Eshantha Peiris is currently a principal conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka, co-director of the Old Joes Choir, and director of Contempo Choir, in addition to being the keyboardist of the fusion band Thriloka. He is also the co-founder of MusicMatters.
We began our conversation looking at how Eshantha developed an interest in music, and why he came back to Sri Lanka after a stint studying music in New York. Eshantha talks about the space to create and produce music, as well as the space to, even though he hasn’t, branch out as a commercial artiste. Eshantha also flags what to him makes the contemporary music scene in Sri Lanka vibrant and special.
Given Eshantha’s prowess and interest in the Baroque period, he then answers how playing with Thriloka has influenced his approach to music. Given that he learnt music composition Eshantha goes into why he hasn’t composed more, and also talks briefly about his new album, which we cover in more detail later in the interview. He also explains a composition, done some years ago, that through its narrative structure captures the onset and devastation of the Boxing Day tsunami that hit Sri Lanka in 2004.
Asked why he co-founded MusicMatters, Eshantha goes into his approach around teaching music to children. Given that Eshantha was able to study in the US because of funding by a corporate entity in Sri Lanka, he is asked whether the lack of a culture of supporting the development of the arts impedes young musicians from blossoming to their fullest potential through international exposure and learning.
We then talk about, in relation to MIA’s music and her public utterances, what relationship an artist does and should have with her or his political context and milieu.
Towards the end of our conversation, we go into the production of Eshantha’s latest album, which is, to the best of our knowledge, Sri Lanka’s first crowd funded or crowd seeded music album. Eshantha explains why he took this novel route towards producing his album, and why embraces a Creative Commons share alike licensing model for the music he’s composed for it. We end by talking about when he will officially release the album in Sri Lanka, during the Musicmatters music festival slated for early August.