The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka organised an evening with musician and Magsaysay award winner Pandit Amaradeva, at India House here on Monday, to celebrate his six decades of excellence in music, and to underline the deep cultural and civilisational links the two countries share.

Pandit Amaradeva (earlier known as Albert Perera), who was awarded the Padma Shri in 2002 and composed the melody for the Maldivian national anthem, along with Ananda Samarakoon (author of the Sri Lankan national anthem), and composer-musician Sunil Santha, are regarded as the founding fathers of the modern Sinhala music. All the three had much in common – were celebrated artists but utterly poor, had deep links with India, and were greatly influenced by Rabindranath Tagore and Rabindra Sangeet.

“It is an emotional moment for me as a friend of long standing is being re-honoured by India,” said Sarath Amunugama, Senior Minister for International Monetary Cooperation. “Traditionally we were not a country that promoted music…In modern times Amaradeva single-handedly created Sinhala music,” he added. Amaradeva’s secret of success was because he was a man of the people and once, people collected money to foot his travel expenditure so that he could learn from his contemporaries.

Highlighting aspects of Amaradeva’s personality, G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs, said that he had a great knack of working with others and drawing out their best. His partnerships with other noted musicians had enriched Sri Lanka and its music.

Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Minister of National Languages and Social Integration, described Amaradeva’s music as one that transcended all barriers in Sri Lanka and was widely accepted. He absorbed every influence from world cultures and dared to carry out innovative experiments. In many ways, he liberated musicians, Mr. Nanayakkara said.

“Whether in religion or in dance, music, literature and other art forms, it has been a silent but enormously powerful give and take between India and Sri Lanka over countless centuries, a process which has been mutually enriching,” noted Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Ashok K.Kantha. “This provides the civilisational bedrock to our relationship and makes it so sturdy and so unique. Sometimes, we lose sight of this bigger picture of India-Sri Lanka relations as we get distracted by odd discordant notes that grab our attention on a particular day,” he said referring to the recent discordant notes over the capture of fishermen from Tamil Nadu on June 20.