Links

  1.  Kanniks’ Personal Website
  2. Richardson, Rachel. “The Magical Musician From Madras”Mason Our Town(October–November 2012): 12, 13, 14. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  3. Kannikeswaran, Kanniks. “About Kanniks”.
  4. Burnett, John. “Across America, Voices Rise To Reinvent India”NPR.
  5. Blum, Barbara. “UC Indian American choral composer in national spotlight”UC Magazine. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  6. Srinivasan, Priya. “Ragas in Symphony”Sruti Magazine. Retrieved 9 March2016.
  7. “Kanniks Kannikeswaran Productions”Korzo. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  8. “Reports on Lec-Dems”Kutcheri Buzz.
  9. “The influence of the dhrupad on Muttuswami Dikshitar kritis”Madras Heritage and Carnatic Music. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  10. Kannikeswaran, Kanniks (March 14, 2013). “Legacy From Dikshitar”. The Hindu. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  11. Pundir, Pallavi (August 19, 2012). “Raga Choral”. The Indian Express. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  12.  “Shanti Choir”Shanti A Journey Of Peace.
  13. Morse, Diana. “In ‘Shanti,’ East meets West – and the result is harmony”The Morning Call. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  14. “The 40th Annual TNF Convention”http://tnfusa.org/. Retrieved 19 January2015. External link in |website= (help)
  15. Viswanath, Narayana (Jun 16, 2014). “The Cincinnati En-choir-er”. The New Indian Express. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  16. Indurti, Madhavi. “Shanti- A Journey of Peace Enraptures Atlanta”NRI Pulse. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  17. Hegde, Jyothsna. “Shanti explores the idea of peace and interconnectedness in a very powerful way: Kanniks Kannikeswaran”NRI Pulse. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  18. Vishwanathan, Ajay. “Shanti – let the sensations wash over you”Khabar Magazine. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  19. Guglani, Suveena (May 1, 2014). “Chitram: A Portrait of India”. Indo American News. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  20. Rele, Nitish S. “Chitram Rocks Tampa Bay”Khaasbaat. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  21. Blum, Barbara. “UC’s ties to India prime minister’s Madison Square Garden event”UC Magazine. University of Cincinnati. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  22. Rao, Shuchita. “Music: Fusing Two Idioms”. Khabar (July 2012).
  23. “Sharad, Celebrating Autumn”Topic Times. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  24. “American School of Indian Art”http://www.kanniks.com. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  25. “2011 Ohio Heritage Fellowship Recipients”Ohio Arts Council.
  26. “McKnight Visiting Composer Residencies”American Composers Forum. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  27. “DC Days Awards: Hall of Fame”. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  28. “Vismaya”. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  29. Vishwanath, Narayana (4 August 2014). “Truly, an engaging speech”. New Indian Express. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  30. Swamy, Prakash (June 8, 2012). “Exploring the Dhrupad-Dikshitar connection”. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  31. Transformations, Jan 2013, Video Clip.
  32. INK Talk by Kanniks Kannikeswaran,  Mumbai India, September 2015, Video Clip.
  33. TedX Talk by Kanniks Kannikeswaran, Cincinnati OH, March 2015, Video Clip.
  34. Templenet, The Comprehensive Website on Indian Temples
  35. Building Community Through Music, Interview Published in Sruti Magazine, June, 2017
  36. Shanti – A Journey of Peace, Cupertino CA, April 2016, Curtain Call Video Clip
  37. Ragas in Symphony, Den Haag, October 2014, Curtain Call Video Clip
  38. Shanti – A Journey of Peace, Audience Feedback, Cupertino, April 2016, Video Clip
  39. Shanti – Promo – Interviews with Participants, Cincinnati OH, April 2014, Video Clip
  40. Shanti – Interviews with Participants, Cincinnati OH, April 2014, Video Clip
  41. Ohio Heritage Fellows, PBS  TV Feature on Kanniks Kannikeswaran, Feb 2017
  42. Interview on WLWT TV, Cincinnati OH, April 2014, Video Clip
  43. Interview on Foundations TV, Boston, MA, March 2016
  44. Interview on Women Now TV, California, April 2016
  45. Foundations TV Award for Thought Leadership, April 2017, Video Clip
  46. A Journey to bring Peace through Music, Vidya Pradhan, April 2017.
  47. The Rising Sun, Special Events, GE APAF Symposium, September 2016.
  48. Shanti – A Journey of Peace comes to Cincinnati, Interview with Barbara Gray, March 2014
  49. Shanti raises over $227,000 to benefit Aim for Seva, Kalyani Giri, March 2010.
  50. Invocation performed at Madison Square Garden, September 2014
  51. Dazzling Shanti concert raises funds for studies, Shalini Narang, India West, May 2016
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August 22, 2017 at 10:51 pm Leave a comment

