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Sikh Musicology Publications

Francesca Cassio, professor of music and the Sardani Harbans Kaur Chair in Sikh Musicology, has recently published a book chapter and an article in a leading Sikh journal.

“The sonic pilgrimage. Exploring kīrtan and sacred journeying in Sikh culture,” was published in the journal Sikh Formations (Routledge). It is the first academic work that through decolonial lenses critically discusses sound and pilgrimage in Sikh culture, establishing a new understanding of śabad kirtan as distinct from the kirtan forms practiced in the Bhakti (Hindu) tradition.

Based on long-term fieldwork, Dr. Cassio’s essay examines Bhakti, Sufi and Sikh musical repertoires and their divergent spirtual views from the standpoint of sacred journeying. While the Gurū Granth Sāhib is critically inclusive of Bhakti and Sufi voices, the musical setting and the performance of the hymns incorporated into the Sikh scripture suggest a distinct function of the gurbānī kīrtan practice, associated with the process of inner transmutation from a self-willed being (manmukh) into a Gurū-oriented realized self (gurmukh). The gurbānī repertoire also includes various types of ancient songs-forms (like chhants, prabandhs, dhur-pads and partāls) of historical and musicological importance. This article focuses on two of them, which – developed during the Sikh Gurūs era – reveal a unique construction that translates into music the Sikh literary and philosophical stances on sacred journeying.

Dr. Cassio’s book chapter, Singing Dharam: The Sonic Transmission of Knowledge in the Sikh Path appears in Explorations in Indic Traditions: Beacons of Dharma” (edited by Michael Reading and Christopher Miller; Lexington Books, December 2019)

Published in a volume dedicated to relevant figures in the world of South Asian spirituality, Dr. Cassio and co-author Nirinjan Kaur Khalsa focus this chapter on one family of kirtan singers, who through their performances and teachings have preserved this Sikh intangible heritage since precolonial era to this day.

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