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Indian musician finds common ground

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Musician, composer and educator Kanniks Kannikeswaran of Cincinnati is considering forming an Indian-American choir here for a performance.
Musician, composer and educator Kanniks Kannikeswaran of Cincinnati is considering forming an Indian-American choir here for a performance. SUBMITTED PHOTO

MUSICIAN Kanniks Kannikeswaran sat in a Cincinnati movie theater a few months ago, allowing the Indian soundtrack of the Oscar-nominated film “The Life of Pi” to wash over him.

While he listened, a realization struck him.

Here was an Indian-themed story written by a Spanish-born, French-speaking Canadian citizen, filmed and directed by a Hollywood director from Taiwan.

“Isn’t this enough proof that globalization has come a long way?” asked Kannikeswaran.

If you go

WHO: Cincinnati musician, composer and educator Kanniks Kannikeswaran, pictured left.

WHAT:  “Music Transcends All Boundaries” presentation

WHEN: 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Parkside Elementary School cafeteria, 1400 Parkside Drive.

COST: Free.

INFORMATION: 513-238-3203 or

The 50-year-old native of India should know.

Kannikeswaran, who will perform and lead a free music-and-culture workshop Saturday, is known nationally for blending Eastern and Western music into an ethnic extravaganza.

In fact, the title of his presentation is “Music Transcends All Boundaries.”

And, as he sees it, it finds a resting place on common ground among many.

“I think more people are finding commonalities in (musical) things they originally might have perceived as very different,” he said, speaking by phone from his Cincinnati office, where he teaches and composes Indian-American choral music. “That’s what seems to make people like what we’re doing. Everybody is looking for something bigger than themselves.”

Here, Kannikeswaran will play the sruti box and the drone, two Indian classical music instruments. He also will sing amid an interactive discussion.

Kannikeswaran’s background includes extensive research in 2007 about a south Indian classical composer who fell in love with American 19th-century colonial folk-and-dance music that came to his homeland — and he put Indian lyrics to them.

“This (blending) is a process of discovery for almost everyone,” he said. “In fact, it’s still a process of discovery even for me every time I talk about it. It has opened my mind.”

So much so that he taught the songs to his two children and to his students at the University of Cincinnati. Kannikeswaran mixes his music on a larger scale, though.

His largest choral work, “Shanti: A Journey of Peace,” featuring the contributions of an Indian and Western choir, has been performed in several metro cities for more than 9,000 people.

Kannikeswaran said that, if interest warrants, he is open to returning for other sessions or even assembling a local choir for a performance.

“It might be possible to inspire a couple of people,” he said.

Columbus’ Raj Subramanian, one of the event’s organizers who has helped with production of Kannikeswaran’s events, would love to see that happen.

“I’m hoping that this event will represent a good step in that direction,” Subramanian said.

Kannikeswaran has seen that merging musical cultures does more than innovate and educate.

“I have found,” he said, “that everybody learns something.”

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