"We are at a stage in history, where we are equipped with the powers of science and information like never before. We also have in our possession the collective wisdom of our ancestors which can lead us into ways of living sustainably on earth, leading a life which will hand over the heritage of our planet to our children exactly as we received it, in its richness, resources and life."
Kanniks Kannikeswaran The Blue Jewel 1996
Kanniks Kannikeswaran is a visionary musician, composer, music educator and writer with several recordings, productions and scores to his credit. Often referred to as 'The Magical Musician from Madras' Kanniks' skill lies in his ability to create captivating music easily accessible to a broad audience base, blending complex features of diverse World Music forms. His creative work draws upon his technical skills, and his strong background in Indian culture and music traditions.
Kanniks - based in Cincinnati Ohio, hails from Chennai India. He graduated with a Bachelors degree in Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology - Madras, and then later on acquired advanced degrees in Engineering and Business in the United States. He is a senior consultant in the field of Information Technology with particular emphasis on Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing.
All of Kanniks' projects are consistent with his vision of building community through the celebration of threads of commonality between diverse peoples and cultures.
Kanniks has done path breaking work in bringing the legacy of the little known genre of nottusvara sahityas (music based on popular western melodies of the Colonial period) of master composer Muthusvami Dikshitar to the world community in a highly acclaimed recording featuring Indian voices and Celtic accompaniment. This recording ‘Vismaya – An Indo Celtic Musical Journey’ featuring the first ever compilation of the 39 compositions of Dikshitar in this genre, has earned wide acclaim. Dr. Pappu Venugopala Rao of the American Institute of Indian Studies has described this album as ‘a marvelous effort and a recording to be owned and cherished by every musician…’. His presentation on this topic at the 81st Annual Conference of the Music Academy, Madras has won him awards.
In his recent tour of India, Kanniks offered lectures at several venues in Chennai, Bangalore and Delhi on topics such as the nottusvara sahityas of the 19th century, innovation in the field of arts, community building through the arts etc.
His magnum opus 'Shanti A Journey of Peace' a musical theater production and a choral symphony made history by bringing together a community choir of over 150 singers of both Indian and western origin in the Cincinnati community, in a spectacular performance at the prestigious Aronoff Center for the Arts. (2004 and 2006)
The magic of Shanti was re-created at Lehigh valley when Shanti was performed by the newly formed Lehigh valley Indian community choir and singers from local choirs along with guest singers from the Martin Luther King coalition chorale who were inspired to drive up to Bethlehem PA from Cincinnati OH to participate in this grand venture. (2006)
Shanti won accolades from critics and community leaders at large both in Ohio and in the Lehigh area. In addition it received a glowing tribute from the well known writer Sujata in the tamil weekly Ananda Vikatan. Shanti was performed again in the Lehigh valley in October 2008.
Shanti left participants and audiences moved. The entire series of rehearsals and workshops leading upto the performance constitute a transformative experiences building communities between diverse groups such as the Martin Luther King coalition choir, singers from the Indian diaspora spanning a diverse range of ages from 21 through 80 covering a range of languages, professions and more. The Cincinnati Indian community choir founded by Kanniks boasts of participants speaking a range of languages from Assamese to Malayalam.
Kanniks ceaselessly inspires people through his passion for music and his commitment to empower individuals and societies through music. He stands for the possibility of bringing widespread awareness of the depth and breadth and the non-denominational spiritual core of Indian music and culture amongst the Indian diaspora. His vision of a pan-Indian music Raaga Vidya™ (that he passionately teaches) builds upon the core of commonality of various Indian music forms and appeals to practitioners and connoisseurs of Karnatic and Hindustani music alike.
Kanniks' Raaga Vidya™ workshops where he powerfully shares the wealth of Indian music through pattern recognition exercises as well as examples from contemporary music are a great draw amongst the diaspora especially amongst children of Indian origin. He worked with the children of the community for a 9 month period on 'Beyond Seasons' a project that brought the raagas of the seasons through a series of workshops spanning the four seasons. This workshop series culminated in The Sound of Seasons, a grand concert the brought together the Greater Cincinnati Indian Children's Choir (students from the workshop series), the Cincinnati Children's choir and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. This work represents the first time that the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra played Raaga based music.
In Chitram - another multimedia theater production, Kanniks explores the diversity and plurality inherent in the very nature of Indian culture, through music, dance and a journey through the multi-faceted aspects of India. Chitram was performed at Wright State University in Spring 2005 and was hailed as an extraordinarily educative program created with the finest sense of aesthetics.Kanniks' production. Chitram received attention from scholars such as Solomon Pappaiah when it was performed at the Tamilnadu Foundation in Detroit. Chitram made its first corporate debut in 2006 when it was performed for the Asia Pacific American Forum at General Electric Corporation, Cincinnati OH.
