Royal Hartigan is a percussionist, pianist, and tap dancer who has studied and performed the music of Asia, Africa, Europe, West Asia, and the Americas, including indigenous West African drumming, dance, song, and highlife; Turkish bendir frame drum; Japanese taiko drumming; Philippine kulintang gong and drum ensembles; Chinese Beijing, Cantonese, and Kunqu opera percussion; South Indian solkattu rhythms; Korean pungmul drum and gong ensemble; Javanese and Sumatran gamelan; Gaelic bodhran; Native American drumming; Dominican merengue; Brazilian samba; Cambodian sampho drums; Vietnamese clapper percussion; European symphony; and African American blues, gospel, funk, hip-hop, and jazz traditions.
He performs, gives workshops, and records internationally with his own blood drum spirit ensemble and master artists. He has released a documentary and artistic video of his work in West Africa and its relation to the African American music cultures.
Hartigan is involved in ongoing research on the music, culture, and meaning of the music, dance, and expressions of the world’s people. He has received many awards for global research, performance, and teaching including an Asian Cultural Council Research Grant for the Philippines (2009), a J. William Fulbright Lecture/Research Award through the U.S. State Department for the Philippines (2006), a New School University Dean’s Resident Master Artist Award (2005-06), and research awards from San Jose State University for Ghana, West Africa (1994-97) and China (1999), and the National Endowment for the Arts (for study with Edward Blackwell, 1986).
Hartigan's publications include Blood Drum Spirit: Drum Languages of West Africa, African America, Native America, Central Java, and South India, a 1,700-page analysis of world drumming traditions (UMI/ProQuest); articles in Percussive Notes, World of Music, Annual Review of Jazz Studies, Music in China, and the African American Review. He has given lectures and clinics on world music and jazz in Africa, China, the Philippines, Europe, and North America. He travels to West Africa most summers to teach, perform, and do research, collaborating with master artists and the people of various villages.
Hartigan received an A.B. in philosophy from St. Michael's College in 1968, specializing in medieval metaphysics and the existentialism of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. He received a B.A. degree in African American music with honors at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1981, and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in world music and ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University in 1983 and 1986.
Hartigan has taught ethnomusicology, African drumming, and world music ensemble at the New School University (formerly the New School for Social Research) in New York and the graduate liberal studies program at Wesleyan University. He helped develop and taught graduate and undergraduate courses in world music, large and small jazz ensembles, experimental music ensemble, Asian music ensembles (Philippine kulintang and Javanese gamelan), African American music history, and West African drumming and dance at San Jose State University before assuming a position as professor in world music at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He has taught music theory and fundamentals, Western music history, and introduction to world music at UMass Dartmouth, and currently teaches music of the African diaspora, area studies, and world music survey there.