Re-Writing the Canon: Incorporating the Musics of South Asia into the Kindergarten through Twelfth-Grade Music Curriculum in the United States of America

By: Abigail Ryan

The lack of cultural diversity within the United States educational system is not a new concept and is certainly not unique to the musical canon. Nonetheless, it is common knowledge amongst educators of all subjects that students must feel represented and reflected in the curriculum they learn in schools. Representation in classroom material and subjects generates a positive learning environment and allows for the student represented to become more invested in their work.Gloria Ladson-Billings, “Toward a Theory of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy,” American Educational Research Journal 32, no. 3 (Autumn 1995): 465–91; Gloria Ladson-Billings, “But That’s Just Good Teaching! The Case for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy,” Theory into Practice 34, no. 3 (Summer 1995): 159–65. Furthermore, biases against historically underrepresented cultures of the United States of America are ingrained in students from cultural majorities beginning at an early age. Students from cultural majorities who are not taught about cultures other than their own can enter their adult life with negative biases regarding said cultures. Leaving these biases unchecked through a lack of diverse education is damaging and dangerous for the historically marginalized cultures who are excluded from curriculum. It is important to note that different historically underrepresented cultures experience a range of forms and levels of bias. However, despite increased conversation within the United States of improving cultural diversity in schools, one area of the world that is continuously left out of these narratives, which subsequently results in its musics rarely being taught, is that of South Asia. 

For clarification, representation in curriculum and schools can be defined in many ways. This can range from an acknowledgement and encouragement of differences to a substantive and structural reorganization of systems based on the inclusion of historically underrepresented subjects. I believe that the former often leads to the latter, and this can be the case with increased South Asian representation within music education. The current kindergarten through twelfth-grade general music education structure treats most non-Western pieces as supplemental material. This is displayed in the majority of “world music” units, which are now becoming discouraged due to their tendency to provide a surface level and performative education, fraught with stereotypes.Brian Clark, “My Problem With the Term ‘World Music,’” Musician Wave (blog), May 25, 2021, Educators will need to make their own judgment calls regarding how best to incorporate South Asian musics into their classrooms. This could mean using South Asian music examples in existing units/modules or teaching specific units on topics relevant to their classroom. It should be acknowledged that this decision may be informed by age level of the students and can vary from class to class within an age group. This will also differ from teacher to teacher as there is no universal solution for every classroom. 

South Asia consists of several countries including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Maldives. The population of this region is close to two billion people, which is approximately 25% of the total world population.“Population of Southern Asia (2022) – Worldometer,” accessed May 14, 2022, Due to the understandable wide cultural and musical range of the area, this article acts mainly as a spotlight on particular pieces and areas to provide background detail and lesson plan ideas for current educators. This is not to homogenize the area or portray it as a monolith, but to provoke thoughts in educators of all levels on how they can create more student reflection and representation in the materials they teach. There are many musical examples from these countries that would work well in the classroom in question but in this piece, I will be discussing Hindustani music from North India, South Indian jati and konakkol, folk songs from many of the aforementioned countries, as well as Bollywood and Tollywood musics. 

To improve the ongoing lack of education on the musics of South Asia, there is one essential question that needs to be understood: why does this lack exist? André de Quadros describes a vicious cycle of a lack of teaching the musics of populations outside of a Euro-American background in schools in the following way: 

The teaching of [South] Asian musics in our schools… encounters all of these challenges arising from lack of clarity and disambiguation: the understanding of the continent of Asia in geographical terms, the difference between regional diversity and class/socio-economic variation within a country, and the artificiality of borders.André de Quadros, “Asian Musics in the American Classroom: Definition, Challenges, Pedagogical Imperatives,” 6.

Simply put, teachers themselves are generally not educated on topics surrounding this area of the world as no one taught it to them. Thus, it is an impossible task to teach the music of an area of the world without having at least a preliminary education on the area itself. This lack of basic understanding becomes even more frustrating when studying the history of South Asian Americans. It is imperative to acknowledge once again that South Asia is a wide area of diverse cultures, and this is reflected through the dozens of languages and religions of this area which include, but are not limited to: “Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism.”Arathi Govind, “‘An Undeniable Presence’: Racial Justice Work Among South Asian American Musicians,” ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (Ph.D., United States — California, University of California, Berkeley, 2019), 4, This range is significant as it demonstrates why many educators might find this area daunting to teach themselves about in order to teach their students, as there is so much to learn.

