Amy Catlin- Jairazbhoy
Adjunct Professor, Ethnomusicology

Folk and classical music of South Asia; Bollywood

Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy’s research, writing, teaching, curatorial activities, and multi-media publications often have an applied focus, aimed at community development of minority traditions, especially in diasporic settings. She served as curator and presented the first concert and lecture tour outside India with a group of African-Indian Sidi performers from Gujarat, in September 2002, traveling with them in England and Wales. Her recent publications include Sidi Sufis: African Indian Mystics of Gujarat (Apsara Media 2002: 79-minute CD), the volume co-edited with Indian Ocean historian Edward Alpers, Sidis and Scholars: Essays on African Indians (New Delhi: Rainbow Publications, 2003), the DVD The Sidi Malunga Project (2004), and the DVD From Africa to India: Sidi Music in the Indian Ocean Diaspora (with Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy) (2003), and Music for a Goddess (with Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy) (2008), an interactive DVD of 175 minutes, including Bonus Tracks, on professional musicians dedicated to the Goddess Renuka-Yellamma in southern Maharashtra and northern Karnataka.

Funding for her research has come from such agencies as NEA, NEH, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the American Philosophical Society, The Fulbright Foundation, the Indo-US Subcommission on Education and Culture, and the American Institute of Indian Studies.

Her most recent video publication is the DVD Music for a Goddess (2008), a continuing applied ethnomusicology project concerning Dalit (formerly known as Untouchable) Devidasis (women musicians dedicated to the Goddess) of the Deccan (India’s central plateau, where the most severe rural poverty reigns in many regions).

In 2015, she began the Sidi Literacy Project in Gujarat, where she works with African-Indian Sidis in collaboration with the NGO Eklavya. Her most recent print publication is “Faqirs or Cosmopolitans? Sidis at the Crossroads during the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent” [2015-2024] in African Diasporan Communities Across South Asia. Omar H Ali, Kenneth X. Robbins, Jazmin Graves, and Beheroze Shroff (eds), Volume 2 of Afro-South Asia in the Global African Diaspora. Greensboro: University of South Carolina. 2020. 216-225.

She conducts field research in India during Winter quarters, continuing to work with the Sidi Literacy Project in Gujarat, and to restudy Arnold Bake’s 1938 documentation, most recently with Mappila Muslims of Malabar. In 2018 she received the honorary title of Bake-Jairazbhoy Chair Professor, Indian Ocean Studies from PSMO College, an affiliate of Calicut University, Kerala. Her work with the late Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy during their Bake Restudy Project in 1984 has been recognized as a rich collection worthy of digitization and publication by the UCLA Digital Library Project.

Catlin-Jairazbhoy studied piano, voice, and musicianship at the Peabody Conservatory from 1961-1966, teaching there and at the Junior Composers Camp (now the Walden School) from 1964-1966 as a protege of its founder, Grace Cushman, who fostered creative explorations of non-Western musical systems. Sensing the need for intercultural understanding as evidenced by America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, she left the Conservatory for a liberal arts education at Vassar College, where she continued her keyboard improvisations for modern dance classes, attending Wesleyan University classes in India’s music. Concluding that music was her best tool for promoting interculturalism, she enrolled at Yale University School of Music, intensifying her Indian music studies at Wesleyan, as part of her doctoral coursework at Brown University, with concentrations in Ethnomusicology, South and Southeast Asia (India and Bali) and Anthropology.

For over 30 years Catlin- Jairazbhoy has studied classical and folk musics in India, where she continues to perform Western classical and Indian-influenced contemporary musics in concerts, oratorios, schools and orphanages, and on All India Radio. Her career is dedicated full-time to music scholarship, field research and documentation, community advocacy, and performance, integrating her Western classical vocal training with non-classical, non-Western music.

She curated and performed in “Mystic Voices: Music of Devotion in Islam and Hinduism” for the first World Festival of Sacred Music, where her singing was described as “…lustrous…” (The Los Angeles Times, October 14, 1999).

Catlin-Jairazbhoy’s courses at UCLA have include Field and Laboratory Methods, Applied Ethnomusicology, Music of Asia, Classical Music of South India, Classical Music of India, Folk Music of South Asia, Music of Europe and the Americas, Music and Ethnographic Film, Music and the Sacred, the World Arts and Cultures Senior Colloquium, and Music of Bollywood and Beyond.

Ph.D. Brown University; M. Mus. Yale University; B.A. Vassar College

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