“I was never interested in music until I saw ‘Maawathe Api’ on the television as a child,” Samantha Fernando told us. He reminisced, his fingers strolling over the keyboard, of his childhood and the early 1990 television programme that provided a televised platform to street musicians and performance artists.
“After that I went and bought a tambourine for ten rupees, I remember. That’s how I started performing on the streets as well,” he said.
Fernando, 52, was born in Moratuwa. He lived most of his life there, even after his divorce. In Moratuwa, he cared for his ailing mother and his sister’s children, all the while performing his music on the streets. “My mother passed away recently and now I don’t have a permanent residence,” he said. “My nieces and nephews have also grown up and they are able to take care of themselves. So now, I live alone at a temporary shelter in Lunawa. I’ve gone through great sadness in my life. It was music that kept me going.”
Over the years, Fernando dedicated his life to learning music. “I never stopped learning and always kept sharpening my skills,” he said. “I always had a passion for it and sacrificed everything to master music. I didn’t want to do any other job because it would be a distraction. I perform on the streets because I know this is what I want to do. I was never greedy for money.”
“I travel all over Colombo and play my keyboard in trains and in other locations,” Fernando said. “People who enjoy my performances pay me whatever they can afford. I use whatever I earn from playing music to fulfil my daily needs. But most of it is saved to buy musical instruments. But on the other hand, it’s never enough to do anything beyond that. It’s not possible to make a name for myself like this. What I can do with the instruments that I have is very limited. If I was asked to perform at a wedding, I would have to reject it because I don’t have the instruments to meet their expectations. I have the talent, but not the capacity.”
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