Connect with us





The Lockheed TriStar L 1011 aircraft was well ahead of its time. It is said that the manufacturers, Lockheed built two automatic pilots first and then built an aircraft around them. It was a ‘wide body’ aircraft with two isles and a nose like a Dolphin. The Flight Deck was very spacious when compared to other airliners. It also had a lower galley (service area) which could be accessed by two lifts. It could carry out automatic landings far superior to any other airliners of that era. The airline pilots of the day would describe the automatic functions of the TriStar in three letters ‘P F M’ (Pure Magic). Some said that the only thing the computers couldn’t do was to play ‘Star Spangled Banner’ (the American National Anthem)

Some of the technology was far superior to even the fly by wire Airbus aircraft that arrived 10 to fifteen years later! It was a good match between man and machine. That was because Lockheed being a builder of Military aircraft benefited from the spinoff from space technology which in turn trickled down to Civil Aviation. Unfortunately, the Rolls Royce (RR) RB 211 Trent Engines that were chosen to power it had some teething problems which delayed the L 1011 project and almost made RR go ‘belly up’. As a result, the McDonald Douglas DC10, another three-engine aircraft, stole a march over them, commercially.

One of the launch customers for the L 1011 TriStar was Eastern Airlines of USA. On the night of 29 December 1972 a Lockheed 1011 TriStar, registration N310EA (See Picture) just four months old, took off from the John F Kennedy Airport, New York to Miami International Airport, Florida, under the Command of Capt. Robert Loft. The First Officer was flying this sector. From some of our ex Eastern Airlines colleagues who flew TriStars with us later in Air Lanka, we gathered that Capt Loft was a bit high-strung even at normal times.  The rest of the crew that night were First Officer Alfred Stockstill and Flight Engineer Don Repo. There was also a ground engineer Angelo Danadio occupying the fourth seat in the Flight Deck.

The following is the reconstruction of the crash using the information from the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), which is recorded on a common timeline; it was done by the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) USA. The flight was uneventful until the landing approach at Miami. The crew, after they selected the undercarriage (wheels) down, observed that the nose gear down and locked indicator green light was not lit up. In the Flight Deck there were three green lights (one for each wheel unit) to indicate that all wheels were down and locked. Since there were only two green lights instead of three, the Captain decided to recycle the landing gear up and then down again hoping that the problem will sort itself out. There was no change in the number of green lights.

The next thing they did was to test the light system by pressing a button in the overhead panel to illuminate all the lights in the forward and overhead panel, just in case there was a bulb failure. The TriStar crews called the test system, the ‘Christmas Tree Lights’ as all the caution, advisory and warning lights that were supposed to flash intermittently did so like a Christmas tree.

The nose gear down and locked indication light didn’t come on during the light test.

 See figures 2 ,3 ,4

It confirmed that both bulbs in the Nose

Light assembly were unserviceable. (In each Landing Gear light assembly there were two small light bulbs). Then again, how if there was a triple failure of the Nose wheel Lock and Bulbs? The crew had to know for sure, before they attempted to land. They had already lined up for the landing. So, to buy some time, the Captain Loft informed the Air Traffic Control Tower that they had a problem. The Control Tower instructed them to discontinue the landing, go around and climb to 2000ft and turn left towards the swamps called the Miami Everglades. It was a dark, moonless night.

After reaching 2000 feet the Captain instructed First Officer Stockstill to engage one of the two automatic pilots which was capable of holding the altitude.

