SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

Georgette Nummelin

BA (SOAS), MSC (UCL), PGCE (Roehampton), Advanced SEN Diploma (Leeds Beckett)
  • Teaching
  • Research


George Nummelin
Georgette Nummelin
Email address:
Thesis title:
Music as a Method for Sustaining and Revitalising the Ainu Language and Identity
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors


I am a part time PhD student and an experienced music teacher. I am primarily a classical singer and violinist, but I am also studying the shamisen and tonkori. I have an interest in many aspects of Japanese music, and I play the shamisen and sing in the SOAS Min'yo group. My spare time is taken up by folk metal and Historical European Martial Arts.

Recipient of the Sasakawa Studentship Programme for 2019-2021.

PhD Research

Investigating how contemporary Ainu music is affecting the position of the Ainu language and Ainu identity, and to document the methods and impact of using Ainu by contemporary amateur and professional performers.

The Ainu are an indigenous group native to the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, the island of Sakhalin and the Kurils. After many years of cultural and ethnic marginalisation, and forced and gradual displacement, the Ainu found themselves with a critically endangered language and a disrupted cultural identity, with the lack of an efficacious script for the language compounding issues. As a result, the dissemination of examples of Ainu music and language were often reduced to archival footage or recreations of Ainu culture at tourist locations in Hokkaido. However, in recent years Ainu musicians have begun to gain popularity and media recognition in Japan and abroad, creating a new audience base for both Ainu music and the Ainu language.

I will be engaging with professional and amateur performers and composers, and with the diverse audiences that engage with the music. Additional fieldwork participants will be Ainu language learners of both Ainu and non-Ainu heritage. The aim of my research is to draw on these participants’ experience of learning, creating and performing contemporary Ainu identity through music and language, and to document how these practices can affect the revitalization of cultural traditions, and the Ainu language.

As part of my research I am exploring the potential for the creation of an online collaborative community that will bring researchers, performers, composers, language experts, students from within and outside of the tradition, and educators together to create and share tools to teach the Ainu language and musical traditions. An element of this part of the project is the reflexive ethnography of my own Ainu language learning, and construction and learning of the tonkori.


  • "Interdisciplinarity in linguistic and ethnographic fieldwork' - (Roundtable) and Chair for 'Corpus and Narrative Analysis' session, 4th SOAS Linguistics Research Students Conference 2019.
  • "Language Revitalisation and the Recreation of Identity through Music: A Case Study on the Ainu", BFE Annual Conference 2017.
  • "Singing Þjóðtrú: Nordic Folklore in Viking and Folk Metal", ICTM Ireland Annual Conference 2016.


  • The British Forum for Ethnomusicology (BFE)
  • The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation
  • The Philological Society
  • The International Academic Forum


A qualified music teacher with over ten years experience of primary and secondary teaching in the UK and Japan. Extensive PRU and SEN experience.


  • Ethnomusicology
  • Anthropology
  • Minority Languages