SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

William Rees Hofmann

BA (MSU Baroda), MMus (SOAS)
  • Teaching
  • Research

Overview

William Rees Hofmann
Name:
William Rees Hofmann
Email address:
Thesis title:
Singing Sufis in Text: Indo-Persian Music and Sufi Poetics ca. 1250-1600
Year of Study:
4
Internal Supervisors

Biography

William Rees Hofmann is a current Doctoral Researcher and Kamran Djam Fellowship scholar at SOAS, as well as a multi-instrumentalist specialising in both the Indian Sarod and the Afghan Rubab. Representing the musical lineages of the Maihar Gharana as well as that of Ustad Nabi Gol of Kabul, he has been studying sarod for the past thirteen years under the tutelage of Satyam Rai in Gujarat, India, and has been a student of the eminent rubab player and ethnomusicologist John Baily since 2013. Hofmann earned a BA in Hindustani Vocal Music from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in Gujarat, India, and also holds an MMus degree from SOAS in Sarod and Rubab Performance. William has performed internationally both solo and with Jāmi Ensemble, including at the Jaipur Literature Festival, Patiala Punjab, Muzaffar Ali's Jahān-e-Khusrau, and the Edinburgh Fringe, among others, as well as run workshops on the classical music of Kabul. For his PhD research, he has been the recipient of the British Institute of Persian Studies Research Grant (2017), the SOAS Ouseley Memorial Award (2017), and the A.H. Morton Scholarship for Doctoral Research in Classical Persian Studies (2019). He has also recently been granted a Senior Performing Arts Fellowship (2020) from the American Institute of Indian Studies to turn his doctoral research on early Sufi song text collections into a performance and lecture/demonstration along with Jāmi Ensemble.

PhD Research

My research traces the history of performance practices between Sufi networks and the courts of the Delhi Sultanates and the early Mughal Empire. By scrutinising Persian archival material relating to Sufis, poets, and courtiers, I seek to interrogate the historiography concerning the study of music and performance practices of the Sultanate period in the environs of Delhi, Gujarat, and the Deccan. My research foregrounds primary sources of cultural and political history from the 13th to 16th centuries, particularly Sufi literature in Persian, delving into contemporary accounts of cultural practices to understand how these figures understood and wrote about their own world. A number of these texts feature some of the earliest Hindavi-language poetry and song-texts meant for performance within the Sufi environment, yet which have been largely ignored within the study of Hindustani music history. In analysing these texts, I also engage with current historiographical conversations regarding South Asian history, looking at Sufi practice and its role in cultural and political history. It is through this lens that I investigate the connections between Sufis, political actors, and courts, and the ways in which religious art and courtly politics influenced the history of music and elite culture.

Research for this project was conducted during archival fieldwork in India, primarily in Hyderabad, Kolkata, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, and Aligarh, in 2018.

Conferences

  • "Panel Co-Convenor, ""Song, Dance, and (Con)Texts: Re-examining performance Traditions in Medieval and Early Modern South Asia"", European Conference on South Asian Studies, Vienna, Austria, July 2020 (Upcoming)
  • ""Songs of Love and Loss: Early Vernacular Sufi Musicking and the Development of an Indo-Persian Music"", European Conference on South Asian Studies, Vienna, Austria, July 2020 (Upcoming)
  • ""The Musical Worlds of Amir Khusraw Dehlavi"", British Forum for Ethnomusicology Annual Conference, Bath, England, April 2020 (Upcoming)
  • ""Songs of Love and Loss: Early Vernacular Sufi Musicking and the Development of an Indo-Persian Music"", Mediating South Asian Music: Manuscripts to YouTube, SOAS South Asia Institute Workshop, London, England, June 2019
  • “Wherever I Look, Oh Friend, There is None Other: Investigating Indo-Persian Musical Interaction Within Two 15th-Century Sufi Texts”, Symposia Iranica, Third Biennial Conference, St. Andrews, Scotland, April 2019
  • “Wherever I Look, Oh Friend, There is None Other: Investigating Indo-Persian Musical Interaction Within Two 15th-Century Sufi Texts”, British Institute of Persian Studies Annual Roundtable, St. Andrews, Scotland, April 2019
  • “Wherever I Look, Oh Friend, There is None Other: Investigating Two 15th-Century Song Texts in Hindi” British Forum for Ethnomusicology Annual Conference, Aberdeen, Scotland, April 2019

Affiliations

  • British Forum for Ethnomusicology
  • British Institute of Persian Studies
  • British Association of South Asian Studies
  • European Association for South Asian Studies

Teaching

  • GTA for H140, Introduction to the History of South Asia
  • Senior Teaching Fellow (co-convening with Nick Gray) for the Music and Culture course.

Research

  • Historical Ethnomusicology
  • Persian Studies
  • South Asian Studies
  • Classical Sufi Poetry
  • Early Hindi
  • Performance