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Meet Sanjana Raja

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sanjana Raja.

Hi Sanjana, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was born in Southern California. My parents, older brother and I used to live in Fullerton, CA until 1998. Our family moved to Chennai, India to be closer to our grandparents and extended family. I’ve loved music since I was very young. My parents played a lot of Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Abba at home. My father was a fan of Stevie Wonder and Lionel Richie. He talked about how he made mixtapes of his favorites for my mom right around the time they first met and got engaged. We had an extensive collection of Disney VHS tapes, and I used to watch them several times with my brother on our little VHS TV player, singing along to all the songs.

I took music lessons in both western and South Indian carnatic genres. I trained in voice, piano and music theory. I gave my first solo performance playing South Indian classical music on electronic keyboard at age 12, accompanied by a full-scale carnatic band. Since my teenage years, I have dreamt of a career in the Music Industry as a Pop/R&B singer. While pursuing my bachelor’s degree in economics, I performed with my college a capella group, competing and winning inter collegiate competitions and solo vocal competitions. I was also part of the Madras Musical Association, one of the oldest and largest choirs in India, performing primarily western classical music. These experiences were integral to my musical development and training, as well as building my confidence as a performer.

During my final semester, I flew to Mumbai to audition for Berklee College of Music. My acceptance three months later was the start of my complete involvement in the music industry. My exposure to so many different styles and genres of music along with the expertise of the faculty and my peers was mind-blowing. Some of the highlights were performing with the Berklee Indian Ensemble, and singing with the Balkan Choir. I cherish the friendships, learning experiences, both in life and music from my time in Boston. On trips to visit my family in Chennai, I performed at local concerts and clubs. On one of these trips, I had the opportunity to record on the soundtrack of an independent Tamil Film “Mei”. The song “Maayavalai” is a duet with the film’s music composer Prithvi Kumar and is my first experience as a recording artist in the Indian Film Music Industry.

Apart from my interests in performance and recording, I got involved with the business side of the music industry, specifically copyrights management. After graduating from Berklee, I worked as a Summer Intern in The Harry Fox Agency in New York. I moved to Los Angeles in 2019. After completing a few internships, I currently work in music publishing.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I’ve had my share of challenges that I’ve had to overcome. The school systems I was in growing up in Chennai were not very encouraging of the arts. They were very academic oriented. There weren’t many music avenues to explore apart from classical Indian or western music. Although my family has been very supportive of my choices, they are a conventional family, and my unconventional career path did cause some concern. My grandfather was a board member of the renowned Music Academy of Chennai, the premier venue for elite Carnatic musicians. Although initially resistant, seeing my determination and love for contemporary western music, he supported me.

I was 20 years old and had never lived away from home when I moved to Boston to attend Berklee. I’m introverted by nature, and it took a lot of effort to come out of my shell and make meaningful friendships and connections. Moving to Los Angeles and finding the first stable job in the music industry was hard. I didn’t land my full-time job until almost a year after my move.

My current challenge has been trying to stay creative during the COVID pandemic. Since I spend all my time at home working, I’m usually drained mentally by the end of the work day and week and haven’t made the progress I would’ve liked to as an artist.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I’m known for my vocal abilities. I also play piano and guitar to the extent of being able to provide simple accompaniments for myself when I sing on my YouTube and Instagram pages. I love performing in many genres, ranging from Pop, R&B, musical theater, Indian classical and contemporary, and world music. I gravitate to music that is soulful and resonates lyrically.

One of the things that I’m most proud of was qualifying to be a part of one of Berklee’s premier vocalist shows, Singer’s Night in my senior year. It was a tough audition and rehearsal process, but I enjoyed preparing and performing for the show. I also had a proud moment from the release of “Maayavalai” on the soundtrack for the film “Mei”, by receiving positive reviews of the song in the Times of India newspaper.

I work a 9-5 job as a copyright coordinator in music publishing for an independent record label. Something that sets me apart is that I’m a well-rounded music professional with skills as a musician and in depth knowledge of the music business in the area of composition rights administration.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
Perseverance has been a characteristic of mine that I’d give credit to for my successes.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Geetha Raja Elise Go Neeraja Pushpanathan Srishti Biyani Roshni Daver Sarah K Chong

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