|Sunday, 20 June 2004|
Life and times of Dalreen
Always warm and friendly and ever willing to help out another musician, her phone book is crowded with numbers of musicians who keep in constant touch with her. She alluringly blends with the throbbing of guitars and drums and wins your instant appreciation.
Her charisma on stage is unique and has won her long line of fans over the years, not only in Sri Lanka but also in many capitals abroad. Her trek to success, she reveals, has not been a path of roses. Difficulties and setbacks in the initial stages of her career have moulded her into a person with abounding grit and confidence to fight for the position she so proudly occupies today.
Where do we begin to tell the story of Dalreen?
According to her mother Decima, who was a singer herself, Dalreen as a baby used to move her hands and gurgle her own baby notes whenever her mother sang to her even if it was a lullaby! She was destined to be a singer. 'Cos Dalreen spent most of her childhood days watching with wonderment her mother on stage singing with her aunt Mignonne when they performed as the Kelaart Sisters.
The passion to be on stage, could not be contained and at the tender age of nine, Dalreen made her debut singing Elvis Presley songs and when she turned twelve she was featured on Radio Ceylon, the national radio, with other professional singers. From then on the child star became the talk of the town.
She joined her first band in 1966, the Fireflies and played at the Ceylinco Hotel for the popular Sundown Dances, which was held on the 10th floor of the Hotel.
Soon after in '67 she was selected by an American agent to sing for the USO in Vietnam and joined The Savages - the first group and female singer from Sri Lanka- to perform abroad for a tour of nine months entertaining the American forces. On her return the excitement of being on stage led her to sing with The Spitfires for the now extremely popular Sundown Dances at the Ceylinco Hotel.
Other highlights of Dalreen's career came fast when in 1972 she made her first tour when she was signed on by Polydor (Ariola Label) Germany, to record and release three singles. One was in English titled 'Stranger Boy' and 'With a Little Love.' The others were two German songs 'Als der neue tag' and 'Sei weider gut', which she performed on German TV. 'Stranger Boy' became a big hit for her.
The years with Amazing Grace and Orpheus at the Little Hut, Mount Lavinia and the Blue Leopard set new trends in music, with Dalreen radiating her never ending charm. A rock singer - as well in her early years, she was a familiar figure on stage with leading names like Kumar Navaratnam, Upali Fernando and Prince Rajaratnam.
Always a survivor Dalreen switched her talents to the Oriental scene too. Clarence Wijewardena composed four songs for her which were released on the Sooriya label one of which 'Chuda Meneke' became an anthem for Dalreen. She is still a popular star on the Oriental stage.
Always restless and wanting to take wing to show-case herself, Dalreen after her success in Germany was invited by the Travel Agents of the PATA Conference in 1975 to perform at the Sydney Opera House where she sang her Sinhala songs. Soon after there were more tours, and each one of them spelt excitement and happiness confesses Dalreen, making all her teenage dreams come true. The experience was equally valuable.
Her fame has taken her to India, Japan, Hong Kong, Berlin, Melbourne, Switzerland, Moscow, Rome, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Katmandu, London, the States, and the Middle Eastern countries - reads like the pages of an endorsed passport. Her happiness was great when she won the Sunday Observer Golden Clef Awards in 1993 for 'Singer of the Year' and for 'Trio of the Year' for her group 'Dalreen and Company."
'India Today' - profiled her as.... "the songstress who turns you on with her songs of love and life. To the people of Sri Lanka she is not just a singer par excellence - She is a symbol - the woman who acts as a kind of ambassador, transporting a part of their world to the world outside..."
Music is an intrinsic part of Dalreen's family. Her two daughters have inherited their mother's musical talents with the same degree of enthusiasm and commitment. Debbie her older daughter a recognised professional keyboardist/pianist and singer too, has had a successful career as a solist performing at countless venues and special events and still continues her music as the keyboardist in the popular group Phase 3.
Thahani her teenage daughter is a singer in her own right excelling in today's pop music and is all set to make her launch at the concert next week. Not to be left out musically is Dalreen's percussionist husband Thabit who is also a horticulturalist at heart and lends continuous support to his musically minded family.
We wish Dalreen success... We know that her art will go on...
Produced by Lake House