Non fiction, is this musician’s pick

At 19, Eshantha Joseph Peiris was already an extraordinarily accomplished musician. On his piano, in his parents’ home in Colombo, he had composed several rock songs and symphonies, created arrangements for string quartets and choirs, and had penned a little jazz concerto.

When he returned to college, it was to complete his Bachelor’s in Music Performance and Composition at New York University’s Steinhardt School. He loved the melting pot that was New York, he says and felt that time that he would like to study further, and “postpone dealing with the real world”. Four years and one Master’s Degree later, Eshantha was home and the world waited.

It’s been a year since he returned and he’s already a fixture on the local music scene. Eshantha keeps busy – he’s a conductor for the Symphony Orchestra, co-director of the Old Joes Choir, and director of Contempo Choir.

A freelance musician, he’s collaborated with some of Sri Lanka’s best known names. He’s also a keyboardist for the popular fusion band Thriloka ( A DVD of the band’s recent orchestra concert is scheduled for release on the M Entertainment label and there are performances and a new album planned for early next year.

Aside from his many professional engagements, Eshantha teaches piano and is learning Indian ragadari music. What’s it like being a freelance musician? “Fun! Tiring. I get to meet new people and new approaches to music-making on a weekly basis. It’s a job that constantly renews itself. Of course, there’s the mundane side to it too. But at least even that happens on my own time-table!” he says.

What are you reading now?

I don’t read much, but I always keep two books in my back-pack to read during unscheduled breaks. Right now it’s ‘The Satanic Verses’ by Salman Rushdie, and ‘World Music – A Very Short Introduction’ by Philip V. Bohlman.

Are you enjoying both?

I’m loving ‘The Satanic Verses’: I haven’t even figured out what the frame-narrative is about yet, but Rushdie’s writing is so loaded with allusions on a sentence-to-sentence basis that I haven’t even started looking for a plot: his use of language is trippy enough for me…

I’m currently finding ‘World Music’ to be a bit boring, but I remember finding the premise of the book to be quite enlightening when I first picked it up (it’s basically about how ‘fusion music’ – which is what I do for a living – can be interpreted in context of globalization and related power-imbalances), so I’m soldiering on in the hope that all the academic-sounding details will add to my understanding of the subject. Also, I’ve learned a lot from this book already without realizing it at the time, so I’m kind of taking it on faith that the rest of the book will be good for me!

Where do you like to read?

At coffee-shops, at friends’ houses before/in-between/after rehearsals, on public transport, on an exercise bicycle…

When was the last time a book taught you something about music?

I’m guessing you didn’t have instructional textbooks in mind when you asked this question? Either way, I’m currently working my way through ‘101 Montunos’ by Rebeca Mauleón, which is teaching me how to play the piano in Afro-Cuban (a.k.a. salsa) styles. Fun!

Which do you prefer to read fiction or non-fiction?

Well, I tend to gravitate towards non-fiction: probably a result of too much university education! (to clarify, I usually think of ‘non-fiction’ as being academic-style essays, as opposed to biographies etc.) But I find that fiction writers have a much better knack for observing, contextualizing and re-creating the subtleties of human personalities and ambitions, and that attracts me.

As the result of an extremely bizarre chain of events, you discover that you will only ever be able to read a total of (and re-read) 5 books. Which ones would you pick?

1) ‘What Good are the Arts?’ by John Carey – because as artists we need to get our priorities straight ,

2) ‘World Musics in Context (ed. Peter Fletcher) – because in this day-and-age there is no excuse for remaining culturally isolated,

3) ‘The Ground Beneath Her Feet’ by Rushdie – because the novel reminds me - in very articulate fashion – what music can mean for people,

4) Any good collection of South-Asian short stories – because being able to relate is part of the fun of reading,

5) I’m willing to take a risk on a novel I haven’t read yet, probably by a Latin-American writer in translation (since I’m not familiar with any literature from that region).

If you were asked, which book would you nominate as the best of 2009?

Ha ha, it takes me about a year to get through a book, so a few more years will have to pass before I can comment on that!

Top to the page  |  E-mail  |  views[1]
Other Magazine Articles
Familiar fusion with new sounds and faces
He simply loves to paint
Non fiction, is this musician’s pick
Pera Singers’ Seasonal concert
magazine -- Cover of the week
Mirror Magazine Articles
Clinching victory
Grappling with gender violence
Does Santa have to come to town?
Banding together
Is cloud computing safe?
TV Times Articles
New Year Eve Dollar party
Rock at its best in Colombo
German DJs at the Little Hut
‘Vijaya-Kuveni’ comes to the silver screen
‘A Christmas nightmare’
Paa, a tale of smiles and tears
‘Summer Fling’
‘SIGNIS’ Salutation for cinema and TV talents
Club Palm Bay: Great treat for holiday makers
TV Times News in brief


Reproduction of articles permitted when used without any alterations to contents and a link to the source page.
© Copyright 2009 | Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka. All Rights Reserved.| Site best viewed in IE ver 6.0 @ 1024 x 768 resolution