Dr. Francesca Cassio - short biography

Sardarni Harbans Kaur Chair in Sikh Musicology and Associate Professor of Music at Hofstra University, New York.

Francesca Cassio is a scholar and singer with expertise in Indian music. Trained in both the Western and Indian music cultures, her work combines the theoretical and practical aspects of music as well as Western and Asian approaches. She has lectured, performed in concerts and made recordings in India, America and Europe.

Dr. Cassio earned a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from Università La Sapienza di Roma (Italy), in affiliation with Benares Hindu University (India), under the tutorship of Professor Giovanni Giuriati and Professor Ritwik Sanyal. In 2008 she received the prestigious Orientation Grant from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations  (ICCR) for a contribution on the influence of dhrupad and of Gurbānī kīrtan  in the music of the Rabindranath Tagore.

Prior to joining the Hofstra faculty, she served as a visiting professor in musicology at Visva Bharati University in Shantiniketan, India; lecturer of ethnomusicologyat the University of Trento, Italy; lecturer of anthropology of music at the Conservatory of Adria, Italy; and lecturer of ethnomusicology and Indian music at the Vicenza Conservatory of Music, Italy.

Since 1991, Dr. Cassio has conducted extensive research in India, where she lived and has been professionally trained in classical vocal music and in the Sikh repertoire, according to the Guru-Shishya Parampara (“teacher-student”) tradition.

Dr. Cassio is disciple of legendary masters of the 20th century: Padma Bhushan Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Khan Dagar, Padma Bhushan Vidushi. Girija Devi, and the Hazoori Ragi Bhai Gurcharan Singh. Dr. Cassio also received extensive training in vocal and percussion tradition by Bhai Baldeep Singh, the 13th generation exponent of Gurbānī kirtanyas. She is one of the few Westerners performing and teaching the traditional Sikh Gurus’ repertoire in India, Europe and the United States.
 Author a book on dhrupad (medieval genre of Indian classical music), Dr. Cassio, in more than twenty years of research, has worked extensively and written about Indian music (Gurbānī sangīt, dhrupad, Rabindra sangīt, thumrī, semi-classical, folk and devotional repertoires), the yoga of sound, music therapy, Gender Studies, intercultural education, ethnomusicology and music pedagogy.

Sardani Harbans Kaur Chair in Sikh Musicology, established by Dr. Hakam Singh in memory of his wife, facilitates the intellectual pursuit of music's longstanding role in the Sikh tradition. As the first of its kind in the United States, the chair shares that rich heritage with the next generation of students.

Dr. Francesca Cassio - extended biography

Associate Professor in the Department of Music (World Music Course) and Sardarni Harbans Kaur Chair in Sikh Musicology at Hofstra University of New York (USA)

Visiting Professor in Musicology at Viswa Bharati University (Shantiniketan, India)
Former Lecturer of Ethnomusicology at the University of Trento (Italy)
Former Lecturer of Ethnomusicology, and Indian Vocal Music at the Conservatory of Vicenza (Italy)
Lecturer of Anthropology of Music at the Conservatory of Adria (Italy)

Scholar and musician with specialization in Indian Music, Francesca Cassio has an activity of lectures, concerts and recordings in India, USA and Europe.

Author of the book "Percorsi della voce, Storie e tecniche esecutive del canto dhrupad" (Ut Orpheus Ed. 2000).
Dr. Cassio is writer of several articles on international journals.

Studies and Degrees

Graduated in Ethnomusicology (1996) with full marks at University of Rome 'La Sapienza', with a thesis on 'Dhrupad Vocal Music of North India', where is included a part about Gurmat Sangeet . The thesis was successfully defended after three years of fieldwork, under the tutoring of Prof. Giovanni Giuriati.

Doctorate (2004) in History and Analysis of Musical Cultures (Ethnomusicology), with a three years grant from University of Rome 'La Sapienza', under the tutoring of Prof. Giovanni Giuriati. The thesis is in affiliation with the Benares Hindu University (India) under the guide of Prof. Ritwik Sanyal for the research part in India. The title of the thesis is: 'Female Singers in Hindusthani Music. The case of the Courtesans', an original research with fieldwork on the last living court performers.

ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) Orientation Grant, received in 2008 for a research about the influence of Dhrupad and Gurubani Kirtan in the music of Rabindranath Tagore. The research took place in Kolkata, and in Viswa Bharati University (Shantiniketan).