The distinctive history of South Asian populations in America dates back to over a hundred years ago and is fraught with exclusion laws that “have implicitly or explicitly prevented South Asian Americans from participating in White-dominated mainstream American society”, which are generally not taught in schools.Govind, “‘An Undeniable Presence,’” 3. In understanding that this important history is not taught, it can be inferred that there has not been a lot of educational reform in teaching this area in the last hundred years. This deficit is supported when reflecting on de Quadros’ prior discussed description of the absence of South Asia from standard curricula. The ignorance described is further perpetuated through the “white mainstream media and the US government” by assumptions of “homogeneity within minority groups,” as well as ignoring “the historical, legal, and social circumstances that impact how and why…minority groups have radically different outcomes.”Govind, “‘An Undeniable Presence,’” 7.

This lack of education has only perpetuated further biases in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy.“Post 9-11 Backlash | SAALT,” accessed March 12, 2022, Arathi Govind describes this in the following way:

South Asians and Middle Easterners have long been homogenized by Americans outside of these groups, presumably due to shared phenotypic characteristics and poor understandings of geography and history.Govind, “‘An Undeniable Presence,’” 7.

Unfortunately, this homogenization and assumption proves and perpetuates the cycle of ignorance due to a lack of education previously detailed by de Quadros. Both Govind and de Quadros are describing the damaging and dangerous weaponized ignorance and ethnocentrism of white Americans, which perpetuates eurocentrism in school music curricula. Fortunately, some South Asian Americans have responded to this ignorance in a positive way by creating organizations that aim to cease racial profiling and violence against South Asian cultural groups, such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice Law Caucus.“Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus | Home,” accessed May 15, 2022, The way to best support these efforts is through education, especially in the formative years for a student. Biases and ignorance are engrained in a person from an early age, the only way to change this is through education and experiences, both of which are provided in the music classroom. Regrettably, classrooms can also be a source of creating biases.  Many educators think teaching about Asia only involves China and/or Japan. This, unfortunately, perpetuates the “‘a part, yet apart’ status,” Govind, “‘An Undeniable Presence,’” 8. or isolation, that many South Asians feel from the Asian American population.

As illustrated by Govind and de Quadros, a lack of education and understanding contributes to and perpetuates ignorance and bias. This perpetuation is clearly seen when studying music departments in the US. Scholar Loren Kajikawa states that music departments in the US “privilege the music of white European and American males” and “share a ‘possessive investment’ in classical music that perpetuates, or is at least complicit with, white supremacy.” When Kajikawa references classical music, he is using the term as “an umbrella for the entire span of Western art music.”Kimberlé Crenshaw et al., Seeing Race Again: Countering Colorblindness Across the Disciplines, 1st ed. (University of California Press: 2019), 156, Kajikawa’s words can be understood simply as that the obsession of music departments in the US with this “classical” music perpetuates and/or supports white supremacy due to its lack of diverse representation. This shortfall results in further engraining biases in Caucasian students and teachers, as well as further isolating students outside of a Caucasian background. The biases of Caucasian students and teachers in music create deeper consequences that can be seen outside of the music classroom: “The fetishization of classical performance standards also impedes [the] ability to recognize the full humanity and artistry of the world beyond.”Crenshaw et al., Seeing Race Again, 157. Here it is illustrated that the worshiping of Western “classical” performance and standards actively facilitates unconscious bias within individuals. Upholding Western performance and practices as the gold standard of music is a disservice to all students. Kajikawa’s thoughts on this system demonstrate that it “privileges the work of white composers and treats as secondary in importance the contributions of people of color.” Crenshaw et al., Seeing Race Again, 160. The secondary importance described creates token representation, or a performative attempt at inclusivity, which is a damaging and often stereotypically based practice. Furthermore, tokenization upholds the system that creates feelings of being “othered”, or further separation, for people of color.  

