“Ethnomusicology is the study of music in its cultural context. Ethnomusicologists approach music as a social process in order to understand not only what music is but why it is: what music means to its practitioners and audiences, and how those meanings are conveyed.

Ethnomusicology is highly interdisciplinary. Individuals working in the field may have training in music, cultural anthropology, folklore, performance studies, dance, cultural studies, gender studies, race or ethnic studies, area studies, or other fields in the humanities and social sciences. Yet all ethnomusicologists share a coherent foundation in the following approaches and methods:

1) Taking a global approach to music (regardless of area of origin, style, or genre).

2) Understanding music as social practice (viewing music as a human activity that is shaped by its cultural context).

3) Engaging in ethnographic fieldwork (participating in and observing the music being studied, frequently gaining facility in another music tradition as a performer or theorist), and historical research….


Ethnomusicology is an expanding area. From my point of view it is an inclusive study of music and cultures for the benefit of ‘musics and cultures’.

In fact, “Brhaddhvani is the outcome of  research on my vina playing musical tradition, going back to 9 generations in the whole context of Indian Tradition, which again, is set against the most respected World’s  traditions such as Western, Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, African music and other indigenous musical  traditions, as part of my doctoral studies at Wesleyan University in the USA”. Without this backdrop this holistic concept of music would not have been possible. Studying one’s own tradition will not be valid without the objective observations, comments and guidance from experts and knowledgeable people in this area. That is what happened when I studied at Wesleyan. The Professors, Jon Barlow, David McAllester, Mark Slobin, T. Viswanathan, Jon Higgins,  Harold Powers and David Reck were the main guides in making me an objective observer of my tradition. My work could be best summarised as “An insider-outsider perspective of a Tradition”. Beyond this my teaching vina to students from different musical backgrounds, playing vina with unimaginable combinations of instruments such as Church organ, Carillon, Piano, Saxophone, French Horn, Chi’n, and with instruments in other cross-musi-cultural situations- gave me insights into Vina, its potential as a unique world instrument. Due to the opportunities to interact with so many musicians and musical instruments with the pure objective of understanding the music cultures and their musical expressions my mind broadened and began seeing the pitfalls as well as the strength in vina and my musicianship. For example once, to play with T. Viswanathan, I had to learn the Tyagaraja’s composition Tappibratiki in Todi. I discovered both the pitfalls and strength in my tradition. Similarly the perspectives of Ethnomusicologists, David Reck and Richard Wolf on Karaikudi vina tradition (they were my students on the vina for some time and both have researched on Karaikudi Tradition) were very valuable and gave me further understanding of my tradition from objective and critical points of view. My performing Japanese Koto strengthened my spiritual convictions in playing  instruments. My understanding of Chi’n gave me the metaphorical expressions of the ancient instrument players. I began understanding the musical instrument as the extension of the musician’s body.

All the above and much more are the underlying spirit behind Brhaddhvani as a World Music institute. It is not an imitation of anything. It is the original work of a musician from a tradition going beyond and back to the tradition.

So, the study of Ethnomusicology at Brhaddhvani is very basic and from the point of view of an Ethnomusicologist who had undergone a long journey in the traditional musics of the World coming back to the tradition. The students here learn from practical experience while interacting with the several visiting Ethnomusicologists, musicians and scholars.