Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology University of Alberta

South Asian Music and Culture in Canada:
Heritage, Adaptation, and Transformation


Listening to and playing music is a deeply powerful social and cultural experience, both as a personal expression and as a channel for reaching out to others. In some way, almost every event and occurrence in our lives is connected with music. Music inevitably plays a role in our traditions, relationships, gatherings, and activities of all sorts, and it is intimately entwined with many social and cultural activities for people all over the world, especially in South Asia.

“South Asia” refers to the culturally related, neighbouring countries found on the Indian subcontinent, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. India is by far the largest and most influential of these countries, however South Asian immigrant communities in Canada are made of a mixture of people from throughout these regions.

The story of South Asian music and culture in Canada can be traced to the mid-twentieth century. Starting with a few families finding common musical practice and growing to numerous regional and religious institutions cultivating different musical expressions, South Asian music and culture have come to form a significant component of Canada’s socio-cultural fabric. From small gatherings in basements to sing songs from back home to attending formal concert hall performances by master musicians, music is woven throughout the South Asian Canadian experience.

South Asian Music and Culture in Canada is a project that traces the phenomenal growth of an immigrant culture that today spans the entire country and has become an active component of broader Canadian life. Performances and recordings of South Asian music and musicians have become an integral part of mainstream culture, popular culture, and classical music and art found on stereos, loudspeakers, stages, and in galleries and other public settings. Universities are teaching it, schools are looking toward integrating it in the curriculum, and visiting artists, poets, and other cultural icons are touring Canada.

South Asian Music and Culture in Canada tells the stories of the people who carry and create musical traditions in Canada, and for whom this is a living, breathing part of life and culture. This Web site features the audio, video, and photographic collections of South Asian music and musical events donated to the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology at the University of Alberta by Regula Qureshi, The Edmonton Raga-Mala Society, The Bazm-e-Sukhan Literary Society, and the Indo-Canadian Women’s Association.

In addition to the digitised images and audio and video recordings, this website presents seven thematic chapters with original video, discussion, and lesson plans to delve deeper into the world of South Asian music and culture in Canada.

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