South Asian Music & Culture in Canada

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Wasanti Paranjape singing with friends with her husband on tabla. Source: Virtual Museum of Canadian traditional Music.

The story of South Asian music and culture in Canada can be traced to the mid-twentieth century. Starting with a few families finding common musical practice and growing to numerous regional and religious institutions cultivating different musical expressions, South Asian music and culture have come to form a significant component of Canada’s socio-cultural fabric. From small gatherings in basements to sing songs from back home to attending formal concert hall performances by master musicians, music is woven throughout the South Asian Canadian experience.

“South Asia” refers to the culturally related, neighbouring countries found on the Indian subcontinent, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. India is by far the largest and most influential of these countries, however South Asian immigrant communities in Canada are made of a mixture of people from throughout these regions.

South Asian Music and Culture in Canada (SAMC) is a project that traces the phenomenal growth of an immigrant culture that today spans the entire country and has become an active component of broader Canadian life. Performances and recordings of South Asian music and musicians have become an integral part of mainstream culture, popular culture, and classical music and art found on stereos, loudspeakers, stages, and in galleries and other public settings. Universities are teaching it, schools are looking toward integrating it in the curriculum, and visiting artists, poets, and other cultural icons are touring Canada.

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Urdu Poetry (chanted recitation (Tarannum), Edmonton, 1967. Photo Credit: Regula Qureshi.

South Asian Music and Culture in Canada tells the stories of the people who carry and create musical traditions in Canada, and for whom this is a living, breathing part of life and culture. Through generous funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Canada Culture Online program and completed in a collaboration between our former initiative, folkwaysAlive!, in partnership with Smithsonian Folkways Records and the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology, this website features the audio, video, and photographic collections of South Asian music and musicians donated to the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology, as well as content provided by local partners including The Edmonton Raga-Mala Society, Bazm-e-Sukhan Literary Society and the Indo-Canadian Women’s Association.

In addition to the digitized images and audio and video recordings, the SAMC website presents seven thematic chapters with original video, discussion, and lesson plans to delve deeper into the world of South Asian music and culture in Canada.

Visit the South Asian Music and Culture in Canada website.