Visitors to this year’s Galle Literary Festival will remember well, the energetic violinist who braved the scorching heat of the Lit Fest Café and played his heart out to authors and readers. This was just the beginning of Eugene Draw’s Sri Lankan experience, where he encountered Baila and Sri Lankan drums for the first time.
“My stay in Sri Lanka was punctuated almost all the time by the rhythm of those drums,” he recalls. “I just loved the energy.” Travelling around the island for several weeks, Eugene was able to, as always, draw inspiration for new music from his surroundings. The result is a series of compositions inspired by Baila, to be released later this year.
With his penchant for the daring and unusual, Eugene Draw’s fan base grows at a pace as rapid as his frenzied fiddling.
It all started when he picked up a violin for the first time at the age of 10. “It was challenging to begin with,” he recalls, “but by the time I turned 14 I knew that this was my calling. I think I was at first struck by the mobility of the instrument- the fact that I could carry it around with me wherever I would go.”
It was not long before the violin became an inseparable companion; and Draw realized the potential of something else which would define his style and career as a performer. “I could pretty much play anywhere I wanted to, and that led to busking (street performing). When I was 13 I realized that I could practice my technique and performance skills in front of an audience while earning some money in the process. I remember really wanting a bicycle, and a new mountain bike wasn’t in the family budget so my dad created a saving system for me so I could eventually be able to purchase by saving the change that came from busking on the street.”
Described as ‘the first ever violinist to venture from rock and classical into electronic club culture’, Draw looks upon this achievement as something which happened naturally. “When I was in my late teens,” he says, “I needed a stage that would replace the street when it was too cold to busk, and somehow ended up performing in clubs. My reputation grew quickly and in no time I was touring the club scene, and playing major raves.”
Where a violin is stereotypically associated with classical genres, most of Eugene Draw’s audience looked slightly askance at the youth who dared to challenge the norm with his almost cheeky, almost punk rocker-esque style of performance. “People thought I was crazy,” he said, “and someone recently told me about their experience of seeing me perform for the first time when I was 18. He said that I was like an uncontrollable force; body painted, blonde and with crazy eyes.”
For Eugene, it is this energy that matters most in a performance. As he draws his bow across the strings at the beginning of a performance, several thoughts race in his head. “I get nervous all the time,” he explains, “and can’t help it. As an improvisor on and off stage, my mind usually starts composing music when the day of the show starts. I start thinking of all the different patterns I can make. I go over my motto which is to make sure that nothing that will go wrong on stage would influence my performance.
Due to arrive in Sri Lanka in September this year, Eugene looks forward to the prospect of playing almost every day to local audiences and performing with local musicians while travelling through the country.