Illaiyaraja and Manikkavacagar’s ‘porchuNNam’

The Tamil month of Margazhi celebrates the work of the Saint Poet Manikkavacagar.  Reflecting on the legacy of the poet, with Tiruvadirai (the full moon night in the darkest month of the year) just coming up, I youtubed Manikkavacakar on my iphone and immediately ran into ‘Tiruvacakam in Symphony’ recorded  in 2005 by Illaiyaraja.

30726445_l

What is Tiruvaacakam?

Tiruvaacakam (Sacred Sayings) – or Tiruvasagam  is a collection of poems packed with devotion and alliteration written by the Saint Poet Manikkavaacagar expressing his bhakti to Shiva, several hundred years ago.

The tiruvaacakam consists of several thematic chapters such as Tiruvempavai, Tiru-Ammaanai, Achho patikam, porchunnam, Tirupponnoosal etc.

The chapter porchunnam’ contains 20 verses. Roughly translated ‘porchunnam’ means ‘songs sung to accompany the joyous ritual of preparing (pounding) incensed powder for the Lord’.

porchunnam’ is featured in the 5th Track in the album.

porchunnam’ is referred to as ‘aananda manOlayam’ i.e. transforming into a state of oneness through a joyous state of being. Illaiyarajas’ arrangement of these verses does reflect this state of joy.

From the standpoint of Tamil rules that govern classical poetry, the verse form is classified as an ‘aru seer kazhi nedil adi aasiriya viruttam’. Ignore the term if it fails to ring a bell from your 11th standard Tamil grammar lessons. Just remember the number 6.

The orchestral arrangement projects a brisk waltz like character for these verses (3+3). vocalizing the sense of joy seen in the poetry, based entirely on the scale of the Karnataka raga sarasangi.

What is sarasangi? It is a raga with a scale that differs from that of sankarabharanam by just one note, the dha. Illaiyaraja has dealt with this scale (with some minor variations) before in songs such as ‘meenamma meenamma’, ‘muthu muthu medai pottu’  (mostly sarasangi!) etc. some eighteen years ago.

The strophic hymns of Tiruvaacakam are usually sung in the mohana ragam. Typical musical arrangements would involve the repetition of the same melody for each of the verses. Illaiyaraja’s arrangement however brings out porchunnam with a difference.

Violins, violas, celli, basses, woodwinds, brass and various percussion instruments bring this track to life along with a western chorus and an Indian chorus singing characteristically tamil phrases such as ‘tandananna’. On top of all this, there is a galaxy of singers such as Unnikrishnan and Vijay Yesudoss.

Once the spirit of the scale of sarasangi falls in place (a minute or so into the track), the entire track sticks to it. There are several ‘charanams’, each in a different tune within the confines of the same scale. Even the background music leads to these charanams is different; one of them even gives a glimpse of the scale of hamsadhwani with a careful withholding of just two notes ma and dha for a few cycles. While it is cased in a symphonic setup there are moments where something tugs at your heart very much like the Illaiyaraja melodies of the yesteryears.

Apart from the refrain ‘Aada porchunnam idittum naame’ there is no repetition in melody anywhere. The first charanamsundara neer’ starts on ‘pa’, the second one ‘vaal tadam’ on ni. ‘muttani’ and ‘mai ani’ start further higher up. The next two charanamsvatta malar’ and ‘vedamum’ start much lower down. (Only 7 out of the 20 verses written are featured in this rendition)

The words in the last stanza stand out.

vEdamum vELviyum AyinArkku – meimaiyum poimaiyum AyinArkku
sOdiyumAi iruL AyinArkku – tunbamumAi inbam AyinArkku
pAdiyumAi muRRum AyinArkku- bandamumAi vIDum AyinArkku
Adiyum antamum AyinArkku – Ada porchuNNam idittum name

“The One who is both the knowledge and the yajna – one who is both the wholesome truth and the illusion – the one who is the light and the dark at the same time – the one who is an embodiment of both pain and pleasure – the one who is ‘part and the whole’, the one who is bondage as well as liberation – the one who is both the beginning and the end – Shiva – enshrined in Tiruvaiyaru – for him we pound the incensed powder with much joy”.

