Rajna Swaminathan / RAJAS & Anu Yadav: Storytellers

Sunday, February 19, 2017 @ 7:00PM

Ibrahim Theater @ International House Philadelphia  (3701 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia)

Accomplished mridangam (South Indian percussion) artist and composer Rajna Swaminathan joins forces with acclaimed playwright/actor Anu Yadav to debut their compelling political and personal performance, Storytellers, against the current backdrop of racially charged conflict and other 'isms' plaguing our society. Swaminathan brings her ensemble RAJAS, comprised of contemporary musicians with roots in the Indian classical perspective and jazz/creative music scenes. The "Vedantic" term rajas refers to the complex and multi-faceted inner human energy that compels us to act, to pursue our passions, to create, and to preserve ourselves. The collective improvisations set forth by RAJAS serve to illustrate the imagined landscape of Yadav's dramatized writings, while Yadav's voice becomes part of the fabric of the music as it is structured and guided by Swaminathan. Building on their prior collaborative work for Yadav's solo work, Meena's Dream, the two artists reflect on their standpoint as South Asian Americans to combine musical improvisation with community-engaged theater that acknowledges our differences, transcends boundaries, and addresses the urgent need for compassion and humanity in these times. 

Join Swaminathan and Yadav for a FREE interactive workshop on Saturday, February 18. Blending music, movement, and theater, the artists guide participants through an exploration of how to build community, collaboration, and courage through listening across differences. Space is limited, so RSVP here to reserve your place. Presented in collaboration with the Asian Arts Initiative. 


Photo by Jaimie Milner. 

Rajna Swaminathan is an accomplished mrudangam (South Indian percussion) artist, a protégé of mrudangam legend Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman. She has performed with several renowned Indian classical musicians, most notably mentor and vocalist T.M. Krishna. Over the past few years, she has been studying and collaborating with eminent musicians in New York's jazz and creative music scene, including Vijay Iyer, Steve Coleman, Miles Okazaki, and Amir ElSaffar. Rajna leads the ensemble RAJAS, which collectively explores new textural and improvisational horizons at the nexus of Indian classical and creative music traditions. She is also a composer-performer for dance and theater works. She has toured widely with the acclaimed company Ragamala Dance, and has collaborated with playwright Anu Yadav. Rajna regularly teaches workshops on the South Indian rhythmic perspective, most prominently at the Banff International Workshop for Jazz and Creative Music, and the Percussive Arts Society International Convention. Rajna holds degrees in Anthropology and French from the University of Maryland, College Park. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Music at Harvard University. www.rajnaswaminathan.com 

RAJAS is a project that brings together contemporary musicians from the Indian classical and jazz/creative music scenes in New York City. The Vedantic term "rajas" refers to the inner human energy that compels us to act, to pursue our passions, to create, and to preserve ourselves. Spearheaded by mrudangam artist Rajna Swaminathan, the project provides a forum to collectively contemplate new possibilities for musical concepts and sensibilities stemming from the Indian classical idiom. 

Photo by Jati Lindsay. 

Anu Yadav is a critically acclaimed actress, writer, educator, and producer dedicated to untold stories, social justice, deep laughter and connection.  She tours her solo plays ‘Capers, Meena’s Dream, and founded Classlines a storytelling project on wealth and poverty. She has performed at the Kennedy Center, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Studio Safdar in Delhi, and Beijing’s National Academy of Dramatic Arts, among others.  Her work was covered by MTV, the Washington Post, WAMU-FM, and the documentaries Walk with Me, Chocolate City. She is a 2016 DC Artist Fellow, a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and holds an M.F.A. in Performance from University of Maryland, College Park. She is currently at work on ISM: A TRAGICOMEDY, and recently partnered with the Institute for Policy Studies as a Catalyst Grant recipient. www.anuyadav.com