 See figure 5

In the TriStar L 1011 the only time, both autopilots (Autopilot A and B) are simultaneously engaged is when the Automatic Landing System is engaged. Each of the two autopilot switches have three positions Off, CWS and CMD. When the Autopilot is switched on, the First Officer Stockstill would have switched on the one allocated to him (Autopilot B) upwards from ‘OFF’ to ‘CMD’ through a ‘CWS’ position known as ‘Control Wheel Steering’ position. CWS is an intermediate position where the autopilot will be directly controlled through the Control Wheel and not through programming any switches in the automatic pilot control panel. In the CMD position Autopilot B would have maintained 2000ft as instructed, provided 2000ft is set on the altitude window and the ALT Hold button is on. If however some pressure was exerted on the control wheel (15 to 20 lbs.) the CMD selection switch would drop back to the intermediate position of CWS and the ALT Hold button would deselect with the ALT light will go off without any audio warning to the pilots. This was how the system was designed to work at the start.

While the aircraft was flying with the Autopilot ‘B’ engaged at 2000ft, the crew proceeded to trouble shoot.  F/O Stockstill had managed to remove the light assembly with great difficulty and tried to replace the two small peanut size light bulbs. This too was extremely difficult. Spare light bulbs of all types and sizes were carried at the Flight engineer’s station.

On Lofts’ remark, “To hell with it”

Stockstill gave up replacing the bulbs and when trying to reinstall the Nose wheel light assembly, it got stuck. And now he was struggling to put it back. Everyone in the flight deck were involved. It is believed that F/O Stockstill tried to replace it by erroneously turning it 90 degrees sideways into the recess (holder) and jammed the assembly. The lens did say ‘Nose’, when inserted in the correct way up but it could be seen only when it lit up and that did not happen as the bulbs were not replaced.

Capt Loft told F/O Sockstill, “Just leave it there”

Now that it was confirmed that the indicator bulbs had fused and the only sure way of positively checking whether wheel was down and locked was go down to the electronics bay below the Flight Deck.

Capt Loft tells F/E Repo impatiently “To hell with it …. Go down and see whether it is lined up on the red line …. That’s all we care.”

Then he laughed at himself and said “Screwing around with a 20 cent piece of light equipment … in this plane”

There through a ‘peep hole’ (facing backwards) one could see Red coloured marks that should be mechanically aligned. So accordingly, Flight Engineer Repo went down to the electronics bay (Popularly known at Eastern Airlines as the ‘Hell Hole’) to check. On his first visit Repo couldn’t see the alignment marks as the wheel well light wasn’t on. So he had to come up and ask Capt Loft to switch it on. When Repo asked for the wheel well light, which was on the overhead panel to be switched on, the positioning Ground Engineer Dinadio was still seated behind the captain and eager to help. Turning around, Capt Loft requested him to go and help F/E Repo to locate the mechanical indicators for the nose landing gear.

The NTSB investigators believed that when turning around in his seat, to speak to Ground Engineer Dinadio, Capt Loft may have accidently applied some forward pressure on the Control Wheel which made the Autopilot switch drop from CMD to CWS deactivating the ALT hold button and thereby initiating a gentle, unperceived, descent. Usually when there is a deviation of 250 feet from the selected altitude, in the autopilot altitude window, a ‘C cord’ chime is activated for a duration of half a second. This unfortunately was missed by the operating crew who were deeply engrossed in solving the nose landing gear indication problem. The chime occurs at the Flight Engineer’s Station and Don Repo was down in the ‘Hell Hole’

When the aircraft was at about 900ft above ground the Air Traffic Controller noticed it and casually asked,

“Eastern, ah, four oh one how are things comin’ along out there?”

However, he did not instruct Eastern 401 to get back to the assigned altitude of 2000 feet!

The L 1011 also had a radio altimeter which bounced radio signals off the ground and went off close to the ground. By the time Capt Loft and F/O Stockstill realised that they were very close to the ground, it was too late.

The aircraft impacted with the ground killing 5 of 13 crew and 96 of the 103 passengers. While Capt Loft and F/E Repo were badly injured, F/O Stockstill died on the spot. The Captain succumbed to his injuries before he was rescued while F/E Repo died in hospital. Ground Engineer Angelo Denadio’s injuries were less serious and he survived. The subsequent postmortem of Capt. Loft revealed that he had a brain tumour which may have affected his peripheral vision which also plays a part in night flying ability. It was later disregarded as past reports of other crew members didn’t indicate any obvious deficiencies in his ability.