As previously stated, it is impossible to teach the music of a given area of the world without first understanding at least some of the culture surrounding it. The history of South Asia and South Asians in North America is very rich, providing an abundance of excellent information to teach students in their formative years. One aspect of this history that could be applied in the music classroom could be providing students with a correction to the colonized Euro-American usage of the term guru. The term’s oversimplified meaning of mentor, teacher, or guide has been appropriated in the Western world to mean anyone who is a self-perceived master or expert on a subject. However, the word guru has deep roots specifically within the Indian tradition, as demonstrated by gurukula pedagogy. Gurukula pedagogy can be understood as a system, not always music related, where “a disciple stays with a Guru in Guru’s house to gain knowledge.” In addition to understanding what this system is, students should be educated about the various principles for musicians within this system, such as: “Music as spirituality…music for spirituality…surrendering to the guru…guru is the institution…[and] dialogue with the guru.”Swapnil Chandrakant Chaphekar, “Elements of Indian Philosophy in the Pedagogy of Gurukula System of Music Education: With Special Reference to KhayÀl Singing in Hindustani Music,” Journal of Psychosocial Research 15, no. 2 (December 2020): 394–99, Reflection of these principles can be seen in standard procedures of student musicians in this system, such as practicing for long hours, learning through rote and repetition, and belonging to the household of the guru.“Tokenism: The Wrong Path to Diversity,” The Smoke Signal (blog), November 18, 2020, The gurukula system is vastly different than what Westernized students have become accustomed to in their North American classrooms. For students of non-Indian descent, this exposure facilitates understanding and appreciation about cultures other than their own and specifically, the rich culture of India. Further, learning about gurukula pedagogy can promote empathy and understanding in non-Indian students towards their Indian peers. For Indian students, learning about this system will allow them to feel more represented in their curriculum and subsequently, valued in their classroom. Educating students on the history and current practices of the gurukula system in a variety of aspects in addition to in music, as well as making them aware of the proper usage of the term guru, is one way to use music education as a tool to combat appropriation. 

Another important South Asian musical style that should be covered in the kindergarten through twelfth-grade classroom is that of North Indian classical music. Scholar Diva D Arya states that materials on “North Indian classical music, or Hindustani music, remain scarce” despite that its incorporation would allow “students to become familiar with [a] rich and spiritual culture.”Divya D. Arya, “North Indian Classical Vocal Music for the Classroom,” Music Educators Journal 102, no. 1 (2015): 83. The terminology of North Indian classical music is very broad and encompasses vocal, instrumental, and rhythmic genres. For the purposes of this article, however, I will be gearing my focus towards the benefits of the incorporation of the vocal stylings into the curriculum in question. Through engaging with Hindustani music, students “will also become comfortable with the concept of expressing emotion through music,” which is a key skill needed for students in younger age groups. Furthermore, in learning about and having experiences with North Indian classical vocal music, students will engage in “intercultural communication.”Arya, “North Indian Classical,” 84. This means that non-Indian students will begin to understand cultures other than their own, as well as find similarities to their culture in this music. For students of Indian descent, education on this genre will allow them to feel seen in their classroom and encourage them to find similarities between their culture and the Western canon.  Furthermore, this can provide the opportunity for Indian students, if comfortable, to engage in thoughtful discussion with their peers about their culture and the music that reflects them. 

North Indian classical vocal music also teaches students two skills deemed essential in the Western canon of musicianship: “ear training and improvisation.”Arya, “North Indian Classical,” 84. Training typically begins on these key skills early in the standard Western music curriculum. However, the aural and improvisational foundation in North Indian classical vocal music is often due to a lack of musical notation, which is heavily relied on in Western tradition. However, it is necessary to note that notation and transcription for this style of music were developed by Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1920) and Vishnu Digambar Paluskar (1901). These Hindustani musicians were seeking to elevate the status of Hindustani music in comparison to the esteemed European, namely British, classical styles of the time.“North Indian Musical Notation: An Overview,” Chandrakantha.Com (blog), accessed May 14, 2022, Notation is not used in performance, as described by Scholar Gerry Farrell, but can be referred to as a tool for memory jogging. From this point, it is clear to see how this can, and has, been applied in the classroom for pedagogical purposes.

