Elderly Sri Lankan pianist shares her love for music and food
While her peers were playing with dolls and still trying to write their names correctly Assunta Isabelle Pillai was already perfecting her piano playing skills.
And when she reached seven she sat for her first music examination and passed with distinction.
Now 77, Pillai still plays her favourite musical instrument with passion much to the amusement and enjoyment of ‘her audience’.
What is also interesting about her is that despite her age, she is still going strong and passing on her piano playing skills to her students
The Voice was fortunate to be Pillai’s audience recently and to find out more about the pianist.
While we thought she was only into her piano and that it’s the only thing that she knows best we were surprised when she served us a five star meal before we could sit down for the interview and listen to her breath taking music.
After helping ourselves to the various scrumptious dishes some of which were common Sri Lankan dishes, the land of her birth, Pillai then took us down memory lane, right from the years she laid her hands on the instrument which is a part of her that she cannot just let go.
Born to a musical family in Kurunegale, Sri Lanka in 1933 Pillai started playing a piano when she was only six and when she was seven she sat for her first musical examination which she passed with flying colours.
“It might come as a surprise to many people that I got a distinction in music when I was only seven but my family and I were not really surprised because we are a family of musicians. And according to my family I am the odd one out because I can only play one instrument while others are good at more than one,’’ she said.
But while she can only play one, she plays it with her whole heart and being and is making sure that she passes on the skills to the next generation.
Pillai who has a diploma in music conducts piano lessons at her home in Maru-a-Pula.
“The Piano is my passion and I will continue playing it for as long as I can and my wish is to pass on the skills to as many people as I can though my daughter and son-in-law think that I am now too old to be conducting the lessons,’’ said Pillai with laugh adding that contrary to what they think or believe she still has the energy to do continue doing what she does best.
She also revealed that conducting music lessons is not something that she started doing when she relocated from Sri Lanka to Botswana in 2000.
“It was just a continuation of what I was doing in Sri Lanka,’’ she said.
She however said it was unfortunate that people here in Botswana did not seem to appreciate the piano.
“I love this country, it’s now my home and I wish to make the piano as popular and widely known and appreciated to as many people as possible,’’ she said.
After the interview, time came for us to be treated to music and weren’t we taken aback and to a different world altogether by the music!
The next question after our ears were treated to this serenading music was, when is she recording an album?
“It’s not something that I have thought of but now that you have asked, if funds permit maybe I will consider doing so,’’ said the veteran pianist.