Musical training

Dr. Francesca Cassio lived for several years in India where she received training in the following disciplines:

Gurubani Kirtan, being initiated in 1994 to the original vocal tradition from Bhai Avtar Singh, is deepening the studies under the guide of Bhai Gurcharan Singh and Bhai Baldeep Singh.

Dhrupad singing, and Naada Yoga, learning since 1994 from:
- Amelia Cuni
- Padmabhushan Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar
- Prof. Ritwik Sanyal from the Benares Hindu University

Thumri singing with:
- Padmabhushan Smt Girija Devi, in Benares and Kolkata (at Sangeet Research Academy) since 2002.
- Smt. Saira Begum

Rabindra Sangeet, being trained by:
-Smt. Pramita Mallik, Dr. Reba Som and Pt. Sitamshu Roy of Shantiniketan, between 2007 and 2009.

Sanskrit, and the theory and practice of Naada Yoga (the Yoga of Sound), under the guide of Prof. Vagish Shastri of Benares since 2003.

Born in a noble Italian family, Dr. Cassio received since her childhood a traditional education in Western Music theory, and training in piano playing from her aunt Luigia Cassio, who was a reputed piano teacher.
Dr. Cassio in her youth studied also:
- Classic Guitar, learning from M° Daniele Macchi
- Vocal Jazz, learning from M°Lee Colbert
- Western Opera singing, with M° Timothy Martin


Fluent in: English, Hindi, Gurumukhi-Punjabi

Research projects, from 1995 to 2011:

1) University of Rome 'La Sapienza': Research on Dhrupad Vocal Genre. The fieldwork took place in North India among the community of Dhrupad performers (including the Gurubani) in period of time between 1995-1999. Under the tutoring of Prof. Giovanni Giuriati

2) Italian Ministry of Foreign Affair, Documentation of Dance and Vocal Repertories in the Hindu-Buddhist Culture (project leader Prof. Giovanni Giuriati). Fieldwork 2000-2002, about Devadasi tradition of South India (Tamil Nadu).

3) University of Rome 'La Sapienza' in affiliation with 'Banares Hindu University', under official permission of the Indian Government.
Fieldwork research on Female Singers in Hindusthani Music. With particular reference to the case of the Courtesans, North India 2000-2004. (see doctoral dissertation mentioned above)

4) The Danielou Collection of Tagore Songs transcribed for piano and voice. In 2007 Francesca Cassio has been in charge on behalf of the Harsharan Foundation to record and perform for the first time the entire Collection of 18 Songs of Rabindranth Tagore translated into English and transcribed for voice and piano in form of Western lieder by the French musicologist Alain Daniélou.

5) ICCR, Orientation Grant for a research on the influence of Gurubani Kirtan, Dhrupad in the Rabindra Sangeet, in collaboration with Visva Bharati University of Shantiniketan and the Tagore Centre of Kolkata 2008-2009.

6) Documentation of the Folk music tradition from the Thar Desert (Rajasthan, India). The research took place from March till Dec. 2010 among the Communities of folk musicians of the Jodhpur, Jaiselmer and Barmer districts, involving the main performers from the Kalbeliya, Langa and Manganiar ethnic groups.

7) Gurmat Sangeet.
A research project started in 1995 on the musical heritage of the Sikh Community in India. The study begun within the frame of the fieldwork on dhrupad, under the two renowned singers Bhai Avtar Singh and Bhai Gurcharan Singh, and developed under the guide of their disciple Bhai Baldeep Singh in Delhi.
The research has been carried in Delhi, in Amritsar, Anandpur Sahib, Ludhiana, and in the Sikh Community in Jodhpur where Dr. Cassio lived
for about a year, and regularly performed in the local Gurdwaras.

Teaching experiences

1) Lecturer of Ethnomusicology at University of Trento (Italy) from 2005 till 2009.
Dr. Cassio gave for 4 years a full course of Ethnomusicology, and has been tutor for several degree dissertations in Ethnomusicology.

2) Lecturer at Vicenza Conservatory (Italy) for the Degree Course of Indian Music.
From 2001 till 2010, Dr. Cassio taught Ethnomusicology, Indian vocal music (dhrupad and thumri), and Analysis of Raga.
At Vicenza Conservatory the teaching has been developed in the theoretical and practical aspects of Indian music. Dr. Cassio gave vocal training to beginners and senior students of the Course, as well as theoretical classes about musical analysis and Ethnomusicology oriented to Indian Music.

