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Francesca Cassio Installed in Sikh Musicology Chair in Formal Investiture & Convocation





Dr Francesca Cassio will be formally installed as the Sardarni Harbans Kaur Chair in Sikh Musicology at Hofstra University, Long Island, New York, USA, this afternoon (Monday, October 22, 2012). The investiture will be at a convocation which will be presided by Stuart Rabinowitz, President, Hofstra University.
The Sardarni Harbans Kaur Chair in Sikh Musicology, established by Dr. Hakam Singh in memory of his wife, facilitates the intellectual pursuit of music’s longstanding role in the Sikh tradition. As the first of its kind in the United States, the chair shares that rich heritage with the next generation of students.

A renowned chemist and professor with nine U.S. patents to his name, Dr. Hakam Singh is also an intellectual luminary in the international Sikh community. He immigrated to Los Angeles, California, USA in 1967 after completing postdoctoral research at the University of Southern California and a professorship at IIT New Delhi. While progressing in his scientific career, he advanced the intellectual pursuit and global understanding of the Sikh faith. His academic contributions to Sikhism include numerous articles as well as books on Guru Tegh Bahadar as an apostle of human rights and a study on the mystic poet Kabir whose spiritual poetry is to be found in the Guru Granth Sahib.

Dr. Hakam Singh and his wife of 57 years, Harbans Kaur, shared an intellectual and devout appreciation for the hymns of the Sikh faith. “There are about 6,000 hymns or shabads in the Sikh scripture and each shabad is preceded by instructions as to what raga and musical measure or taal it should be sung in,” shares Dr. Hakam Singh. “This shows that our founders not only had a great knowledge of Indian music, but that they knew the influence of the singing of hymns on the mind.”

Inspired by Sardarni Harbans Kaur’s lifelong appreciation for Sikh music, Dr. Hakam Singh established the Hofstra University Chair in Sikh Musicology, which was initiated in 2008 and established in 2011.

The position has been held since then by Dr. Francesca Cassio (Associate Professor at Hofstra Music Department).

Sikh Musicology is a new field of research in North America that combines studies on Sikh tradition with the analysis of Gurmat Sangeet, the musical repertoires transmitted by the Sikh Gurus.

The purpose of the Chair is to establish this new discipline in the international academic world, analyzing its aspects through the lens of traditional and contemporary methodologies including the Indian and Western musicology, semiology, ethnology and anthropology of music.

This innovative approach will not only facilitate the understanding of Gurmat Sangeet among Western students and scholars, but we hope it will cast a light on the contribution of the Sikh Masters to Indian music and culture.

Among the activities of the Chair: lectures and concerts of visiting scholars from abroad, independent studies, research projects, fieldwork and scholarships in India.


Francesca Cassio, Associate Professor of Music at Hofstra University, is a scholar and singer with expertise in Indian music. Trained in Western and Indian music cultures, her work combines the theoretical with the practical aspects of music, as well as the Western with the Asian approach. She has lectured and performed in India, America, and Europe.

Dr. Cassio earned a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from Università La Sapienza di Roma (Italy), in affiliation with Benares Hindu University (India), under the tutorship of Professor Giovanni Giuriati and Professor Ritwik Sanyal. In 2008 she received the prestigious Orientation Grant from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) for a contribution on the influence of dhrupad and Gurbānī kīrtan in the music of the Rabindranath Tagore.

Prior to joining the Hofstra faculty, she served as a visiting professor in musicology at Visva Bharati University in Shantiniketan, India; lecturer of ethnomusicology at the University of Trento, Italy; lecturer of anthropology of music at the Conservatory of Adria, Italy; and lecturer of ethnomusicology and Indian music at the Vicenza Conservatory of Music, Italy.

Since 1991, Dr. Cassio has conducted extensive research in India, where she lived and has been professionally trained in classical vocal music and in the Sikh repertoire, according to the Gurū-Shishya Parampara (“teacher-student”) tradition.

Dr. Cassio is a disciple of legendary masters of the 20th century: Padma Bhushan Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Khan Dagar, Padma Bhushan Vidushi Girija Devi, and the Hazoori Raagi Bhai Gurcharan Singh. Dr. Cassio also received extensive training in vocal and percussion tradition by Bhai Baldeep Singh, the 13th generation exponent of Gurbānī kīrtanyas. She is one of few Westerners performing and teaching the traditional repertoire of the Sikh Gurūs in India, Europe and the United States.

Dr. Cassio is the author of a book on dhrupad (a medieval genre of Indian classical music). In more than 20 years of research, she has worked extensively and written about Indian music (Gurbānī sangeet, dhrupad, Rabindra sangeet, thumrī, semi-classical, folk and devotional repertoires), the yoga of sound, music therapy, gender studies, intercultural education, ethnomusicology and music pedagogy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Installation of
Francesca Cassio, Ph.D.
The Sardarni Harbans Kaur
Chair in Sikh Musicology

Master of Ceremonies
Herman A. Berliner
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs,
Hofstra University

Stuart Rabinowitz
President, Hofstra University

Benita Singh, representing the family of Hakam Singh, Ph.D.

Introduction of Francesca Cassio
Bernard J. Firestone
Dean, Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Investiture of Dr. Cassio
Stuart Rabinowitz
Herman A. Berliner
Bernard J. Firestone

Francesca Cassio
The Sardarni Harbans Kaur Chair in Sikh Musicology

Herman A. Berliner

Monday, October 22, 2012
3-5 p.m.
Hofstra University Club
David S. Mack Hall, North Campus

Reception immediately follows the convocation


October 22, 2012

Conversation about this article

1: Pashaura Singh (Riverside, California, USA), October 22, 2012, 11:45 PM.

My heartiest congratulations to Dr. Francesca Cassio on her assuming the responsibilities of the Sardarni Harbans Kaur Chair in Sikh Musicology at Hofstra University, Long Island, New York. This is a wonderful development in the field of Sikh Studies. I know how my sister-in-law, the late Bibi Jasbir Kaur Khalsa, worked so hard to collect funds to establish the First Gurmat Sangeet Chair at the Punjabi University, Patiala. With the establishment of another Chair in North America, research and teaching of Gurbani Kirtan ("devotional singing of the Gurus' utterances") will certainly flourish among the coming generations of Sikhs. Even non-Sikh students will have an opportunity to study Sikh musicology from a comparative perspective. A great deal of credit goes to Dr. Hakam Singh for his thoughtfulness and generosity. He has done a real service to the Sikh panth by making this possible. I offer my sincere gratitude to him. Well done!

2: Aryeh Leib (Israel), October 23, 2012, 4:39 AM.

Will the course material be available online?

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