There was a guy named Bob Marquis in an Air Boat hunting for Sulphur belly frogs in the swamp. He saw the aircraft flying low overhead and hit the ground and rushed to the spot. The first rescue helicopter pilot to arrive couldn’t initially find the wreck, till he saw the flickering light of Marquis, the frog catcher’s battery powered light on his headband. He then switched on his powerful ‘Night Sun’ helicopter spot light. Because of the debris being picked up by the rotor, the pilot couldn’t land close to the wreck, but had to land about 200 yards away and depend on Marquis’ Air Boat to ferry the survivors. Other helicopters arrived later. The rescue operations went on till morning. The helicopter pilots could see all three wheel marks on the ground before the L-1011 disintegrated on impact.

 The aircraft automatic systems assumed that it was doing a normal landing with the leading edge and trailing edge devices of the wings out and wheels down. That is why the Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS), another safety device on board did not trigger off. The GPWS has a series of voice warning call outs such as “Terrain, Terrain”, “Too Low Gear”, “Too Low Flaps” , “Sink Rate” and “Woop woop pull up” when not in the ‘Landing Configuration.’ In this instance Eastern 401 was in the Landing Configuration.

See figure 6

The NTSB Investigators declared that

·         The three flight crew members were preoccupied in an attempt to ascertain the position of the nose landing gear.

·         The flight crew did not hear the aural altitude alert which sounded as the aircraft descended through 1,750 feet mean sea level

·         There were several manual thrust reductions during the final descent.

·         The flight crew did not monitor the flight instruments, during the final descent until seconds before impact.

·         The captain failed to assure that a pilot was monitoring the progress of the aircraft at all times.

The NTSB determined that “The probable cause of the accident was the failure of the crew to monitor the flight instruments during the final 4 minutes of the flight and to detect an unexpected descent soon enough to prevent an impact with the ground. Preoccupation with the malfunction of, the nose landing gear position indicating system distracted the crew’s attention from the instruments and allowed the descent to go unnoticed.”

In short “No one was minding the shop” and as a result they lost ‘Situational Awareness’ or what is going on around them.

      The NTSB Investigators had the benefit of using the Flight Data     Recorder (FDR) and the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) which had been mandated.

As a direct result of this accident and another DC 8 accident in 1978 at Portland, Oregon, USA, airlines realised that pilots need to be taught ‘soft skills’ known as Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) using actual accidents and studies of ‘Human Factors’. A pioneer on these studies was WWII veteran, author and BOAC Capt. David Beaty who was born in Hatton, Ceylon, a son of a Methodist Minister and an old boy of Kingswood College, Kandy.

All airlines have built in ‘Human Factors’ to their Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s). For example, now there is a designated ‘Flying Pilot’ and a ‘Monitoring Pilot’. The Flying pilot must ‘mind the shop’ and get the other crew members to carry out necessary tasks at his behest.

The priorities being to Fly, Navigate and Communicate, in that order. Once in two years it is now mandatory that all crew undergo CRM training and now known as Crew Resource Management, because it is not only the Cockpit Crew but all the associated team members inside and outside the Flight Deck, play a part in safe operations. For instance Behavioural Scientists wondered as to why in the Eastern 401 accident the Air Traffic Controller didn’t mention to the pilots that they were supposed to be at 2000 ft. Their studies showed that there was a great pay and conditions gap and hence a status gap between the Air Traffic Controllers and Airline Captains and therefore there was a natural hesitancy to admonish or at least volunteer information which may have saved the day!

There were also a few modifications done to the L-1011 too. Lockheed installed a loud ‘wailer’ to indicate that the autopilot switch had dropped off from the CMD position. The half a second altitude deviation chime was increased to one second duration. The square lens of the green landing lights had the word ‘TOP’ etched on it, so that no mistake could be made when fitting the assembly back. Another wheel well light switch was fitted in parallel in the hat rack close to the trap door to the ‘Hell hole’.