3) Lecturer of Anthropology of Music at the Conservatory of Adria (Italy) from 2007 till 2010. A course in Anthropology of Music about the history of the discipline, the methodology of research and analysis.

4) Visiting Professor in Musicology at Viswa Bharati University (Shantiniketan, India) from January to March 2009.
In the frame of the Professorship Dr. Cassio gave for 3 months two lectures a week on Ethnomusicology, Anthropology of music, World Music.

5) Workshops of Indian Music and Gurubani Kirtan in private and public Institutions.
Dr. Cassio has been invited in public institutions such as Conservatories, Universities and private venues like yoga and music schools for teaching the Indian Music and –in particular- Gurubani Kirtan tradition, in its theoretical and practical aspects.

Among other activities:

Artistic Producer for publications of Indian Music:
- "The dhrupad of the Dagar Bani": Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar, III Millennio ed., Rome, 2003, double cd with 20 pgs of booklet
- "Tagore: Selected songs" sung by Reba Som, 2004, III Millennio ed., Rome 2004
-"Ab Ghar AA, Songs from the Benares Courtesan's Tradition": Saira Begum, Questz world ed., Kolkata, 2009
- Tagore's Songs of Love and Destiny. The Danielou Collection, Voll. I and II: Performed by Francesca Cassio and Ugo Bonessi, Viswa Bharati University/Questz World, Kolkata, 2009

Artistic Director of Sangeet Mela, an International Festival of Indian Music
(Tradition and Innovation) at the new Auditorium of Rome (in collaboration with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and the Indian Embassy in Rome) in 2003 and in 2004.

Member for the Scientific board of 'India', the journal of Indian Embassy in Italy from 1997-2007

Member of ESEM (European Seminar in Etno Musicology), since 2001 till present.


CASSIO FRANCESCA, Percorsi della voce. Storia e tecniche esecutive del canto dhrupad nella musica classica dell'India del nord, Bologna, Ut Orpheus edizioni, 2000.


CASSIO FRANCESCA, Learning the Musical Repertoire of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib in a Western Context. An approach to cultural rules and universal experiences of sound. Acts of the Symposium at Hoftsra University, Sikh Formations, 2011
CASSIO FRANCESCA, The Influence of Dhrupad and Gurubani Kirtan in Tagore's Songs, in preparation for Viswa Bharati University Press, 2011
CASSIO FRANCESCA, Il nada yoga: la scienza del suono nella tradizione musicale indiana, in Musica e Scienza (a cura di Ignazio Macchiarella), LIM, Lucca, 2010
CASSIO FRANCESCA, Saira Begum and the Court Tradition in North India, Les Colloques d'Ambronay, Lion, 2010
CASSIO FRANCESCA, Oceans of Colours, notes in the cd booklet of Amelia Cuni, Navras Records, London, 2008
CASSIO FRANCESCA, Artistes ou Concubines? La tradition vocale fèminine en Inde du Nord, Cahier de Musique Traditionelle 18, Atelier d'Ethnomusicologie, Geneve, 2005.
CASSIO FRANCESCA, In memoria di Alain Danielou, in <<India>>, Indian Embassy Journal, vol.1, Roma, 2005.
CASSIO FRANCESCA, voce MUSICA INDIANA, in <<Le muse: grande dizionario critico di arti visive, letteratura, musica e teatro>> - Dictionary of Music- Novara: De Agostini, 2003-2004.
CASSIO FRANCESCA, The Dhrupad of the Dagarbani, notes for the cd's booklet, III Millennio edizioni, Roma 2003.
CASSIO FRANCESCA, An Italian Raga, in <<I for Italy>>, Italian Embassy Journal, Year VIII, n.1, New Delhi, 2002.
CASSIO FRANCESCA, La musica classica indostana come esempio di integrazione tra la cultura hindu e quella musulmana, in "Fedi e Culture oltre il Dio di Abramo", (a cura di Giovanni D'Erme), Fondazione Carlo Levi, Matera, 2002.
CASSIO FRANCESCA, La musica classica indiana: mutamenti nella produzione e nella fruizione dopo il 1947, in "Il Subcontinente Indiano verso il Terzo Millennio", (a cura di E. Basile, M. Torri), Franco Angeli., Milano, 2OO2.
CASSIO FRANCESCA, Nuova Delhi: la musica classica indiana fra tradizione e innovazione, in <<India>>, Indian Embassy Journal, vol 1, Roma, 1999.
CASSIO FRANCESCA, Le incantevoli melodie del sitar di Ravi Shankar, in <<India>>, Indian Embassy Journal, vol.2, Roma, 1998


