Recently Aswin Sathya shared a video on instagram: It shows him eliciting beautiful sounds from a left-handed violin. We immediately had to find out: Who is this fellow left-hander from an other part of the world?
Where are you from?
I'm Indian – born and raised in a small village in the Thrissur district in the state of Kerala, one of India’s most southern states.
I started learning Carnatic vocal music from childhood. I had started very basic music studies with my uncle, my first guru. Then I developed my passion for instrumental music and started to learn from several music teachers in my native place Chalakudy. Later I started working in the Malayalam (language) film industry. Then I relocated to Chennai in Tamil Nadu, our neighboring state, for more opportunities in film music production. Here I'm working as a music producer under many music directors and I have successfully completed more than 100 films, including soundtracks and songs.
Do you see yourself as left- or right-handed?
I'm left-handed by birth. My mom and my grandfather are also left-handed. As a child I used to play games using my left hand and that was identified by my parents.
What instruments do you play? How did you learn to play them?
I play the violin, the flute and some rhythm instruments using my left hand, but guitar like plugged instruments I’m playing like a right-hander.
When I went to violin class for the very first time, the teacher strictly told me to play with my right hand. I was struggling to play like that and because of the lack of availability of a left-handed violin at that time I was forced to stop learning the violin. Later I set up a violin for lefties myself with the help of a friend and I started practicing on it.
I used to learn all my instruments by myself. But some basic knowledge in piano and violin I learned from my teacher Mr. Bony John. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to continue my music studies because of the bad financial situation that my family was facing at that time. But Sir Bony helped me to continue my studies.
How is the situation for left-handed people in your country in general? Are there other left-handed playing musicians?
I don't think left-handers are common. I heard of some left-handed violinists existing but haven't met anyone yet. Everybody treats me as a unique one when I play violin with my left hand. For that I was grateful every time.
What kind of music do you perform?
I like especially western classical music and I know Indian Carnatic music as well – and I play it all. I'm not a professional concert musician, but I got an opportunity for the first time by my teacher Mr. Bony John in his programs. He introduced me as a left-handed violinist and that gave me even more inspiration.
I earn my money as a music producer in Indian film industry having worked on 100+ movies in several languages, so I usually don't get the time to play concerts.
Did you have a role model in left-handed playing?
I haven’t seen any other left-handers in real life and so far I don't have any left-handed role models, but I worked under an eminent music director in the Malayalam film industry, my mentor Sir Ouseppachan. He inspired me so much for my violin playing that it cannot be put into words. He is a genius musician.
How did you come by your instruments?
I’m impressed by every instrument that makes music. And I tried to learn them, but unfortunately I didn't get an opportunity because I am left-handed. It's difficult to get left-handed instruments here and it sounds bad for me to buy anything: Sometimes I need to pay double the real amount for purchasing a lefty instrument.
With the help of my friend I bought a normal violin which he changed to left-handed, so I could finally start playing the violin on my way.
Has your left-handed playing ever caused any funny or strange situations?
When I went to learn music in my childhood I saw a mrudangam (an Indian percussion instrument). I just took it and put it in my lap. Everybody watching started laughing at me because I placed the instrument reversed, and everyone said: 'He doesn’t know at least the basics of the mrudangam'. I simply smiled and started playing and made everyone wonder because I played all the right hand notes with my left hand. That was the funniest moment as a left-handed musician in my life.
Does playing left-handed present any advantages?
It feels great to be known as a left-hander because it’s natural but unique. And I’m proud to be a unique one.
Many thanks to Aswin Sathya for participating in this interview! 🎉
Photos by Sam Joseph