The Settlers – by Patrick Ranasinghe


The Settlers EP Album

The Settlers EP Album

 

It was 1972 and Felix and his wife migrated to Australia.  He decided to to start a new life without his music.  It didn’t last too long.  He & his wife went to a Sri Lanka Dance organised by the ACF (Australia Ceylon Fellowship).  He was spotted by Ernie Walker (clarinet & saxophonist) who was playing in the band with Raef Jansz (piano), Ronnie Bartholomeusz (drums – a former clarinetist).  Felix was invited to play a bracket with the band which he reluctantly accepted.  A few days later he was contacted by the band to join them.  Informing the band that he had no equipment and transport, the band still insisted on his joining them, going to the extent of hiring a bass guitar & amplifier for him.  With no transport, he was picked up by Ernie, at a prearranged Railway Station, and dropped off at his home at night. The band had many Sri Lankan dances, wedding etc.  Thus the Music Bug had bitten him.

Felix decided to revive his music career and picked up an advertisement in the local newspaper calling for a bass guitarist.  The first words coming out at the other end of the phone was “Have you got your own equipment and transport” and the answer from Felix was a big NO but with an assurance that he would purchase his own equipment with the monies he got from the first few jobs. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem the right answer.  But a few weeks later, this same band leader contacted him for an audition.  With no transport, Felix got his brother-in-law, to drive him to the venue.  It was about a 20 minute drive.  With a successful audition, he was offered the job to play on the weekend.  Travel to the venue was via. Tram, 2 trains and a bus with the journey lasting about 2 hours.

After a few months, the band was contracted to a newly built venue called “The Swagman” restaurant.  This restaurant became the most popular venue in Melbourne with people coming over literally in bus loads.  Travel time was much longer, but Felix still insisted on keeping the job.  Felix acquired his first bass guitar, which was offered to him by the keyboardist, for $25/=.

As time went on, members of the group decided to move on and eventually, Felix  was appointed Band Leader.  It was a hard task handling new musicians.  But as the musicians quit the band, Felix invited his Sri Lankan musicians as in Tyrone Senn (Piano); Ernie Walker (clarinet – saxophone).  Finally “THE SETTLERS” band became a more settled band with Felix (Bass Guitar – vocals), Tyrone Senn (Piano & keyboards), Phil Gardner (guitar – vocals) Ernie Walker (clarinet, saxophone – vocals); Lorne Campbell (drums) & Louisa Wisseling (vocals).  An EP featuring THE SETTLERS was produced, featuring Felix singing SWEET CAROLINE; Phil singing ‘”MAKE IT WITH YOU”; Louisa singing ‘NEVER NEVER NEVER” and Ernie with “STRANGER ON THE SHORE”.  Louisa went on to join THE SEEKERS for a short stint replacing Judith Durham.  As time went on, Felix was able to get the services of Milroy Passe de Silva (guitar) & Dallas Achilles (Trumpet).

Felix has moved on playing with many bands in Melbourne.  After many years playing music, he is now repaying the talent God has given by singing and playing at his local Parish on Sundays.  He says he is enjoying his new stint with a choir featuring Sri Lankans, Mauritians & Anglo Indians.  At times he has to perform at two masses, in the absence of the bass guitarist.  But he says that he still enjoys it.

Patrick Ranasinghe

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