Little to no notation is not simply for vocalists, but it is a trend commonly seen throughout other forms of Indian classical music. Gerry Farrell writes that “during a performance of Indian [classical] music the listener hears a musical process rather than a through composed or rehearsed piece.” Gerry Farrell, “Music Cognition and Culture: A Perspective on Indian Music in the Context of Music Education,” Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, no. No. 119 (1994 1993): 165. In the performance in question, the music that was heard can be better understood as not being composed or rehearsed but embodied and intimately known. A lack of notation and strict composition can be intimidating for Westerners due to it being so outside of their comfort zone, and this could contribute to the lack of education on this material in the kindergarten through twelfth-grade music curriculum. Despite this pressure, becoming familiar with this tradition can facilitate teachable moments and discussion surrounding notation. Westernized students might be curious as to why some musical traditions do not rely on notation as heavily as they are used to, which can prompt larger conversation regarding the skills that notation can offer (e.g., sight reading and learning larger amounts of repertoire in shorter amounts of time) in comparison with skills learned in improvisatory or rote methods (e.g., stronger aural skills, flexibility, nonverbal communication between musicians, and spontaneity). Students who are not from the Hindustani tradition might struggle working without a notation to rely on, which can create situations that are daunting for music educators to mitigate. Similarly, students who are familiar learning within this musical tradition may struggle in a Westernized music classroom due to its heavy reliance on notation. Exploring stylings within Hindustani music can both be a healthy challenge for Westernized musicians, as well as aim to be a wonderful source of representation and reflection for students within this tradition.  

To deepen the education of the North Indian classical tradition, the structures of rāg, and tāl should also be included in the kindergarten through twelfth-grade general music curriculum. While there is no exact Western equivalent or translation of rāg, and tāl, they can most easily be understood in an oversimplified way as melodic and rhythmic structures respectively.“Indian Takeaway: Rāg and Tāl Basics,” ISM Trust, accessed October 4, 2021, The complexity of rāg and tāl might initially be intimidating to some educators, but Yogesh Dattani provides a wonderful strategy in his teacher training course through the Incorporated Society of Musicians Trust. In his “Warm Up and Learning Outcomes” section of his Indian Takeaway Rāg & Tāl Basics course, he first introduces the educators to a ṭukḍā. In this case, the ṭukḍā is a rhythmic form or piece that can be played or chanted. Dattani begins by saying the ṭukḍā to the educators and encouraging them to repeat it. Most educators gave this their best effort, but this task proved to be too difficult which was precisely Dattani’s point. Dattani then teaches the rhythmic ṭukḍā by utilizing English words that are familiar to the participants in place of the syllables that they are clearly not confident in yet. This substitution demonstrates a simple switch that can be made for their own students, until they gain the confidence needed to be successful on the correct syllables. ISM Trust, “Indian Takeaway.” The detailed process of substitution has many similarities to the common Western process of replacing lyrics with a neutral syllable or with solfege syllables. Utilizing a process that students are familiar with is an excellent doorway into the North Indian Classical Tradition for students who are used to and comfortable with the Western tradition. Further, students who might be comfortable within the North Indian Classical Tradition will be able to find a connection with a Western musical strategy in taking part in this process. 

An additional aspect of South Asian classical music that would be very useful in the classroom is the rhythm system of jati, and a corresponding way of counting referred to as Solkaṭṭu, or konakkol when performed in the concert setting, from South India. David Nelson, Solkattu Manual: An Introduction to the Rhythmic Language of South Indian Music (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2008). Jati itself means “a unit of the rhythm” and can be divided into two main subtypes: The bol jati, similar to a triple meter in the Western musical tradition, and the laya jati, similar to a duple meter in the Western musical tradition. Learn Kathak Online by Guru Pali Chandra, Introduction to Jati, a Unit of Rhythm | Learn Kathak Online by Guru Pali Chandra | Lesson 113, Youtube, 2019, The solkaṭṭu rhythm counting system that often goes along with this is instinctual and easy to pick up on, making it the perfect pedagogical tool to use in the classroom for rhythm counting exercises. The syllables of ta-ka-di-mi are used to count sixteenth notes, or four subdivisions, and can be reduced or expanded from this point. The education of this counting system can be scaffolded in a similar way to teaching Western rhythm counting systems, and progress can be evaluated with group and/or individual rhythm reading and chanting exercises, as well as improvisation in both laya and bol styles. “Lesson Plans | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings,” accessed November 3, 2021, Having a solid foundation of solkaṭṭu and jati will allow students to take this knowledge from their music classroom and apply it to their future musical endeavors. Solkaṭṭu and jati can be further expanded upon for older students through conducting independent or group research projects to promote further student education on the complicated rhythmic cycles of South Indian music. Additionally, solkaṭṭu and jati can be used in a straightforward way in younger levels of education instead of Western rhythm counting styles. Teaching this meter organization and rhythm counting style could be seen as one of the simplest ways to include South Asian culture in the curriculum of the kindergarten through twelfth-grade music education classroom. 

