Radha Thomas was born in Tamil Nadu in India, grew up in Mumbai and Delhi and then left for the USA to pursue her dream of becoming a jazz singer. Although jazz was (and continues to be) her driving passion, it never provided her a lucrative career, one that allowed her to focus on music alone.
She spent 20 years in New York, holding a variety of day-jobs while singing in clubs at night. Some of these jobs include writing travel brochures to exotic destinations. She has been a tour guide, leading American tourists to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. She has organized trade shows and exhibitions in China for industries as varied as Aerospace and Continuing Medical Education, while working for an American incentive travel company. She owned and run a boutique on Long Island, and worked for an art publisher with galleries in New York.
She has had three distinct careers: first as a musician, then writer and simultaneously as the Executive VP in charge of business development and editor at Explocity.com, a media company in Bangalore. She has also written for many publications such as The Times of India, Midday, The Hindu, Man’s World, Men’s Health and others.
After COVID struck the world in 2020, putting an end to live music performances she turned to the internet and virtual collaboration with jazz musicians all over the world. Look in the video section of this site for many videos featuring original music and jazz standards.
Her last album Bangalore Blues is a piano/voice duo with Berkeley-alumnus, piano player Aman Mahajan with whom she has worked for the past 10 years. The seven-track album released by SubContinental Records hit the air in March 2020 world-wide on CD Baby, Amazon. iTunes, Tidal, Deezer, Google Music, Saavn, Gaana, OK Listen, Spotify, Pandora etc. The cover artwork for the album has been created by Paul Fernandes, featuring that most resonant of city landmark’s, the iconic Koshy’s restaurant.
Also launched in 2020, the 4-track EP ‘Vocalese: A Tribute to Chet Baker’ (private link) features Thomas’s original vocalese lyrics to the legendary trumpet player Chet Baker’s horn solos on some beloved jazz standards. “Ron McClure who is a bass player primarily, but a fine pianist too, plays with me on this album. In an odd coincidence, many years ago he was at a Thanksgiving party at Chet’s house (he would play bass for him occasionally) and was looking for an apartment. ‘Take mine,’ said Chet, and the result is that Ron now lives in Chet’s old apartment. Ron told me that before he came to the studio to record this album, he listened to the walls carefully to see if Chet had left any music to linger,” said Thomas.
Her own band UNK: The Radha Thomas Ensemble based in Bangalore is rated #1 nationally on Reverbnation, and is one of India’s most dynamic bands featuring musicians from all over the globe. Their first album ‘I Only Have Eyes For You,’ has received excellent reviews and airplay all over America.
Radha Thomas began headlining as a singer while still in her teens in a rock and roll band called Human Bondage, which was India’s most popular band in the 70s. She soon developed a strong taste for jazz, which is her favourite kind of music. She also began combining the tonal complexities of jazz with the rhythmic nuances of Indian classical music.
Thomas (who was Radha Shottam then) represented India at European jazz festivals and made her way to New York, the home of jazz, where she lived and performed for almost 20 years with such musicians as Michael Brecker, John Scofield, John Faddis, Alex Blake, Buddy Williams, Harvey Mason, Anthony Jackson, John Abercrombie, Ryo Kawasaki, Joe Farrell and many others in some of NYC’s most famous jazz clubs including Sweet Basil, The Bottom Line, Alice Tully Hall and more.
Her Indian classical vocal training came first from Kumar Gandharva in New Delhi at the Gandharva Maha Vidyalaya, and subsequently with Ustad Farid Ud Din Dagar of the famed Dagar Brothers in the dying art of Drupad singing.
She has performed in London, France, Poland, Germany the Far East, many cities across the USA, and of course all over India.
In 2015, 2016 at EuropaFest in Romania, the South Asia Performing Arts Festival in New York, and prior to that, Jazz Yatra, Bengaluru Habba, Indigo Fest, Isai Fest, The Times Litfest, The Hindu Litfest and other prominent festivals. She has also performed at most of India’s leading jazz clubs.
She also hosted a weekly jazz show on Radio Indigo in Bangalore.
Thomas has written four books so far.
The latest one Dog Tails: A true story of a few entitled street dogs in Bangalore, was donated to CARE, an animal rescue and welfare organisation. It reached the Amazon best-seller list and all proceeds went to the dogs at the shelter.
‘The Cauliflower Diet’ released by Penguin Random House in February, 2016 received rave reviews from almost all major Indian media. It is a low-carb diet book in which she has created several unique recipes using the cauliflower as a substitute for rice and other carb-heavy flour.
‘Men On My Mind’ (2012) and ‘More Men on My Mind (2014) were her first two novels, published by Rupa, and have received wide acclaim for being unconventional and edgy. They follow a young woman’s quest for good sex.
EXECUTIVE VP & EDITOR AT EXPLOCITY.COM
Explocity.com is a publishing company in Bangalore. Thomas was editor, columnist and general dogsbody. She quickly gained popularity for her column ‘Between the Sexes,’ a look at the odd way in which men and women see each other.
She also wrote extensively on health, diet and fitness for the magazine The Bangalore Monthly.
She conceived of, and produced a series of food guides in the six major metros called, ‘The Kingfisher Explocity Great Food Guide.’ They very popular and sold all over India regularly from around 2009 to around 2012, by which time the internet had seriously made a dent in the book publishing industry.
She also conceived and produced a newspaper for Café Coffee Day, called ‘Café Beat’ which addressed people between the ages of 15 and 25, dealing with issues of concern to that target audience.