Konnakol (also spelled Konokol, Konakkol) (Tamil: கொன்னக்கோல்) is the art of performing percussion syllables vocally in South Indian Carnatic music. 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 proponent.
Musicians from a variety of traditions have found konnakol useful in their practice. Prominent among these is John McLaughlin, who led the Mahavishnu Orchestra and has long used konnakol as a compositional aid. V. Selvaganesh, who plays alongside McLaughlin in the group Remember Shakti, and Ranjit Barot, who plays with McLaughlin in the group 4th Dimension, are other noted konnakol virtuosos.
Subash Chandran's disciple Dr Joel, who teaches konnakol in the U.K., is noted for incorporating it into rock and Western classical music, notably in a concerto commissioned in 2007 by the viola soloist Rivka Golani. The trio J G Laya (Chandran, Sri Thetakudi Harihara Vinayakram, and Dr Joel) showcased the konnakol of Chandran and helped the previously fading art form return to prominence in the 1980s. Chandran released an instructional DVD on konnakol in 2007. McLaughlin and Selvaganesh also released an instructional DVD on konnakol in 2007.
Jazz saxophonist, konnakol artist, and composer Arun Luthra incorporates konnakol and Carnatic music rhythms (as well as Hindustani classical music rhythms) in his work. More recently, drummer Steve Smith has also incorporated Konnakol in his performances with Vital Information and his clinics.
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 vastly outnumber any commonly used finger placements on mridangam or any other hand percussion instrument. Further, all the differences between Carnatic and north Indian rhythms apply equally to konnakol and tabla bols.
The artist improvises within a structure that interrelates with the raga being played and within the talam preferred in the compositions. In 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.
Trichy Shri R Thayumanavar gave a rebirth to konnakol. His disciple Andankoil AVS Sundararajan, a vocal and miruthangam Vidwan, is a konnakol expert, as is Mridangam Vidwan Shri T S Nandakumar.
- 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.