How would you like to hear a mashup of western music and Bollywood songs like Coldplay’s Viva La Vida/Jashne-e-Bahara, Ed Sheeran’s Photograph/Aayat/Laal Ishq to Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk/Badtameez Dil and many others sung by an a capella group?
The world’s first desi a cappella group, Penn Masala, was in India in mid-May and performed at six cities across the country as part of their Homecoming Tour. The last time they visited India was in 2017.
The group that has a change of line-up every few years, has spread the popularity of Hindi a capella music not only within America, but also in parts of Canada, London and Mumbai. Since 1996 they have released 11 studio albums, have performed at the Indian International Film Academy (IIFA) Awards, and were featured in the Hollywood feature film and soundtrack for Pitch Perfect 2 which received an American Music Award for Best Soundtrack in 2015.
The songs Penn Masala perform at their shows are high-energy and make you want to sing and dance. VERUS FERREIRA spoke to the band members on their visit and learnt that they have also been honoured by performing at the White House for U.S. President Barack Obama.
Give us a background on Penn Masala and how the name came about.
Raghu Raman: Sure. Penn Masala was founded by four students at the University of Pennsylvania who had a shared love of fusion desi and Western music in the form of a capella. A capella is essentially a musical performance or rendition without any instruments. And as for the name, Penn Masala really came to represent how the group ‘spiced’ up the traditional western a capella scene with some desi fusion elements.
How many members are in Penn Masala at present and how frequently do you have line-up changes?
Prateek Adurty: Thirteen members are currently in the group. Group composition changes every year as our graduating seniors sadly leave. However, we take in new freshmen who will spend the next approximately four years with a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Verus Ferreira is a freelance music journalist for over three decades, contributing articles to various newspapers and magazines. He is the author of The Great Music Quiz Book and The Great Rock Music Quiz Book. Besides being a music aficionado, he is also a photo-journalist. He contributes to Musicunplugged.in.