“Nazir was one of the most extraordinary individuals I have met. In addition to his keen intellect, he was warm and personal in his own special way. As an ethnomusicologist, he was highly respected; we will miss his wit, his insight on all matters, and his untiring commitment and devotion to his students and the discipline of ethnomusicology. Nazir had many achievements. One of the most important, in my opinion, was his role in the founding of the Department of Ethnomusicology at UCLA. He was the primary person who agitated for department status and he became our first department chair, serving in this position from 1988 through 1990. Because of Nazir's efforts, the UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology continues to be one of the premier programs in the world for the study of ethnomusicology.”
– Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje, Chair, Department of Ethnomusicology, The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
“Nazir Jairazbhoy was one of our most distinguished ethnomusicologists. He made seminal contributions to the study of Indian music, in its classical and folk varieties, and to the methodologies used by ethnomusicologists to conduct research in diverse cultural settings. Nazir's intellectual acumen was complemented and enlivened by a wonderful sense of humor and great personal warmth, and we will miss him sorely.”
– Christopher Waterman, Dean, UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture
“Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy brought a unique and very special sensibility that will be sorely missed by his friends, students, colleagues and relatives. He was particularly sensitive to the multiple identities that individuals carry since he himself manifested many. As an ethnomusicologist he was a leader in many respects: as the president of our scholarly society in the mid 1970s, as the founder of the Archive and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology in India in 1982 and as the founder of the first separate department of ethnomusicology in the world in the mid 1980s. He was also a leader as a scholar, opening up and significantly enlarging the study of Indian music. He developed groundbreaking theory of its classical system and in loving partnership with his wife Amy, original ethnography in many of its regional forms. As a friend and colleague, he opened his home and his heart to many over the years, in a way that is altogether too rare in our busy and busy making world. If there is one word to describe him, it is that he was inimitable; in his being and his thinking and his generosity towards others. We who knew him can only feel gratitude for the always special time we were able to spend with him.”
– Daniel M. Neuman, Professor of Ethnomusicology, UCLA
"I met Nazir Jairazbhoy nearly forty years ago when I was a graduate student and he taught two summer-school courses on Indian classical music at the University of Washington. His classes were an unforgettable combination of rigorous, logical thinking; humorous and engaging story-telling; vast knowledge communicated through his own playing of the sitar; and sincere engagement with his students and their futures as scholars. These qualities were reflected in his scholarship, his service as president of the Society for Ethnomusicology, and his inaugural chairmanship of UCLA's Department of Ethnomusicology. His personal and scholarly contributions to his field of research, his students, and to UCLA will not be forgotten."
– Timothy Rice, Director, The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
Nazir Ali was one of the greatest personalities of Indian classical and folk music in the west and subcontinent of India and all the sounds and musical developments and evolution of Indian music. I am very fortunate that I knew him for a long time since the 196Os. He was very interested in the sounds and technique and art of surbahar. I am privileged that I had been able to enlighten him with my sincere efforts.
He made numerous recordings of my sitar and surbahar and he has a huge collection of not only my recordings from BBC presentations and other European stations broadcasts but also numerous performances in my life. Not only that but he had the same treasure collected of all the great masters and was very knowledgeable about their values. He also had great fascination for the different aspects of musical sounds even from the street beggars and their folk instruments and their styles of singing and playing those instruments. He recorded in the streets and Indian villages and remote places in search for those amazing sounds and songs.
Nazir Bhai played a very important role that changed my life. After a very successful performance in 1964 with my brother, Ustad Vilayat Khan, at Edinborough music festival he introduced me to Dartington College of Arts and to Sir Leonard Elmhirst. This helped me to be invited to Dartington as a teacher of Indian classical music on the Elm Grant. During those days I was fortunate to have had day to day meetings and conversations where I was often invited at his residence when Nishi and Angela and his son were only children. He also introduced me to SOAS in London for a teaching post during the 70s before his left for Canada with his family. Then finally he moved to Los Angeles. I will always remain very grateful to him that he also invited me to UCLA on a very respectable invitation as a regent's lecturer in the 80s. I did some very valuable recordings for UCLA during that period of authentic compositions based on very technical sounds, the gayeki ang on sitar and he did my video recordings of technique and art of javari and sound modifications through the bridge of sitar (javari). I played for Nazir Bhai these rare pieces on sitar and surbahar with my love and affection.
I can go on writing of my loving relation with this great man whom I always respected like my own elder brother. But here I express with all my love and affection and respect to Amy. She changed his life to a higher level of romantic companionship where she had taken care of this wonderful genius of a man for a long time in his life. She traveled with him all over the world and taking care and making recordings and lectures and helping him participate in international music festivals. Amy with her loving efforts also tried to raise her knowledge of all kinds of music of India of which Nazir Bhai was considered one of the greatest musicologists.
