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School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
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School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
University of London
Department of Music

Type of Program and Degrees Offered

BA Music. Music can be either taken as a single subject undergraduate degree or as joint honours together with one of the many languages (from Swahili to Japanese) and other disciplines (from Anthropology to Religions) offered at SOAS. The degree includes training in the discipline of ethnomusicology, a closer look at musics from around the world, and world music performance.

Mmus Ethnomusicology. The Mmus in Ethnomusicology introduces the themes, issues, and methods of the discipline, and enables the student to pursue in-depth study of the musical traditions of a selected region or regions of Asia or Africa. The degree can be studied full or part time and suits anyone wishing to deepen their understanding of world music, as composers, teachers, or others, as well as providing a training programme in preparation for further research.

Mmus Performance. This degree programme has been designed primarily for practising musicians who wish to specialise in world music performance while studying for an academic degree. Students study an Asian or African performance tradition in an innovative package which includes study of the region’s musical background, performance theory, and practice-based research.

PhD. The Department of Music has a strong tradition of research and encourages applicants for research degrees. Research topics do not need to focus on Africa, Asia, or their diasporas, but can explore other topics under the broad rubric of ethnomusicology. Current students are tackling a wide range of topics and approaches including practice-based research.

Program Focus

The Department has two basic objectives: to provide training of the highest possible standard in the academic discipline of ethnomusicology, and to pursue in-depth understanding of the musical traditions of Africa and Asia through teaching and research.

Special Resources

Music staff offices are on the 5th floor of the main SOAS building. Room 511 contains the Department audio-visual archive and facilities for Research Students. OpenAir radio Studio is also on the 5th floor, and our recording studio is on the 4th floor. Rooms 512, 513 and L4 are small practice rooms. In Sept 2010, we moved into newly refurbished teaching rooms and large practice rooms on the ground floor. Various other rooms in the School also hold specialist AV and IT equipment relevant to music. The large Main Library of the School holds books, journals, and recordings, including standard major reference works on music such as the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. The New Grove Dictionary, as well as dozens of major music journals, can also be accessed on-line from computer terminals in the Library or elsewhere on the SOAS network. The Main Library holds thousands of audiovisual materials relevant to Asia and Africa. Listening and viewing facilities are provided in the Library, and most CDs are available on short loan. Among special items in the Department's collections are: field recordings, films and slides of South Asian music made by Arnold Bake from the 1920s to 1956, a large working collection of musical instruments from Asia and Africa, and extensive staff collections. We run a very popular regular term time concert series, and an annual performance-centred World Music summer school. See "Related Websites below for URL. We run a weekly departmental seminar and collaborate with the Institute of Musical Research for seminars, research training programmes, and workshops. Performance groups include tabla, gamelan, kora, Thai mahori, and Korean percussion. Students may also study with London-based teachers/performers informally linked to SOAS. Instruments include congas, guqin, koto, ’ud, Ewe drumming, and Cuban piano.

Full-Time Faculty in Ethnomusicology

Dr. Lucy Durán. Lecturer in African Music. Music of the Manding Cultural area; the development of popular music in post-independent Africa; the interconnections between African and Caribbean music; Afro-Latin Caribbean music.

Nick Gray. Lecturer in the Music of South East Asia. Music of South East Asia, Indonesia, Bali, especially music for the Balinese shadowplay, composition, improvisation, analysis, music, and religion.

Rachel Harris. Senior Lecturer in Ethnomusicology. Ethnomusicology; musics of China and Central Asia, especially Uyghur; pop and globalisation; music and ritual, music, identity, and politics.

Keith Howard. Professor of Music. Ethnomusicology; Music of East Asia especially Korea; Korean culture and society; composition; music education; shamanism; music and religion; the music business.

Angela Impey. Lecturer in Ethnomusicology. Music of southern and eastern Africa; music/sound, memory, and place; music, advocacy, and human rights; music and gender.

D. Richard Widdess. Professor of Musicology. North Indian art-music; history of music in South Asia; Newar music; music theory and analysis.

Abigail Wood. Joe Loss Lecturer in Jewish Music. Jewish Music, especially contemporary Yiddish song and klezmer, music in immigrant communities in Israel; music in Jewish-Christian relations; urban and internet-based fieldwork.

Owen Wright. Research Professor of Musicology of the Middle East. Music of the Islamic Middle East; historical musicology.

Affiliated Faculty

Andrew Channing. Senior Teaching Fellow. Founder and artistic director of the UK’s leading gamelan group, Lila Cita, Andy Channing studied gamelan in London and at the University of Indonesian Performing Arts. Since 1991 he has taught and performed Balinese and Javanese gamelan throughout the UK at arts centres, schools, and universities, including SOAS.

