Lydian Nadhaswaram: The music maestro with a difference

He is just 14 years old and he is the world’s fastest piano player. Shailaza Singh talks to Lydian Nadhaswaran, the child prodigy who has taken the world by storm.

When I met Lydian Nadhaswaran, the 14-year old piano prodigy at India Music Summit which was held at the Fairmont Hotel, he was busy eating chocos and talking about his life. I watched him eating and answering questions without an iota of arrogance or entitlement which infects almost everyone who is catapulted to such fame in such a young age. Lydian’s talent has earned him appreciation from the best of the best in the world which include music maestro A.R. Rahman, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres (where he played the piano blindfolded) and billionaire Michael Novogratz who gifted him him a Steinway grand piano from half-way across the world.

The conversation was as interesting as this enigma of a boy who is only interested in making music.

Tell us about your journey to CBS Talent Show ‘The World’s Best’ where you won the million dollar prize?

My father (Varshan Satish- a Chennai-based music director) used to upload my videos on Youtube. We got a call from India’s Got Talent. I played the drums and piano there. All the three judges gave me a standing ovation. They told us that I was directly selected for the semi-finals. However, after coming back home, we did not hear from them for quite a while. A couple of months passed and my father called them up to inquire. They told him that since they do not get any TRP rating from South India, they could not telecast the episode featuring me. This really disappointed us. It was then my father decided to apply for international platforms  rather than the ones in India. We applied to CBS and Ellen DeGeneres and I was the only contestant who was selected from India.

How did you first start playing the piano?

My father showed me a Youtube video of a Chinese prodigy Tsung Tsung playing the piano. I saw that and started playing the piano.

Now that you are performing on the stage, did you feel any pressure?

I don’t feel any pressure to perform. I am always excited to perform on stage.

Is it because of the atmosphere in the house, that you were drawn into music?

Of course, my sister sings. My father plays piano, keyboard and the flute. Since my childhood I have been listening to a lot of music.

Don’t you get tired of music?

No, when I play my instruments, it makes me happy. So, I don’t get tired.

You said you are home schooled. How do you learn Mathematics and English all on your own?

I have to learn English because it is the universal language. Mathematics too is important because I am learning Indian percussion so everything is about multiplication and division. So, I see a lot of YouTube videos and explore on the internet. I also read books on the subject.

How much of your learning would you attribute to YouTube videos?

Most of my learning has happened through YouTube. I watch the video and then I learn. Youtube has really inspired me a lot.

Now that you’ve travelled a lot, which is your favorite place in the world?

I love my home because my parents and my sister take care of me and I feel very happy there. I also like going to Los Angeles in USA. I have been there nine times. We will again be going in February 2020, so it will be my tenth visit.

What do you like about Los Angeles?

People are very nice and kind. I meet a lot of musicians and get to see a lot of music instruments. In Los Angeles, there is a shop called Guitar Center which is like an ocean to me. Whatever kind of instrument I want, it will be there in the shop. So, it is a kind of a toy store for me. My trip is never over without going to the Guitar Center. I have bought a synthesizer, a guitar and many small accessories which you don’t get here.

What do you think of the musical instruments of Rajasthan? Have you tried playing them?

Yes, I looked at the instruments that were on display in the hotel. I tried playing the drum and the violin like instrument (ravanhatha). I liked the tone of the ravanhatha as it gives more feel and makes me feel calm and happy.

What’s your favorite food?

I like everything that my mother cooks. I love to eat sambhar rice and idli, sambhar and dosa cooked by my mother.

What are the foods you don’t like?

I don’t like pizza, burger or sandwich and cheese. I did not like ice-cream earlier but now I only like McDonald’s ice-cream.

What is your relationship with your sister Amrithavarshini?

We both are musicians and best friends. She is about 3.5 years older to me. We only argue on music.  I have this sense called perfect pitch. I can hear a note and tell if it right or not. My sister cannot do it and then we argue and then she agrees with me. However, I believe she is a better musician than me because she has been topping in music exams.

Do you watch movies?

I like watching animation movies. I am currently composing for a Malayalam animation film called Barroz which will be the fourth 3-D film in India and is being produced by the people who made ‘Chota Chetan.’ It is being directed by the well-known actor Mohanlal.

People kept coming to congratulate Lydian on his performance and accomplishments. He kept obliging them with pictures and handshakes. It was quite evident that though he loves flying high with his talent, he also has his feet firmly planted on the ground.

The interview was published on October 8, 2019 in Rashtradoot Newspaper’s Arbit Section

Shailaza Singh is the author of the best seller novel Faith-The Mystery of the Missing Girl

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