Nazir Bhai's life had been very rewarding and his contribution towards the musical education, collection and preservation will remain immortal. We will always be in debt to Amy for her love and devotion to Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy. I will always remember him with great respect and love in my heart and will always consider myself as one of the nearest and dearest to him and his loving family.
I pray to Allaah for Amy's well being and send all my blessings to his family. I will be very honored and grateful if I can be of any service and provide any assistance to help in his memory.
– Ustad Imrat Khan, one of India's most illustrious and senior sitarists, 1983 Regent's Lecturer at UCLA
Please forgive this form of communicating my real sorrow at learning of Nazir's passing. He was a powerful presence with a vision that, as you know, has significantly impacted AIIS and me personally. My first contact with Nazir came when he was still dreaming of the institution that has become the ARCE. I don't think I'd ever met anyone so deeply committed to an idea, a vision. That alone was sufficiently persuasive to me and made it easy for me to persuade the AIIS trustees to take on the institution as Nazir's idea became reality. It has flourished, as you know, and grown into the major resource for Indian music. The ARCE lives as Nazir's legacy. Doubtless there are other forms of his legacy, both material and memories. For me, in fact, the memory is his commitment and determination has served as a real inspiration. You have my deepest condolences. Know that you're not alone in mourning Nazir's passing.
– Frederick M. Asher, Department of Art History, University of Minnesota
"Nazir was a wonderful mentor to junior faculty as well as to generations of students. Together with his wife Amy Catlin, he helped me set up my courses when I had just arrived at UCLA in 1997, gave me endless useful AV tips, was always keen to hear about my fieldwork in China, and was a superb table tennis coach. I'll miss all of this greatly, not to mention his lively wit and sense of humour."
- Helen Rees, Professor of Ethnomusicology, UCLA
Nazir and Amy hired me the summer after I arrived at UCLA to do some work, in the office set up in the front room of their house, on the Arnold Bake project. They remain the most gracious and friendly of employers I've ever had. I wasn't terribly good at the work, ignorant as I was of Indian history and battling as I was post-school-year lethargy, but they were kind and encouraging throughout. Each day, as soon I managed to clock in a few hours, I would wander into the kitchen, where food and drink would materialize out of nowhere, and Nazir and Amy would sit and talk to me while I ate and drank. It was there, in the kitchen, that I grew to love them. It was also there that they showed me-by example, never by preaching-how to be a dedicated scholar, a meticulous researcher, a creative thinker, an attentive spouse. Nazir, with his fecund, unpredictable mind and melodious, whispery voice, was a mesmerizing interlocutor. He was also a walking paradox, a breathtaking combination of wisdom and irreverence, old-world grace and new-world iconoclasm, well-earned melancholy and wicked humor.
I reflect back on that summer-and on the subsequent constellation of parties, house concerts, and (for me) humiliations at the ping-pong table-often. I remember thinking at the time that it was a shame I wasn't focusing on Indian music, as Nazir and Amy clearly had so much to give and were so eager to pass their knowledge down to my generation. But even though I walk in different musical worlds, I carry their passion and purpose with me. Amy, I can't thank you enough for this.
Nazir, you will be missed.
- J. Martin Daughtry, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology,
Department of Music, New York University
Amy -- We were sorry to receive the sad news of Nazir's death. It sounds like a cliche´,
but his death marks the passing of an era. As you know better than most people, there was no
ethnomusicology in India before Nazir. While there were scholars of Indian music - classical,
regional, folk - ethnomusicology really began with his work. The AIIS Archives and Research
Centre for Ethnomusicology are his permanent legacy. We will create an appropriate memorial
to remind visitors of his pioneering role.
Marta joins me in sending our condolence.
- Ralph Nicholas, President, American Institute of Indian Studies, Department of
University of Chicago
Dear Amy-- I'm sure the tide of memories and tributes arising on Nazir's
passing will swell and threaten to swamp you, so I'll be brief. Nazir was, simply,
one of a kind, and that is becoming less and less common in our academic circles,
which seem to be producing very competent and also very colorless people. When
I started, the Seegers, Merriams, Hoods and all were defined not just by positions,
but personalities that projected their quality of mind into the public world in
memorable ways. Nazir belonged to that tradition, so leaves a particularly large
gap as one of the surviving members. I remember that well, from the moment he
arrived, shivering, in Windsor, Ontario, of all places, when I was in Ann Arbor.
