She has had several distinct careers: first and foremost as a jazz musician, composer, arranger and band leader (she as been empanelled as the jazz ambassador for India by the ICCR (Indian Council For Cultural Affairs); then as a published author, contributing journalist and newspaper and magazine editor; she was also an Executive VP in charge of business development at Explocity.com. Her latest venture is a podcast launched in 2022, to promote the cause of the indie dog.
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 in the travel and publishing industries, while singing in clubs at night, performing and recording in the city.
She returned to India and formed the band UNK: the Radha Thomas Ensemble, while working for a media company. The band travelled India extensively and performed as much as the genre permitted. Her day job permitted that. But then the pandemic struck.
After COVID attacked the world in 2020 putting an end to live music performances, Thomas turned to the internet and virtual collaboration with jazz musicians world-wide. In a single year, from 2020 to 2021, she recorded 52 videos with her original music and jazz standards along with some of the world’s most talented musicians from Russia, Poland, Italy, USA, Germany, England, India and other places. She has never met those musicians and hopes to fix that one day. Maybe.
Her 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’ 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 (nee Shottam) 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 leading jazz clubs.
She hosted a weekly jazz show on Radio Indigo in Bangalore.
Her podcast launched in 2022 is called The Indie Dog. It’s a cause she has been active in since around 2015. The street dogs of India are rapidly multiplying and in dire need of assistance. She hopes to raise awareness, funds and assist in sterilizing every single homeless dog in India.
Thomas has written four books from 2012 to 2022.
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.