Tagore's Songs of Love and Destiny, The Anthology Collection. Questz World, Kolkata 2010
Tagore's Songs of Love and Destiny, The Danielou Collection, Voll. I and II, Viswa Bharati University/Questz World, Kolkata, 2009
Tagore's Songs of Love and Destiny, The Danielou Collection, vol. I, Harsharan Foundation, 2008
The Calcutta Mass, Luis Bacalov, Mondo Tv edizioni 2007
Taffetas, Most Records, UK, 2004
Chador, Primrose Music, 2004
I Canti dell'Orlando Furioso, Paolo Vivaldi, Terzo Millennio ed., It., 2002
Sacred Moments, Primrose Music, 2000


Italy, France, England, India, Bangladesh and United States

21/11/2010, Jodhpur, Guru Nanak's Birthday Celebrations in the Gurdwara. Kirtan sangat with Gurmit Singh Gyani on tabla.
24/10/2010, Jodhpur, RIFF Festival, at Meherangarh Fort, with Langa musicians from the That Desert
21/10/2010, New Delhi, Festival, Indian Institute of Technology. A solo concert of dhrupad with Pandit Mohan Shyam Sharma (pakhawaj)
16/10/2010, Mumbai University (India), vocal recital in collaboration with Italian Institute of Culture
13/08/2010 Jodhpur (India), Sagar Haveli, solo concert with Dilshad Khan on sarangi, tabla Ustad Rashul Khan
17/06/2010 Adria (Italy), Teatro Comunale. Solo performance of dhrupad and Gurubani kirtan, accompanied by Pandit Mohan Shyam Sharma, on pakhawaj
21/05/2010 New York (USA). Hofstra University, "Sikh Music and Word", short performance, with Nihal Singh on dilruba and Parminder Singh (pakhawaj)
06/03/2010 Roma (Italy), Centro Yoga Naad. "Gun Nada". I canti del Shri Guru Granth Sahib, kirtan sangat with Siri Ram Kaur on pakhawaj.
29/12/2009 Dhaka (Bangladesh) in collaboration with Italian Embassy in Bangladesh, "Tagore's Songs of Love", recital with Ugo Bonessi on piano.
27/12/2009 Calcutta (India) Tagore Centre, (in collaboration with Italian Embassy in India) "Tagore's Songs of Love", recital with Ugo Bonessi on piano.
24/12/2009 Mumbai (India) Mood Indigo Festival (in collaboration with Italian Embassy in India) "Tagore's Songs of Love", recital with Ugo Bonessi on piano.
21/12/ 2009 New Delhi (India) India International Centre, (in collaboration with Italian Embassy in India) "Tagore's Songs of Love", recital with Ugo Bonessi on piano.
31/10/2009 and 01/ 09/2009 Roma, Teatro l'Orangerie, "Il concerto cantato" recital for voice, tanpura, cello and piano.
08/08/2009 Isola di Salina (ME), I Canti dell'Orlando Furioso, recital for voice, tanpura, cello and piano
17/07/2009 Citta della Pieve, "Tagore's Songs of Love", recital with Ugo Bonessi on piano.
22/04/2009 Trento, Spazio Archeologico, solo performance Indian classical music with Pepe Fiore on tabla
06/03/2009 New Delhi (India) Delhi University, East and West Music Conference, Dhrupad solo Recital with Pandit Dal Chand Sharma
19/02/2009 Calcutta (India), Tagore Centre. Recital "Dhrupad roots of Rabindra Sangeet" solo performance accompanied by pakhawaj, and Dilruba, in jugalbandi with Smt. Kaveri Kar
03/10/2009 Ambronay (Lione, France) Festival of Early, In Jugalbandi with Smt. Saira Begum, accompanied by tabla and dilruba.
23/08/2008 Calcutta (India), Tagore Centre. "Tagore songs of Love and Destiny" vol 1, recital with Ugo Bonessi on piano
19/08/2008 New Delhi, India International Centre. "Tagore songs of Love and Destiny", vol 1, recital with Ugo Bonessi on piano sponsored by Italian Insitutte of Culre New Delhi
09/03/2008 New Delhi, India International Centre. Tagore songs of Love and Destiny", solo recital with lecture
18/02/2008, Vicenza, Conservatorio, Recital Indian classical music, with Federico Sanesi on tabla.
01/11/2007 Bergamo, Teatro Donizetti, Opera di Amore e destino, (Tagore's songs in the trascription of A. Danielou for voice and piano),
25/10/2007 Venezia, Fondazione Cini, Darbari Sangeet, Recital of dhrupad with Federico Sanesi on Pakhawaj, Broadcasted on RADIO 3 (national Radio)
24/07/2007 Roma, Acquedotto Romano, Dhrupad recital, tanpura e tabla.
02/01/2006 Genova, Teatro Carlo Felice, Operaina dei Magi, with string a quartet
04/11/2005 London, ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA, Voxygen (opera composed by Talvin Singh for 5 singers, tanpura and tabla)
05/11/2005 London, ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA, Voxygen (opera composed by Talvin Singh for 5 singers, tanpura and tabla).
21/06/2004 New Delhi, International Music Festival, Solo performance accompanied by tabla and sarangi, sponsored by Italian Institute of Culture New Delhi January / May 2001, Roma, ETI e Teatro 'Canti dell'Orlando Furioso'. Accompanied by a string quartet and piano.
Tour of Concerts between 1997/1998 with the Indian group Govinda.
Between 1993 and 1998, several concerts as professional jazz singer.
Tour of concerts in 1991/1992 as soloist in the Orchestra of M° Nicola Piovani (Oscar Award) in the Opera 'La Cantata del Fiore e del Buffo'.
Aprile 1991, in the orchestra for the tour with the Italian actor David Riondino

