Shanti, a journey of peace & labor of love


shantiFREMONT, CA: Coming to the Bay Area on April 30 at the Flint Center in Cupertino, and on May 21 at the Interstake Center Auditorium in Oakland is Shanti, a musical theater extravaganza denoting peace, tranquility, serenity and a state of interconnectedness with the universe. It is considered a choral symphony centering around Indian ragas that narrate and showcase the five thousand years of Indian cultural history.

This production is the brainchild of Dr. Kanniks Kannikeswaran, a music composer, singer, violinist, and keyboard player who conceived and wrote this piece in 2004; a unifying theme of peace and a oneness with cosmic energy, and presented it via a grand multi component experience. Kanniks is based in Cincinnati, Ohio, and debuted it with local talent. Thence, he travelled to different cities, and sourced the regional talent, and built a community of artists around this project. He shared, in a phone conversation, how the different players come together and experience great bonding and joy through their common experience.

In every production, he felt the palpable energy exuded by the performing cast, who brought it to life time and again, and themselves felt the sentiments of drowning in peace and harmony. As this production is organically rooted to the innate spirit, Kanniks felt it an important mission to spread the message and has been doing so for over a decade.

Kanniks stated that each show is unique, as the variability in the personalities of the dancers, singers, and musicians lends a local, discernible flavor, which makes it sufficiently different from any other productions. However, the feeling of bliss continues while the players change.

Kanniks also shared that the preparation for this piece proceeds in a modular fashion: the Indian choir first learns the music by rote, and then is joined by the Western orchestra, who read and play the score. The dancers rehearse with recorded music independently, and closer to the performance date, all components of the musical come together in a synergistic whole.

shanThe Bay Area show is put together with the help of Kalyan, of Dharma Civilization Foundation (DCF), who is hosting it, and with Usha Srinivasan of Sangam Arts who has curated the dancers and dance forms for the ensemble. The mega scope of the show is evidenced by its 150 member choir, of which about a hundred are from the East (mostly Indian), and the rest from the West. The music is based on Indian ragas, Sanskrit lyrics, and Hindustani taranas.

The Indian orchestra is built from scratch in each location, and grows by word of mouth of musicians who share the goal, and recruit others to carry it forward. The Western choir is from Santa Clara Chorale, and directed by Dr. Scot Hanna-Weir. The Indian and Western voices and symphony blend seamlessly and bring to life the difference between Shanti (peace), and Ashanti (absence of peace), with dances uniting the theme throughout, coupled with an array of on screen visuals. Bay Area audiences are eager to watch this unique production, and revel in the message.

Archana Asthana
India Post News Service