For violinist Nayil Arana, 19, music is a way to connect with culture.
Through calypso and Caymanian folk music, he has found a way to bring vibrance and renewed interest to an instrument traditionally associated with classical music.
“It’s a different feel from what most violinists usually play, because what I’ve noticed is that a lot of the kids who start playing classical instruments, play classical music and only that,” he said.
While classical training can set a foundation for young musicians, it can also scare them away in the long run. Arana has noticed that by college age, many of his peers have lost interest in violin.
“So pretty early on, I started branching off into other things. I started by playing folk music with the Cayman Islands Folk Singers and from then on I was playing folk music, then pop songs, then calypso music,” Arana said.
“Now I’m playing professionally with a local band called Bona Fide. They play music from pop, calypso, ska, reggae, all sorts of genres. So I found a place where I can play whatever music I want and get paid for it too. So that’s always a bonus.”
Arana will share his calypso stylings Thursday evening at Cayman Arts Festival’s Music at the Library. He will join several other young musicians at the George Town Public Library for what has become a diverse monthly showcase of Cayman’s musical talent.
Arana has a long and often self-driven history with music. He began playing violin at age 4, piano at age 6 and cello at age 8. Around age 14, he began producing electronic music for his YouTube channel, Musikage, which now has a following of 63,000 subscribers.
His interest in music began at age 4, he said, when his parents took him to a concert at a high school in Belize, where his family is from. The performance captured his imagination and he asked his mother if he could start playing violin.
“From there it was history,” he said.
Now, music offers an outlet from his professional and academic life.
“It’s different than the things I do every day. It’s a more creative outlet, as opposed to computer science and math, which is what I’ll be studying, and financial services, which is where I currently work. It’s a creative outlet that I can do in my spare time and also earn a little extra,” he said.
This fall he will begin studying mathematics and computer science at the University of Southampton.
In a way, these disciplines parallel his approach to music.
“With mathematics and computer science – more quantitative disciplines – it’s about practicing the problems, pattern matching and [it’s] the same thing with music. You have to practice a lot in order to get the intuition of it. The more you practice, the better you become,” he said.
Other musicians featured in Thursday’s programme include Christopher Scott on piano, Joseph Welcome on harmonica, Beneil Miller on piano, Liz Malkin on flute, Joe Millson on tuba and Heidi Ordaz-Nyack on piano. Sophie McKenzie will present poetry. The show starts at 6pm.