Photo: Sony Music India

How would you like to hear your favourite songs like Beyonce’s Telephone, Camilla Cabello’s Havana, Nicki Minaj’s Starships or Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know, all sung by an a capella group? We focus this month on a band creating waves across the world, taking songs by famous artists, remixing them with a mash-up and turning them into completely new songs.

Pentatonix is an a cappella group of five vocalists who give you goosebumps every time you listen to them. Their YouTube channel currently has over 16 million subscribers and 3.7 billion views.

The group consists of Scott Hoying, Kirstin (Kirstie) Maldonado, Mitch Grassi who supply the vocals, while Avi Kaplan takes the bass and Kevin Olusola is in charge of the cello beatboxing.

As for the name of the band, it was Hoying who suggested the name Pentatonix after the pentatonic scale which includes five notes per octave representing the five members of the group.

Our story goes to Texas where Maldonado, Grassi and Hoying grew up together and were schoolmates at Martin High School in Arlington, Texas. They competed in a local radio show competition in hopes of meeting cast members of the TV show Glee. They arranged Lady Gaga’s Telephone for three voices, but lost out, but social media picked them up and they soon hit big time with viewers on YouTube.

Pentatonix was the brainchild of Hoying who was part of an a cappella group and who after high school, attended the University of Southern California where he joined an a cappella singing group. He auditioned for the show The Sing Off on NBC, convincing Maldonado and Grassi to join him. They added Avi Kaplan and Olusola and the line-up of Pentatonix was complete. The group members met in person for the first time the day before the auditions for the third season of The Sing Off began.

Pentatonix were one of sixteen groups chosen to compete. At the finale, they performed David Guetta’s Without You and 98 Degrees’ Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche). Pentatonix won hands down, earning $200,000 and a recording contract with Sony Music. While the label’s Epic Records took them on, they dropped the band six months later for unknown reasons. The band then concentrated all their energies on creating their own YouTube channel, and later distributing its music through Madison Gate Records.

The band relocated to Los Angeles and released a debut EP, PTX Vol 1 in 2012, featuring cover versions of Starships (Nicki Minaj) and Somebody That I Used to Know (Gotye).

Another EP the next year, PTX Vol 2, featured more popular hit songs that tapped into the hearts of fans who loved the artists of these songs — versions of hits by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ Can’t Hold Us and Calvin Harris as well as a medley of Daft Punk songs, the latter which won them their first Grammy in the category of Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella at the 57th Grammy Awards.

Read the full article by subscribing to the print magazine or the digital edition.

>> More articles

Verus Ferreira is a music journalist for over three decades. He is the author of The Great Music Quiz Book and The Great Rock Music Quiz Book and the founder of

Verus Ferreira

Verus Ferreira is a music journalist for over three decades. He is the author of The Great Music Quiz Book and The Great Rock Music Quiz Book and the founder of