Musical Performance: Rajas: Exploring the Sounds of India

Sat, November 23, 2013 8:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

(View all musical performances »)


Rajas is a nascent project that brings together contemporary musicians in the Indian classical idiom to experiment and explore new directions for composition and improvisation, stemming from this deep-rooted tradition. The ensemble is led by mrudangam artist and composer Rajna Swaminathan, who has been engaging intensively with New York's experimental jazz and creative music scene and incorporating South Indian rhythmic concepts in cross-cultural contexts.

The Hindu philosophical term "rajas" refers to the inner human energy that compels us to act, to pursue our passions, to create, and to preserve ourselves. Applying this concept to the state of Indian classical music in the global context, this project aims to highlight the innovative potential created by the situation of contemporary Indian musicians in the diaspora. Each of the artists in this project has been working on his, or her, own path to presenting Indian music in a contemporary and experimental context, from collaborating with jazz and R&B musicians to composing and arranging scores for dance and theater productions. Rajas provides a forum for them to come together and collectively contemplate new understandings and possibilities within Indian classical music.


Tickets: $20 General (*buy now) | $15 for Students, Members and Seniors (*buy now) available at the door or online.

(*A small online fee is applied - use printout as your ticket)

Doors open at 7:30 pm


About the Artists:

Rajna Swaminathan is an accomplished young artist in the field of South Indian classical percussion – mrudangam. She is a disciple and protégé of mrudangam maestro Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman. She has accompanied many renowned musicians widely in the US, Canada, and India. She regularly gives workshops on the South Indian rhythmic perspective, most notably at the Banff International Jazz and Creative Music Workshop, the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, and the KOSA International Percussion Camp. Rajna has also studied piano for some years. As a result of her hybrid upbringing in South Indian and Western musical systems, Rajna has developed a penchant for intercultural and crossover work. Over the past two years, she has been collaborating and performing with distinguished artists in the New York jazz scene, including pianist Vijay Iyer and saxophonist Steve Coleman. Rajna also performs frequently in the dance scene, touring widely with the acclaimed Ragamala Dance (Minneapolis). Rajna is active as a composer and has been commissioned to create original music for playwright Anu Yadav, the Spilling Ink Project, and Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company. She holds degrees in Anthropology and French from the University of Maryland in College Park.

Roopa Mahadevan is a versatile Indian classical vocalist. Born and raised in Northern California, she received major training in Carnatic vocal music under Asha Ramesh and later trained under Suguna Varadachari in Chennai, India through a Fulbright scholarship. Roopa has performed in several venues in the U.S. and India, including the prestigious Music Academy during the December music festival in Chennai. She was awarded the title "Kala Ratna" by the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana for her commitment to Carnatic music as a young American. Roopa is also skilled at singing for dance performances, performing R&B soul music, and acting in amateur theater. She has had the opportunity to collaborate on traditional and cross-cultural projects with many contemporary artists including Karsh Kale, Samrat Chakrabarti, Mythili Prakash, and Christopher Tin, as well as perform in such venues as the Lincoln Center and Hollywood Bowl. She was the lead soloist for a track on the 2010 Grammy Award-winning albumCalling All Albums. She lives in New York City, where she works in public health policy while pursuing her artistic passions.

Arun Ramamurthy is a gifted violinist who is making his mark in Indian Classical and World music. Disciple of Dr. Mysore Manjunath & Sri Mysore Nagaraj, he has become one of the most sought after violinists in the US. Arun has been accompanying major artists touring from India, as well as performing solo concerts, for the past 15 years. He has carved a niche for himself in the Indian Classical music scene in the US as a versatile musician, playing together with senior artists from both Carnatic and Hindustani styles. Arun has been fortunate to perform with important artists like Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna, T.N. Seshagopalan, T.V. Gopalakrishna, Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, Pandit Ramesh Misra, and more. Born and raised in the US, Arun utilizes his Carnatic training to collaborate with western musicians, recording & performing with artists from various genres. His newest project, the Arun Ramamurthy Trio presents fresh arrangements and improvisations of classic Carnatic compositions, in addition to original music. Their debut album "Jazz Carnatica" is set to release Fall 2013. Arun curates the innovative series, “Carnatic Sundays” at Cornelia Street Café in New York City, a concert series dedicated to increasing exposure for Carnatic music to wider audiences.

Anjna Swaminathan is an up-and-coming artist in the field of South Indian Carnatic Violin. A disciple of the late violin maestro Parur Sri M.S. Gopalakrishnan and Mysore Sri H.K. Narasimhamurthy, Anjna has been trained in both Carnatic classical and Western classical styles of violin. In summer 2010, she had her solo concert debut in India. Along with her solo performances, Anjna collaborates with several musicians and dancers, providing accompaniment for Carnatic concerts and dance productions. She has worked with many professional dance companies, as a musician and composer, most notably, Ragamala Dance (Minneapolis), The Spilling Ink Project (Washington, D.C.), and Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company (Washington, D.C.). As a theatre artist and dramaturg, Anjna also engages in interdisciplinary work, composing and directing musical scores for theatrical productions with D.C.-based theatre artists Anu Yadav (Meena's Dream) and Paige Hernandez (The Nayika Project). She is currently an undergraduate student of Performance Studies at the University of Maryland in College Park and will be receiving her BA in Theatre in December 2013.


Alwan's music program is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with the City Council.

Last updated: 2014-01-06 14:25:04

Rajna Swaminathan
Rajna Swaminathan
Arun Ramamurthy
Arun Ramamurthy
Roopa Mahadevan
Roopa Mahadevan

Alwan for the Arts

16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
(between Broad St. and Broadway)
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732-3261

Alwan Auction 2016

Join Our Mailing List:



Classes are currently being scheduled. Please check back soon for updates.



There are currently no upcoming events.


16 Beaver Street
4th Floor
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732 3261
Email Us

Alwan for the Arts is accessible to people with disabilities. Please call 646 732 3261 in advance, or, buzz at the door to arrange a ramp.

© 2020 Alwan for the Arts

Hosting donated by:, the Arabic Encyclopedia