Sr. Sheila Kannath, CMCCall Number : PER-18
Sr. Sheila Kannath, CMC
Rev. Sr. Sheila Kannath (VadakkethalaKannathAntony Mary) was an extraordinary nun from Kerala who transitioned her hobby in music into a path toward music spirituality. Bhajan was her favorite style of music. The fruits of her daily meditations flowed into simple, singable lyrics in the form of a bhajan and were later reworked on them to make them feasible for public consumption. Sr. Sheila would experiment her compositions in a call-response style during prayer gatherings among her students at Mercy College in Palghat. In the process, Sr. Sheila became a music missionary, first among her students and confreres and then among the larger public through commercial releases of pre-recorded cassettes and CDs.
A Musical portraitJoseph J. Palackal, CMI (2022) for the Christian Musicological Society of India
As a young nun, Sr. Sheila was attracted to the movement of Indianizing liturgy and music that Dharmaram College in Bengaluru initiated in the 1960s. The musical part of the movement found a general audience through the first LP record of CHRISTIAN BHAJANS (Deccan Records, Bengaluru; see Palackal 1979), a watershed in the history of Christian music in India. The LP contained several tracks that anyone, irrespective of religious affiliations, could sing. Remarkably, the second side of the LP started with the sacred syllable OM, which caused much disappointment among conservative Catholics in Kerala. Several lyrics referred to the universal God, the antaryamin (indwelling presence) in all peoples and creatures.
Stylistically, “Karunamrutham” is a sequel to the “Christian Bhajans” LP. All the lyrics were intended for interreligious prayer gatherings rather than for the context of exclusive Christian worship. The prayers addressed the universal God. Most of the melodies were set in a call-response style. Sr. Sheila was well aware of the criticism against the Christian Bhajans LP for using the sacred syllable in OM. Nonetheless, Sr. Sheila decided to use OM in the opening track of Karunamrutham.