Postscript: Some of the parts like the galleys from the almost new N310EA, Eastern 401 Flight, that survived crash were re-used on other newly delivered Eastern Airline L-1011’s. Subsequently there were documented reports that the ghost of F/E Don Repo was spotted in those aircraft. Eastern tried to supress information of these sightings by replacing the log books with new ones! This was confirmed by of our ex- Eastern Airlines colleagues that worked with us in Air Lanka in the early days. But that’s another story!

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Have Humanities and Social Sciences muddied water enough?



By Maduranga Kalugampitiya

The domain of the humanities and social sciences is under attack more than ever before. The relevance, as well as usefulness of the degrees earned in those fields, is being questioned left, right, and centre. The question of whether it is meaningful at all to be spending, if not wasting, the limited financial resources available in the coffers to produce graduates in those fields is raised constantly, at multiple levels. Attempts are being made to introduce a little bit of soft skills into the curricula in order to add ‘value’ to the degree programmes in the field. The assumption here is that either such degree programmes do not impart any skills or the skills that they impart are of no value. We often see this widely-shared profoundly negative attitude towards the humanities and the social sciences (more towards the former than towards the latter) being projected on the practitioners (students, teachers, and researchers) in those areas. At a top-level meeting, which was held one to two years ago, with the participation of policy-makers in higher education and academics and educationists representing the humanities and social sciences departments, at state universities, a key figure in the higher education establishment claimed that the students who come to the humanities and social sciences faculties were ‘late-developers’. What better (or should I say worse?) indication of the official attitude towards those of us in the humanities and the social sciences!

While acknowledging that many of the key factors that have resulted in downgrading the humanities and social sciences disciplines are global by nature and are very much part of the neoliberal world order, which dominates the day, I wish to ask if we, the practitioners in the said fields, have done our part to counter the attack.

What the humanities and the social sciences engage with is essentially and self-consciously social. What these disciplines have to say has a direct bearing on the social dimension of human existence. It is near impossible to discuss phenomena in economics, political science, or sociology without having to reflect upon and use examples from what happens in our lives and around us. One cannot even begin to talk about teaching English as a second language without taking a look at her/his own experience learning English and the struggles that many people go through at different levels doing the same. One cannot talk about successful ways of teaching foreign languages without recognizing the need to incorporate an engagement with the cultural life of those languages at some level. No reading of an artwork—be it a novel, a movie, a painting, a sculpture, a poem, whatever—is possible without the reader at least subconsciously reflecting upon the broader context in which those artworks are set and also relating her own context or experience to what is being read. A legal scholar cannot read a legislation without paying attention to the social implications of the legislation and the dynamics of the community at whom that legislation is directed. The point is our own existence as social beings is right in the middle of what we engage with in such disciplines. To steal (and do so self-consciously) a term from the hard/natural sciences, society is essentially the ‘laboratory’ in which those in the humanities and social sciences conduct their work. There may be some areas of study within the humanities and social sciences which do not require an explicit engagement with our social existence, but I would say that such areas, if any, are limited in number.

Needless to say that every social intervention is political in nature. It involves unsettling what appears to be normal about our social existence in some way. One cannot make interventions that have a lasting impact without muddying the water which we have been made to believe is clear. How much of muddying do we as practitioners in the field of humanities and social sciences do is a question that needs to be asked.

Unfortunately, we do not see much work in the humanities and social sciences which unsettles the dominant order. What we often see is work that reinforces and reaffirms the dominant structures, systems, and lines of thought. Lack of rigorous academic training and exposure to critical theory is clearly one of the factors which prevents some scholars in the field from being able to make interventions that are capable of muddying the water, but the fact that we sometimes do not see much muddying even on the part of the more adept scholars shows that lack of rigorous training is not the sole reason.

