Gibb Schreffler

Associate Professor of Music; Ethnomusicology; Applied Music Coordinator
  • Expertise


    Through the study and teaching of music, Gibb Schreffler aims to generate insights both to serve other scholars in academic disciplines and to facilitate individuals’ cultivation of the musical aspect of themselves. His research interests span diverse musical-cultural areas, including vernacular music and dance of South Asia’s Punjab region, historical work-songs of American maritime culture, and the aesthetics of Jamaican popular music. His broad theoretical interests include the ways people engage with music to reaffirm and articulate their cultural values and social identities, along with philosophical questions about the nature, definition, and categorization of music.

    Schreffler’s research in Punjab has focused on the traditions of hereditary-professional drummers, issues pertaining to the social status of musicians, and popular dance revivals. In India he was a disciple of the Punjabi dhol drum master Garib Dass. At UC Santa Barbara, he studied ethnomusicology with Scott Marcus and Tim Cooley and Punjabi language, history, and religion with Gurinder Singh Mann. In a different vein, he is presently writing a book about the early development of the old-time sailors’ chanty genre. This work will illuminate the little-known African-American work-singing practices that would go on to form the basis of an international phenomenon of work-singing on the sea in the mid-19th century.

    Having performed on a wide array of instruments and in eclectic musical styles over the years, Schreffler is currently active as a performer of maritime music and chanties. His synthesis of scholarship and performance may be heard on the album Songs of the Windlass: Classic Chanties of Shipboard Labor, a collaboration with Claremont Colleges students. 

    Research Interests

    • Definitions of music across culture
    • Expressions of cultural values and identities through music preferences
    • The historical development of American maritime work-songs (chanties)
    • The social status of performers in the Punjabi culture of India and Pakistan
    • Musical aesthetics and creative uses of technology in Jamaica
    • Synthesis of ethnography and historiography in music studies

    Areas of Expertise

    • History of Ethnomusicology
    • Punjabi music, dance, and culture
    • Work-songs and chanties
    • Jamaican popular music
    • Sailor songs
    • Race and ethnicity
    • Social class
    • World musical instruments
    • American maritime history
  • Work


    Dhol: Drummers, Identities, and Modern Punjab. University of Illinois Press, 2021.

    Boxing the Compass: A Century and a Half of Discourse About Sailors’ Chanties. Loomis House Press, 2018.

    “‘The Execrable Term’: A Contentious History of chanty.” American Speech 92, no. 4 (2017): 429–458.

    “Twentieth Century Editors and the Re-envisioning of Chanties: A Case Study of ‘Lowlands’.” The Nautilus 5 (2014): 7-51.

    “‘It’s Our Culture’: Dynamics of the Revival and Reemergence of Punjabi Jhummar.” Asian Music 45, no. 1 (2014): 34-76.

    “Situating Bhangṛā Dance: A Critical Introduction.” South Asian History and Culture 4, no. 3 (2013): 384-412.

    “Desperately Seeking Sammi: Re-inventing Women’s Dance in Punjab.” Sikh Formations 8, no. 2 (2012): 127-46.

    “Migration Shaping Media: Punjabi Popular Music in Global Historical Perspective.” Popular Music and Society 35, no. 3 (2012): 333-58.

    Guest Editor, “Special Issue: Music and Musicians of Punjab,” Journal of Punjab Studies 18, no. 1&2 (2011).

    Featured Work

  • Education


    Ph.D. University of California, Santa Barbara

    Bachelor of Music. Ithaca College

    Recent Courses Taught

    • Ethnomusicology in Theory, Method, and Practice
    • World Music
    • Critical Inquiry Seminar: Bad Music
    • Music in Punjabi Culture
    • Global Musical Instruments
    • American Maritime Musical Worlds
    • Sea Chanty and Maritime Music Ensemble
    • Jamaican Musical Aesthetics
  • Awards & Honors

    Awards & Honors

    Award of Recognition for Dedication and Contribution toward Punjabi Folk Culture, BC Cultural Bhangra Academy, British Columbia (2015)

    National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Fellow at the Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies, Mystic, CT (2014)

    UC Santa Barbara Award for Excellence in Ethnomusicology in a Scholarly Activity (2010, 2001)

    Award of Recognition for Scholarly Contribution to Music and Dance of Punjab, Punjab Sangeet Natak Akademi, India (2005)

    Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant for fieldwork in India (2004)