Sri Lankan pop icon Sunil Perera dies at 68

Sri Lankan pop icon Sunil Perera dies at 68
He was readmitted to a private hospital in Colombo after having apparently recovered from Covid in August

Veteran Sri Lankan musician Sunil Perera died on Monday (6 September) due to Covid-related complications, according to a family statement. The singer was 68.

The frontman of popular local band Gypsies, Perera had tested positive for Covid last month and was admitted to the intensive care unit of a private hospital in Colombo.

While Perera was discharged after having apparently recovered, news reports say he was readmitted last week.

Tributes to the singer began pouring in shortly after news of his death broke.

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya said Perera’s passing is a “great loss for Sri Lanka’s entertainment scene” and offered condolences to the baila singer’s family.

The country’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa tweeted that Perera will be “remembered forever” through his music.

Several other politicians, sports personalities and journalists also expressed their profound sadness over the loss of one of Sri Lanka’s most eminent performers.

Former Sri Lankan cricketer Kumar Sangakkara remembered Perera as “a kind, gentle and generous man” who moved the nation with “song and rhythm”. He wrote, “You will sing with the angels now”.

Former captain of the Sri Lankan national cricket team Sanath Jayasuriya also paid tribute to a “true legend who entertained us from cradle to grave”, while politician and rights activist Dr Harini Amarasuriya said “the world feels a little less joyful” with Perera’s passing.

Born in 1952, Perera was one of 10 children. The band Gypsies was started by his father, who was an ex-soldier. Afterwards, Perera and his brothers took over.

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Perera’s Gypsies would write and perform upbeat, catchy songs about Sri Lankan life and politics that became the mainstay of weddings and celebrations in the country.

The band’s discography dates back to the 1970s and some of their greatest hits include “Oye Ojaaye”, “Lunu Dehi”, “Signore” and “Sumihiri Pane”.

In an interview with the BBC, Sri Lankan social critic and teacher Upul Shantha Sannasgala said Perera was not one to shy away from expressing his views publicly and honestly. In the past, Perera has spoken out against high-profile murders, including of journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga, and was also critical of the country’s current political administration.

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