It was great to be with him on the SEM board or just in casual interactions-- what
a man! Warm regards -- Mark
- Mark Slobin, Professor of Music, Wesleyan University
Thank you for posting the interesting obituary of Nazir. I had of course heard
from Dan Neuman about Nazir's death a few hours after the event, and dashed off a short
note to Amy, but your posting reminded me of the many occasions on which I had
interactions with Nazir. They were always somehow unconventional and had an imaginative
Actually, I first heard of Nazir in 1957 when on a brief visit to London I tried to look up local
ethnomusicologists and was invited to tea by Dr. Arnold Bake, who said something like "what a
shame you aren't staying longer, you should meet this young man who is studying with me and doing
very interesting work." A shame, indeed, but upon returning to USA in 1958, my then new
colleague Richard Waterman told me how he had tried, then guesting at the University of Washington,
to figure out what ragas were all about, and discovered an engineering student who played sitar and
helped him enormously. Then, in 1969 I think it was, at a meeting of the SEM Midwest Chapter, an
Indian gentleman from nearby Canada introduced himself, an when I said, "oh yes, I know who
you are," he almost fell over.
I was glad he had settled in North America, and for a few years we saw each other frequently, in
Windsor, Detroit, Urbana, visiting each other's institutions and running into each other at meetings.
I remember a scene, rather funny in retrospect, when Nazir and his student Gordon Thompson drove me
over the Ambassador Bridge late at night from Windsor, having heard me give a talk and sold me a
sitar, to catch a plane home from the Detroit airport. A rather
bemused group of border guards didn't know what to do with a gentleman obviously Indian, a student
with obviously long hair (I admit, hard to remember Gordon like that) and a guy who could pass for
an Iranian, with an odd instrument, with a most flimsy excuse for making this trip at midnight,
and after a thorough search of the car, coming up empty-handed.
We soon invited Nazir to teach summer school at Illinois -- I think it was in 1971 -- a very
successful session except for his unsuccessful attempts to teach me a bit of sitar -- and we began
to hatch a plot to bring him to our department permanently. Nazir expressed pride in his department
of South Asian studies at the University of Windsor -- he boasted that it was the only department
that included a course in Indian cuisine -- but he was eager, having by then published his major opus,
"The Rags of North Indian Music," to go to a larger institution. The Illinois project
didn't get off the ground (in part, we were being punished financially by our governor for having
gone on strike against Nixon), and soon he wrote to me, asking for a letter to support his candidacy
At UCLA, the "rest is history." Unfortunately, after that, we met much less frequently. When in 1986,
UCLA offered me a position and Jim Porter hosted a wonderful party, Nazir, who had perhaps had a
glass or two, kept coming up to me repeatedly and crying out, "just say yes!" -- an
expression that maybe came naturally in the era of Nancy Reagan's "just say no." It would
have been fun to work with Nazir (and all the rest of you), but for a small-town boy like me,
Urbana was probably the better solution.
Conversations with Nazir were almost always friendly arguments -- but arguments, going on at
length. He was the embodiment of Amartya Sen's "The Argumentative Indian." In 1990
(seven years after its publication) I was honored to find a 15-page review of my "Study of
Ethnomusicology" in the pages of JAMS, friendly and appreciative but really pretty critical,
but reading not so much like a critique but like a conversational argument, juxtaposing viewpoints.
We argued about a lot else -- the position SEM should take towards many things while he was
president, ways in which ethnomusicologists should present their findings. Lots more.
What struck me was that as Nazir got older he became increasingly imaginative and struck out increasingly in new directions. Most of us (I'm afraid I am one of the few people in Nazir's age group still around in ethno.) tend to become more conventional when we get older. But Nazir, with his interest in restudies, particularly of Arnold Bake's trips, in his allegorical writings such as "High-Tech Shiva" (which he described to me as "the most important thing I've written" but don't know whether he was caustic or serious), his move (with Amy) into visual ethnomusicology, his taking up of other art forms (I admit I don't know when these various interests of his began) struck me at the time as odd, but now fit into the scheme of his life in a perfectly orderly way.
I'll close by remembering his Seeger lecture. A couple of months before the event,
the program chair (was it you?) wrote to say that Nazir would appreciate it if I would
introduce him. Of course I was honored to do so, and wrote a (hopefully not too long)
conventional introduction. As I walked up to the stage, Nazir whispered to
me, "you may find this lecture a but unconventional" (or something
like that). Well, you 'll remember that it really was unconventional. At
first many people were a bit outraged as Nazir gave a detailed autobiography and then shook his
finger at us collectively. Later people began to voice greater appreciation, and last
week, one of my Illinois colleagues wrote me a note saying "I found
it the most refreshingly imaginative Seeger lecture I have ever
Well, I was only going to write a short note but found myself reminiscing at length. My apologies.
Please, however, do share this with colleagues at UCLA and others, if you think it appropriate.
I will certainly miss Nazir and our occasional exchanges, and our arguments. Sadly, we somehow
didn't connect at SEM last year. I should have been more persistent.
Best wishes and greetings.
