The Kennedy Center

Tanya Ekanayaka


Dr. Tanya Ekanayaka is one of Sri Lanka's most distinguished classically trained pianists. She is also a composer and musicologist in addition to being a highly qualified linguist. She began studying the piano when she was just five years old, made her debut public recital appearance at the age of 12, and has since performed widely as soloist, accompanist, and in ensembles both internationally and in Sri Lanka. Consistent with her interdisciplinary background, Tanya holds a Bachelor of Arts Honors degree in English literature and linguistics from the University of Peradeniya, a Master of Science degree in linguistics and English language from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and a doctorate for interdisciplinary research involving the disciplines of linguistics and musicology also from Edinburgh University. She is also a Fellow of the Trinity College of Music London, and a Licentiate of both the Associated Board of The Royal Schools of Music, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama UK. The Guildhall school awarded her its Professional Performer's Diploma in 1999. Tanya was appointed a member of the academic staff of the University of Peradeniya in 2003 shortly after graduating with her Bachelor of Arts Honors degree in the same year. She was a member of the university’s academic staff as Assistant Lecturer in Linguistics and subsequently as Lecturer in Linguistics in the Department of English (Literature and Linguistics) from 2003-2005 and 2005-2011 respectively. Tanya is currently on the staff of Edinburgh University in Scotland where she has been teaching part-time in both its Departments of Linguistics and Music since 2007.

In July 2010, Tanya became the first Sri Lankan to perform in the 'Pianists of the World' series at the world-renowned international recital venue, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, in London. Founded by the legendary Dame Myra Hess, this is one of the longest running recital series at this concert venue. The audience at this concert was reportedly among the largest recorded at lunchtime concerts at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Tanya’s program included the world premiere of Tanya’s own composition Adahas: of Wings of Roots which was the first Sri Lankan composition to be performed at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. This composition is an example of the distinguishing feature of Tanya’s recitals, which include her own compositions representing a novel form of musical fusion alongside works from the classical repertoire. In this sense, Tanya’s recitals become a discourse where the merging of genres and eras is facilitated - classical with popular and folk song, and the historical with the relatively contemporary. As such, her work may be seen as transgressing and in so doing conflating the borders of temporality. Tanya regards her compositions as deeply autobiographical moments. She attributes her compositional style to her multilingual and multicultural backgrounds as well as to being ambidextrous and having partial synesthesia. In 2011 Tanya was invited to serve on the international panel of adjudicators at one of the world’s biggest music festivals, the Hong Kong Schools Music and Speech Festival. She adjudicated the piano division of this festival.

Watch Past Performances

Video 5/31/2012: Tanya Ekanayaka

The classically trained Sri Lankan pianist, composer, and improviser performs a recital of her own work, along with works by Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, and others.

Tanya Ekanayaka