What a magnificent
Show! A truly uplifting night. From start to finish, in
all its complexity and its simplicity, the presentation
was masterful and the content luminous. What you and the
cast did Saturday night had an enormous impact on me and
I would guess every member of the audience.
John Pepper Ex. CEO The Proctor and Gamble Company
Ex. CEO: National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Review Of Shanti: Media Reports and Interviews (2006)
Shanti 2006 - A report:
Artistically depicting the more than 5,000 years of cultural history of India and its universal concept of Shanti in an enthralling production of choral music, dance, narration, and multi-media visuals, Shanti â€“ A Journey of Peace was performed to a standing ovation by a 2,600 plus audience at the majestic Aronoff Center for Performing Arts, Cincinnati, Ohio, on March 25. So moved was the audience by the spectacular performance and its message of universal peace (purna shanti) that it clapped and sang along with the chorus at the finale and curtain call to the stirring strains of the flagship song. The Mayor of Cincinnati, Hon. Mark Mallory, declared March 25, 2006 as â€œShanti Dayâ€ in Cincinnati, before the packed audience at the acclaimed Aronoff Center of Performing Arts in Cincinnati, OH. It was a powerful acknowledgement of the creative work and the vision of composer Kanniks Kannikeswaran, and the collaboration between him and the ensemble conductor Dr. Catherine Roma and the 200 plus artists that performed â€œShanti â€“ A Journey of Peaceâ€ that evening. The musical dance-drama-multimedia production consisted of a 166 member choir that included the Greater Cincinnati Indian Community Choir, Shanti Childrenâ€™s Choir, Martin Luther King Coalition Choir, MUSE â€“ Cincinnatiâ€™s Women Choir, and St. Johnâ€™s Unitarian Universalist Church Choir, 40 dancers from both Indian classical and folk schools, and 23 musicians playing both Indian and Western instruments. This musical expression was so moving that the grandeur and majesty of the venue, the Aronoff Center, were indubitably muted by those of the performance and the Shanti journey it asks the audience to undertake!
Shanti 2004 - A report:
Shanti: A Musical and Visual Journey - Prof. Monish Chatterjee
On Saturday, May 1st, 2004, the Greater Cincinnati Indian Community Choir, under the direction of Kanniks Kannikeswaran, presented a lively rendition of ancient (some as far back as five millennia) Indian stotras, mantras and hymns, interspersed with visuals of the diverse panorama of India's collective cultural life, from Indian temple architecture and the astounding majesty of her mountains and rivers, to her ongoing efforts at adaptation, assimilation and propagation of creative as well as unifying ideas that celebrate the glory and the joy of Creation, and its central message- that of Universal Peace and Harmony.
This was a complex and highly innovative project, combining the Indian choir, which was founded by Kanniks (as he is known to many) a few years ago, with The St. John's Unitarian Church Choir and the Martin Luther King Coalition Chorale, resulting in a very large musical ensemble with a vast array of instruments and devotional/spiritual/vocal styles. Such a challenging project can be intrinsically daunting, but this reviewer believes that Kanniks achieved the intended goal very admirably indeed.
With India's long and rich musical heritage, rooted in various elements of her vintage religious and sacred literature, it would seem only natural that her ancient hymns, chants and profound philosophical commentaries (northern, southern and Sanskrit in particular) are a veritable gold mine of material waiting to be excavated and presented, via innovative and assimilative ideas, to a wider international audience perhaps more attuned to the choral and orchestral style of musical and narrative invocations. It is true that work towards such assimilation with the grander goal of presenting India's cultural riches to the world has been undertaken at various times by such exemplars as Tagore (who incorporated Upanishadic and epic-based ideals into much of his poetry, drama and music, and combined these into seamless creations that resonated with western aesthetics) and Ravishankar in our own time (his contribution to the recent tribute to George Harrison is a fine case in point). Yet, the need to create a sustainable body of compositions structured as something like an Indian choir is beyond any debate; this reviewer has heard this need echoed at many cultural and scholastic gatherings.
Therefore, the creative impulses that drive Kanniks' efforts to preserve, expand and re-create India's sacred and universal heritage fulfill a need that cannot be sufficiently emphasized. Thus far, he has almost single-handedly given shape to his ideas by gathering around him a dedicated group of participants (whom he trains with untiring energy and inspiring dedication), whose numbers are increasing quite noticeably.
The musical event Shanti received enthusiastic support from the Ohio Arts Council, as well as sponsorship by several corporations. Presented at the Great Hall of the University of Cincinnati, it was performed to a full house in two time slots (7 p.m. and 9 p.m.). The theme, as the title suggests, was the creative pursuit of Peace as a universal theme that runs through the philosophical history of the Indian subcontinent. The program was sub-divided into six main sections, each highlighting an aspect of the goals of human civilization. After invoking Ganga (representing the mobility and flow of human ideas and culture) and Sindhu as the sources of India's 5000-year civilization, elements of wonder (vismaya) and the quest for fullness (poornam) were presented musically with interpretations via dance as an artistic form. The plurality of faiths that either sprouted in, or arrived and flourished in India over many millennia, and thereafter propagated to a significant part of the world (via other Asiatic cultures), was explored in the Faiths section, emphasizing in particular the spirit of non-violence, compassion and fellowship with all living beings that is at the very center of Indian thought. This section (which also included charming interpretations from the mythologies of Shiva, Krishna, and the Buddha), was wonderfully augmented by visual images that presented a captivating range of India's temple architectures, combined with significant places of worship for several of the other faiths that co-exist there (St. Paul's cathedral and the Sikh Golden Temple were notably visible).
The ensemble of at least 140 musicians and vocalists then went on to capture the boundless journey of the human spirit from the dawn of human civilization. Dance, visuals and music were combined, interspersed with a fine narration by Fanchon Shur, into a gripping and sweeping portrayal of the joyous and festive spirit that symbolizes human achievements even as time goes on, and brings with it unknown vicissitudes. Large-format visuals were presented on the background, as well as the sidewalls of the Hall, and the impact was reminiscent of Imax-style larger-than-life imagery.
Perhaps the most moving section of the evening's event, rather ironically, dealt not with Shanti (Peace) but with its opposite, Ashanti (Disruption of Peace). This graphically brought into focus the discordant and frequently violent (and self-destructive) elements of modern technological life, whereby humanity is truly on the brink of a major epoch- to either come together as a whole in celebration of the endless diversity of creation, or to annihilate itself via sectarian conflict and hatred, overpowered by greed and lust. This was indeed very pertinent and timely, given the events of current years- yet in Kanniks' work, this vital message was delivered with delicacy, sensitivity, and ultimately, a voice of hope.
On a relatively minor note of criticism regarding this otherwise outstanding production, this reviewer heard more than one audience member comment about the choice of the color black for the musicians' apparel. Some felt that given the muted lighting near the musicians, a brighter color would have stood out better. Others also felt that in India (and elsewhere) black is typically associated with mourning, while white or ocher are associated with peace and renunciation.
Kanniks was very ably assisted in this highly creative performance by distinguished musician and conductor Catherine Roma, who directed the choir, and accomplished guest vocalist Lakshmi Shankar, who is trained in the Indian classical tradition. The musicians met the choral demands with fine harmonies and time-keeping, and the dances were colorful and exquisite.