As a musician, Kanniks has collaborated with leading artistes from around the world. His work The Snake Concerto was performed by the prestigious Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, conducted by John Morris Russell. His score for Jeevan Taal (produced by Mallika Sarabhai - for Mahotsav 1999), based on several Indian folk music traditions was choreographed by Mrinalini Sarabhai, one of the foremost exponents of classical and modern Indian dance, and has received wide acclaim from the Indian press.
Kanniks has collaborated with Lakshmi Shankar (featured in the Academy Award winning score of Gandhi) one of the foremost classical musicians of India and with celebrated conductor Catherine Roma on several occasions.
In 1998, Kanniks composed The Cosmic Dance Halls, a musical feature celebrating the five revered Dance Hall temples of Shiva Nataraja. This work weaves the legends around the five dance halls in a musical framework based on south indian classical music, and it draws selectively from the tamil hymns of the Nayanmar saints of the 1st millennium CE. The Cosmic Dance Halls was choreographed by Kalaimamani Saraswathi Sundaresan and was performed at the Patteeswarar temple at Coimbatore during the Natyanjali festival in 1998 and has been featured several times on the state owned television network Doordarshan.
Kanniks' album Tiruvarangam (1992) explores the Prabandam hymns of the Alwars of the 1st millennium CE (celebrating the glory of Srirangam in Tamilnadu) in a contemporary idiom, and has been acclaimed widely. His current release Tamil Marai (2006) is a compilation of his recordings where he has set ancient Tamil verses to contemporary music accessible to children.
His recording Banaras, released under his ASIA label presents his own compositions as well as his rendition of the kritis of Muthuswamy Dikshitar in his own unique style of rendition.
In 1996, Kanniks composed and directed The Blue Jewel, a musical salutation to the planet Earth, bringing together a wide range of artistes to celebrate the message of interconnectedness of life on earth. The Blue Jewel received acclaim from critics and community leaders alike in Cincinnati, and was performed again in 1997 and in 1999 and yet again in 2008.
Kanniks has lectured extensively on Indian culture and has offered music workshops and diversity training at several educational institutions, corporations and cultural organizations nationwide. Kanniks' workshops have been hailed as being very informative and comprehensive and have earned tremendous praise from diverse audiences.
Kanniks has been receiving support for his creative work in the form of several grants from the City of Cincinnati, the Ohio Arts Council and the Fine Arts Fund. since 1996.
Kanniks is the force behind the Greater Cincinnati Indian community choir that he founded to explore polyphonic avenues in raaga based music.
Kanniks is unconditionally committed to spreading awareness of the unique cultural wealth of India and his website Templenet, that he has single handedly authored and published has been the authoritative source of information on the temples of India on the internet for the last 10 years.
Kanniks is a passionate educator and he teaches Indian Music at the College Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. He is also the founder and director of The American School of Indian Art, founded with the vision of creating awareness about the ancient and diverse Indian music and art traditions in the western hemisphere.
Indian Classical Music…
The music of India is based on the idea of rAgas and hence all of Indian classical music is nothing but rAga vidyA™, although in modern day practice there exist two main streams of Indian classical music i.e. Hindustani sangIt and karnataka sangItam.
Kanniks is thoroughly grounded in Indian classical music and has established a style for himself that has grown out of the core of commonality between the Hindustani and Karnatic classical streams of India. Kanniks' exposure to classical music began when he was a toddler and his formal education in music began at the age of nine and he gave his first concert at the age of thirteen. His musical lineage can be traced to the venerated composer Muthuswamy Dikshitar and his classical music repertoire consists largely of a significant body of compositions of the Muthuswamy Dikshitar, ancient dhrupads and the Tevaram and Prabandha hymns of the 1st millennium CE.
The website Templenet (www.templenet.com) that he has been authoring and publishing over the last nine year period is a comprehensive work describing the temples of India, the mythology that they symbolize, the history that they represent and the art forms that they display.
Given this Indological knowledgebase, his stress on theory , his knowledge of sanskrit and Tamil as well as the solid grounding in Indian classical music, the compositions of Kanniks are more than musical expressions; they represent a wholesome experience. Although he is known more for his compositional skills, his singing has been noted for its richness of expression (bhava).
"You have a great voice, impeccable tonal purity and your bhava is outstanding. You should sing the music of Aadavallaanin Aindu sabhaigal in its debut performance …"
- Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna at the rehearsal of the music of The Cosmic Dance Halls - 1998
"Your grasp over both the Karnatic and the Hindustani music idiom is very commendable"
- Lakshmi Shankar's observations on Shanti
As a classical musician, he specializes in singing in the vilambita (slow majestic) gait with strong emphasis on tonal purity and lyrical expression.
As an instrumentalist, Kanniks is proficient on the violin.
Kanniks shares the knowledge of Indian classical music with participants in music workshops regardless of their level of proficiency in Indian classical music. His music workshops are packed with information and are a wholesome experience of music, Indian culture and more.
Having represented IIT Madras in inter-collegiate competitions all over India, and having played and orchestrated stage performances of Indian film music , he is very conversant with the vast repertoire of songs from Tamil and Hindi films and he uses some of these as aids in introducing ragas to music appreciation classes.
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