Muddying the water is no simple matter. To use a problematic, yet in my view useful, analogy, a scholar in the said field trying to make an intervention that results in unsettling the order is like a hydrogen atom in H2O, ‘water’ in layperson’s language, trying to make an intervention which results in a re-evaluation of the oxygen atom. Such an intervention invariably entails a re-evaluation of the hydrogen atom as well, for the reason that the two atoms are part of an organic whole. One cannot be purely objective in its reading of the other. Such an intervention is bound to be as unsettling for the hydrogen atom as it is for the oxygen atom. Similarly, in a majority of contexts, a scholar in the area of the humanities and social sciences cannot make an intervention, the kind that pushes the boundaries of knowledge, without unsettling the dominant structures and value systems, which they themselves are part of, live by, and also benefit from. For instance, the norms, values, and practices which define the idea of marriage in contexts like ours are things that a male scholar would have to deal with as a member of our society, and any intervention on his part which raises questions about gender-based inequalities embodied in such norms, values, and practices would be to question his own privilege. Needless to say that such an intervention could result in an existential crisis for the scholar, at least temporarily. Such interventions also entail the possibility of backlash from society. One needs thorough training to withstand that pressure.

In place of interventions that unsettle the existing order, what we often see is work, which re-presents commonsensical knowledge garbed in jargon. To give an example from an area that I am a bit familiar with, much of the work that takes place in the field of English as a Second Language (ESL) identifies lack of motivation on the part of the students and also teachers and also lack of proper training for teachers as the primary reasons for the plight of English education in the country. This reading is not very different from a layperson’s understanding of the problem, and what we often see as research findings in the field of ESL is the same understanding, albeit dressed up in technical-sounding language. Such readings do not unsettle the existing order. They put the blame on the powerless. Very limited is the work that sees the present plight of English education as a systemic or structural problem. Reading that plight as a systemic problem requires us to re-evaluate the fundamental structures which govern our society, and such re-evaluation is unsettling is many ways. I argue that that is what is expected of scholarship in the ESL field, but unfortunately that is not what we see as coming out of the field.

If what gets produced as knowledge in the humanities and social sciences is jargonized commonsense, then the claim that such fields have nothing important to say is valid. If what a scholar in those fields has to say is not different to a layperson’s understanding of a given reality, the question whether there is any point in producing such scholars becomes valid.

In my view, the humanities and social sciences are in need of fundamental restructuring. This restructuring is not the kind which calls for the incorporation of a bit of soft skills here and a bit of soft skills there so that those who come out of those fields easily fit into predefined slots in society but the kind that results in the enhancement of the critical thinking capacity of the scholars. It is the kind of restructuring that would produce scholars who are capable of engaging in a political reading of the realities that define our existence in society and raise difficult questions about such existence, in other words, scholars who are capable of muddying the water.

(Maduranga Kalugampitiya is attached to Department of English, University of Peradeniya)

Kuppi is a politics and pedagogy happening on the margins of the lecture hall thatparodies, subverts, and simultaneously reaffirms social hierarchies.

Continue Reading


Selective targeting not law’s purpose



By Jehan Perera

The re-emergence of Donald Trump in the United States is a reminder that change is not permanent. Former President Trump is currently utilising the grievances of the white population in the United States with regard to the economic difficulties that many of them face to make the case that they need to be united to maintain their position in society. He is coming forward as their champion. The saying “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” is often attributed to the founders of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, among many others, though Lord Denning in The Road to Justice (1988) stated that the phrase originated in a statement of Irish orator John Philpot Curran in 1790. The phrase is often used to emphasise the importance of being vigilant in protecting one’s rights and freedoms.

