Twelve-year-old child prodigy, Lydian Nadhaswaram, is a Chennai-based pianist to watch out for. Though his fingers are not long enough to reach the octaves, his piano-playing ability will leave you stumped, especially when you hear him play the fastest and the toughest western classical pieces.
A young Bach, Mozart or Debussy in the making, Lydian’s control and composure at the piano is mind-boggling. Some time back he was gifted a baby Grand Steinway piano by Michael and Sukey Novogratz who heard him play just once. In August 2017, he was invited for a concert in Australia where he played the tabla which he had mastered in barely 8 months. In November 2017, Lydian appeared on the Susana Giménez TV show in Argentina, viewed by millions in South America. He ended 2017 with the Horlicks Award for Music.
Too shy to speak on the phone, Lydian took the help of his father, Satish, to make conversation with VERUS FERREIRA.
Lydian, you have a musical name.
Satish: The Lydian Mode is the first mode of scale in music. When I heard that a boy was born to us, I was at my theory class learning about the Lydian Mode Scale, so the first name that came to my mind was Lydian. Nadhaswaram is an ancient South Indian instrument which is a very tough instrument among the wind instruments and in the entire world for sure. ‘Nadham’ means ‘beat or feel’ and ‘swaram’ means ‘sur’.
When did you realize that Lydian could play a musical instrument?
Satish: When Lydian was two years, two months, we were at a party when he suddenly took a xylophone stick and played it on the floor in proper rhythm which amazed everyone. I bought a kid drum set for him even before the day ended. As he progressed, I bought more instruments for him so that he could get a feel of the sound each brought out.
Lydian also plays the guitar, mrudangam and tabla. How did he master these instruments?
Satish: I started the tabla in first grade at KM Music Conservatory (A. R. Rehman Foundation). Later, he continued his Russian piano method from KM Conservatory. He learnt tabla further from an experienced master named Thulasi. Lydian has incredible tempo knowledge. So it has become an easy task for him to play the tabla in recordings along with a few senior tabla players.
How did he learn the patterns of Carnatic music and also play on a western music drum set?
Satish: It is the bols that are used in tabla and mridangam lessons that are applied to drums whenever possible, apart from western drumming style. This method is followed by so many drummers. Lydian started doing this even playing multi-times signature at one time in his drum performance. Each hand, each leg, with a different time signature.
Your daughter also plays the piano; did Lydian pick up his piano skills from her?
Satish: A piano was bought for his sister Amirthavarshini, the name is the name of a raag in Carnatic music. Amirthavarshini is a vocalist cum flautist. Lydian started playing the piano as the pieces that his sister was playing were registered in his mind. He started playing by hearing her play; there were no chords or anything.
Verus Ferreira is a freelance music journalist for over three decades, contributing articles to various newspapers and magazines. He is the author of The Great Music Quiz Book and The Great Rock Music Quiz Book. Besides being a music aficionado, he is also a photo-journalist. He contributes to Musicunplugged.in. Reach him at E: firstname.lastname@example.org or verusferreira.com