Generally, folk and vernacular styles of any background are not seen to be on an equal level with Western classical styles. This becomes especially true for vernacular and folk styles from outside of the Western tradition. Nevertheless, these pieces should not be discounted so quickly. The incorporation of vernacular and folk pieces from the South Asian tradition offers excellent pedagogical resources, as well as a place to make a connection with students from the are the piece is from. Similar to most folk tunes in the Western tradition, the melodic range is very small, making them fantastic for use in the early education classroom due to the students’ developing vocal ranges. These pieces also provide an excellent opportunity to educate students about the country the piece is from, as well as create the opportunity to include students from the area in the conversation to discuss their culture. Involving the students in their curriculum allows for student centricity and representation, which are key concepts for helping students to be successful in the classroom. However, this is only effective if students are comfortable discussing their culture and if the students are not doing the heavy lifting of educating their peers as this is not a student responsibility. 

One piece that would be excellent to use in the early education classroom is the Nepali wedding song, “Basant.” This repetitive piece utilizes drumming, which could be replaced with clapping or lap patting in case of a lack of access to drums, and discusses the festival of Basant, which is a South Asian festival celebrating the arrival of spring. Most of the piece consists of the words “fedima, feedima basant aayo” but the first two lyrics could be substituted with English words such as “yellow in spring” or “kites in the spring” to create a connection between the Nepali text and the activities in the celebration of Basant. “Basant,” Online Education for Kids, accessed March 12, 2022. Other pieces that could be used in varying classrooms include, but are not limited to, the West Bengali piece “Champa Botir” as a beat keeping and passing game in addition to singing; Nepali piece “Khaunla Pataima” as a way to incorporate student involvement on other instruments, movement, as well as singing; Punjabi piece “Munda Jathda” for movement in the bhangra dance style, and Kannada piece “Uppina Kaayina” as a way to educate about Indian food and a way to practice keeping beat keeping whilst singing. All Around This World, “India for Kids — Champa Botir — All Around This World,” 2018,; “Champa Botir,” Online Education for Kids (blog), accessed March 12, 2022,; “Khaunla Pataima,” Online Education for Kids (blog), accessed March 12, 2022,; Munda Jathda,” Online Education for Kids (blog), accessed March 12, 2022,; “Uppina Kaayina,” Online Education for Kids (blog), accessed March 12, 2022,

Popular music is another genre of music that is not regularly present in the canon of music education traditions, especially those of non-Western traditions. In South Asia, as with its Western equivalent, an important aspect of popular culture is Bollywood, formerly called Bombay Cinema, which consists of films in Hindi. A similar industry is Tollywood, or Telugu cinema, which is made up of films in the Telugu language. Natalie Sarrazin, “India’s Music: Popular Film Songs in the Classroom,” Music Educators Journal, September 2006; “From Bollywood to Tollywood (via Kollywood, Mollywood & Sandalwood),” UK India Business Council, November 18, 2011, A piece from the Bollywood tradition that can easily find its way into the music classroom is the Hindi piece “Baar Baar Din Ye Aaye,” loosely translating to “this special day has come.” “Baar Baar” is a birthday song from the 1967 movie Farz. Many classrooms, especially at the younger level of education, have their own birthday traditions and songs. The “All Around This World” arrangement of the piece stays true to the movie, beginning by singing the Hindi first followed by the words “Happy Birthday to You” in English. “Baar Baar (Happy Birthday),” Online Education for Kids (blog), accessed March 12, 2022, Utilizing this simple and repetitive piece that contains both Hindi and English as part of the birthday tradition can serve as a point of relation for students. Students from India who may be familiar with this movie can find a connection to their peers from Western traditions who may have grown up watching Western movies, at home or in music classes, from this time period such as The Sound of Music (1965) or Mary Poppins (1964). Furthermore, this can expose Westernized students to a fun song from, potentially, their Indian peers’ culture and will help them to develop a greater understanding of popular cultures other than their own. 

