A Capella Masala
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The story of Penn Masala, the world's first Hindi a cappella group, started in 1996, with four very determined and driven college students all extremely passionate about South Asian and Western music. Although a cappella singing without an instrumental accompaniment is a relatively new genre in India, two large-scale performances early on propelled the group to international recognition: Bhangra Blowout at Washington DC in March 1998. and the Star Screen Awards at Mumbai in January 2002.
Penn Masala will bring its unusual brand of music to Pune with a performance at Hard Rock Cafe on Sunday. Featuring Sam Levenson, Akshat Vaidya, Ram Narayan, Varshil Patel, Akiff Premjee, Rohan Murthy, Dilip Rajan, Dhruv Maheshwari, Ashwin Muthiah, Anil Chitrapu, Prashant Ramesh and Chetan Khann, the band cycled through a number of temporary names before settling on Penn Masala. "Obviously, it conveys our roots and affiliation with the University of Pennsylvania but it also captures the fusion and innovative aspects of our music in the masala," says Levenson.
The group remembers being greeted by a huge audience and screaming fans during its last visit to India and advise the audiences to come prepared to sing along and dance. For its first visit to Pune, the set list includes several sneak-peaks of new tracks such as Fix You by Coldplay mixed with Ishq Bina from Taal, featured on their new album as well as many fan favorites from the past.
"We are always excited by the prospect of sharing our music with audiences in India, especially given that our members and our music have roots in India. We hope to pioneer South Asian a cappella in India where there is huge potential for the genre to flourish," he adds.
Another feather in the band's cap includes a performance at the White House, Washington, for President Barack Obama's Diwali celebration last year. "To meet President Obama and sing for a distinguished audience of senior officials and prominent guests, was very special. We sang one of our oldest and best-known covers of Cheb Khaled's Aicha that day that features solos in English, Hindi, and Arabic," recalls Levenson.
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