Porchunnam is to be enjoyed at many levels; one is just by reading the lyrics and appreciating the alliteration; the next is just getting the purport and the meaning of the verse; the third is to actually sing it and feel the words sing ink into you, leaving you in awe of the centuries over which these words have survived; in awe of the classicism inherent in Tamil – a language that you take for granted as your mother tongue.

Illaiyaraja’s version of porchunnam, transports you to a different world. The words are cloaked with so many layers of ‘happenings’. Groupings of instruments such as woodwinds, brass, strings and percussion, voices weave layer after layer around the words; the scale of sarasangi is unleashed as a pravaha of notes in an 8 minute deluge as it gushes forth into finale with a ‘tandananna’ chorus and a strong punctuation by the timpani.

One of Illaiyaraja’s best creations ever.

January 10, 2017 at 10:33 pm Leave a comment

The passage of time

Nothing represents the changing times more than the little hand held device that we use on an hourly basis.

We used to rely on sundials (before our lifetime), grandfather clocks and wrist watches to track the passage of time. Not any more. The smartphone does it for you.

We relied on good old biological clocks and then the shrill alarm clock and then the radio alarm for years; now it is all in the smartphone.

We relied on date-calendars (where you turn one page off every day), on monthly-page-turn calendars and then the calendar on your ‘Outlook’ on the computer; the smart phone tracks your calendar, it tracks birthdays and anniversaries and even ghost sends greetings.

fireworks

 

We relied on good old notebooks and pens; then on the crude text editors and then sophisticated word processors – and yes, you are right, you do it all on the smart phone.

We were fast at mental arithmetic. Then we started using logarithmic tables in our 12th grade. The calculator completely changed how our minds processed numbers while in College. Now, even that calculator is part of your smartphone.

We made hundreds of phone calls to announce our child’s birth, spending long hours on the phone and tallying phone bills later. Now, we just make an announcement on Whatsap and Facebook, share photos and videos. Despite this 5 minute post, we spend an eternity browsing messages on FB and Whatsapp. Well, thats another story. But again, it is all in your palm.

We relied on AT&T to make global calls, paying a fortune. Disruptive market forces cheapened these calls as we started spending more money and time on them. Now, with international calls free on intelligent phones we spend even more time, messaging and reading messages, keeping in touch ‘virtually’ with a huge network of people. And we pay what we used to pay AT&T in the days of the heavy black phone with a spring controlled dial, a heavy receiver a limited length wire that would always get coiled, and a ratchet ring tone and an annoying ‘Busy Tone’ that we have almost completely forgotten.

I still very clearly remember that windy, cold day some years ago when I was walking on Fisherman’s Wharf, feeling the weight in the pockets of my brand-new sweatshirt. It was the combined weight of a GPS (to tell me where I was), a blackberry (to stay connected) and an ipod. Content as I was with all these ‘abilities’, I still wished that all these could operate out of the same device, so that I would have to carry just one device. Would that even be possible, I thought.

And guess what, it has come true way beyond what anyone could have imagined. Of course, the ipod maker has reigned, taking in their sweep, geographical positioning as well as telephony.

16 years ago, at the turn of the millennium cellphones were bulky. Now cellphones are bulky again in a different way. They do way too much more. They have made us think differently and have affected all walks of society. Why, a hemisphere away from here, over a billion people are prodded towards thinking about carrying out every single business transaction on a handheld smart device.

I just saw firework displays in Sydney on someone’s facebook post and was reminded of watching the same on television 17 years ago wondering what Y2K would do to humanity. That bulky television set is long gone, replaced by a smarter, sleeker and less expensive device.

Time is unstoppable. Change is inevitable. Let us welcome 2017 with the wish that the changes that we as humans create work towards the betterment of the world at large.

Wishing everyone a very happy Gregorian New Year 2017 and beyond.

 

Kanniks Kannikeswaran

December 31, 2016 at 11:36 am Leave a comment

kabAli it is and not kapAli

The word ‘kabAli’ is prime cannon fodder for my pseudo Tamil friends who don’t lose any opportunity to deride the “consonantal economy” (read ‘their perceived inadequacy’) of the Tamil language with a friendly yet condescending smug smirk.

‘KabAli’ is the most uttered/searched Tamil word this week thanks to our native kannada/marathi speaking superstar.

Rajinikanth_Kabali

Probably one of the most ancient landmarks of Chennai (perhaps not the current one but the one supposedly demolished earlier by the Portugese) is the Kapalisvara temple in Tiru Mayilai; and the association between the skull kapala and Shiva is there all over Indian mythology. However, for all practical purpuses, Kapalisvara becomes Kabalisvara and the Kapali temple becomes the famous KabAli koyil. Not only devotees and temple priests, even rowdies are named Kabaali.(I am very sure no rowdy was born one to start with).

