“Wally Bastiansz” was born on June 9, 1914 in Piyadigama, a small village about 2km north of the coast between Galle and Gintota, Sri Lanka. Wally was a singer-songwriter who developed the style of “Chorus Baila” in Sri Lanka in the 1940’s. Bastiansz was a police officer attached to the traffic division. This provided him the exposure to then popular international music and tunes, some of which he later adapted to his “Baila” tunes.
There has always been some controversy over his name “Wally”. It is very customary in Sri Lanka, even today, for children to have nick-names. Although he was baptized Ogustus Martalanus, after his grandfather Wilhelmus Martalanus, amongst family and close relatives, and even amongst his old neighbours, Ogustus was only known as either “Olie” or “Olington”. Young Ogustus was not very comfortable with his name and mostly went by his initials O.M. Bastianzs rather than Ogustus or Martalanus. After embarking on his musical adventure, he aptly adapted his nick name “Olie” to “Wally”, his well-known stage name. For all official purposes, he presented himself as Olington Mervin Bastiansz, maintaining his original initials O.M.
His songs dealt with everyday life and simple people. One of his hits, titled “Nurse Nona”, was an ode to a hospital nurse lady, who was none other than his own sister Felicia Florence “Dolly” Jayasekera nee Bastiansz (died 1996). Florence gave up her job as a nurse in 1944 after her first child was born; later in 1969, she moved her family to the Bastiansz family ancestral home to take care of their ailing father, Hinton Wilmot Bastiansz. The old Bastiansz residence in Piyadigama, where Wally Bastiansz and all his 8 siblings were born, is now occupied by one of Florence’s sons.
More info coming soon…. Stay tuned.
In the meantime check out the “Family History” section to learn more about the Bastiansz family.