Michael Lindsey

Ph.D. Candidate

Michael Lindsey is an ethnomusicologist and doctoral candidate at UCSC. His primary research focuses on the musical traditions of South Asia, with a specific interest in the performance practices of the tabla and Kabuli rabab. Michael entered the graduate program at UCSC in 2011 after working in the South Indian film music industry for the internationally-acclaimed composer, AR Rahman. From 2008-2011 Michael lived in Chennai, India where he worked as a studio musician, sound engineer, and music teacher.  In addition, he studied classical and folk percussion instruments with many acclaimed musicians in Chennai. His Master's thesis, titled "The Karnatik Tabla: Cross-Cultural Music Synthesis in South Indian Percussion Performance," discusses the evolutionary history of percussion ensembles within South Indian musical culture and examines how contemporary musicians in South India are incorporating the tabla into new performance spaces, necessitating new approaches to tabla performance practice and composition. His doctoral work focuses on the traditions of tabla performance practice ranging from the elite genres of art music to "light-classical," devotional, and regional genres of music performance. From 2016-2017 Michael was a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar in India where he studied Qawwali and Sindhi Sufi kalaam percussion traditions. He was also a tabla disciple of Ustad Akram Khan of Ajrara gharana. In 2018 Michael continued his dissertation research in Kabul, Afghanistan with funding from the Asian Cultural Council. He studied the rubab with Ustad Din Mohammad Saqi, ghazal-style tabla playing with Ustad Fraidoon Miazada, and Pashto tabla playing with Ustad Nazir Latif.

Grad Student
Research Interests: 

Music of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan

Sufi (Sindhi and Qawwali) performance practice

Hindustani tabla performance practice

Pashto tabla performance practice

Kabuli rubab performance practice

Education and Training: 
MA in Ethnomusicology, University of California, Santa Cruz
BM in Percussion Performance and Classics, DePauw University
Selected Performances: 

Michael's Graduate Recital, April 2013, UCSC Recital Hall


Selected Recordings: 

Enthiran, AR Rahman (Think Music, 2010), compact disc.

Dilli 6, AR Rahman (T-Series, 2009), compact disc.

Slumdog Millionaire, AR Rahman (Interscope Records, 2008), compact disc.

Ada... A Way of Life, AR Rahman (Big Music, 2008), compact disc.

Yuvraaj, AR Rahman (T-Series, 2008), compact disc.

Selected Presentations: 


  • “Drumming to Poetry in South and Central Asia: The Afghan, Pashtun, Sindhi, and Panjabi Bāj of Tablā.” Society for Ethnomusicology annual meeting, Albuquerque, NM. November 16, 2018
  • “The Afghan and Pashtun Bāj of Tablā.” Afghanistan in Academia: Knowledge and Representation Workshop, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, London, England. October 20, 2018

  • “The Importance of Music and the Arts in War Torn Societies.” American University, Afghanistan, Kabul, Afghanistan. July 9, 2018

  • "Exploring Sama' through Percussion in Sufi Devotional Music Performance."  Presentation at the South and Central Asia Annual Fulbright Conference, Kolkata, India.  March 6, 2017
  • "Escaping the Violence: Afghan Musical Culture in the Fremont Diaspora."  Paper presented at the Conference on the Music of South, Central, and West Asia, Harvard University, Cambridge.  March 5, 2016.
  • "Should I Stay or Should I Go?  Afghan Music's Confrontation with Violence."  Papaer presented at the Sociey for Ethnomusicology annual meeting, Austin, Texas.  December 4, 2015
  • "Coming Together: Extra-Cultural Inclusion in South Indian Percussion Ensembles."  Paper presented at the Northern California Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology (NCCSEM) annual meeting.  March 1, 2014.
  • "Issues in Contemporary Ethnomusicology: The Karnatik Tabla."  Presentation given at DePauw University.  November 13, 2013.
  • "Vistar: Musical Improvisation in North Indian Tabla."  Presentation given at California State University, Monterey Bay.  November 4, 2013.
  • "The Karnatik Tabla: Innovative Approaches to Composition in Contemporary South Indian Percussion."  Paper presented at the NCCSEM annual meeting.  March 2, 2013.
Teaching Interests: 

South and Central Asian Music History, Theory, and Performance Practice

Tabla and Rubab Performance Practice

Sufi Performance Practice

Music Improvisation

Music and Nationalism in 19th and 20th Century India


Honors and Awards: 


  • Asian Cultural Council - Afghanistan Award, 2017
  • US Fulbright-Nehru Student Research Award, 2016
  • Critical Language Scholarship - Hindi, Summer 2015
  • Critical Language Scholarship - Hindi, Summer 2014
  • UCSC Regent's Doctoral Fellowship, 2013
  • UCSC Regent's Fellowship, 2011
  • Pi Kappa Lambda, Musical Honor Society, DePauw University, 2008
  • Eta Sigma Phi, Classics Honor Society, DePauw University, 2008
  • Marcus R. Veatch Scholar, DePauw University, 2004