“Chandamama Raave” is a Telugu piece from the Tollywood movie Sirivennela that can be incorporated in the music classroom in a myriad of ways. “Chandamama,” Online Education for Kids (blog), accessed March 12, 2022, “Chandamama Raave” is derived from the folk tradition, and has been used in many different styles, including a widely popular setting from international non-profit organization Playing For Change called “Chanda Mama.” “About,” Playing for Change, accessed May 15, 2022, Utilizing this arrangement as a movement and/or beat keeping exercise for students, in addition to singing along for at least part of the piece, is just one way that this song could be incorporated seamlessly into the music classroom. Additionally, comparing the two previously mentioned settings of the piece would be an interesting way to help students to begin to form and articulate thoughts regarding the music they are experiencing and performing. Older students may find it beneficial to find similarities and differences between the Playing For Change arrangement of the piece and other sorts of uniting song experiences in Western popular music traditions. 

In studying these sources and compiling information, I began to reflect on my own experiences with South Asian musics. I was not exposed to anything within these musical cultures until my first semester of my undergraduate degree. At this time, a choir I was in attempted to perform a piece from a musical tradition within South Asia. I found the learning process to be frustrating, as even though I did grow up in an area with a larger population of South Asian students in comparison to the surrounding areas, I had not previously encountered music from this area of the world. Unfortunately, the piece from my college experience was not programmed for our concert; in the rehearsal process, canonized Western pieces were prioritized. Moreover, in looking back, I do not know if we were learning the piece in the most culturally informed way due to the concert-induced time constraints, which I feel frustrated my professor. I have heard of the struggle of a “lack of resources” for teaching music outside of the Euro-American canon from other educators countless times throughout my teaching experiences. This supposed “lack” is often blamed for many music educators not teaching music outside of their canonized comfort zones when in reality, educators may just not know where to look.

In my own research I have found it quite simple to locate decent resources for South Asian music education online via a search engine or online library search. The process of finding these sources requires additional research into determining if the sources are reputable and provide correct information, but generally it is quite simple to do this with the technology available to a large portion of music educators in the United States of America. I was able to find many easily accessible resources on South Asia and South Asian musics that I have saved for my future teaching endeavors including: ISMTrust, All Around This World, and Smithsonian Pathways. Although online resources may not always be as reputable, they can still provide beginning guidance for educators. Further, since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, many key text and CD recorded resources in ethnomusicology, as well as in the contested term of world music, can now be found online. Even so, these are still primarily hard copy text references. 

My ease in finding the aforementioned resources began to spark questions including: are music educators using these resources? What are they doing to represent this area of the world in their curriculum?  From these contemplations, I was prompted to conduct a survey of current kindergarten through twelfth-grade music educators from music teacher Facebook groups I am part of to find out firsthand what music educators are teaching about South Asia and its music. In this survey, I asked the educators where they were from, what grade levels they teach, if they have incorporated South Asian music into their curriculum and how they did this, why they chose to incorporate South Asian music, what the student reactions were, and finally if their students from a South Asian background felt more represented in their classroom. 

My ease in finding the aforementioned resources began to spark questions including: are music educators using these resources? What are they doing to represent this area of the world in their curriculum?

