A gifted pianist | Sunday Observer

A gifted pianist

Thusitha Dananjaya
Thusitha Dananjaya

There was I seated in the lobby of the Taj Samudra awaiting to meet my interviewee, and as the minutes dragged by, my patience too was diminishing. But that was not for long. I heard the introduction of ‘If I Were a Rich Man’ played on the piano and wondered who it could be. The rest of the song moved in melodically and I was curious to see who the pianist was. It was a pleasant surprise. I’ve never seen or heard him before and I decided I’m going to have a one-to-one with him when he took a break. And this is the result.

The pianist was Thusitha Dananjaya Lokubalasooriya and so as not to take too much of his time since he was working his shift, he agreed to answer my questions.

I’ve not heard you before, nor have I seen you perform. I’m curious how long have you been playing in the Colombo circuit.

“I’ve been playing for the past seven years now. I started my musical career performing at the Ramada Hotel in Katunayake since mid 2013. Then I moved over to the Galadari Colombo, thanks to Thushantha Kariyawasam, the Food & Beverage Director. He identified my passion for music and paved the path for me to be a member of the Colombo pianists’ circle. My Lucky star was shining because thereafter I began to perform at the Hilton Colombo, The Kingsbury, Taj Samudra, Galle Face Hotel, Mount Lavinia Hotel, Marino Beach Hotel, Grand Oriental Hotel and the Sooriya Resort in Waikkal.”

Did you study music formally and if so who was your tutor?

“Actually I come from a musical background. My aunt gifted me a Yamaha PSR 230 when I passed the grade 5 scholarship. I was a student of De Mazenod College in Kandana but I learned my music from Mr. Paul of Minuwangoda, for three months only. I could never grasp the theoretical notation; instead I was playing by ear. Subsequently I started to study the keyboard by myself using the demos available on the keyboard. I was only eleven years then and within one year I was able to compose songs. I joined the church choir of St. Anthony’s Shrine in Liyanagemulla and for the past nine years. I’m the organist, I lyricised and composed hymns. It was a happy day for me when my wife gifted me a Steinmayer piano and I was able to practice and search more aspects in piano music.”

Theory-wise did you sit for any exams like most of the other pianists do?

“I never studied music for any recognised examinations. All I did was listen to various forms of music and try to find some new song or music genre. That is how I gained my knowledge and I must say I learnt a lot from the internet and books. I was fortunate to attend some classes by Dr. Premasiri Khemadasa at Jana Kala Kendraya at Battaramulla for about six months. He never taught any theory as such. Interacting with him taught me plenty about music.”

Apart from playing at Hotels, what are your compositions about?

“Currently I’m playing at the Taj Samudra and Galadari but my prime passion lies in composing. I have already launched a music album Mesmorize to Pisgah – my compositions of alternative classical sonatas. Some pieces are available on YouTube. My second album is In Viva on music of cruelty genre – it is a new genre and I’m going to introduce it. As a point of interest I have composed music for stage plays and I received the Best Music Award at the State Children’s Drama Competition for Shyam Fernando’s Tharu Sellama in 2010.”

Thusitha has a wide interest in music. As he tells us, he enjoys listening to classical, psychedelic, jazz, progressive rock, British rock, metal, experimental, avant garde, ambient music and folk music of different countries.

So if one of the mentioned tunes is your favourite – Imagine, Paint It Black, Those Were The Days, Habenera from Carmen, Moscow Nights, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, A Hard Day’s Night, Oba Enna and Wala Athula Siri Yahane.... the list is long.

Make a date with Thusitha.