Bangalore’s rising star pianist, Fateen

Accord recently interviewed the wonderfully talented 13-year-old pianist from Bangalore, Syed Fateen Ahmed. Fateen and his mother, Dr Asma Kausar, joined us on Zoom to talk about Fateen’s journey in music.

Fateen began keyboard lessons at the tender age of 3, but difficulties finding good teachers meant that his musical education began in earnest at the age of 9, when he became a student at Natallia Piano Studio in Bangalore. In the five short years since, Fateen has developed into a fine musician, mature beyond his years. His impressive list of accolades includes several national and international prizes. He won 1st place at the 5th Kawai Junior National Piano competition (2018) and Mumbai Piano Day (2020). Through the Covid-19 pandemic, he has remained focussed on his music and won 14 international piano competitions held online around the world in the USA, the UK, Hongkong, the UAE, Israel, Greece, France, Italy, Hungary, Poland and Russia. He is indeed fulfilling his wish to see India on the world map of classical piano.

Having gained rich experience in competitions and masterclasses during the course of the pandemic, Fateen plans to spend the next year building his repertoire and exploring different composers’ music. A number of challenging works are on his list, including Chopin’s Ballades, Beethoven’s Sonatas and Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto. When he is ready, he would like to participate in the Chopin International Piano Competition. His dream is to perform with a symphony orchestra – particularly Edward Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, which he learnt recently.

Dr Kausar attributes his success to his teachers – Natallia Kapylova and Liudmila Drazhnik, both Belarusian pianists settled in Bangalore. “They know exactly the sort of music that will interest and suit Fateen. My kids are blessed indeed to be learning under very good teachers.”, she said.

“Fateen is talented and a very motivated musician. I’m happy to be his teacher, and I’m looking at the teaching process as a fun musical journey for both of us. With his hunger for knowledge and dedication Fateen is a source of inspiration for other musicians around him.” – Natallia Kapylova

When asked about the experience of performing on stage, Fateen said – “I like to connect with the audience and share my music with them. I express my feelings and interpretation to them.” He also shared that he performed his first public concert in Mysore in February this year, at the home of Dutch Professor of Anthropology Jan Brouwer. The repertoire included a wide variety of pieces by J. S. Bach, Schubert, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Beethoven and Grieg. The encore was a delightful duet – Schubert’s Military March – performed with his younger sister, Falisha, who is a talented singer and pianist too.

“Fateen is a very good student. He has extraordinary artistic qualities that are rare to find. His classical singing classes have made his understanding of music much deeper! It makes me happy to see how motivated he is to work and study new repertoire. It’s hard to find student with this level of responsibility, motivation and dedication.” – Liudmila Drazhnik

Accord was treated to an impromptu Zoom performance of J. S. Bach’s Prelude in G minor (BWV 861). Fateen brought out the counterpoint with sensitivity and performed the trills with light ease. He eagerly explained and demonstrated how he tries to incorporate the “harpsichord touch” when playing Bach’s music. He said – “In Bach’s time, they didn’t have pianos. They used harpsichords, on which the keys were very light. So I try to use the harpsichord touch, which is more detached and non-legato. The notes are slightly disconnected from one another but I use crescendo and decrescendo to maintain the line.”

Fateen’s favourite subjects in school are mathematics and physics. He also loves to play the guitar and enjoys sketching pictures of the composers he admires.

With so many laurels to his name, Fateen maintains a spirit of quiet confidence and modesty. What comes across above all is his dedication to his craft and his willingness to put in the work to hone it. The South Asian Symphony Foundation wishes Fateen the very best in all his endeavours!

Do visit Fateen’s website to get to know this intrepid, young musician better.

By Aditi Bharatee. This article first appeared in “Accord”, the journal of The South Asian Symphony Foundation, Bangalore.