Identifiable piano artistry | Sunday Observer

Identifiable piano artistry

Harsha Makalande conducting the Khrome Orchestra
Harsha Makalande conducting the Khrome Orchestra

Harsha Makalande’s piano artistry does not belong specifically to any school of music that will restrict his freedom of expression. His playing moves from poignancy to original interpretations of American standards and even of oriental themes. Whatever, the tune Harsha’s knowledge enables him to express himself on the keys be it a lyrical “Lullaby of Birdland” or the intricate Miles Davis’ composition ‘Milestones’. He can proudly claim that he was the first musician here in Sri Lanka to come forward and commemorate International Jazz Day with audience in 2016 with a show at The Lionel Wendt theatre and followed it up in the year 2017 with an open air performance at the Kottawa open air theatre. His sense of rhythm, colour and form is remarkable, and as they say in jazz lingo – he can fly.

“What is important in knowing a lot of tunes is phrasing in music and knowing how to get from one chord to another. This is something I insist with my students who want to be in the category of future recognised pianists.”

Did you follow a formal study of music during your young days?

“No, not in the sense that today’s youngsters are made to by their parents. I was taught by my aunt Ann Makalande who was a successful teacher and she taught me to play without sitting for exams. Of course I learnt my theory, or otherwise I wouldn’t be able to impart my knowledge to others.

I’m happy that in 1999 Jazz Yatra India invited eight artistes to perform and I was one of them including Jon Haddis and Cedar Walton.

I performed along with Alston Joachim – bass, Revel Crake – guitar, Shiraaz Nooramith – drums and Ravi Bandu too. Then again in 2002 I was invited by Jazz Yatra and we performed in Mumbai.”

You composed for our Symphony Orchestra; what was the composition?

“It was the Sarasanga Vannama and the Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Dr. Earle de Fonseka. Ramya de Livera was the featured pianists. This same composition was requested by the Japan Symphony Orchestra and this performance took place in 2007.”

Jazz in constantly growing towards new horizons and there’s no doubt that pianist Harsha Makalande can stretch out and fit in with ease.