There were seventeen total responses to the survey and of these seventeen educators: three do not teach music of South Asia; four educators responded that they rarely teach music of South Asia or only teach it minimally; five educators were planning on incorporating musics of South Asia into their curriculum; one teaches music from Asia but not musics of South Asia, unfortunately further perpetuating the “’a part, yet apart’ status” Govind, “‘An Undeniable Presence,’” 8. that many South Asians feel from the Asian American population; and three educators actively teach music of South Asia in their curriculum. Yet, this only amounts to sixteen responses.  One educator responded that they do teach South Asian music with the “melody and dance to Sesere Eeye.” Abigail Ryan, “Usage of South Asian Music in the K-12 Music Classroom,” Google Form, November 2021, However, based on the program notes of this piece found in the sheet music, this piece is actually from aboriginal Australians named the Torres Strait Islanders. “Sesere Eeye (SSA) Arr. Mark O’Leary| J.W. Pepper Sheet Music,” accessed November 29, 2021, This, unfortunately, supports my suspicions that many music educators do not know how or where to look for resources to better educate themselves prior to teaching music outside of their comfort zone. 

I inquired where the music educators were located in the hopes that I would find that educators in larger cities with more diverse populations were attempting to teach more diverse musics to cater to all populations in their school. Unfortunately, with this group of educators I was not able to see that correlation. Further, I was surprised at the amount of positive student responses to South Asian music reported. Of the seven educators who have taught South Asian music, all reported having supportive and positive student reactions. I was anticipating that at least one educator would have a negative experience but fortunately this was not the case. Additionally, the same seven educators reported that their South Asian students felt more represented and reflected in the classroom as a result of this education on South Asian music. 

Of the educators who responded yes when asked if they teach South Asian music in their music curriculum, one was Punjabi, so they felt comfortable and knowledgeable on the subject. This educator also discussed reaching out to their own parents for childhood songs that might not be found in online or text resources. The second response in this category discussed running an after-school club centered around students learning about world musics. The final response teaches an entire unit on Indian folk, classical, and modern musics. This educator discussed their utilization of the South Asian parent community for resources as they come from an area with “a high south Asian population.” Ryan, “Usage of South Asian Music.” A common theme throughout these responses is that of reaching out to knowledgeable populations on their music. Reaching out to knowledgeable communities is a very important and necessary thing to do when teaching a style of music that is not from the educators’ own culture or if they require further resources, yet music educators are not always comfortable with reaching out like this. However, it seemingly creates the best results within the classroom and should be a common practice of music educators.

Of the educators who responded rarely or minimally when I asked if they teach South Asian music in their curriculum, one stated that they usually use this music to “make a connection for a new student or to make a connection with the students’ classroom” (e.g., students are reading a story in their classroom that takes place in Asia). Ryan, “Usage of South Asian Music.” The fact that this educator uses South Asian music to make connections with students who are presumably from South Asia is quite wonderful. This representation would certainly allow the student to feel more comfortable and represented in the music classroom as well as provide them with a space to express themselves. Another educator in this section of responses teaches South Asian music through an educational music website called Quaver that became popular during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the 2020 to 2021 school year. Quaver is used by this educator mainly to celebrate relevant holidays or Asian American month. The educator also stated that they have “many Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim students.” Ryan, “Usage of South Asian Music.” Again, this representation is extremely important for the students from South Asia, as well as the other students in the classroom as they are educated about the cultures that surround them in the school. 

From this survey and the sources consulted, it is evident that there are slow improvements to increasing inclusion of South Asian musics in the United States’ kindergarten through twelfth-grade music curriculum. However, the general exclusion of this population is still a raging issue due to biases ingrained from an early age. The only way to confront and stop these biases from occurring is through education and experiences at an early age. One of the best places to facilitate both education and hands-on experiences is the kindergarten through twelfth-grade music classroom. Including musics from South Asia in this classroom would help to put a stop to the vicious cycle of a lack of education regarding this area resulting in bias and ignorance. Musics such as Hindustani music, jati and konakkol, folk and vernacular songs, as well as Bollywood and Tollywood musics are just several examples of the many ways that South Asian musics can be incorporated into the classrooms. Music educators will need to properly prepare themselves with the knowledge needed to teach these musics through online and text resources to prevent tokenized representation. Prepared music educators reaching outside of the Euro-American canon to better represent and reflect their students in their curriculum both breaks the cycle of ignorance, and creates a long-lasting, positive impact on students’ lives. 


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