CHENNAI: It is often said that music and math skills go well together. No one is a better testimony to that statement than Kanniks Kannikeswaran. An IIT graduate from Chennai, Kanniks holds advanced degrees in Business and Technology in USA. Kanniks is committed to spreading awareness about Indian culture, heritage, and spiritual wealth around the world.
Diversity, fusion, variety, blending, call it by any name, we are swept off our feet by this huge wave of connectivity across the globe. There are many small bands of musicians who have cut some CDs and videos on Sanskrit mantras with the western instruments. However, they have not scratched the surface of popularity. Some think it is innovation while others deplore it as a decline of the indigenous. But Kanniks Kannikeswaran’s mettle is made of different material. He has formed a group similar to the Western Symphony with chorus and orchestra that bring the culture of India, more particularly of Tamil Nadu to the other parts of the world. A faculty member of the University of Cincinnati, founder of the American School of Indian Arts, recipient of a number of prestigious awards, Kanniks is considered a pioneer of the Indian American choral movement.
Kanniks’ choral ensemble called ‘Sangam to Silicon Era’ was a crowd puller on Saturday, May 25, 2014 during the Tamil Nadu Foundation’s 40th annual convention in Chicago, USA. The choir consisted of about forty singers, male and female, another fifteen people on various instruments that included cellos, harp, violin, drums and other instruments.
The performance started with the musical invocation Anbe Shivam, the essence of Ramalinga Adigalar’s teaching. This was followed by verses from Silappadikaram, Tirukkural, Tirumandiram, Tevaram, Andal Pasuram, Tiruppugazh and it ended with Bharatiyar’s Acchamillai. The pieces were set in the nottuswara tradition of Muthuswami Dikshitar who adapted Carnatic music to suit Celtic instruments.
Watching ‘Sangam to Silicon Era’ was an exhilarating experience. Visually, it was pleasing to see the singers dressed in saris and kurtas all in the same color. It was more impressive when they sang all Tamil songs. What can be more appropriate than to sing Tamil songs on a Tamil convention? A short introduction about each of the songs was further enlightening. As the choir was singing, dancers were performing on the foreground giving expression to the lyrics. The programme moved on with a musical video presentation about the five thousand year old culture of India, with special focus on Tamil Nadu temples. The architectures in these temples in those pre-science, pre-engineering eras are simply spell-binding.
‘Sangam to Silicon Era’ production was a journey, a journey through centuries of history, people, music, dance, architecture, spirituality. Kanniks’ goal is to build community by celebrating commonality among cultures. He did just that by emphasizing that the Indian diaspora throughout the world carries in it the indigenous traits indelibly inscribed.
(With inputs from Gomathy Swaminathan, Chicago, USA)