- Bruno Nettl, Professor Emeritus of Music and Anthropology, School of Music, University of Illinois
I am so sorry to hear of the death of Nazir Jairazbhoy. I indeed knew
him, and valued the association highly. I first met him when he was a
research assistant for Arnold Bake, at SOAs, and I was living in
London at the time. I attended his classes where he demonstrated on
the sitar, and I very nearly became a student of Bake, having received
a letter from Nazir on the eve of my departure back to New Zealand,
expressing disappointment that I would not be staying, because the
deal was almost done. If it had come off I suppose I might have ended
up studying Vedic music instead of Maori. I also remember attending a
conference, I forget which one, where I was present with my wife and
then six year old daughter, and Nazir was at the top banquet table
with conference dignitaries, and would much rather have been sitting
with us. Instead of devoting himself to talking with them he set about
amusing my daughter by hanging a spoon on his nose! A lovely man, and
he will be sorely missed.
- Mervyn McLean
The twilight days of June 2009 were devastating for the World of Music, and for me.
Ali Akbar Khan, arguably India's most celebrated classical musician and teacher, passed away on Thursday June 18th in his San Anselmo, California, home after a long and painful illness. He was 87, and was still teaching at his College of Music in San Rafael, California, until a couple of weeks before the end. I have known Ali Akbar for 50 years both as a close personal friend and as one of the most eminent performing artistes in the world who recorded innumerable seminal albums for me at EMI during his long and illustrious career.
Two days later, on Saturday June 20th night, fellow DOSCO Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy (275-J) died at 81 in his Van Nuys, California, home following a valiant battle with a treacherous malignancy that he fought with amazing courage, determination and fortitude until the end. Together with Bawa Prehlad Singh (50-K) and myself (111-H), Nazir was one of the three senior most Doscos resident in Southern California. His obituaries published by the Los Angeles Times and released by the University of California at Los Angeles, from where he retired as Senior Professor Emeritus of the Music faculty, are featured separately in this edition of Rosebowl.
Just after midday on Thursday June 25th, UCLA Hospital in Westwood, California, informed a stricken Pop world that Michael Jackson had died of cardiac arrest at age 50. For anyone in any way familiar with popular Music, there has never been an icon of comparable acclaim, stature, and renown as Michael who commanded the unquestioned and loyal adoration of millions of fans throughout the world. He stupefied audiences everywhere, equally as a dynamic song writer and as a magical “live” performer and dancer, throughout a public career which started when he was the five year old Super Star of the Jackson Five.
But it is regarding the loss of Nazir that I wish to share a few personal sentiments with those who might have known him at School and subsequently. Over the last several years when we have been fellow Southern Californian residents, both of us deeply involved with Music, I have had the tremendous good fortune of knowing Nazir as one might a lifetime’s cherished friend. A gifted and excellent musician and a painter of considerable note, he was globally recognized as among the most eminent Ethnomusicologists in the world for his outstanding research and several learned publications, and as a brilliant Professor who was a mentor and role model to many generations of devoted students. Fortunately, Nazir’s valuable lifetime’s work will be ably carried forward by our dear friend Professor Amy Catlin Jairazbhoy, his beloved wife and active professional collaborator for many years.
As much as his impressive academic accomplishments, Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy was a man of exquisite personal taste and refinement, with immense interests in innumerable matters of the mind and spirit. Above all else, he was blessed with a gracious personal sensibility that combined enormous humility, humor, concern and kindness together with conviction and commitment and integrity regarding matters that he believed in. My wife Sumitra and I will remain forever grateful that our lives were touched so deeply by Nazir’s warm friendship, by his caring and his affection, and by the Grace of this wonderful and extraordinarily civilized man.
- Bhaskar Menon is the first Chairman & CEO of EMI Music Worldwide
I just wanted to send you, even belatedly (for which many apologies) a message of condolence. The sad news reached me via Viram Jasani and then of course on various messages from professional organisations. I haven't worked out how, if such a thing can be done, I can mark the passing of this truly wonderful and remarkable man. What I will say now, to you and to the whole world, is that I owe him an enormous amount, and that is actually quite an understatement. The day I met him (in the Spring of 1968) was one of the happiest of my life and it also changed it. No one outside my family has exerted such a kind, supportive and benevolent influence on me. Not only did Nazir really teach me (at SOAS) which was something of a new experience for me(!), but he also did everything he could to get me to the next stage (at Wesleyan). Without these things I could not have gone on to getting the job here at York, not to mention so many other outcomes.
Nazir had such passion, not only for his own ground-breaking work but also for the development of his students. He always stood out and no one can take his place. I shall always remember him with love and immense gratitude.
If you come to these shores again I hope we can meet up. I have very fond memories of our meetings in Holland and here in York (when you got me on the phone to Nazir for a lovely chat). Now I shall try and find the best way of paying more public tributes to him.
- Neil Sorrell, York University, UK
I just can't let today go by without emailing you just to express my horror and great, deep sadness when I learned of Nazir's death. I got on the SEM website this morning and there, right in my face, was the announcement. I am sorry it took me so long to find out, and thus, to send you any kind of sympathy message but I don't check many websites each day!
