Michael Nixon

Michael Nixon was born in Cape Town. He started out as a scholar at Loreto Convent, Sea Point, but matriculated from Pretoria Boys High. Pursuing a musical career he began to learn to perform Indian classical music, with the most generous, accomplished and creative people in South Africa, in Chennai, India, and in the USA; this study continues today. Alongside performance he sought to make theoretical and historical sense of India’s vast musical tradition, resulting in a number of publications and a 1986 thesis on the important South Indian musical-dramatic work, Nantanar Carittiram. This 19th-century work—dealing in an original, imaginative and humane way with a Dalit saint’s life—caught the imagination of the Indian nationalist movement and of Indian South Africans; these people saw in it parallels with their personal and political conundrums. Along the way he studied ethnomusicology and developed his interest in African music. Besides lecturing in the USA, Durban and at UCT, he has—since 1980—been involved with audiovisual archives and museums. He has found curating the Percival R Kirby Collection of Musical Instruments at UCT an exciting stretch of skills and intellect. His research project on the collector and collection entails biographies of Kirby and his collection, and finds a stimulating and sustaining base in the Research Initiative in Archive and Public Culture.