Concert Pianist-Composer . Improviser . Musicologist . Linguist
“The tenderest of melodies resides within you: it is the caress-fragranced, kaleidoscopic voice of your child-heart, as it was, is and will be...”.Tanya Ekanayaka - Scotland, 02/2012.
“Tanya Ekanayaka is a musician of rare accomplishment. Her pianism is fresh and powerful, technically assured and emotionally persuasive. As a composer she has the ability to synthesise her inter-cultural experience to create music that is original and compelling. In an age when the composer-pianist seems like a moment from the past, Tanya Ekanayaka shows us the potential of such a complete musicianship.”Professor Peter Nelson Department of Music, University of Edinburgh, UK.
“Tanya Ekanayaka's music is subtle, beautiful and surprising. Whereas many Asian composers like, say, Takemitsu or Tan Dun, have arrived in European concert halls through a combination of international modernism and carefully crafted encounters with Asian folk and classical music, Tanya has travelled in precisely the opposite direction. Her starting point is in her experience as a pianist playing music of Western serious music tradition, and in particular the mid-Romantic repertoire. It is after a long journey through the rich language of mature Western tonality that she eventually reaches, along a purely instinctive and intuitive path, the popular melodies and hymns of her native Sri Lanka. It is through the arpeggios, embellishments and filigree of the language of Chopin and Liszt that she approaches the graceful ornamentation of her cultural tradition: the circles and slender pillars of the Polonnaruwa vatadage; the colourful costumes, movements and rhythms of Ves or Naiyandi dances.”Professor Nigel Osborne MBE, FRCM Department of Music, University of Edinburgh, UK
Dr. Tanya Ekanayaka (PhD, MSc, FTCL, LRSM, LGSMD-PPD, BA-Honours) is among Sri Lanka's most distinguished, award winning and internationally acclaimed composer-pianists. Classically trained and with a background in popular and South Asian musics, she is also an improviser and musicologist in addition to being a highly qualified linguist. She began studying the piano when she was just five years old, made her debut public recital appearance at the age of twelve and has since performed widely as soloist, accompanist and in ensembles both internationally and in Sri Lanka. Tanya Ekanayaka is currently on the teaching faculty of Edinburgh University in Scotland where she has taught part-time in both its Departments of Linguistics and Music since 2007.
What characterizes Tanya Ekanayaka as a recitalist is her quintessential recital style. Her recitals incorporate her own compositions representing a new musical genre as well as works from the established classical repertoire ranging from baroque to contemporary works. Her compositions comprise the integration of unusual adaptations of melodies belonging to genres of Sri Lankan indigenous and popular music (many of which have not been adapted for the piano or harmonised), with musical motifs inspired by a particular aspect salient to each of the other compositions that form a given recital programme she is performing. In this sense, Tanya Ekanayaka’s recitals become a discourse where the merging of genres (such as, genres of classical music with popular and folk musics), as well as eras is facilitated. As such, her work may be seen as transgressing and in so doing conflating the borders of temporality. Tanya Ekanayaka’s compositions evolve spontaneously when she is at the piano and often within a few minutes.
In 2010, Tanya Ekanayaka became the first Sri Lankan pianist to be invited to give a solo piano recital for the 'Pianists of the World' series at the world renowned recital venue, London’s St Martin-in-the-Fields. One of the oldest recital series of St Martin-in-the-Fields having been founded by the legendary Dame Myra Hess and performing to a capacity audience, Tanya Ekanayaka’s programme concluded with the world première of her composition 'Adahas: of Wings of Roots'. This is the first composition by a Sri Lankan composer to be performed at this venue.
Tanya Ekanayaka debuted in the USA in 2012 with a solo recital at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC (USA) following an invitation by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and performance at the Asia Society Concert Hall in New York. Performing to a capacity audience (the audience reportedly among the largest observed at this particular concert stage), Tanya Ekanayaka's programme for her recital at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts incorporated the world première of two of her own compositions. They are the first compositions for the piano by a Sri Lankan composer to be performed at this venue. Tanya Ekanayaka gave further highly acclaimed solo recitals to capacity audiences at London's St. Martin-in-the-Fields in 2012 and 2013, for their ‘Pianists of the World’ series following invitations by St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Her recital for the 2013 ‘Pianists of the World’ series included the world première of two of her own recent compositions as well as well-known works from the classical repertoire. In 2013, Tanya Ekanayaka’s composition ‘Dhaivaya; Alter(ing) Hue’ received airplay on BBC World Service (radio) as part of an exclusive BBC World Service interview with Tanya Ekanayaka. Performances for 2014 include solo recitals and concerts in the USA and UK.
Since 2012, Tanya Ekanayaka has also been developing a pioneering music composition project on a voluntary basis aimed at empowering traumatised as well as underprivileged children in Sri Lanka recovering from the horrific civil war that ravaged the nation for over thirty years.