Sunil Perera: Music legend dies at 68 as Sri Lanka stars mourn 'giant in influence'

Perera's band The Gypsies is Sri Lanka's biggest music franchise

Sri Lankan musician Sunil Perera died on Monday at the age of 68, his family has announced.

Perera was one of the stalwarts of Sri Lanka’s baila genre, making music that was popularly played during celebrations such as weddings and parties.

He is believed to have died from complications related to Covid-19. He had been hospitalised three weeks ago with the virus. However, his brother Piyal told local media at the time his condition was improving and his oxygen levels had stabilised.

Perera was the frontman of the band The Gypsies, writing and performing songs with catchy tunes and clever lyrics, often about Sri Lankan life and politics.

Popular songs include 1987’s Uncle Johnson, which details a ruined wedding anniversary party, while 2001's Signore focused on a defeated politician berating voters.

"It was his presence on stage, the character of the man, the rhythms, text and musicality that The Gypsies bring to us that has appealed to many a fan, spanning well over 50-plus years," Rohan de Lanerolle, a prominent singer and choral conductor, told the BBC.

"It's also adaptability to different audiences. I recall once, how minutes prior to an event, he changed his set list after taking a good look at the audience."

The Gypsies was a family affair, founded by Perera’s father. He later joined along with his brothers, before eventually taking over. The band became Sri Lanka's biggest music franchise.

Perera was known for his high-energy stage persona, as well as his opinions off-stage. He was vocal on many issues in Sri Lanka, including politics. He was against Sri Lanka's current administration, and once called both major political parties the “bane of the country”.

Many have paid tribute to the star on social media following the news of his death.

Former Sri Lankan cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara tweeted: "A kind, gentle and generous man who moved us with song and rhythm. Small made but giant in influence and heart.”

Updated: September 6th 2021, 10:38 AM
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