Virtuoso Lydian creates music for film

Former child prodigy Lydian Nadhaswaram will make his debut as a film score composer for the Malayalam film Barroz, superstar Mohanlal’s maiden directorial venture.

The 18-year-old on Feb 1 said in a video post on X that he had recorded the “first symphonic work for Barroz in Macedonia”.

The fantasy film will open in theatres next month.

Lydian wrote on X recently: “With love and respect to all music composers and great musicians worldwide, my first orchestral recording for my debut movie #barroz directed by Shri @mohanlal sir!”

The teenager made headlines in 2019 when he won the US$1 million prize on American reality show The World’s Best, after he performed Beethoven and Chopin’s pieces on two pianos simultaneously.

But, even before he was crowned champion, Lydian was already an Internet sensation as he vowed netizens with his virtuosity over the piano in various YouTube videos, playing at amazing speeds and sometimes even blindfolded.

Lydian is also proficient on the drums, tabla, mridangam, guitar, melodica (a handheld free-reed instrument) and the harmonica.

It appears that he was destined for great things as a musician because he was named after the nadhaswaram, a wind instrument well-known in South India.

“The word Lydian is Greek,” he told tabla! during an interview over Zoom.

“It is a raga, one among the seven musical modes. My father used to say that it’s called the kalyani raga in Tamil. And as the majority of Indians know, the nadhaswaram is a wind instrument. I’ve always been pleased that my name has a relationship to music.”

His natural talent for music became apparent when he was just two. Lydian used two xylophone sticks and his hands to create a rhythm on the ground as the family was celebrating the birthday of his older sister Amrithavarshini.

His father, Tamil music director Varshan Satish, gave him a drum set the following day, and Lydian has been unstoppable since.

“My father told me that I should always strive to be the ‘world’s best’ at anything I undertook,” said Lydian. “He said: ‘Even if you clean a bathroom, you should be the best at it’.”

After the second grade, Lydian stopped his studies to pursue music full-time.

At age 10, Lydian completed the grade 8 piano course at the Trinity College of Music in London, the youngest in his class to do so.

He also holds the distinction of being famous Tamil music composer Ilayaraaja’s first and only pupil. “His recording studio felt like a temple,” Lydian remarked.

These days, Lydian has channeled his focus on the Thirukkural – a classic Tamil language text consisting of 1,330 short couplets, or kurals, of seven words each. The text is divided into three books with aphoristic teachings on virtue, wealth and love.

He believes that it contains all the moral lessons required for the well-being of humans, and that it should be taught to the next generation in an easy-to-understand manner.

“To live a decent life in this world without pursuing further education, I have read the Thirukkural in its entirety,” he said.

“My sister and I are attempting to use music to spread awareness (of the Thirukkural) worldwide. We are taking this opportunity to showcase the beauty of the Tamil language.”

The teen then explained that he and his sister are turning the Thirukkural’s 1,330 kurals into songs which will be sung by 1,000 artistes from around the globe. Each song will last less than a minute, and the work will be released in June this year.

In the meantime, Lydian will also continue composing music for films. His big ambition is to start an Indian band that “produces excellent, globally accessible, healthy music”.

“My father told me I should strive to be the ‘world’s best’ at anything I undertook. He said: ‘Even if you clean a bathroom, you should be the best at it’.”
Musician Lydian Nadhaswaram (left) with music director Ilaiyaraaja
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