Pradeep Rathnayake is a master in conversing with the human soul. Not with words, but with the strings of his sitar. The beauty of it is that he speaks to a global audience through his uniquely Sri Lankan music. He now prepares to take his music to the world, once again with his concert “Serendip: Pradeepanjali” in collaboration with Jazz pianist of Japan Masahiko Satoh to be held on September 10, 2015 at the Lionel Wendt Theater at 7 pm.
Rathnayake and Professor Satoh met through ‘Randooga’- A project to bring the two countries closer through music carried out in 2012 and 2013. The duo worked as mentors at various workshops held in Jaffna, Batticaloa, Galle and Colombo where they worked together to create dialogue through sound.
Masahiko Satoh is a jazz pianist, a composer and a leading figure in free jazz. Born in Tokyo, he is a graduate of Keio University and has also studied at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. An award winning musician, Satoh is the creator of Non-idiomatic Improvisation at the Tokyo University of Arts, where he works with diverse styles of music, which includes Japanese Buddhist chanting.
“Pradeep and I have felt at the first encounter that we possess the same frequency on music despite the difference of genre,” Professor Satoh explains of his work with Rathnayake. So it wasn’t surprising that they collaborated to bring together an encounter of different instruments – the sitar and the piano – instruments of different traditions, North Indian Classical music and Jazz.
The concert also marks the launch of their work together in the form of a compact disk, ‘Serendip’. This CD was launched in Tokyo, Japan on July 25, this year at a similar concert by both musicians. It also marks one of the few instances where Sri Lankan music has been produced internationally.
From his first solo Sitar performance at the National Museum Auditorium at the raw age of 10, Pradeep Rathnaytake has been studying the sitar for 40 years. After receiving the highest marks ever given for a degree in sitar at the University of Visvabharati Santiniketan, in India, Rathnayake returned to Sri Lanka to begin a series of concerts titled Pradeepanjalee combining many music traditions. The convert was eventually taken to distinguished venues of the world, such as the Vienna Musikverein in Vienna, the Weil Auditorium at the Carneige Hall and the European Parliament.
“It is said that the violin is the closest to the range of the human voice, but give Pradeep a sitar and he will prove you wrong,” said Sampath Amaratunge, Vice Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayawaradanapura in praise of Pradeep Ratnayaka and his musical endeavors. “He has been a jewel to our university, and we want to take his talent to the world,” He added. He also acknowledged that in the past year, the university achieved great success under Pradeep Rathnayake’s guidance where he is a senior lecturer and the Head of the Department of Languages, Cultural Studies and Performing Arts.
Speaking at the press conference, Pradeep Rathnayake said that he has studied the sitar for 40 years. Having studied various traditions of music along with his sitar, he said that he now wants to experiment with a combination of these traditions. “I respect these traditions, but I feel that it is the time for me look beyond this tradition of music. I want to create a musical revolution with the fusion of the two instruments, Piano and Sitar”.
Rathnayake explained that this is an Avant-Garde approach which has never been tried before. “In Sri Lanka, more than music it is song that is among its people. Sri Lankans appreciate vocal art more than they admire music. But it has been a dream of mine since childhood to take our rich Sri Lankan music to the world,” he said.
Concluding the event, Rathanayake chose to explain his efforts in the form of expression he knows best; playing a traditional Sri Lankan piece of music first in North Indian Classical technique and then in his own techniques in harmony. Rathnayake’s music encapsulates the essence of Sri Lanka, altering traditional paradigms and techniques of Sitar with a rhythm and pulse of its own. His attempt to create this Sri Lankan identity is nothing short of extraordinary. The concert will feature performances by Pradeep Rathnayake, Masahiko Satoh and other distinguished Sri Lankan musicians and will be free and open to the public.