I, for one, am going to miss Nazir deeply. He was always a good friend, one who had a sense of humor no matter what was happening that was anything but funny, and a wonderful scholar who I loved to discuss "things" with. There are many people who aren't comfortable just yakking about ideas, theories, data, pondering questions, and the like, and Nazir was never one of them. I always considered him one of my truest, best, and oldest friends in SEM, and thus, I am devastated...
I can remember the days when all of us smoked--Gerard, Nazir, me, Lois Anderson, and so many others, and really thought nothing about it. I quit 7 years ago when I was hospitalized with db. pneumonia and almost didn't come back home...We all are going to miss Nazir in ethnomusicology as a discipline, you as a team of film makers always advancing knowledge about traditions, places, peoples and opening up new questions, you both in the Society, and seeing you as a couple at the meetings, always involved and surrounded with supportive friends.... IF there is anything I can do to help YOU, please just ask. Meanwhile, know that you are NOT alone in your sorrow or grief.
In deep sadness,
- Charlotte J. Frisbie, anthropologist
Amy, I just found out about your loss and wanted you to know how badly Masako and I both feel about that. I will never forget Nazir who helped me more than any other person in ethnomusicology and was a wonderful and inspiring friend to me. I know we argued all the time but it fills me with emotion to remember that now and all the things he talked about that I thought about later when I was by myself. I don't think I ever knew such a brilliant person who was also so much fun to be with.
- Richard Keeling, ethnomusicologist
I have hesitated many times to write this message. I was speechless when I heard the
sad news. It still has a lingering effect on me. I am very thankful that I had a
chance to spend some time with someone as extraordinarily talented and
genuinely caring as Nazir. I wish I had had another chance to see
him. The news spread in Japan quickly as well and everybody who came
in contact with Nazir is very sad and feels a great loss. During the local
summer festival here in Osaka, I prayed for his safe journey to the other side.
I know you have so many friends and colleagues there, but if there is
anything I can do to help please let me know.
My thoughts are with you.
- Yoshitaka Terada, Professor, Department of Research,
National Museum of Ethnology (MINPAKU)
I was extremely fortunate to be amongst the first group of students entering the newly inaugurated Department of Ethnomusicology with Nazir Jairazbhoy as first chair. I am also proudly the last PhD student--and in Indian music--that Nazir saw to graduation in his long and luminous career at UCLA. In November 2006, before Amy and Nazir's second to last extended trip to India, he insisted that I xerox his handwritten translations (Sanskrit to English) of the Music chapters in the Natyasastra, which he and his mentor, Arnold Bake had worked on together for several consecutive years in the 1950s. I took a long breath and did so, at Nazir and Amy's home. I knew I would one day treasure them immensely, and now that time has come.
Nazir was a tremendous and extraordinary professor, mentor, role model, and friend for me. I chose UCLA over several more lucrative offers for graduate school partly due to his public relations charm and the promise of a large faculty resource. My life was forever changed. Nazir offered an intense, involved, and close student-professor relationship. Times in the new department with Nazir as chair were full of heady excitement. Over the years, he allowed me--and most everyone else as well--to share much of his life, including endless Indian meals at the kitchen table--cooked by Amy and himself--, competitive ping-pong matches, scotch before-in the middle-and after matches, and meetings with luminaries such as Ustad Imrat Khan at their home. His seminar lectures were impeccable, as were his undergraduate classes (for which I would be TA or would sit-in at), being of the old English tradition -- ever well-informed, enigmatic, and on top of everything, a sheer delight to listen to.
In all this time that I have known him, he has been generous, kind, and hugely, uniquely, interesting, even if not an easy read. He was demanding and exacting on things musicological, and could be satisfied only by thoroughness in detail, in particular when it came to the subject of raga. He spent one week with me in Bombay, going over one dissertation chapter, all the while providing meals at the Cricket Club of India, where he and Amy have stayed every winter for the last decade and a half. I never imagined the day would come when he would not materialize when I rang the doorbell to the home. His scholarship on raga and diverse musical traditions in India, legacy of the Archives and Research Center for Ethnomusicology (ARCE) in New Delhi, and views of the discipline injected with irreverent humor are inimitable.
Nazir's departure marks the passing of an era in ethnomusicology and Indian music studies. I am privileged to have been a witness to this age. I will always miss him. I wish for Amy comfort, and understanding.
- Meilu Ho, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
It was in 1982 when I met one of the very few people who influenced my entire life. Nazir is in my life the NUMBER ONE professor at UCLA. I can repeat this a million times. I can't continue now. Please keep me posted.
Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy is the best professor I had at UCLA AND one of the greatest Muslims I have ever met.
- Nabil Azzam (Ph.D. '90, Music, UCLA), Founder and Director, MESTO (Multi-Ethnic Star Orchestra)
Dear Amy, I am saddened to hear of Nazir's passing. But I am also happy
to hear that his ending was perfect. I will always have the fondest and
happiest memories of him. He as very important to me in my early years of
music . I feel that what he taught me has always stayed with me and
I cherish the time I had with him. He will always be a part of my life.
