Konnakol (also spelled Konokol, Konakkol) (Tamil: கொன்னக்கோல்) is the art of performing percussion syllables vocally in South Indian music, the Carnatic music - South Indian classical - performance art of vocal percussion. Konnakol is the spoken component of solkattu, which refers to a combination of konnakol syllables spoken while simultaneously counting the tala (meter) with the hand. It is comparable in some respects to bol in Hindustani music, but allows the composition, performance or communication of rhythms. Sri Thetakudi Harihara Subash Chandran is a well-known exponent.
Many musicians from a variety of traditions around the world have found konnakol useful in their own musical practice. Prominent among these is John McLaughlin who led the Mahavishnu Orchestra and has long been using konnakol as an aid to composing. V. Selvaganesh - who plays alongside John McLaughlin in the group Remember Shakti - is another noted konnakol virtuoso. Subash Chandran's disciple Dr Joel who teaches konnakol in the UK, is noted for incorporating konnakol in rock and western classical music - notably in a concerto commissioned (2007) by the viola soloist Rivka Golani. The trio J G Laya (Sri Thetakudi Harihara Vinayakram, Sri T. H. Subash Chandran and Dr Joel) showcased the konnakol of Sri T. H. Subash Chandran and helped the previously fading art form back to concert prominence in the 1980s. Subash Chandran has released an instructional DVD on konnakol (2007). McLaughlin and Selvaganesh have released a separate instructional DVD on konnakol (2007). LOIRE (Lori Cotler) is known for her konnakol singing, as well. Also Lisa Young Lisa Young Quartet(Australia) is known for her distinctive style of konnakol integration Carnatic and jazz styles.
Konnakol should not be confused with the practice in Hindustani music (the classical music of northern India) of speaking tabla "bols", which indicate the finger placement to be used by a percussionist. By contrast, konnakol syllables are aimed at optimising vocal performance, and konnakol syllables vastly outnumber any commonly used finger placements on mridangam or any other hand percussion instrument. Further, all the differences which still remain between Carnatic and north Indian rhythms apply equally to konnakol and tabla bols respectively.
The artist improvises within a structure that interrelates with the raga being played and within the talam preferred in the compositions. Mridangam, kanjira, or ghatam, the percussion is limited to physical characteristics of their structure and construction; the resonance of skin over jackfruit wood, clay shells, or clay pots. The human voice has a direct and dramatic way of expressing the percussive aspects in music directly.
- David P. Nelson, Solkattu Manual: An Introduction to the Rhythmic Language of South Indian Music, Wesleyan University Press, 2008
- John McLaughlin and S. Ganesh Vinayakram, The Gateway to Rhythm. DVD Mediastarz Monaco, 2007.
- "Konnakol-The Art of South Indian Vocal Percussion". Konnakol.org. Retrieved 2013-08-18.