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Thilak Hapugoda: Legend in music business

21 October 2021 02:45 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Does the name Thilak Hapugoda ring a bell? It should, to anyone even remotely connected to the 1990s’ vibrant pop music scene, for Thilak revolutionalised our sound and staging systems and brought them on par with international standards. His untimely death at age of 43 in 2001 was a great loss the Lankan world of music. 

 

The decades 1960s to the 80s was a golden age in Lankan music of all genres, the vital technology of getting this music live across to the crowds was lagging behind

During his extensive travels, he studied new technology and developments in music, attending the London music fair in 1996 also visiting France, Singapore and Japan to gain more know-how.

As his 20th death anniversary falls on Oct. 18, this is an attempt to recapture all that he did for music and musicians, stepping out of the boundaries of business and giving so much of himself so freely and magnanimously.
Though not a musician, music was very much in his veins. That he did not become one may have been due to family pressure. Though he followed music keenly while studying at Dharmaraja College, he told a newspaper interviewer in 1996 that his mother’s attitude towards music was discouraging. But that only seems to have increased his love of music.


He told the same interviewer that he saw music as an antidote to violence, adding that according to his research he could not find any musicians among those who rebelled against the state in 1971 and 1989.


Together with his wife Sudharma, he founded the Music Makers company in 1992 at their Nugegoda home. The area is studded with musical talent. After his untimely death, Sudharma Hapugoda worked tirelessly to keep the name alive, and Music Makers is still engaged in hiring sound systems as well as importing quality musical equipment from guitars, keyboards to brass and percussion instruments.


While the decades 1960s to the 80s was a golden age in Lankan music of all genres, the vital technology of getting this music live across to the crowds was lagging behind. Though all kinds of operators, big and small, were there, many musicians were not happy with the quality of service and the dated technology on offer.


Thilak Hapugoda had a natural genius for creating quality sound. He realized too, that there was a limit to what bands and singers could pay. Therefore, while he worked hard to introduce mega lighting and sound systems, he did not set out to build a mega company, catering only to the top level and creating a musical ‘elite.’ Music Makers made quality sound, lighting and stage systems affordable to everyone, big and small.

 

Thilak (centre) with Latha Walpola (left) and Edward Jayakody (right) returning from Dubai

He provided lights and sound for the mega musical show at Galle Face Green as the new millennium dawned. Even the stage design was his. He worked tirelessly to make this show a success

Many singers and bands who went on to become top names started with him. Along with the already famous – Sanath and Malkanthi Nandasiri, Sisira and Indrani Senaratne, Victor Ratnayake, Neela Wickremasinghe, Sunil Edirisinghe, Anil Bharathi and Walter Fernando, emerging stars such as Rukantha Gunathilake, Athula Adhikari and Samitha Mudunkotuwa, Nirosha Virajini, Asanka Priyamantha Pieris, Edward Jayakody, Chandana Hettiarachchi and many others benefitted from Thilak Hapugoda’s expertise. So did Bhathiya and Santhush at 
the start. 


Then there were the bands which went on to become big names – Sunflowers, Flashback and Marians. Even with his incredibly busy schedule, Thilak found the time to manage Zodiac. He accompanied the Gypsies to Japan, and worked with other singers and bands in the Middle East. His fame was such that among his clients were Indian musicians.


During his extensive travels, he studied new technology and developments in music, attending the London music fair in 1996 also visiting France, Singapore and Japan to gain more know-how.


The high watermark of his career was undoubtedly the visit by Shaggy in 2001. Co-incidentally, there is a remarkable physical resemblance between the two. It wasn’t just musicians who benefitted from his know how and generous spirit. Dance troupes such as Channa Wijewardhane’s and Rajini Selvanayagam’s appreciated his professionalism greatly and he worked with them on their foreign tours. Other public events such as Mahapola Lottery and the Sarasaviya Film Festival sought out his services. 

 

Thilak Hapugoda (right) with Shaggy

He provided lights and sound for the mega musical show at Galle Face Green as the new millennium dawned. Even the stage design was his. He worked tirelessly to make this show a success, sometimes flying to Singapore in the morning to buy the right equipment and returning the same day. In addition, he did a month-long mobile road show with Namal Udugama and Sanjeewani Weerasinghe, performing all over 
the country.


Though he had lucrative foreign job offers, the music scene here was his life. He helped many young musicians by giving them quality instruments on loan or at affordable rates. His untimely death was a great loss and there has not been anyone of that caliber and vision in the sounds/lighting business since. Happily, Sudharma Hapugoda keeps his memory alive by continuing with Music Makers from her Nugegoda home.

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