Oliver Rajamani is a Texas artist, and Austin city is where his life and music came to mature-with the Romani (Gypsy) Indian diaspora’s historic storyline serving as the pathway to reconnecting deeper into his ancestral heritage.
Oliver Rajamani’s life story is a beautifully unique and natural blend of the best of Indian and Western cultures with a touch of British history on his mother’s side. Rajamani grew up entertaining since the early age of 5. His family encouraged his natural talent for music and Rajamani grew up playing tabla, drum set and guitar at large family gatherings and public religious events including his family daily prayers. Rajamani’s grandmother was a choir director and piano player and his uncle was a guitar, accordion and piano player who had great influence on his early musical life. From early childhood he grew up at home surrounded by musical sounds from the Lp record collection of his father’s and uncle’s that included Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra, Nate King Cole, Elvis Presley, James Last, Ventures, Louis Armstrong, ….Indian folk, devotional and movie music of India (Composer-Illaiyaraja), and music from around the world. As a teenager he toured in Southern India as a teenage rock drummer sensation with Canadian musician’s John and Sandra Holmes in their band “Giant John and the Texas Bullfrogs”.
While going through college in New York, Rajamani performed in rock bands, choirs and orchestras (notably The New Found Sound – directed by Shirley Gutmann) while performing around New York city in various musical acts including work as a roadie for jazz drummer Thurman Barker. He trained under Snighdha Mishra for Hindustani and Bamathi Sudharshan for carnatic classical vocal music of India. Rajamani studied tabla at an early age. His tabla teachers include Guru Ji “Rajendran” and Pandit Aloke Dutta.
From 1993 till 1995, Rajamani worked in the United Nations Romani Congress in New York, under Hungarian Rom “Shandor Balogh” in guidance of Romani Scholar and Romani UN Ambassador Dr. Ian Hancock. He lived in Greece and Israel working with Romani and Dom communities while taking time to learn Middle Eastern music with the nomadic Bedouins in the Negev desert of Israel. He has since then continued to be a strong voice musically and socially in the Romani plight. He has also served in bringing recognition to the largest Romani archive center in Austin, Texas.
“Flamenco India” is Rajamani’s unique and innovative creation. Incepted in 1995, Flamenco India serves to help support Romani artists and educate the general public of Romani history, culture and music. Rajamani’s experience in flamenco comes from years of performing and spending time around Flamencos -notably Maestro Arturo Martinez who christened Rajamani into the world of flamenco. In 2012 Rajamani had the honor to perform for flamenco legend Paco De Lucia. Paco De Lucia gave his blessings for Flamenco India calling the music “beautiful, unique and historic”.
Rajamani was very fortunate to receive a scholarship to attend the American missionary school “Highclerc” now known as “Kodaikanal International School”. He also attended “Friends World College” a global experiential Quaker education program operating out of Long Island, New York.
Kodai school changed Rajamani’s whole life and set him on a unique path. Kodai school’s international staff and student body widened Rajamani’s musical and worldly mind. Here he studied Western classical music, performed in the jazz ensemble, band and choir -under the guidance of Keith Dejong, Alfred and Bonnibell Pickard, Peggy Jenks. Friends World College allowed Rajamani to travel around the Globe and study as an apprentice under professional musicians, human rights activists, environmentalist, sociologists, and spiritualists. The “Kodai” and “Friends” education prepared Rajamani for his journey as a pioneer of cultural music guiding him musically, culturally, linguistically, and spiritually to connect with audiences globally.