Mariazelle Goonetilleke is a leading Sri Lankan singer and music star. She has performed to capacity filled auditoriums not only in Sri Lanka but also as far afield as the United Kingdom, United States, United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Australia.
Mariazelle Goonetilleke was born in Nugegoda in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She began her music career at the age of 7 years. At the age of 10 Mariazelle won the Junior Section of the Ceylon Observer All Island Talent Competition – it opened the door for her to join a pre-teen group of young musicians called the 'Junior Rhythmiers', a music group that was popular in Sri Lanka. The group were thrown into the spotlight when they were featured in the 1960s over the airwaves of Radio Ceylon, the oldest radio station in South Asia. The radio station 'ruled the airwaves' in the 1950s and 1960s so any exposure on Radio Ceylon was a huge boost to young artistes on the island. Mariazelle's music career spiralled upwards.
She studied classical guitar tutored by the renowned classical guitarist, the late Winston Jayawardene and vocal music from Mrs. Estelle de Niese. Mariazelle Goonetilleke attended St. Joseph's Convent School, Nugegoda.
Winning the Ceylon Observer Talent Contest was a huge boost for Mariazelle. According to the Sunday Observer of Colombo: ' This gave her more courage to play with bands like "The Emeralds" and the "Midnight Mist". Recording "Kandy Lamissi" in 1977 was the virtual turning point in her career. The song was an instant hit and Mariazelle came to be known by that name.
This new "Kandy Lamissi" had to move from place to place not only here, but also in top hotels like Soaltee Oberoi in Kathmandu, Nepal to perform. In the same year she met with an accident in Nuwara Eliya in which she sustained serious injuries to her spine and collar bone. Helped by her dear classmate, Christine Nadarajah at that time, her belief in God and community prayers saw her out from that dark period, Mariazelle claimed. Out from hospital Mariazelle had the privilege of getting the helping hands of legends like Clarence Wijewardene, the Emperor of Baila, M. S. Fernando, Stanley Peiris, Ajantha Ranasinghe, Chandral Fonseka and Sunil/Piyal of the "Gypsies". The compositions of Clarence and others provided her a different style and rendition that attracted music lovers. Ajantha's composition "Sihina Nelum Mal" was dedicated to her son, Teshan now studying in England.'
Mariazelle has been involved with a range of music genre – from western pop music to Sri Lankan baila. She is now well known as a leading baila singer, performing her massive hit 'Kandy Lamissi,' all over the world. American Fulbright Scholar, Vasana Kelum de Mel, from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) observed: 'Since I feel it is an essential issue to study the 'gender Baila' as well, the work of the female Baila singers like Mariazelle Goonetilleke and Corinne Almeida should also be appreciated,' she said.
She has also collaborated with some of Sri Lanka's top musicians, among them Sunil Perera of the Gypsies, M.S. Fernando, Dalreen Suby, Clarence Wijewardena, Annesley Malewana, Damian Wickramatilleke, Maxi Rozairo, Shanelle Fernando, Umara Sinhawansa, Ashanthi De Alwis and Raj Seneviratne.
Sri Lanka's superstar spoke about her own struggles and her rise to fame in 2003 in an interview with the Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka: 'To have remained as I am in the music scene for 35 years, retaining and who and what I am is a most difficult thing. It's a feeling of elation because of the struggles I have faced to come out on top.'
The Island newspaper in Colombo noted that, 'Kandy Lamissi hitmaker Mariazelle Goonetilleke, is another local artiste who is very much in demand with Sri Lankans, domiciled abroad.She is regularly seen in Melbourne, London, the Middle East, Canada and most foreign cities where Sri Lankan Associations exist. Her popularity abroad could be attributed to her versatility, she could handle most songs with ease – be it Sinhala, English, Hindi or Tamil.Mariazelle also has the ability to communicate with her audience in a friendly manner. And most people like her style.'
Mariazelle became a committed Christian in 2009. According to the Island newspaper:'Mariazelle is very much into religion and has taken God as her friend and saviour.' She joined the People's Church in Colombo. Mariazelle said: 'I have sung all my life but now there is singing in my heart. The greatest song I sing is with God as my audience.'
In 2010, Mariazelle Goonetilleke celebrated 42 years, in the world of entertainment, in South Asia.