Two hands, two pianos – because why not? “With two pianos, I have one hand on this piano one on that. It’s nothing to be afraid of,” laughs musical prodigy Lydian Nadhaswaram, who at the age of 16 has already won $1 million (Dh3.60 million) in an international TV competition, composed music for South Indian superstar Mohanlal’s directorial debut, ‘Barroz: Guardian of D'Gama's Treasure’, and landed himself a gig at the world’s greatest fair, Expo 2020 Dubai.
Nadhaswaram, whose family hails from Chennai, India, comes from a family of musicians, so it’s no wonder he got into the industry early. When he was two, he says, he was already playing the drums. The piano would come much later. “My father is a musician [Tamil music director Varshan Sathish] and we have a piano at home, which was bought for my sister, Amirthavarshini. And she also plays and I saw her play and I saw my father play and, of course, being the son of a musician I know the basic notes, so I slowly went to piano. And my father showed me a YouTube video of a Chinese prodigy boy playing a piece and I got inspired by that,” he recalls.
He also spent four years studying at KM Music Conservatory, post which he appeared on a CBS special called ‘The World's Best’. He went on to win the title. He’s not had much time to reflect on his success though – what with his schedule being so packed. “I’ve been playing a lot of performances, landing a lot of shows, it’s been quite good,” he explains. He’s played piano on stages across the world, enchanting audiences with a combination of Eastern and Western classical performances. And then, he tried his hand at another niche role – as a serious actor. In the Hindi movie ‘Atkan Chatkan’, Nadhaswaram plays 12-year-old tea seller Guddu with a penchant for music, no money and big dreams. The plot of the movie centres on how Guddu and his friends, a band of vagabonds, work towards helping him attain his dreams. For this movie, Nadhaswaram learned a new language: Hindi. "Hindi is not my mother tongue, Telugu is my mother tongue. So, it was a bit of a challenge to speak in Hindi. But the whole team treated me like family and taught me how to speak the language," he told Indian news agency IANS in an interview last year.
Focus on music
Learning is obviously something Nadhaswaram has a passion for – he’s not only known for his proficiency on a piano but also his ease around a number of other instruments. “I know how to play a few Indian percussion instruments and also lately I’ve been learning a lot of melodic instruments such as guitar, violin and veena,” he explains.
For Nadhaswaram, music is a day-long subject. “I’m homeschooled, so whenever I want to study I’ll study, but most of the time, I’ll be playing.
“If it’s a new piece of music, I’ll just be on the piano and if I’m composing, I’ll sit on the computer and type and also do drums. I don’t have a proper schedule. In the morning I get up at 9 and I sleep at about 12 so the whole day will be about music … apart from all the classes,” he says.
His compositions, says Nadhaswaram, have also been a method of learning. “I compose with my father and he’ll teach me how to do things and also with my sister,” he says, adding quickly, “But now, I’ve composed for a film called ‘Barroz’, which is being starred in by Mohanlal.”
Nadhaswaram will perform at Expo 2020 on November 20, alongside the all-women AR Rahman group Firdaus Orchestra, at Jubilee Park at 3pm. All you need is your Expo 2020 pass to witness the magic.