Love and best wishes.
- Andy Summers, guitarist from England, former member of The Police
Throwing out the standard syllabus for a graduate field methods class of two, Nazir taught me how to see through a camera's lens and opened a doorway to documentation that I did not previously know existed. Over the years since I met him in the early 1980s, Nazir offered his friendship, guidance and challenges to my intellect that were always brilliant, provocative and occasionally unsupportable.
- Atesh Sonneborn, Associate Director, Smithsonian Folkways
I've been less in touch with the ethnomusicology community than I'd like and
just learned of our loss of Nazir. I heard the sad news in a
very mundane setting, which I think Nazir, with his world wisdom and
ready humor, would appreciate -- I was at the car wash, reading the SEM
Newsletter to pass the time while I waited for the car to come through the
line. I saw his name on the page and thought, oh there's Nazir up to
something newsworthy again. And then I started reading and realized
that was true, but not in the way I expected or wished. So it was that
I found myself crying at the car wash, mourning this mentor and generously
As chair of the department when I arrived at UCLA in 1989, Nazir embodied
ethnomusicology to me -- both the academic discipline and the community.
I'll always remember the time I spent at your house, playing ping pong,
eating, sorting through Rajasthan puppet footage, which was as
much a part of making me an ethnomusicologist as the time I spent in class
or conducting field research. And I won't forget submitting my
project proposal for Nazir's visual ethnomusicology class and having him
say to me kindly, "But the trouble, you see, is that it's not visual."
I remember Nazir and bid him goodbye with laughter and tears, sending
all my condolences and all my thanks for the community you both created.
- Elizabeth Miles Waring (M.A. '92 Ethnomusicology, UCLA)
Dear Ms. Catlin,
I had the honor of meeting Professor Jairazbhoy as a non-musicologist guest of my the girl-friend and now wife Dr. Patty Truchly (Ethnomusicology Class of 2003). I distinctly remember the books and archived materials he maintained in your home and the stories he regaled his guest with during those wonderful parties at your home. I have often reflected on his library, especially the passion and encyclopedic knowledge of their contents. I learned in college that one literal translation of the Aztec word for "scholar" is "one who owns books." Prof Jairazbhoy was truly a scholar.
For Patty, Professor Jairazbhoy was a true inspirationÑü his exuberance, irreverence, and great spirit are unforgettable. But most of all, she remembers his kindness. For her, his broad vision was a living embodiment of what an erudite scholar should be--a quality that was rare in her experience. She will always remember his Seeger lecture with great fondness as it made a huge impression on her in her first year at UCLA. She also treasures the books he gave her from Apsara Press and is especially fond of High-Tech Shiva.
We've always regretted leaving LA and having lost touch with both of you over the last few years that were taken up with completing graduate school and immersing ourselves in the world of dance, among other things. In the years have past since my wife and I have set out into the world UCLA PhDs in hand- in our tiny apartment in Washington DC- we have a small collection of books, tapes, videos, and DVDs, perhaps in homage to Prof Jairazbhoy.
Of late we young scholars are confronted with a new challenge- we are losing our mentors. During an Egyptian dance workshop a few years ago, a flustered young student exclaimed that she "could not do the choreography without him." Yousry Sharif, a great Egyptian dancer, scolded the young woman, "My dear, I will not always be here...you must learn to dance without me so that you may teach the others after I am gone." Reflecting on our time with Prof. Jairazbhoy has taught us that it is time for us to become the teachers, it is our time to be scholars on our own now.
We will share our stories of him with our 2 year old daughter, Lilly Angeliki. It was truly a privilege knowing him, and it is a great loss for us all. We mourn him and hope you may be comforted that he meant so much to so many, even across many years and many miles.
- VP "Patty" Truchly (Ph.D.
UCLA Class of 2003) and CJ Nichols (JD., Ph.D.
UCLA Class of 2001)
Would that I could be in LA to help celebrate Nazir's life on his birth date. I also regret not contributing to the comments; but he meant so much to me that I find myself choking with grief just thinking about our loss.
Nazir changed my life. I had little sense of a personal trajectory or of the possibilities that I might pursue when he came to my Windsor, Ontario high school in spring of 1969. I loved music and I had already been listening to Indian classical music; but he presented such a different image of its potential. Over the years, I discovered new paths for thinking about music and living my life. Where my friends had chosen lives that would make them high-school teachers, he showed me the life of a scholar. I learned a little tabla and began accompanying him when he did lectures; I watched as he entertained even the most inane questions with grace and poise, responding with compassion and eloquence. Before me, I saw someone with an elegance and sophistication I had never quite encountered in a town dominated by factories, foundries, and distilleries. How remarkable.
Others have commented on his significance to ethnomusicology and our intellectual lives and I am deeply proud of my mentor's achievements; but I will remember him for the small quite moments.
