Published: January 17, 2013

Harihar Rao, former instructor in the UCLA Institute of Ethnomusicology and co-founder, with sitarist Ravi Shankar, of the Music Circle, passed away on January 13, 2013.

From 1961 to 1966 Rao, a former student of Ravi Shankar, served as director of the Music of India Performance Group at the UCLA Institute for Ethnomusicology, established in 1960 by the late ethnomusicology pioneer Mantle Hood. The Music of India Performance Group was first formed during the 1959-60 academic year and remained an extra-curricular “study group” until the 1964-65 academic year, when the course Music 45F/145F (Music of India) was offered for the first time.

According to Mr. Rao,* when he arrived at UCLA, there were no sitars and only one set of worn-out tablas.  Rao was able to procure new instruments from New Delhi, India, and for the next four years, he taught sitar and tabla and prepared students to perform in the annual spring concert.  He also worked with local jazz musicians, including Don Ellis, to exchange Indian rhythmic ideas. Mr. Rao left UCLA in 1966 to do fieldwork in India and returned in 1968 to direct the Indian Studies group for one more year.

*As told to Donna Armstrong, circa 2004.