Eshan Denipitiya hails from a family of musicians. His grandfather was the late Patrick Denipitiya, who was a pioneer musician back in the good old days. In addition to being a well-known music director at the time, he also introduced the Hawaiian guitar to Sri Lanka.
Eshans’ father is music director Mahesh Denipitiya. Following the family tradition, Eshan Denipitiya is searching for his own voice in the industry, to take Sri Lankan music forward. His specialty involves fusing local traditional music with classical western music, on the piano.
So far his fusions have been well received. “If we are going to a world stage, what we have to offer them is our wannam and janagee. What I am doing is presenting these in a way that people would actually enjoy them. Sometimes, the raw nature may not appeal to the audience, but if it is offered in a familiar space, it would be more effective,” he opines.
He believes the market in Sri Lanka for classical music to be very narrow. This has been the main catalyst for Eshan to want to create fusions to bridge that gap. His fusions are influenced by musicians such as Yaani and Maxim. “I admire all genres. I think there is something very musical an artistic across all genres,” he says.
From his young days there has been music around him. “Our house has always been very musically happening. I had piano lessons when I was six years with the late Dharmi Mudalige. I gradually progressed to graded exams and so on. Currently, I am under Ruwini Hapugalle. I have been her student for more than 10 years,” he says.
In addition to piano, he plays drums as well. “That too I started when I was a child because it helped me with the coordination of both left and right hands. I still play drums but my main instrument is piano,” he reveals.
He won the Young Musician of the Year title in 2008 organized by the Institute of Western Music and Speech. “I was surprised when I won it. I was only 13 at the time and there were contestants much older than me,” he recalled. He has also done grade eight exams in the Associate Board of the Royal School of Music.
In addition, he won the Trinity College London gold medal for achieving the highest marks in 2015. At St Peter’s College in Colombo he was a prefect, leader of the western choir and oriental orchestra and the oriental choir.
“In my year, we won the all-island prize for all three sections, which was a big achievement. It was the first time we actually had an orchestra in the college. I was also a senior member of the hockey team and a senior member of the drama cast. In December 2013, we did a big production called A Christmas Wish, which was a musical. I was the assistant choral director. I was also the best all-round student of the year 2014,” said Eshan while sharing his boyhood exploits.
In 2009 he took part in the instrumental category of Sri Lankan Life with drummer Nupathi Nilambara. “We played fusion music, where we fused western classical music and Sri Lankan traditional music. There were moments where I would play Mozart’s Turkish march on the right hand and the Gajaga wannama on the left hand. When we won the competition in 2009, it was one of the biggest moments in my career,” he says
Currently, he is reading for his BA in music, classical music at Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore. “I choose the classical specialization because I wanted to embed my classical foundation in my playing. It helps build your technique and other fundamentals necessary to be a good pianist as classical music gives you focus and goes right down to the smallest detail. For example, Mozart is subtle and delicate. You have to phrase the music well to articulate it properly”, he opines.
At College he won the inaugural Lasalle Piano Concerto Competition in 2016. “In this competition, everybody had to create their own cadenza,” he said.
“Cadenza is the passage inserted after a movement to show off the skill of the pianist, towards the end of the piece. At College there was also a concert called piano voyage, game of tones, which was a Game of Thrones based competition. For this concert also I created a fusion piece. Chopin’s revolutionary etude was fused with Gajapathi wannama. It was a 9/8 tune. I like this college because they let you improvise on classical music. This gives a chance for you to learn production, composition, theory and ensemble work.”
In the dell studio programme that goes on Derana, Eshan has collaborated with popular Sri Lankan artistes and arranged music for songs that already existed. Also, he has performed in Bathiya and Santhush concerts, Floreat in 2013 and BnS Studio Live in 2015. He has also performed with the local percussion ensemble NAADRO at the Raigam Tele Awards 2016.
Eshan will never hesitate to thank his family for all their support and being his strength, his teachers, lecturers at College for fine-tuning his talent and all his friends for all their support.
(Pics by Eshan Dassanayaka)