Robert Kaplowitz Remembers Sunil Rajan

Sunil Rajan (5/1/74 - 5/1/10)

Sunil was one of those amazing sound guys who could do anything, and have a great time doing it.

He walked, and worked, with a fantastic strut—his trademark blue hair, hoop filled ears, and occasional black nail polish (topped off with a skirt and Satan jacket for formal occasions) garnered endless double-takes from patrons and stagehands alike—but from the moment he started mixing, all confusion vanished—it became apparent that Sunil was an artist, and people expect artists to make their own rules.

As a designer, Sunil created the sound for shows like "Batboy The Musical" and the hip-hop hit "Bomb-itty of Errors." As an engineer, he worked FOH, A2, and/or monitors for the national tours of shows like "Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk" and "On Golden Pond;" in NY, he mixed for Jazz at Lincoln Center, and "Alter Boys;" he was also a go-to FOH sub all over Broadway. He mixed the Detroit International Jazz Festival for as long as I can remember, headed sound up at Spoleto for years, and mixed more NYMF shows than any sane man could stand watching.

Sunil always had a quip and a cigarette ready at hand. His business card read "Freelance Audio Mercenary" and, indeed, I never met a gig he couldn't handle. One engineer he trained wrote "You taught my fingers how to dance." He certainly taught me how to laugh off the worst, and drink to the best.

In his personal life, he was lucky enough to find his perfect match in Mandi Bedbury. He met her while gigging in Detroit, and the story goes that he told her he'd sworn never to marry, unless it was done by Elvis in Vegas. Mandi then pulled out her high school diary, in which she'd written that she'd never get married... unless it was in Vegas, by Elvis. They flew to Nevada the next day off, and came back as newlyweds.

Sunil's daughter, Marlon, was the other love of his life. There was never a day when he didn't think of her, and never a choice he made in his career that didn't consider his time with her before anything else. I can't tell you the number of times I saw his face light up when she walked into the room—hell, you could tell when she was on his caller ID from the way he'd suddenly be beaming from across the room...

He fought off a series of brain tumors with the same sense of humor and fierce energy that he tackled everything else. Few people knew that, over the past 10 years, he underwent numerous surgeries and months of chemotherapy, fighting off what he, Mandi and Marlon dubbed "the bastard tumor."

The world became a little bit less of a spectacular, delightful, and unexpected place on Saturday. We will miss Sunil.

Robert Kaplowitz, May 3, 2010

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