Video: The Serenader — Raja Burrows has made a name for himself as a sorority serenader. Ultimately he hopes to prove pop culture's value. See more videos from Northwestern magazine.
Raja Burrows has always been in the right place at the right time.
He was born in a convent in Bangalore, India, which swapped Burrows for another baby left at an orphanage. Lucky for Raja, the orphanage had been in contact with an adoption agency in Albuquerque, N.M., where Robin and Jeff Burrows were searching for a Korean baby girl.
"But my parents saw a picture of me, and they looked at each other and were like, 'Yeah, we want him,'" he says. "I was totally lucky."
Burrows landed in the right place when he came to Northwestern as well. The fifth-year vocal performance and Spanish double major has participated in dozens of campus productions and operas, including Dialogues of the Carmelites, The Merry Widow and the 2009 Waa-Mu Show, One for the Books. Burrows developed his pop voice as a member of the Northwestern a cappella group The Undertones during his freshman year. As a sophomore he won Delta Zeta's male pageant as a representative for his fraternity, Theta Chi.
But Burrows is perhaps best known as the premier serenader during pledge week for sororities, the week when new members are showered with gifts of flowers, candy and serenades from their pledge moms. Burrows sings to as many as 40 girls in one week — free of charge.
"Jason Mraz's 'I'm Yours' has made my job so easy," Burrows says. "It's a song that girls are crazy about."
Some other commonly requested songs include a Backstreet Boys–Spice Girls medley and his own rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."
While it may be tempting to charm sorority girls into a date as they swoon over his sweet voice and smooth guitar playing, Burrows says he has never gotten a date from a gig. "Its part of the code of a serenader," he says. "Getting intimate with anyone I'm serenading ruins the magic of it.
"My true passion is playing pop music on my guitar," says Burrows, who hopes to make a name for himself on Broadway or as a major recording artist.
Burrows, who says "very little about me other than my melanin count suggests that I'm actually Indian," acknowledges that he is fortunate to be seeking stardom at this time when Slumdog Millionaire has had such incredible success.
"If you have an Indian person in a film, it has this cosmopolitan feel to it," he says. "I'm lucky that my ethnicity coincides with what's popular and my interests do, too."
After graduation Burrows plans to move to New York City, where he has already signed with an agent. "Really, I just want to sing," he says. "It's what I do."
— Christina Rosales (J11)