In particular, during the summer of 1974, he led a group of us to India to study sitar and tabla; but we also experienced musical life in such different contexts as a rice paddy and an air-conditioned concert hall, not to mention on our veranda playing Yatzee with a courtesan. My most vivid memory of that summer comes from an evening after a day that would have devastated anyone, anyone except Nazir, of course.
We had rented a van, a Matador by brand, to take a few of us into the Satpurna Mountains on the border of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Our goal was to record music by a tribal group who lived in the higher forested reaches of the Narmada River valley. After a day of the Matador climbing up one side and descending in the growing darkness towards our destination village, we reach the Narmada River, which was about a few hundred feet across at this point, or so it seemed. The locals told us of one spot where we could cross, a spot that we cleverly proceeded to miss.
The Matador bobbed gently for a few moments before the river began seeping into the vehicle and the van searched for the river bottom. We scrambled to keep the recording equipment high and dry, but everything else either became submerged or floated down stream when we opened the doors. Some of us took the soggy luggage and the dry Nagra and microphones into the village while Nazir and a gathering crowd of Bhil tribesmen pulled the van out of the river by hand with ropes. The damage was difficult to assess, but we knew we were now destined to be in this village for several days. And then, of course, it started to rain.
With everyone else exhausted and asleep, Nazir and I sat alone with a kerosene lantern and some scotch as the monsoon roared on the corrugated metal roof. I commented on the obvious: the van's repair work (there were no motor vehicles in this village and only a mechanic more familiar with generators than autos), the soggy clothes, the sporadic electricity, my sore feet (my sandals had floated down the river), and the generally dire situation that I thought we occupied. One of the students had a plane reservation in a seemingly impossible few days.
I remember Nazir smiling -- that smile where he leaned his head to one side and back a bit -- and, looking at the roof (which now began to show signs of leaking), he exhaled a puff of smoke and chided me, "It's an adventure, Gordon. God will provide." I believed him and, over the course of the next few days, I heard music quite unlike I had ever heard music before or since. Indeed, I have never been the same since meeting him.
I will miss the man who changed my life and I will do so with a very selfish and private grief that neither words nor even music could ever express.
- Gordon R. Thompson, Professor, Department of Music,
Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York
To All Punesians,
I will not be able to attend either, but I will send Amy a memorandum of how Nazir & the trip changed my life.
(FYI: After the trip I vowed to make a difference in others' lives, so many suffer in silence right before us.
I started working with several groups to help my community on a larger scale: CPS' special Safe Zone which protected many children from certain death by their parents, in Detroit area, MI; helped establish Seattle Youth at Risk, organized annual free health day for homeless children, and an annual summer camp to break the homeless cycle, Seattle, WA; to get the first Aids clinic built in Madison Park, Seattle, WA; worked with Seattle's many homeless find an alternative solution, ... through to my current work to encourage lower income families/students to not drop out and raise funding so they too can attend free college.)
I wish we had been given more notice, maybe a month ago I could have planned something ...
Now I am completely booked.
Kudos to Amy et all to pull this all off in such short notice!
- Laurna Beitler McDanold (Canadian student who participated in the summer program in India that Nazir organized)
Tim Maher's Relationship to Nazir
* A student at the University of Windsor, Canada in the early 1970s
* A member of the 1974 student trip to Poona that he led
* Coauthor with him on two journal articles reporting original music research
* A recipient of several research grants and academic jobs thanks to his
* His frequent companion in rikshaws and taxis and for long, leisurely
meals during a period in 1976 when we were both staying in Bombay
* A lifelong fan of his work, intellect, artistry, wit, patience,
generosity, and charm
How Nazir (may have) Helped me Find my Wife
* By helping me win a research grant with tenure in India, which encouraged
me to study Hindi, I believe Nazir helped me meet my wife
* Because 20 years later at a Sumo wrestling event, that enchanting lady
from Tibet overheard me speaking in Hindi, which she also speaks, and
that's what sparked her interest in me
How Nazir (may have) Helped Save my Life!
* My number never come up in the draft lottery for the Viet Nam war
* Some think that's because my draft card was "blessed" with Ravi
- which wouldn't have happened without Nazir's influence
The Happy Aspect of Nazir
* During the 1974 University of Windsor trip to India, we had an evening of
inspiring recitals by local musicians
* In the reception that followed, students made such comments as:
- How wonderful it was to hear rag Miya ki Malhar played on
- How cleverly phrased the sitarist's mazeetkhani gat was!
- How original and exciting the vocalist's climactic triple
* The artists were clearly surprised by our insightful and
- Causing Nazir to beam with pride
+ (Apparently the artists feared we might be just another bunch of
stoned hippies who wouldn't know a santoor from a
shehnai, or a dholak from a djavari)
The Angry Aspect of Nazir
* One day, a brash young redheaded student barged into Nazir's sitar
class to announce his discovery that in a particular recording,
Ustad Vilayat Khan had (very briefly) touched upon a note that wasn't
officially allowed in a certain Rag!
