Arun Luthra clapping on stage in front of a microphone stand
The University of Wisconsin–Madison Division of the Arts welcomes Arun Luthra as the fall 2021 Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence. Saxophonist, composer, and konnakol artist Arun Luthra is an American musician of Indian heritage who fuses modern post-bop Black American Music with elements of Indian classical music – especially konnakol (South Indian classical music vocal percussion) . He connects a wide range of modern and classic musical influences to create a vibrant new sound and style.

The Universal Language of Rhythm: Explorations Through Konnakol and Black American Music” is a 3-credit course (Music 497, Sec. 096). This course is an introduction to konnakol –  the Carnatic art form of vocalizing rhythms along with exploring its blending with other musical traditions, particularly Black American Music. Luthra and students will examine rhythm as a phenomenon in the natural world, colonialism, and diaspora as reflected in music. Students will explore the universality of rhythm through science, history, politics, and more. They will also create works that incorporate konnakol concepts, including a collaborative final project.

Mead Witter School of Music logo Center for South Asia logo Department of Anthropology logo
Art Lit Lab logo Wisconsin Science Festival logo

The Fall 2021 Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence Teaching Program is presented by the UW–Madison Division of the Arts and hosted by the Mead Witter School of Music with Professor Johannes Wallmann as lead faculty. Co-sponsors include the Center for South Asia, the Department of Anthropology, and the Wisconsin Union Theater along with the Arts + Literature Laboratory and the Wisconsin Science Festival.

The UW–Madison Division of the Arts has hosted world-class artists-in-residence since 1995 and formally launched the Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program (IARP) in 1999. The program recently changed its name to the Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence Teaching (IART) Program. IART is made possible by funding from the university’s Office of the Provost.

Guest Artists

B.C. Manjunath

B.C. Manjunath started playing music including learning Carnatic Talavadya from his parents. He is one of the few Carnatic musicians who can read, transcribe, and play from western notation. He has accompanied many great artists from India and abroad and has been a regular member of many percussion ensembles. Manjunath has performed in all the major cultural centers of South India and in over 40 countries.

YouTube Channel

Photo: Balu Masti

Camille Thurman

Camille Thurman is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and unique interpreter of the jazz tradition. She plays the tenor saxophone along with bass clarinet, flute, and piccolo. She has four recordings and received multiple awards. Thurman has shared stages with numerous R&B and jazz luminaries. She recently toured as part of Jazz At Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis as a saxophonist. Thurman was also chosen by the State Department under the Fulbright Scholarship grant and American Music Aboard to perform internationally.

YouTube Channel

Selvaganesh Vinayakram

Selvaganesh Vinayakram grew up in a family of musicians. He is known for his performances, especially percussion instruments, including the kanjeera, and working with multiple musical genres from around the world. Selvaganesh’s recordings include Indian classical duets, Carnatic-meets-Hindustani hybrids, and jazz-fusion. He has composed scores and performed on numerous films’ soundtracks. Selvaganesh formed the group Arka, which explores rock with jazz and Carnatic elements. He also established the Vinayakram School of World Rhythms in multiple countries.


  • Watch the promo video for “The Universal Language of Rhythm: Explorations Through Konnakol and Black American Music” course.

Images courtesy of the artists.