Sithari...

and Weli.. you did very constructive comment.

But why you wrote as -->A request to Sithari and all other contributers - Don't just publish other peoples work without adding your own views and comments on the subject
why? :shock:
« Last Edit: June 03, 2007, 07:55:27 PM by uhoX »
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Offline weli_polonga

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Re: H.R.Jothipala: A national icon?
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2007, 12:43:06 PM »
All creations at forums should be published with the views of the persons who post. Just copying some views for discussion is irreverent without your own views on it. Otherwise no real discussion will take place.