wins medals at World
The Greater Cincinnati Indian Community Choir bagged two silver medals at the seventh World Choir
Games, the world’s largest international
choral competition held every two years.
The games were held in the United States
for the first time, July 4 to 14 in Cincinnati,
The World Choir Games is the signature
event of Interkultur, a Germany-based
organization that produces choral events
across the world.
The Greater Cincinnati Indian
Community Choir, founded and led by
composer Kanniks Kannikeswaran, won
the medals in the champions category.
Kannikeswaran first started creating raga-
based choral music in 1994.
‘It is a major achievement,’ said Dr
Catherine Roma, one of the conductors and
choir masters in Cincinnati, ‘for a choir that
originates from a culture that has no signif-
icant history of choral singing in a setting
where choirs with hundreds of years of
choral singing ingrained in their culture
In a packed US Bank Arena, 360 choirs,
about 15,000 singers from about 48 coun-
tries, participated in the 11-day event.
There were only three choirs from India:
The Akshayam Choir from Chennai, the
Cambridge Choir from Mumbai, both of
which competed in the Open category, and
the Shillong Chamber Choir. The World
Choir Games holds competitions in 22 cat-
egories (in the open level and in the cham-
music in the art music tradition extended
to the secular domain as well.’
He said the general perception in India
was that choir music is Christian fare but
the view changed in the late 1900s when
groups like the Calcutta Youth choir and
Madras Youth choir burst forth.
‘I have created a number of choral com-
positions based on Indian ragas,’ he said.
‘They use choral and orchestral polyphony
without violating the rules of the raga in
which they are composed.’
He said the three pieces his group per-
Conductor Kanniks Kannikeswaran and
accompanist/lead vocalist Vidita Kanniks receive the
award at the World Choir Games in Cincinnati
formed in the Scenic Folklore category at
the games were received by a 2,600-strong
audience with a spontaneous standing ova-
‘Judging by how we got placed in the
competition, we are gratified that this
music has been accepted and has made a
mark,’ he said.
‘When I was out on stage speaking,
all those feelings disappeared’
ARTHUR J PAIS
Ashesh Rambachan, a junior at Eastview High School, Apple Valley, Minnesota, won last month the National Forensic League National Champion-
ship in international extemporaneous speaking in
Indianapolis, Indiana, from a field of 235 of the best
high school speakers from around the United States.
During the five days of competition, Ashesh delivered
13 extempore speeches covering international politics
and economics. In the final round, he spoke on whether
Greece’s economic problems will disrupt the US eco-
He emerged both as the overall winner in his category
of international extemporaneous speaking as well as the
final round winner.
Earlier this year, Ashesh won the Minnesota State
Championships in Lincoln-Douglas Debate and in
Extemporaneous Speaking. In 2004, Ashesh’s sister
Ishanaa — who later became a Rhodes Scholar — won
the same competition that Ashesh has won. His brother
Akshar won the same competition in 2008 making them
the first siblings in the 81 years of extemporaneous
speech competition to win in the same category.
Ashesh is the youngest of three children of
Anantanand Rambachan, the chair and professor of reli-
gion, philosophy and Asian studies at Minnesota’s St
Olaf College, and his doctor wife.
Ashesh says “because of natural sibling competition, I
wanted to see if I could be better. As soon as I started my
freshman year, I developed my own love for” debating.
For preparation, he says he “would spend hours every
day reading books, newspapers, think tank analysis, and
Ashesh Rambachan wit
is winner’s trophies
scholarly journals. I had a good grasp on what was going
on in the world. Then, I would give many practice
speeches to my coach, Todd Hering.”
What was the final round like?
The final round took place in a large hall in the
Indianapolis Convention center, with a capacity for
2,000 persons. The stage was framed on the left and
right by massive LCD screens that showed a close up on
The panel of 13 judges was composed mainly of speech
coaches from around the nation, but there were some
notable academics such as Bob McMahon from the
Council on Foreign Relations. I didn’t know that
McMahon was a judge before the round and so when I
learned about it afterwards, I was really excited because
he is one of the writers that I read during the year to pre-
pare for competitions.
Going into the round, I felt more anxious and excited
rather than nervous. I was in the final round at the
national tournament last year, and so the setting and
atmosphere were familiar.
When I was out on stage speaking, all those feelings
disappeared because, in the end, I was just giving a
speech exactly like I had done so many times before.
Moreover, the lights were really bright, and it was hard
to see the audience. This helped with my nerves.
In my category of extemporaneous speaking, a com-
petitor draws three questions from an envelope, selects
one and is then given 30 minutes to prepare the speech.
I answered yes, explaining how the Greek debt crisis
affects global trade and financial markets… In the final
round, every speaker is subject to a two-minute cross-
examination by the previous speaker. I was cross-exam-
ined by the competitor who took second, and I cross-
examined the competitor who took third place and who
spoke on the G-20.
What are your college plans?
I really haven’t put too much thought in where I want
to go. I just completed my junior year in high school and
so the only real college preparation I have done is take
the ACT and SAT. My goals would be to get into a great
college and explore the world of learning.
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