Years after a song dedicated to her mother was released, Indrani Perera shared a personal story at a concert about mothers and motherhood. The song, ‘Mathakaya Asuren’ (Drawn from memory), is a moving tribute by a daughter to a mother who has passed away. Indrani Perera said that since her mother had passed away when she was very young, it was her elder sister Mallika who had been a mother to her. Mallika, unfortunately, had herself passed on at the time. The tribute, Indrani said, was therefore for two mothers, her biological mother and the sister who had been a mother to her and was also no more.
Indrani Perera is clearly the best known of the group that performed as ‘The Three sisters’, but for the sisters, in all likelihood, sisterhood mattered much more than anything else.
The Three sisters Mallika, Indrani and Iranganie Perera were born to a musical family. Their mother was an accomplished pianist and a singer and though their father did not play any instruments, he loved music and was a close associate of Mohammed Ghouze, better known as Ghouse Master.
Mallika was actively involved in variety shows at Presbyterian Girl’s School where she and Iranganie studied. She attended Amaradeva’s music classes held at YMBA from the age of 10, a fact which later exposed her to singing at radio programs. Eventually Mallika became a well-known playback singer featuring in films such as ‘Sama’, ‘Dahasak Sithuvili’, ‘Jeevana Ganga’ etc.
The girls had a difficult time when their beloved mother passed away of cancer with Iranganie being only six at the time. Being the eldest Mallika took over the responsibility of taking care of her little sisters. She left school and looked after the two younger sisters, creating a strong bond between the father and the three sisters.
Indrani had initially been more interested in dancing and had studied at the feet of the legendary Vajira and Chitrasena. However, she used to practice singing by herself, while observing Mallika as she waited outside her classes. Indrani’s talent in singing was spotted by the school’s music teacher Mrs. Potgar and was encouraged by the principal Mrs. Valerie. She had her first public encounter with a recording for her school at the Radio Ceylon.
She was selected by Dalreen as a backing singer in her band “Fire-Flies”. Later in 1969, Indrani joined Annesley and Clarence with “The Moonstones” and sang her first original “Dilhani” which became an instant hit.
Iranganie, the youngest, was called “Jeane” by her family. She studied dancing at Shesha Palihakkara’s dancing class and later joined the acting school run by Miranda Hemalatha. This paved the way for her to play a few roles in stage and screenplays: ‘Sama’, ‘Adarayai Karunavai’, ‘Dahasak Sithuvili’.
With the fullest support of their father whose idea it was to form their own band with their own sound equipment, the sisters banded initially as “Blue Bird” later re-named as “Super Stars”. On the 31st December 1969, they had their first performance at the Hotel Taprobane (now called Grand Oriental Hotel — GOH) and called themselves “The Three Sisters”: considered by most to be the first female vocal group in the Sinhala pop scene.
Their debut album titled “The Three Perera Sisters in Harmony” on the Sooriya label included the evergreen hits “Kalu Kella Mamai” and “Akkala Nangila”.
Their next two albums were released in 1970 again on the Sooriya label: ‘The Three Sisters A-Go-Go’ including songs “Malwage Api”, “Varsity Kello”, “Samaru Potha” and “Indunil Menika”, while ‘The Sensational Three Sisters’ was backed by The Golden Chimes and this was where Iranganie emerged as a lead singer with the song “Me Geeya Mama Gayanne”.
They were blessed by the immense support of leading musicians of the era who backed their recordings: M.K. Rocksamy (Violin), Raj Jalaldeen (Guitar), Kumar Molligoda (Saxaphone), Bella Kirkes (Saxaphone) and Latiff Miskin (Trumpet).
The Three Sisters were always seen at live Sooriya Shows and featured on the Sooriya Show on radio as well.
The Three Sisters established their own record label with the help of their father: I.M.I.
The Three Sisters continued to make fabulous music for almost 20 years until Mallika’s untimely death due to cancer in 1987. Since then, Indrani has embarked on a successful solo career and still perform as a solo artiste.
Iranganie joined Indrani from time to time in performing their most popular hits on stage. Hiranya, daughter of late Mallika made her debut by teaming up with Indrani and Iranganie at the “Annesley and Indrani in concert” held as a tribute to Clarence Wijewardena on the 02nd of December 2000, thereby reviving the evergreen hits of “The Three Sisters”.
They were popular among the Tamil society in Sri Lanka as well and the Sisters have performed a few Tamil songs.
EDITED BY MALINDA SENEVIRATNE