Tanya Ekanayaka

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Concert Composer-Pianist . Record Producer . 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
Reinventions: Rhapsodies for Piano - Naxos Records Critics' Choice, December 2015.
Twelve Piano Prisms - Naxos Records Critics' Choice, February 2019.

One of the world’s leading South Asian woman composer-pianists with a unique portfolio of internationally published/recorded (and publicly available), works for solo piano to her name owing to her pioneering work, Dr. Tanya Ekanayaka (PhD, MSc, FTCL, LRSM, LGSMD-PPD, BA-Honours) is an award winning and internationally acclaimed Sri Lankan-British virtuoso composer-pianist and scholar. Composing exclusively for solo piano and as of recent years performing only her own works for solo piano, she is classically trained with a background in popular and South Asian musics and also a record producer and musicologist in addition to being a highly qualified linguist.

Although trained as a pianist, her compositional skills are the result of a deeply intuitive and natural development. 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 given solo recitals in renowned international concert venues in Asia, Europe and the United States. Her compositions have been featured on numerous international media and reflect emerging discourses between musical genres, styles and periods. Influenced by her multifaceted background, multilingualism, ambidexterity and partial colour synaesthesia, a unique feature of Ekanayaka’s deeply autobiographical works which evolve when she is at the piano (and at times in her dreams), is that they are precisely frozen in her memory once evolved, and as such remain entirely unscored.

Her creative practice seeks to render the piano more inclusive as well contribute to decolonising the piano. This coupled with a lifetime of experiencing and absorbing a wide range of contrasting musical genres from around world ever since she was a child has meant that her works are naturally influenced by traditional, classical, folk and popular musical genres and melodies of her homeland as well as from around the world.

In 2015, Tanya Ekanayaka became the first Sri Lankan composer in history to have an entire album of original works released globally by an international record label following the 2015 release of her debut album of compositions for solo piano composed, performed and produced by her, titled 'REINVENTIONS: RHAPSODIES FOR PIANO' released by Naxos Records (Grand Piano).

The works in her debut album comprise the integration of unusual adaptations of melodies belonging to Sri Lankan indigenous and popular musics (many of which have not been adapted for the piano or harmonised), with musical motifs inspired by the tonal centres of the other compositions which formed a given recital programme she was performing.

Her composition 'Adahas: Of Wings Of Roots' also features in the Naxos Records (Grand Piano) triple album titled 'THE KEY COLLECTION: THREE CENTURIES OF RARE KEYBOARD GEMS' released in 2017.

Tanya Ekanayaka’s second solo album of her own works for solo piano performed and produced by her, titled ‘TWELVE PIANO PRISMS’ was released worldwide by Naxos Records (Grand Piano) in September 2018. This album extends the concept introduced in her debut album by incorporating into each work, adaptations of parts of traditional and folk melodies of countries around the world while also exploring a new concept. In this sense, Tanya Ekanayaka’s compositions may be seen as re-presenting her own culture while also conflating diverse musical genres and eras within a contemporary and organic entity.

Her third solo album of her own works for solo piano performed and produced by her, titled ‘THE PLANETS & HUMANITY – PIANO REFLECTIONS’ was released worldwide by Naxos Records (Grand Piano) on May 14th 2021. The eight works of this album correspond to reflections on the eight planets of the solar system and seven continents comprising Earth. With the exception of ‘Earth-Life’ and ‘Mercury with Antarctica’ embedded within each work are trans-created echoes of fragments of six secular traditional melodies belonging to six traditional communities of Earth’s six continents containing permanent human habitation. The peoples whose music thus inspires the works, are the Asháninka, Cree, Gond, Hadzabe, Numbulwar and Sámi.

The presence of transcreated echoes of fragments of secular melodies originating from traditional communities in Tanya Ekanayaka’s works is not a representation of the peoples or their musics as she maintains that such representation can only be achieved by the respective peoples themselves. Specifically, these are deeply personal reflections where Tanya Ekanayaka seeks to honour these musics and their communities having been personally and artistically inspired by the musics, being herself a minority within the sphere of the canon of piano composers as a South Asian female composer evolving music exclusively for solo piano and working to expand the narrative of the piano.

From 2012 to 2014, Tanya Ekanayaka also developed a pioneering music composition project on a purely voluntary basis aimed at empowering traumatised as well as underprivileged Sri Lankan children and youth recovering from the civil war that ravaged the nation for thirty years.

She is currently working on a double album of solo works for solo piano.