There is so much of interchangeability between pa and ba both represented by the Tamil letter ப.

The humble ப doubles up, nay quadruples into pa, pha, ba and bha as demanded by the situation. Thus we have the sanskrit word pAdam to denote a foot, paNi to denote a snake (phani in sanskrit), palam pronounced balam in Tamil to denote strength, and pasmam pronounced basmam to denote bhasma (ash).

The nature of the Tamil language is such that sometimes the pa in a sanskrit word morphs into a ba.

Thus, growing up in Chennai, I always thought Poories were Boories. And I have also heard the word Padmini pronounced Batmini. Even the tamil word palli becomes balli on occasion.

If ‘pa’ occurs in the middle of a word, it gets pronounced as pa only when prefixed with an ‘ip’, as in kappal, theppam, kappam etc. or an ‘it’ as in natpu, thatpam etc. Otherwise, ba takes over. shApam becomes sAbam but japam becomes jabam, tApam becomes tAbam, kapham becomes kabam; even Gopal becomes Gobal – perhaps thanks to the Tamil word tabal (postal services) and needless to say subham becomes subam.
(Note – tapas, tApam, kapham, gopal, subham are all shared between Tamil and Sanskrit).

 

Our Karnatic Musicians regardless of some of their misadventures with Telugu words faithfully render the Papanasam Sivam song ‘kapAli’ with the pA intact!

Regardless of the mohana raga classic, the film kabAli establishes the ba firmly in place.

Try saying ‘kapali da kapali’! See how wimpy it sounds. It is an emasculated version of the now powerful swagger ‘kabali da kabali’.

So, I swell with pride as I tell my pseudo Tamil speaking friends. Wipe away your smiles. Sanskrit or no sanskrit – kabAli it is. None other than our superstar has established it. Even the lexicon will change in order to honor him.

July 21, 2016 at 7:38 pm Leave a comment

Where do we begin?

I am appalled by the events of the last few days in the United States.

The fact that we are all connected to the same source gets blurred in the stark presence of racial divide and centuries of prejudice and more importantly in the illusion of division and duality that deprives us  of our fundamental sense of oneness.

Despite mind blowing connectivity, a shared knowledge-space, and an app-driven world, there is a tremendous deficit of equality and justice.  Differences get amplified. The undercurrent of oneness is muffled by the din of clamor for resources arising from a false perception of scarcity, competition, one-upmanship, a false veneer of superiority to disguise the sense of fallibility that lies within.

We  are all collectively responsible for the current state of society that fosters hatred and propels some into acts of hate and violence. We are blinded by the illusion of separateness and a survival mentality  and have bred ‘otherization’ to extreme levels.

Let us set aside the past for a minute.

What do we as responsible global citizens want? What is the possibility that we see?

A violence free world! A world where justice and equality can be taken for granted. A world that is enveloped by every human’s love for all of creation. A world where ‘love’ not ‘the sense of the other’ defines how we relate to one another as human beings enjoying this brief tenure on earth.

I believe that it is a realizable possibility. Even in our lifetime. All that is missing is for us to collectively want it; ask for it; and see it unfold before us. Which secure human mind would not want the world to be thus?

We need to start with this end in our  mind. Educate one another, educate the next generation; our leaders need to start with this eutopian vision of an ‘otherless’ world and a paradigm of abundance – a state of ‘Shanti’ and design our ‘present’ with this future in mind.

Our healing can happen only when we all dip into this space of oneness with a powerful sense of intentionality.  Dip into a space that is beyond religion and beyond the human perception of God where differences naturally do not exist. After all isn’t our fundamental human nature all the same regardless of what our identity is?

I unabashedly borrow a page from my daughter’s blog and derive inspiration from the Sesame Street song ‘We are all earthlings’ that I used to watch along with my kids tearing up each time as I heard the muppets.

Let us all relate to each other in this space of love and possibility

.

July 8, 2016 at 10:42 pm Leave a comment

Acknowledging the gift of our musical landscape

On this day of rejuvenation in early spring, I am writing this note to express my acknowledgement and gratitude for everything we take for granted in music and the musical landscape that we are exposed to today.

We live in an era where there is so much available gratis. I am not speaking about just the recordings and the videoclips available on the internet.

