You are here

Michael Lindsey

PhD Candidate, Teaching Fellow

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 classical and non-classical styles of tabla and rubab performance practice, and the affects of modernity on Hindustani music culture and practice. From 2016-2017 Michael was a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar in India where he studied Qawwali and Sindhi Sufi percussion traditions. He was also a tabla disciple of Ustad Akram Khan of Ajrara gharana. In 2018 Michael continued his musical research in Kabul, Afghanistan. He studied the rubab with Ustad Din Mohammad Saqi, ghazal-style tabla playing with Ustad Fraidoon Miazada, and Pashtun-style tabla playing with Ustad Nazir Latif. 

Research Interests: 

Musics of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan

Hindustani tabla performance practice

Kabuli rabab performance practice

Selected Performances: 

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


Performing with Avery Waite (cello) at the 2017 Fulbright South and Central Asian Conference

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: 


  • "Virtuosity in Repetition: Theka Playing in South Asia." Paper presented at Northern California Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology (NCCSEM) annual meeting. March 2, 2019
  • "Drumming to Poetry in South Asia: The Afghan, Pashtun, Sindhi, and Panjabi Baj of Tabla." Paper presented at the Society for Ethnomusicology's (SEM) annual meeting, Albuquerque, NM. Nov 16, 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." Paper presented at the SEM annual meeting, Austin, Texas. December 4, 2015
  • "Coming Together: Extra-Cultural Inclusion in South Indian Percussion Ensembles." Paper presented at the 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.
Honors and Awards: 


  • UC Santa Cruz President's Dissertation Year Fellowship
  • 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
Education and Training: 
M.A., Ethnomusicology, University of California, Santa Cruz
B.M., Percussion Performance and Classics, DePauw University
Teaching Interests: 

Tabla Performance Practice


Music and Nationalism

Music Theory