Chennai-born piano prodigy is World's Best!

Lydian Nadhaswaram was born for music. The name itself conveys that. (Lydian, for the record, is a musical scale, while the Nadaswaram is a royal Indian wind instrument, popular especially in South India.)

The Chennai-born 13-year-old, widely regarded as a prodigy on piano, has won the “The World’s Best”, a spectacular contest show for global talent.

Lydian, who had earlier hit global headlines after he was featured in Ellen DeGeneres show, won the tough competition that carried a prize money of $ 1 million after he performed Beethoven and Chopin’s pieces on two pianos simultaneously. The contest, in its first season, and described by its producers as the “Olympics for entertainment”, featured talents from across the globe, and was judged by Faith Hill, RuPaul Charles, and Drew Barrymore, who were were aided by 50 representatives from 38 geographic regions with various skills.  

Lydian’s medley pipped at the post the crowd favourites South Korea’s Kukkiwon, a.k.a. “The Flying Taekwondo Masters.”

But even before he was crowned as the champion, Lydian has been a kind of internet sensation as he has vowed the internet audience with his virtuosity over the piano. His re-creations of Ilaiyaraja’s recondite numbers are hall of famers on the net. His videos are hugely popular on the YouTube. Lydian can play blindfolded, he can play it amazing speeds (he can reach 252 bpm, which is roughly the musical equivalent of the speed of a cyclone), he can play two pianos simultaneously.

With the title “Mozart of Madras” already hung on Rahman, Lydian is being called a “Mini Maestro” — mini reflective of his diminutive of his 13-year physique and not of his ability.

Lydian was, not surprisingly, born into a musical family. His dad Varshan Satish is a musician, and has done music for Tamil movies, while his elder sister Amritha Varshini is also a pianist. The two youngsters, both home-schoolers, help their dad at his music studio in Chennai. The family lives and breathes music. Apart from piano, Lydian can play the guitar and tabla.

Lydian showed an inclination towards music since he was aged two. Though he has had tutelage under musical masters, Lydian is mostly self-taught, as he has natural tonal perfection and strong musical memory.

As a 10-year-old, he cleared Grade 8 piano examination conducted by Trinity College, London. Candidates for this exam are generally in college or even elder. In essence, this exam, which tests candidates on their musical, technical and interpretative skills. An examiner, according to a report in a Chennai newspaper, said: “This (a Chopin’s piece) played with both delicacy and gusto and the Chopinesque rubato was managed with great aplomb giving the music both shape and interest throughout. A stylish and accomplished performance.”

“He is a complete music package,” his supportive dad, who travels with him during his performances, once said of Lydian.

And on Wednesday, the package well and truly delivered.

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