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. Rajna is one of the youngest among only a handful of female mrudangam artists in the world. She has accompanied many renowned musicians from India including Dr. N. Ramani, Suguna Purushothaman, Chitravina N. Ravikiran, Vijay Siva, Rudrapatnam Brothers, S. Shashank. In addition to mrudangam, Rajna has also learned classical piano and bharatanatyam (South Indian classical dance) for some years.
Rajna has toured widely in the US, Canada, and India. In fall of 2004, at the age of thirteen, she toured the US along with her illustrious guru, being presented as his protégé in 25 high-profile venues including the Asia Society, the Smithsonian, and several universities. During spring of 2009, she toured the US with an all-female music ensemble led by eminent violinist Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi. Rajna has also been performing regularly for the past 7 years at the December Music Festival in Chennai, India, and has toured to several other cities in India including Mumbai, Bangalore, and Delhi. She has received awards for her performances at the Music Academy (Chennai) in 2007 and 2011, and at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha (Chennai) in 2008.
Rajna performs lecture demonstrations and workshops at universities and prominent percussion events in the US. She was the youngest faculty member at the KOSA International Percussion Camp, where she taught in 2007 and 2008 alongside distinguished percussion legends. She has also given world percussion clinics/performances at the prestigious Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC).
Rajna also performs and works with dancers and dance companies. She has been working regularly with the renowned contemporary bharatanatyam company Ragamala Dance (Minneapolis) since 2009. She has been commissioned, in collaboration with her sister Anjna Swaminathan, to compose scores for Dakshina/ Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company (D.C.), The Spilling Ink Project (D.C.), and civic theatre/ spoken word artist Anu Yadav (D.C.).
As a result of her hybrid upbringing in South Indian and Western musical systems, Rajna has developed an artistic penchant for intercultural and crossover work. Since 2011, she has been working with renowned saxophonist Steve Coleman on incorporating polyrhythmic sensibilities and experimental jazz concepts into the mrudangam repertoire. In 2012, she received a research grant from the University of Maryland (College Park) to conduct 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. For this project, she has been studying and working with distinguished artists in the New York jazz scene.