Michael Nixon, musician, freelance music researcher, performer

Monday 15–Friday 19 January 7.00 pm (Friday 19 January lecture ends at 9.00 pm)

COURSE FEES R550; Staff and students R275

Indian classical music melds composition and improvisation. Its sophistication and sheer beauty attract millions of listeners, and many amateurs and professionals are involved in its study. Its classical music lives beyond India in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and – formerly – Afghanistan. Musicians in fields ranging from jazz to art music and pop engage creatively with it.

This course combines performance and theory, integrating guided listening, video, live performance, and handouts. By identifying building blocks, it provides ways to develop a cumulative understanding of Indian classical music traditions. Besides music’s nuts and bolts, the course considers aesthetics, history, music’s mirrors in literature, art and archaeology, and musicians’ social lives. It covers the major traditions of South and North India, fusion in Indian music and a glimpse of its life in South Africa.


Lecture titles

  1. Origins: myth, Vedic music, and Tamil music
  2. & 3. South Indian classical music: concert tradition, ritual music, music and dance
  1. North Indian classical music: Dhrupad, Khayal and ‘light classical’ music
  2. Indian classical music in fusion: from film music and Messiaen to jazz and pop in South Africa and beyond

Michael Nixon, Kavir Daya (flute) and Ronan Skillen (tabla)

Recommended reading

Farrell, G. 1988. ‘Reflecting Surfaces: The Use of Elements from Indian Music in Popular Music and Jazz’.

Popular Music, Vol. 7, No. 2, The South Asia/West Crossover (May 1988), pp. 189–205.

Jackson, M.B. 1999. Indian South African Popular Music, The Broadcast Media, and the Record Industry: 1920–1983. PhD dissertation. University of Natal.

Pradhan, A. 2019. Chasing the Raag Dream: A Look into the World of Hindustani Classical Music. Noida: Harper India.

Viswanathan, T. and Allen, M.H. 2004. South Indian Music: The Karnatak Concert Tradition and Beyond.

Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.