Carlos Chirinos. Studio Manager of Open Air Media. Carlos graduated from our MMus programme in 2006 and now runs the very successful SOAS online radio station "OpenAir,” as well as teaching on the prize-winning Undergraduate course "Presenting World Music on Radio.”

Kadialy Kouyate. Senior Teaching Fellow. Kadialy Kouyate comes from a large West African musical family of djalis who are well known in Mandinka history. Since 2005 he has been teaching the Kora to undergraduate and postgraduate students at SOAS.

Sara McGuinness. Senior Teaching Fellow. Sara McGuinness is well known on the UK Salsa scene, and has played written and arranged for many of the UK’s top bands. She runs Malecon Productions which provides workshops in Cuban and related music. She teaches Cuban piano at SOAS and runs an undergraduate course "Introduction to Sound Recording.” She is also completing her PhD in the department.

Rowan Pease. Senior Teaching Fellow. Rowan Pease completed her PhD on Korean pop at SOAS in 2002, and now teaches the very popular "Music Business” course. She also works in an editorial role on SOAS journals and served as reviews editor for Ethnomusicology Forum.

Sanju Sahai. Senior Teaching Fellow. Sanju Sahai belongs to the Benares Gharana of Tabla playing. He has accompanied many of India’s legendary musicians and collaborated with many international artists. He is Artistic Director of a South Asian music youth orchestra and has been teaching tabla at SOAS for many years.

General Program Statement


  • SOAS Department of Music is the leading centre for ethnomusicology in the country, and the only department dedicated to the study of the music of Asia and Africa.
  • SOAS offers an environment where the languages and culture of Africa and Asia are studied and researched in depth, with the most diverse student profile in the country, and hundreds of related societies and activities on offer.
  • SOAS Department of Music is ranked amongst the top music departments in the UK for research and teaching.
  • SOAS library houses a major collection of books and journals on world music, as well as thousands of audiovisual materials relevant to Asia and Africa.
  • We run a high-profile World Music concert series, and an annual performance-centred World Music summer school.

Study in London

The capital, as home to many vibrant and diverse communities and diasporas whose music is our study, and host to a breathtaking array of world music concerts, workshops and festivals, is in many ways the natural home of ethnomusicology in the UK. SOAS Music students draw on and actively participate in the rich musical life of the city.


The teaching staff in the Department possess a range of expertise which covers five continents and a wide variety of approaches to the study of world music. Between them, they command years of fieldwork experience, world class publications, and performance skills.

The Department also supports post-doctoral research fellows who contribute their expertise to the department’s teaching. Recent projects include Chinese Buddhist music, North Indian Khyal songs, Central Asian dutar performance, and "Growing into Music” on children’s learning.

Performance at SOAS

SOAS Department of Music offers the most vibrant and exciting world music performance programme in the country. Performance is a key part of all degrees. In-house world music groups include tabla, gamelan, West African kora, Thai mahori, and Korean percussion. Students may also study with London-based teachers/performers informally linked to SOAS. Instruments include, among many others, Chinese qin, Japanese koto, Iraqi ’ud, Ewe drumming, and Cuban piano. SOAS Students organise their own bands and regular world jam sessions, and recordings can be made and mastered in our dedicated music studio.

Financial Support

The School offers a range of scholarships to support postgraduate study at SOAS:

  • SOAS Open Scholarship
  • SOAS Bursary
  • SOAS Research Student Fellowship
  • Abu-Hakima Bursary
  • Bernard Buckman Scholarship

Awards of the University of London:

  • Central Research Fund

Scholarships provided by the British Government:

  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • Overseas Research Students Awards Scheme

Other awards administered by SOAS:

  • Felix Scholarships
  • ELAP Scholarship

For further details, see Financial Aid under "Related Websites" below.

Further Information

Lucy Duran for undergraduates. Email: ld@soas.ac.uk

Keith Howard for MMus Ethnomusicology. Email: kh@soas.ac.uk

Nick Gray for MMus Performance. Email: ng19@soas.ac.uk

Richard Widdess for PhD. Email: rw4@soas.ac.uk

Program Website


Related Websites

World Music: http://www.soas.ac.uk/music/summermusicschool/

Financial Aid: http://www.soas.ac.uk/registry/scholarships/

Tour of SOAS: http://www.youtube.com/user/soasuniversity#

OpenAir Radio: http://www.openair.fm

Jewish Music Institute: http://www.jmi.org.uk

British Forum for Ethnomusicology: http://www.bfe.org.uk

The content for School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) was last updated June 25, 2010.

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