Bridging Divides with Music


Mukesh Kulriya, a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology under the supervision of Anna Morcom, has won a grant from the UCLA Initiative to Study Hate. His project studies the impact of a musical initiative in Rajasthan, India used to mitigate religious hate. The grant will support research, travel, and the production of a 10-episode podcast series recorded in both English and Marwari, the regional dialect of Rajasthan. The podcast will feature conversations with participants, the audience, organizers, and police officers. The podcast will also incorporate academic, legal, and journalistic experts who have been working on violence at large to situate the initiative into the larger discourse of hate.   

“This is an opportunity to study how traditional music repertoire can be mobilized to bring people together,” said Kulriya. “Music and culture can provide tools in countering hate and violence.”

Kulriya’s project is an impact study of the music festival Rajasthan Kabir Yatra, organized in collaboration with the Rajasthan police department. This joint initiative organized music festivals at a site where religious violence had taken place and involved collaborations between both Hindu and Muslim communities. The festivals’ musical genres were Bhakti and Sufism, devotional Hinduism and Islam. 

“Both Bhakti and Sufism have long and admired musical traditions, as well as long histories of resisting religious fundamentalism by emphasizing their values of faith-oriented egalitarianism,” said Kulriya. “But the police had other tools that they could have used to mitigate religious hate and violence, such as education, stricter policing, or judicial action. I want to study the strategies that were used here and whether they are effective.”

The UCLA Initiative to Study Hate (ISH) is a three-year pilot project intended to foster cutting-edge research and high-level teaching to understand and mitigate group-based hate.  In 2023, the ISH awarded research funding to 4 large-scale and 7 smaller-scale research Innovation Fund projects examining the phenomenon of hate. The application was open to all UCLA faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students.