- I suppose I expected to be given some kind of award for exposing
this travesty of music theory
+ and that Nazir would promise to severely rebuke Khansaheb at his next
- Instead, Nazir's uncharacteristically perturbed response was:
+ Rules don't make music, Artists do!
# and Great Artists are allowed to break the Rules!
* NEVER FORGET THAT
and I haven't!
My Favorite Quote from Nazir:
* "Timji, the Indian point of view would be that you have been blessed!"
- In response to my exclamation "I've been desecrated!", while
extracting my sandal-clad foot from a pile of cow excrement
Can I Get an Extension on my Deadline?
* A year or so ago, I received an unusual request from Nazir
* He wanted me to send him a replacement for a tape I had made in 1977, as
a project for a Computer Science class at the University of Toronto
- It contained an original performance of rag Tilak Kamod by a computer
+ in the style of Ustad Vilayat Khan!
* Although I maintain good archives and I looked in all the right places, I
wasn't able to find that tape anywhere, until I chanced upon its hiding
place a few days ago
- I'll soon dust off the old reel-to-reel tape recorder, digitize this
groundbreaking "performance", and upload it to YouTube, where anybody
can access it
+ Dear Prof J, b/c long time bet. submit this assignment and
yr rqst for replace, wood be gr8ful not deduct pts off grade, even
tho I slow fulfil rqst.
Shrutis in Heaven
* He's joined by Ustad Ali Akhbar Khan (himself also a recent arrival;
another, Michael Jackson, is briskly moonwalking himself out of view)
* Suddenly, Nazir drops his sitar, flings the strap of his trusty Nagra
tape recorder over his shoulder, and dashes away, chasing an ektar-
wielding wandering mendicant
* Reverting to an old habit, he calls for Gordon Thompson (who hasn't yet
arrived there!) to bring the bag of spare microphones and tapes
- You didn't really think Nazir would give up his love for
research so easily, did you?
Although I regret that I haven't kept in very close touch with Nazir (or
Amy) in recent years, my life remains forever changed by his gentle
influence. It was truly a privilege to know him, and I miss him deeply.
My heartfelt condolences to Amy, the family, and all others who loved Nazir.
- Dr. Timothy F. Maher, CEO of Consultix, Seattle WA.
(Former university professor of Computer Science and Experimental
Psychology, specializing in music research.) Tim@TimMaher.org
I hope all is well with you; sorry for being out of touch for so
long. I was stunned to learn of Nazir's death, and want you to know
you have my heart-felt sympathy.
Nazir Jairazbhoy -- a great mentor to so many of us -- has been in my
thoughts repeatedly this year. I feel deeply privileged to have been
his student and will miss him terribly.
It is the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square
Demonstrations, the twentieth anniversary of my getting behind a
camera and repeating to myself Nazir's words: "you must have
confidence in the value of what you are taping, otherwise turn off
the camera." Fancy tricks with the camera cannot add value where it
In Beijing, I did not understand much of what was happening around
me, but I knew that it was important. I turned on the camera in
situations where the lighting was poor, the performances mediocre,
the action unpredictable, the crowds jostling, and my timing off. But
I stood by and documented what to me and many others has become a
unique and irreplaceable historical document. Thanks to Nazir's
training, I was able to tackle a difficult job.
Twenty years later, when I showed my video at the San Francisco
Public Library to a packed room of searching eyes, I realized the
magnitude of the gift Nazir had given to me. That trail-blazing Field
Methods class in 1984 was one of the best parts of all my training at
U.C.L.A., which was valuable indeed. Nazir's humble advice on small
matters amounted to a solid pillar of strength that supported the
work of many of us.
So, Nazir has a place close to my heart and always will. Thanks for
all you did for him and for all of us. I really appreciate it. Your
importance has probably been larger than anyone can ever know.
Best wishes to you always,
Sampson (Ph.D. '93 Music, UCLA)
I will not be able to attend the memorial gathering for Nazir, but
wanted to express my condolences to you.
Nazir was, of course, a gem of human life in this world. Curious,
engaged, serious and even mischievous, he was a real champion of the
people's musical and performing arts. I first met him in Chicago as
he filmed and documented an Indian group for possible participation
in the 1976 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. I still remember my first
impression - "Who is this guy?" He was erudite and respectful,
someone who went with the flow but also made it his own. For someone
who was a grad student - as we both were - he was inspirational as
the somewhat eccentric yet most dedicated scholar.
In the ensuing years I always received enormous pleasure from working
with and hearing from Nazir. His commitment was exemplary. His
legacy, in you, in his students, in ARCE in India, in his numerous
publications and documentation is extraordinary.
- Dr. Richard Kurin
Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture, Smithsonian Institution