It’s a blistering hot August evening at St. John’s Unitarian Universalist church and Kanniks Kannikeswaran is trying to corral members of the Greater Cincinnati Indian Community Choir into the sweltering church sanctuary for rehearsal.
A couple dozen people mill about the meeting hall. Men and women of different ages and diverse backgrounds greet each other with the easy camaraderie of old friends. The energy is palpable as animated chatter swells and echoes in the tall-ceilinged room.
The group’s excitement is understandable. Just weeks earlier, the choir won two silver medals in the prestigious World Choir Games, held July 4-14 in downtown Cincinnati. Organizers billed the event, which drew more than 360 choirs and 15,000 singers from 64 countries, as the “Olympics of choral music.”
For a choir of about 40 amateur and lay singers of Indian origin, the journey to the international stage is a remarkable feat of dynamic synergy, perseverance and the power of community. But, perhaps, even more remarkable is the fact that the choir achieved its success while also breaking new ground in a musical genre that fuses classical Indian music with western choral technique.
At the forefront of this new artistic movement is Kannikeswaran, an Indian-American immigrant who’s hailed as the pioneer of the Indian-American Choral movement.
His family, friends and colleagues know him as simply “Kanniks,” a devoted Mason husband and father of two daughters.
To the musical world, however, he is “the magical musician of Madras.”