Rajna Swaminathan is an accomplished artist in the field of South Indian classical percussion – mrudangam. She is a disciple and protégé of mrudangam maestro Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman. Rajna is one of only a handful of female mrudangam artists in the world. She has performed with several renowned Indian classical musicians and dancers, touring widely in North America and India. Rajna has performed in several prestigious venues and festivals, including the Smithsonian (D.C.), Kennedy Center (D.C.), Asia Society (New York), Walker Art Center (MN), American Dance Festival (NC), Krannert Center (IL), Lied Center (KS), Music Academy (Chennai), Shanmukhananda Hall (Mumbai), and many others.
Rajna has also studied Western classical 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. In 2012, she received a research grant from the University of Maryland (College Park) to conduct intensive fieldwork in the creative jazz scene in New York, composing and innovating new rhythmic frameworks for the mrudangam and exploring issues of hybrid identity, appropriation, and cross-cultural exchange in improvised music. Over the past three 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 is co-artistic director of Rhythm Fantasies, Inc. – a non-profit organization that strives to promote South Indian classical music and dance in a space that encourages education and enrichment through innovation and cross-cultural collaboration. Rajna holds degrees in Anthropology and French from the University of Maryland, College Park.