UCLA Sets Up Chair for Indian Music

BY: VANDANA RAMNANI

Oct 3, USA (SUN) — Consolidating the nearly 50-year-old tradition of Indian music teaching at the University of California, an 'endowed chair in Indian Music' with a pledge of $1 million was set up here to mark Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary.

The chair was inaugurated at a concert featuring sitar maestro Shujaat Khan, accompanied by Abhiman Kaushal on the tabla. The duo started with 'aheer bhairavi' and finished off with the Father of the Nation's favourite 'Vaishnav Jana...' in raga 'alihal belawal'. Khan is the son of the legendary Vilayat Khan and has been teaching the sitar at the University since 1996.

The Sambhi Chair, part of the School of Arts and Architecture at the University of California (UCLA) seeks to ensure that the study of Indian music will continue at the UCLA and support teaching and research activities of a distinguished faculty member by underwriting graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.

"Dr Sambhi's pledge - to my knowledge is the largest ever private gift for Indian music study to a university and has enormous value for the field of ethnomusicology, which has for a half century championed the teaching of Indian music, as well as other musical traditions from around the world, in American universities," Daniel Neuman, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor of UCLA and a scholar of Indian music, said.

"It is gratifying that I can honour my wife with a gift that will ensure that the study of Indian musical culture will continue to be supported at UCLA," said Sambhi, who was born in Ludhiana and came to the US in 1953.

"Besides UCLA is my alma mater and South California has the largest segment of the Indian American community," he said.

Others present on the occasion included Deputy Chief of Mission, Indian Embassy, Washington, Raminder Jassal, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Director of the recently opened Centre for India and South Asia and part of the UCLA International Institute, Harihar Rao of Music Circle and director of the Indian Studies Group at the Institute of Ethnomusicology from 1960-1966 among others.

The Sambhi Chair forms part of UCLA's ensuing Academic Excellence Initiative, a five-year effort aimed at generating $250 million in private commitments specifically for the recruitment and retention of the very best faculty and graduate students.

The initiative was launched in June 2004. Its goals include $100 million to fund 100 new endowed chairs for faculty across campus, increasing the number to 331.

In addition, campus officials plan to increase support for an estimated 3,500 graduate students per year by raising $100 million to fund fellowships and scholarships in the UCLA College and $50 million for fellowships and scholarships in UCLA's 11 professional schools.

The Institute of Ethnomusicology, comparative study of world music, was established in 1960 by the pioneer in the field Mantle Hood. It was under his visionary leadership that the study of Indian music was developed within the institute.

The earliest teacher of Indian music at UCLA was D. Vishwanathan from South India.

From 1961 to 1966 Harihar Rao - a former student of Ravi Shankar served as director of the Indian Studies Group in the Institute. He taught sitar and tabla.

Rao also worked with local jazz musicians, including Don Ellis, to exchange Indian rhythmic ideas. In 1962 Mantle Hood brought in South Indian artist Gayathri Rajapur -- a vocalist and a Gottuvadyam player -- who taught in the music department from 1964 to 1965.

In 1975, Nazir Jairazbhoy was appointed a professor in the Department of Music. From that year until his retirement in 1994 he taught courses on folk and classical music of India, musical cultures of Asia, field and laboratory methods.

He also served as director of the Music of India performance ensemble-developed out of the Indian Studies Group which included sitar and tabla instruction. During this 20-year period a number of Indian artists came to UCLA for brief residencies, among them master sitar player Imrat Khan of the Imdad Khan gharana (tradition). His brother, Vilayat Khan, came to UCLA for a two-week residency.

The Institute of Ethnomusicology was closed in 1975. In 1989 the Department of Ethnomusicology and Systematic Musicology was formed as an independent department with professor Jairazbhoy serving as its first chair. Shujaat Khan has been teaching the sitar at the institute since 1996. In 1998 he was joined by joined by Abhiman Kaushal who teaches tabla. They are both co-directors of the Music Of India Ensemble.


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