I am talking about the very systems of music that we take for granted. The staff notation, advanced notating software, universally accepted conventions, the large repertoire of music that has evolved from the Gregorian chants to the large scores of John Williams.

For those of us of Indian origin – we are certainly grateful for the Bollywood melodies of yesteryears, songs that gave us great joy while we walked to school, and the songs that continue to delight our children, the voices that we remember in our sleep – the melodies that make us go back in time and feel young again.

For those initiated into Indian art music, arent we glad that ragas exist! What would this world be like without a mian ki malhar or a bhairav or a senjurutti or an ananda bhairavi? Our musical senses are conditioned by what we as a community have listened to. My father’s generation was thrilled to bits with the 78 RPM recordings of yesteryear masters. My generation listened to the radio and to tape recorded music in the days prior to the proliferation of sabhas.

Most humans have a taste for music; music elevates moods; brings comfort, memorializes occasions. Some of us humans have the ability to enunciate musical distinctions such as the raga, the swara and tala even as mere toddlers. Some of us have the ability to learn them later; some of us have the ability to set aside all these distinctions and just enjoy the feelings that music creates. The bottomline is that there exists a system (that parallels the order in nature) that has evolved over centuries in our collective cognition such that it is possible for some of us to latch on even as toddlers.  Particularly in the world of Karnatic music, there exists in the public domain a treasury of compositions dating back to pre Hyder times – a treasury whose tip has merely been scathed in today’s exploration of ragas. It is thanks to this system and the treasury of compositions that today’s concerts and festivals (that in turn shape today’s musical landscape) flourish.

Our children have a wider access to musical distinctions. Opportunities abound today for those that want to sing, play, perform, create, innovate. And these in turn will shape the musical landscape of tomorrow’s generation.

As we celebrate spring again this year, I chose to acknowledge the system of Indian Art music that exists with its fine musical distinctions and a vast repertoire of compositions that beckon us to learn and grow more each day. I acknowledge the masters that have nurtured and shaped the musical landscape that I was born into. I acknowledge the proverbial Sarasvati that sits majestically on every voice that rises in song and poetry. I am grateful for every voice that wants to sing and for every every ear that loves to listen.

Kanniks Kannikeswaran

March 27, 2016 at 1:43 pm Leave a comment

The Essence and Grace of Mrinalini Sarabhai

“Break a Coconut” ….

“It will relieve the stress..”

These words echo in my mind almost 18 years after I heard them from Mrinalini Sarabhai “Amma” at Darpana in Ahmedabad.

There was an issue with a copying machine; and these were the words that Amma used to assure the person dealing with the copier that everything would be all right.

Yes, “Everything will be alright” was the reassuring place that she came from. There was no issue hard enough; it would all be resolved. I still think of her words any time I find something stressful.

Amma then was almost 80; just a few years younger than my grandmother. She was from that generation that had been born in the pre-electricity era. She was in the big league along with folks like Lakshmi Shankar; a South Indian who had made a name for herself all over India and the world, outside of the world of Karnatic Music and Bharatanatyam – very strongly grounded in her native art form. She had built institutions and had taken art forms to new dimensions.

And she radiated simplicity and majesty at the same time; elegance and poise were the words that came to one’s mind when you saw her. She was part of day to day affairs of the Institution, yet she was a transcendent Goddess in her Office – a space that was full of iconic images depicting the history of her art that had broken barriers for about half a century.

There was majesty, calmness, artistry, wisdom, unbounded love and hospitality and of course Godliness. To her Krishna and Shiva were not abstract and distant entities but ideas that she could relate to in everything that she did and in everything around her. Even the pair of Katputlis (puppets) sold in the Law Garden area were “Shiva and Parvati”.

Grounded in her native art and sound  wisdom she experimented and encouraged experimentation. She told me once: “I tell my instrumentalists – not to exude the machine-like sugar coated perfection; I like spontaneity; an occasional apasvaram, even an intentional apasvaram is what makes it interesting”.

I remember the 79 year old danseuse performing ‘Krishna nee begane baro’ with grace on the Natarani stage for a video shoot that was happening during my stay there with every sign of freshness and no hint of exhaustion. I also remember her condolence speech at the passing of Kuchipudi Guru CR Acharyulu; a speech that commenced with the words ‘Acharyulu is still with us’ and a smile that transformed the pall of gloom into a state of peace and celebratory acceptance.

Her words urging you to break the proverbial coconut and get rid of stress echo in my ears almost two decades later. Her life ended three years before her centenary. But her legacy will live on for ever.

January 22, 2016 at 3:04 pm Leave a comment

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