Ethnic and religious identity are two powerful concepts by which people may be mobilised the world over. This is a phenomenon that seemed to have subsided in Western Europe due to centuries of secular practices in which the state was made secular and neutral between ethnicities and religions. For a short while last year during the Aragalaya, it seemed that Sri Lanka was transcending its ethnic and religious cleavages in the face of the unexpected economic calamity that plunged large sections of the population back into poverty. There was unprecedented unity especially at the street level to demonstrate publicly that the government that had brought the country to this sorry pass had to go. The mighty force of people’s power succeeded in driving the leaders of that government out of power. Hopefully, there will be a government in the future that will bring the unity and mutual respect within the people, especially the younger generations, to the fore and the sooner the better as the price is growing higher by the day.

But like the irrepressible Donald Trump the old order is fighting to stage its comeback. The rhetoric of ethnicity and religion being in danger is surfacing once more. President Ranil Wickremesinghe who proclaimed late last year that the 13th Amendment to the constitution would be implemented in full, as it was meant to be, and enable the devolution of power to be enjoyed by the people of the provinces, including those dominated by Tamils and Muslims, has gone silent on this promise. The old order to which he is providing a new economic vision is clearly recalcitrant on ethno-religious matters. As a result, the government’s bold plan to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as promised to the international community in 2015 to address the unresolved human rights issues of the war, is reportedly on the rocks. The main Tamil political parties have made statements that they will not legitimise or accept such a mechanism in the absence of a genuine devolution of power. Politics must not override policies.


The sense of threat to ethnicity and religion looms too large once again for forward movement in conflict resolution between the different communities that constitute the Sri Lankan nation which is diverse and plural. Two unlikely persons now find themselves at the centre of an emotion-heavy ethno-religious storm. One is a comedian, the other is a religious preacher. Both of them have offended the religious sensibilities of many in the ethno-religious Sinhala Buddhist majority community. Both of their statements were originally made to small audiences of their own persuasion, but were then projected through social media to reach much larger audiences. The question is whether they made these statements to rouse religious hatred and violence. There have been numerous statements from all sides of the divide, whether ethnic, religious or political, denouncing them for their utterances.

Both comedian Nathasha Edirisooriya and pastor Jerome Fernando have apologised for offending and hurting the religious sentiments of the Buddhist population. They made an attempt to remedy the situation when they realised the hurt, the anger and the opposition they had generated. This is not the first time that such hurtful and offensive comments have been made by members of one ethno-religious community against members of another ethnic-religious community. Taking advantage of this fact the government is arguing the case for the control of social media and also the mainstream media. It is preparing to bring forward legislation for a Broadcasting Regulatory Commission that would also pave the way to imprison journalists for their reporting, impose fines, and also revoke the licences issued to electronic media institutions if they impact negatively on national security, national economy, and public order or create any conflict among races and religions.

In a free society, opportunities are provided for people to be able to air their thoughts and dissents openly, be it at Hyde Park or through their representatives in Parliament. The threat to freedom of speech and to the media that can arise from this new law can be seen in the way that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which is the world’s standard bearer on civil and political rights has been used and is being abused in Sri Lanka. It was incorporated into Sri Lankan law in a manner that has permitted successive governments to misuse it. It is very likely that the Broadcast Regulatory Commission bill will yield a similar result if passed into law. The arrest and detention of comedian Natasha Edirisooriya under the ICCPR Act has become yet another unfortunate example of the misuse of a law meant to protect human rights by the government. Pastor Jerome Fernando is out of prison as he is currently abroad having left the country a short while before a travel ban was delivered to him.


The state media reported that a “Police officer said that since there is information that she was a person who was in the Aragalaya protest, they are looking into the matter with special attention.” This gives rise to the inference that the reason for her arrest was politically motivated. Comedian Edirisooriya was accused of having violated the provisions in the ICCPR in Section 3(1) that forbids hate speech. Section 3(1) of the ICCPR Act prohibits advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, violence or hostility. The international human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has pointed out that in the case of Edirisooriya that for speech to be illegal on the grounds of being hate speech it requires “a clear showing of intent to incite others to discriminate, be hostile towards or commit violence against the group in question.” Amnesty International also notes that “When the expression fails to meet the test, even if it is shocking, offensive or disturbing, it should be protected by the state.”