Main Radio Programs, Conferences

1) Conference "The Hermeneutics of Sikh Music and Word", 22 May 2010, New York, Hoftsra University (USA)
2) Interview on personal research projects in India, Radio Vaticana, March 2010, Italy
3) Program on Indian Music, (Broadcasted in 5 parts) on RADIO VATICANA, February 2010
4) European Seminar in Ethnomusicology, 22 Settembre 2009, Londra: "The singer and the gesture" (England)
5) Conference at Delhi University, Seminar on Indian Music and Globalization (06 Marzo 2009) (INDIA)
6) Series of Lectures and conferences at Viswa Bharati University as Visiting Professor in Jan-March 2009, Calcutta (INDIA)
7) Conference at University of Shantiniketan, (INDIA) March 2008
8) International Conference on India and the West (University of Amsterdam), November 2008 (Netherland)
9) Le Femme et l'Interdit, International (Ambronay), October 2008 (France)
10) 'La musica dell'India India', Radio Program, Italian National Radio 3rd channel, April 2007 Italy
11) 'Music and the Art of Seduction' , talk and interview at The Netherland National Radio, 2005, (The Netherland)
12) Conference and Concert at the Italian Cultural Centre (New Delhi, India 2004 (INDIA)
13) 'An Approach to Indian Music', program on Radio Vaticana, Italy 2004
14) Interview, 'Tagore and his Music', Radio RAI Due, Italy 2003
15) Lecture at The University of Tanjavur (INDIA), December 2002
16) Indian National Television (DD1) 25 Dicembre 2002, interview and short recital. (INDIA)
17) Conference about Indian Musical Tradition (Oslo) Norway, 2001

Main Reviews on magazines and newspaper about performances:

The Open Magazine, 13 November 2010, New Delhi (India)
The Rajasthani Patrika, 25 October 2010, Jodhpur (India)
The Dainik Bhaskar, 25 October 2010, Jodhpur (India)
The Times of India, 25 October 2010, Mumbai (India)
The Times of India, 22 August 2010, Jodhpur (India)
The Daily Star, 27 December 2009, Dhaka(Bangladesh)
The 8Th Day, 31 August 2008, Calcutta, (India)
The Mumbai Mirror, 22 August 2008, Mumbai (India)
Corriere della Sera, 15 May Roma 2005
The Hindu 21 June 2004, New Delhi (India)
India (rivista dell'Ambasciata indiana in Italia), Roma Maggio 2005
La Repubblica, 22 aprile, Roma, 1995
La Repubblica, 1 Novembre, Roma, 1995
La Repubblica, 16 aprile Roma, 1991