Oregon Folklife Network

Nisha Joshi

2012-2013 TAAP AWARDEE

Traditional skill/art/craft: Rajasthani Folk Songs

Ethnic Background: Hindu

Apprentice: Shivani Joshi

Contact Information

Phone: 503-629-0277

E-mail: n_joshi@msn.com

Website: www.swaranjaliacademy.com

Describe your traditional skill/craft/art, when and why it is done, and your history with it.

Rajasthani folk songs are traditional songs of the region of Rajasthan, India. These songs describe the daily life of the villagers and incorporate aspects of nature, religion, festivals, and important events in life such as childbirth. These songs are performed solo and in groups. The tunes are relatively simple such that others can follow along. The vocalist is accompanied by instruments such as harmonium , dholak, manjeera, and ravanhatha. Dancers also accompany the musicians. This form is the mother of gypsy heritage.

How and from whom was the tradition learned?

I was born and raised in Rajasthan, India in a family where dance and music were given great value. I was the youngest in the family and learned songs from my siblings, relatives, and neighbors. My parents were not musicians. However, my father was a devotee who stressed good music practice habits. I have accumulated a large number of songs just by exchanging them with friends and family. In 1972, I moved to Delhi and performed them on the radio and television.

Why is this cultural tradition important to your community?

Portland, Oregon has a large Indian community. Many people from Portland have already visited Rajasthan, India; they have enjoyed its rich culture and folk music. Thus, I feel that the richness of traditional music should be shared with more people. This apprenticeship will certainly help me popularize this music. Even though we live so far from India, our interest in folk music will keep this folk tradition alive in the Indian community in the U.S.

How, when, why did you come to Oregon?

I cam to the U.S. in the early 1980s. In 1983, my husband was enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University of Oklahoma. In 1984, I submitted my Ph.D. thesis at the University of Delhi, India. I then moved to Norman, Oklahoma. We shifted to Oregon in 1990 for my husband’s work. I opened my music school in Oregon in 1991 and began teaching at Lewis & Clark College and Reed College in 1993.

Nisha Joshi Biography

Birthplace: Jodhpur, India

Birthdate: 4/13/53

I, Nisha Joshi, Doctor of Philosophy and Masters in Indian Classical Music from University of Delhi, India, have taught Indian classical music at graduate level to university students. My total teaching experience in India spans more than six years. During this period, I regularly performed both Indian classical and folk music of Rajasthan on Delhi radio and television.

In 1984, my husband and I moved to the state of Oklahoma in the United States of America before moving to the Pacific Northwest in 1987. In 1990, we settled in Portland, Oregon where I established my music school, Swaranjali Academy of Indian Music. I give private and group vocal, harmonium, sitar, and tabla lessons in my home to a group of over seventy students.

I have performed both classical and folk repertoire, as well as sitar, at numerous community events, festivals and concerts. I also choreograph folk dance of Rajasthan. I have promoted Indian vocal and instrumental classical music through lecture demonstration at various universities in the Northwest area.

Beginning in 1991, I became a member of Kalakendra, Society for the Performing Arts of India, and a year later I was a part of the board, consisting of Indian music and dance enthusiasts of all nationalities and cultures. Over the years I took on positions such as treasurer, and to this day I am part of the concert committee.

Since 1993, I have taught undergraduate classes at both Lewis & Clark College and Reed College in Portland, Oregon. These classes include vocal, Harmonium, sitar, as well as tabla. At the end of each term at Lewis & Clark, the students perform in a program where all world music students have the opportunity to showcase their progress. Similarly, Reed College, on certain Friday’s at 4pm a program called Friday Four students sign up to perform world music in front of their instructors and peers.

In 1995, I was selected to participate in Jack Straw Productions’ Traditional Artist Support Program that was supported by the National Endowment for Arts, the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Community Folk Arts Program, and Washington State’s King County Arts Commission. Through this program I was provided with a professional sound studio and engineers to record me singing folk songs of Rajasthan. As a result, I was invited to perform with eight other artists who also participated in the Jack Straw project at the 1996 Seattle Folklife Festival, a festival which draws hundreds of thousands in attendance each year.

In the next few years, I registered my school under the state of Oregon, and students and parents began to encourage me to start a degree program and give examinations each year. This would involve the affiliation of a university in India. In 2005, Swaranjali Academy of Indian Music became affiliated with a university in India called Pracheen Kala Kendra, located in Chandigarh, India. Since then, I have organized vocal and instrumental examination through this university. Each year, 20-25 students take the exam. This degree is recognized by universities in India, and after completion of each level, they receive a certificate from India. Beginning in 2010, I have become the music examiner for the Raja Rajanji School of Music, located in Torrance, California, who are also affiliated with Pracheen Kala Kendra.

In July of 2010, I organized the first Manch Pravesh performance of any of my students. Similar to an arrangetram, Manch Pravesh is of great importance in the study of Indian classical music or dance, primarily in South India. It is a public performance put on by the student after the teacher feels that the necessary skills have been acquired. Miss Sanjana Rao performed solo vocal classical and light music for two hours while playing tampura, as Mr. Kishan Patel accompanied on table, and I accompanied on harmonium.


Indian Cultural Association – awarded in appreciation of promotion and teaching of Indian arts and culture, Portland, Oregon (2009)

Recipient of project and individual artist grants, Regional Arts & Cultural Council, Portland, Oregon (1998)

Master Artist for Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, Oregon Folklife Network (1997)

Selected Artist for Jack Straw Production’s Artist Support Program (1996)

ACHA Peace Star Award – awarded by the Association for Communal Harmony in Asia, Portland, Oregon (1995)

Lewis & Clark College World Music Department – awarded grant to organize a Spring concert.