Life in Music in Delhi: An Artistic Tradition in Evolution

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In 2007, I submitted an undergraduate honors thesis to the Department of South & South East Asian Studies at UC Berkeley. The project took two-years to complete, including 6-months of fieldwork in Delhi, India. Professor Bonnie C. Wade of the music department took great interest in advising my work from the beginning, and senior Hindi lecturer Mrs. Usha Jain provided invaluable assistance in translating the more difficult passages of the research interviews. I received financial support from the Associated Students of the University of California and the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows at Berkeley. In 2008, my work was awarded the Chair’s Book Prize for the best undergraduate thesis in the department.

Thesis Title

Life in Music in Delhi: An Artistic Tradition in Evolution


Based on a previous study by ethnomusicologist Daniel Neuman from the 1970s, my thesis is an ethnographic account of how a particular group of sārangi musicians have dealt with the socio-cultural complexities of music making in postmodern India. It is a report that deconstructs the social make-up of hereditary musicians, analyzes the character and significance of the gharānā system as a professional organization, and evaluates the efficacy of contemporary patronage avenues to provide a larger portrait of how Indian art music is cultivated today.

My conclusions are based on research carried out during a six month stay as a study abroad student at Delhi University in 2006. Using established methods in Ethnomusicology, I focused on the various contexts within which musicians develop their technical abilities and musical acumen. In addition to extensive library research, I conducted my own fieldwork by interviewing musicians, establishing their genealogies, attending concerts, continuing to learn the tabla, and actively interacting with patrons and connoisseurs of North Indian art music.

Works Cited

Neuman, Daniel M. 1990. The Life of Music in North India: The Organization of an Artistic Tradition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 296 pp.

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Ghulam Sabir Khan (Left), Murad Ali (Right)

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