Ironically, in the past there have been many instances of ethnic and religious minorities being targeted in a hateful manner that even led to riots against them, but successive governments have been inactive in protecting them or arresting their persecutors. Such targeting has taken place, often for political purposes in the context of elections, in blatant bids to mobilise sections of the population through appeals to narrow nationalism and fear of the other. The country’s political and governmental leaders need to desist from utilising the ICCPR Act against those who make social and political critiques that are outside the domain of hate speech. The arrest of Bruno Divakara, the owner of SL-Vlogs, under the ICCPR Act is an indication of this larger and more concerning phenomenon which is being brought to the fore by the Broadcasting Regulatory Commission bill.

The crackdown on the space for free expression and critical comment is unacceptable in a democratic polity, especially one as troubled as Sri Lanka, in which the economy has collapsed and caused much suffering to the people and the call to hold elections has been growing. The intervention of the Human Rights Commission which has called on the Inspector General of Police to submit a report on the arrest and its rationale is a hopeful sign that the independence of institutions intended to provide a check and balance will finally prevail. The Sri Lankan state will hopefully evolve to be a neutral arbiter in the disputes between competing ethnic, religious and partisan political visions of what the state should be and what constitutes acceptable behaviour within it. Taking on undemocratic powers in a variety of ways and within a short space of time is unlikely to deliver economic resurgence and a stable and democratic governance the country longs for. Without freedom, justice and fair play within, there can be no hope of economic development that President Wickremesinghe would be wanting to see.

Continue Reading


Girl power… to light up our scene



Manthra: Pop, rock and Sinhala songs

We have never had any outstanding all-girl bands, in the local scene, except, perhaps…yes The Planets, and that was decades ago!

The Planets did make a name for themselves, and they did create quite a lot of excitement, when they went into action.

Of course, abroad, we had several top all-girl bands – outfits like the Spice Girls, Bangles, Destiny’s Child, and The Supremes.

It’s happening even now, in the K-pop scene.

Let’s hope we would have something to shout about…with the band Manthra – an all-girl outfit that came together last year (2022).

Manthra is made up of Hiruni Fernando (leader/bass guitar), Gayathma Liyanage (lead guitar), Amaya Jayarathne (drums), Imeshini Piyumika (keyboards), and Arundathi Hewawitharana (vocals).

Amaya Arundathi and Imeshini are studying at the University of Visual and Performing Arts, while Gayathma is studying Architecture at NIMB, and Hiruni is the Western Music teacher at St. Lawrence’s Convent, and the pianist at Galadari Hotel, having studied piano and classical guitar at West London University.

They have already displayed their talents at various venues, events, weddings, and on TV, as well (Vanithabimana Sirasa TV and Charna TV Art Beat).

Additionally, the band showcased their talent at the talent show held at the Esoft Metro Campus.

The plus factor, where this all-girl outfit is concerned, is that their repertoire is made up rock, pop, and Sinhala songs.

Explaining as to how they came up with the name Manthra, founder member Hiruni said that Manthra means a word, or sound, repeated to aid concentration in meditation, and that the name was suggested by one of the band members.

Hiruni Fernando: Founder and leader of Manthra

She also went on to say that putting together a female band is not an easy task, in the scene here.

“We faced many difficulties in finding members. Some joined and then left, after a short while. Unlike a male band, where there are many male musicians in Sri Lanka, there are only a few female musicians. And then, there are some parents who don’t like their daughters getting involved in music.”

With talented musicians in their line-up, the future certainly looks bright for Manthra who are now keen to project themselves, in an awesome way, in the scene here, and abroad, as well.

“We are keen to do stage shows and we are also planning to create our own songs,” said Hiruni.

Yes, we need an all-girl group to add variety to our scene that is now turning out to be a kind of ‘repeating groove,’ where we see, and hear, almost the same thing…over and over again!

Continue Reading