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Michael Lindsey

Lecturer in Music

Michael Lindsey is an ethnomusicologist and lecturer at UCSC. His primary research focuses on the musical traditions of South and Central Asia, with a specific interest in the performance practices of the tabla and Kabuli rubab. 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 thesis, "Melodies for Drums: Creativity and Emotion in South Asian Theka Drumming", focused on the relationship between improvisation and emotion in popular styles of South and Central Asian percussion. From 2016-2017 Michael was a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar in India where he studied with Qawwali and Sindhi Sufi percussion masters. He was also a tabla disciple of Ustad Akram Khan of Ajrara gharana. In 2018 Michael continued his musical research in Kabul, Afghanistan, during which 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


Michael Lindsey and Keshav Batish perform for the DePauw University School of Music Convocation Hour

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: 



  • "Memory in Melody: The Place of Mohammad Omar's Music in Contemporary Afghanistan," Society for Ethnomusicology's Annual Meeting, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 7 Nov 2019
  • "Virtuosity in Repetition: Ṭhekā Playing in South Asia," Northern California Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology (NCCSEM) Annual Meeting, University of California, Merced, Merced, CA, 2 Mar 2019
  • “Drumming to Poetry in South and Central Asia: The Afghan, Pashtun, Sindhi, and Panjabi Bāj of Tablā,” Society for Ethnomusicology Annual Meeting, Albuquerque, NM, 16 Nov 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, 20 Oct 2018
  • “The Importance of Music and the Arts in War Torn Societies,” American University, Afghanistan, Kabul, Afghanistan, 9 July 2018
  • “Exploring Sama’ through Percussion in Sufi Devotional Music Performance,” South and Central Asia Annual Fulbright Conference, Kolkata, India, 6 Mar 2017
  • “Escaping the Violence: Afghan Musical Culture in the Fremont Diaspora,” Conference on the Music of South, Central, and West Asia, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 5 Mar 2016
  • “Should I Stay or Should I Go?  Afghan Music’s Confrontation with Violence,” Society for Ethnomusicology Annual Meeting, Austin, TX, 4 Dec 2015
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: 
PhD, Cross-Cultural Musicology, University of California, Santa Cruz
M.A., Ethnomusicology, University of California, Santa Cruz
B.M., Percussion Performance and Classics, DePauw University
Teaching Interests: