Rajna Swaminathan

Rajna Swaminathan, a leading South Indian percussion instrument mridangam practitioner, first became famous in 2000s when he played a mix of Indian classical music with jazz. Swaminathan, a protégé of Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman the master mridangam, has worked on several projects with Ganavya Doraiswamy and Amir ElSaffar. She released her debut album in 2019 featuring the RAJAS ensembles, Of Agency, and Abstraction. Swaminathan was born in Maryland in 1991. She grew up in a musical household with a singing mother and a father who played mridangam. Rajna, along with Anjna Swaminathan (violinist), was encouraged to learn music. She first began to be interested in the mridangam at age five. She was unable to play the instrument at first, so she took piano lessons during her school years. Umayalpuram K.Sivaraman, a veteran mridangam performer, became her mentor and she traveled to India during holidays to continue her studies. Swaminathan also studied Bharatanatyam and Carnatic vocal music. She graduated from high school with degrees in French and anthropology from the University of Maryland College Park. Additionally, she gained valuable experience performing with Ragamala Dance Company. In 2008, she recorded The Sixth Element, an indian classical album. Swaminathan was awarded a grant in 2012 to study and play jazz in New York City. She was able to connect with a number of musicians, including Vijay Iyer, Steve Coleman, and Amir ElSaffar. They have continued to collaborate. Anu Yadav, a playwright and actress, was also her collaborator in scoring the music for Meena’s Dream. It was released as The Worry Machine in 2015. Swaminathan also teaches workshops about the South Indian rhythmic perspective. She has presented these workshops at the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music and the Percussive Arts Society International Convention. She is also pursuing a doctorate in music at Harvard University. She released Of Agency and Abstraction in 2019, which featured her RAJAS group with her sister, Miles Okazaki and Stephan Crump, as well as saxophonist Maria Grand and guest artists ElSaffar, and vocalist Ganavya Draiswamy. Allmusic

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