Sardarni Harbans Kaur Chair in Sikh Musicology
The Sardarni Harbans Kaur Chair in Sikh Musicology at Hofstra University is the first of its kind in a western university. It was instituted at Hofstra University in 2011 by Dr. Hakam Singh, with the aim of promoting Sikh culture through one of its most relevant aspects: music.
Since 2011, the position has been held by Dr. Francesca Cassio, Associate Professor in the Hofstra Music Department, ethnomusicologist and singer specialized in the study and performance of Gurbani Sangit.
Sikh Musicology is a new field of study, focusing on the history and analysis of the Sikh music tradition (Gurbani Sangit). Established in the late 15th century by Guru Nanak, founder of Sikhism, the performance of the religious repertoire has always been a vehicle for reaffirming the uniqueness of the Sikh ethos. Until the beginning of the 20th century, a rich corpus of musical repertoire was transmitted orally within lineages of professional musicians, but over time the dramatic history of the Sikh community, with its genocide and diaspora, caused the decline of this tradition. Among recent initiatives worldwide, designed to study and preserve this intangible heritage, the Hofstra Chair has settled the debate on Sikh Music upon the international academic platform, with scholarly works that encompass both Indian and Western methodologies.
Courses are designed to offer an appreciation of Sikh music, combining the aural and oral training of the repertoire with the study of the cultural context in which it developed, in Northwest India between the late 15th and 20th centuries. Each class is based on an introduction to the theoretical, historical and cultural aspects of the Sikh musical tradition, which is followed by the vocal and instrumental practice of basic repertoires. Among the activities of the Chair are lectures and concerts of visiting scholars from abroad, independent studies, research projects and ethnographic fieldwork.