It is very unfortunate that Sri Lanka has lost one of the finest percussionists ever produced by our country. Rich in talent, innovation and unique in his own way for four decades, Kala Bhooshanam Nesan Thiagarajan left us with his musical memories and departed from this world on August 26, 2008.
Everyone in the musical world knew that Nesan had his own style and entertained thousands and thousands of his fans with his great musical innovations which nobody had previously tried. He was not only known within our country but was also popular internationally and had fans all over the world. He died when he was performing during a musical show.
Nesan began and completed his education at S. Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia. From his early childhood days he had a natural habit of performing drum beats on anything he could lay his hands on. At home he started beating on the sofa handles, doors and windows. When his father drove him to school you could hear him beating on the car window. He would never stop. Noticing this, his parents sent him to learn the Miruthangam from Mr. K.K. Atchuthan when he was only 5 years old and later to Kala Suri T. Ratnam.
By the time he was nine years old he was known as the child prodigy in music and had already completed his Arangetram, which for a layman, is like a final exam to show all what he has learnt. He then began to perform in musical shows and gradually began adding instruments to the range he could play. He became competent in playing Kadam, Kanjira and the Thavil, which are all beating instruments. Nesan did not limit his talents to just playing the beats.
After completion of his school education, he went to India for advanced Miruthangam training from Adaiyar K. Lakshman in how to play Miruthangam for Baratha natya dancing. He received the title of 'Bharatha Soodamani'. In India he was able to perform under the famous Tamil film music director M.S. Viswanathan in some Tamil films. Nesan has always mentioned in his interviews that he always grateful for the training and experience he received in India, because that was one of the most important stepping stones in his musical career.
When he returned to Sri Lanka after his stint in India, he was able to use all his experience and talents to the Sinhala music world. He became a well known figure in the percussion world. He has performed with all the major music artistes in Sri Lanka. His innovations began when he brought the East and the West together in his performances. He introduced the duets between the Eastern beating instruments and the Western drums.
Not being satisfied at that he also introduced the Kandyan drums in to the East and West combination. His musical shows were always a treat to watch. He established named "Super Stars" and went on to direct music in films. Through his own effort he became an expert in playing all the instruments in the Sri Lankan percussion world. These included Morsing, Udukku, Dolak, North Indian Dole, etc. Being an expert in the Western Drums he performed in several countries through the World Drama Festival. He has also performed in countries like UK, France, Germany, Norway, Middle East, India, Singapore and Canada. His drum solos were a specialty. The manner in which he guided the drum sticks in his hand was fascinating. He also taught music at private institutions.
His wife and two daughters have been a moral support for him throughout his musical career and it enabled him to make music as full time career. Music was his passion and he breathed his last when he was playing music. His musical hands have come to a rest but although we will not hear him playing music again, his past performances will always remain in our memory to make us realize how talented he was. His dedication to the Sinhala and Tamil music world will be remembered for a long time to come.
His demise will be felt by music fans all over the world. But most of all it will have a deep impact on his colleagues in the musical world who have worked closely with him and have depended on him for quality music and perfection. As a person he stood up to his name as Nesan which means a friendly person. He was friendly with everyone and was very helpful when someone was in need. When someone else was in distress he took the lead and helped them out. Sri Lanka has lost one of the finest sons who brought fame to the country through his musical talents. May his soul rest in peace