North Indian traditional music ensemble interest meeting to be hosted by world music department

Rakshak Adhikari

Staff Writer

The world music department at Troy will be hosting an interest meeting on Monday, Oct. 16, about possibly adding a North Indian traditional music ensemble to the department.

According to Bret Woods, an assistant professor of ethnomusicology and the coordinator of the musicology/world music department, the world music department focuses on traditional music from around the world and fosters a space where students can learn about and participate in a variety of diverse music and cultural traditions not usually represented as a standard part of Western academic curriculum.

The world music department currently has three ensembles: the Celtic ensemble, the Chinese folk ensemble and folk music of the Americas.

“Celtic Ensemble is our flagship performance group, an ensemble that I began years ago as the ‘Irish Ensemble’ that now has a broader scope based on the vision of the music director, Jaime Hammack,” Woods said. “I’m hoping that we can add a North Indian traditional music ensemble in the future, if there is enough interest.

“We have a harmonium and a Hindustani tabla that would make a great accompaniment for anything from Classical Indian music to Qawwali.”

Woods said that Qawwali is Sufi devotional songs from Pakistan and Northern India that use harmonium, tabla drum and voice, and are typically sung in Urdu.

Sufis are people who hold the mystical Islamic belief and practice in which Muslims seek to find the truth of divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God, according to Britannica.

The songs have a call and response structure where a lead vocalist will introduce verses and themes, and a larger group of performers will clap in rhythm and sing back responses.

“The tabla is incredibly rhythmic and soothing,” said Ethan Stonecipher, a sophomore physics major from Alabaster.

“The melodic lines tend to be minimalistic, but the finesse that comes with it is remarkable.

“It’s possibly the hardest instrument I’ve ever approached, mostly because the approach I was taught in is so specific. I love it.”

Hong Shen, a senior general music major from China, plays the guzheng for the Chinese ensemble.

“It is a plucked stringed instrument,” Shen said. “It has a very bright sound, and I love playing it.”

The entire world music instrument collection, as well as a list of the various ensembles and a brief description of each, can be viewed online on the department’s website.

According to Woods, the ensembles require no prior experience and anyone interested in learning about a variety of music and cultural traditions from around the world can join.

Any of the ensembles can be taken as a one-credit-hour course, and the possibility of offering them as zero-credit courses is being discussed.

Students interested in joining the North Indian traditional music ensemble can attend the interest meeting at 1 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 16, in Smith 223, or email Bret Woods at

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