After playing for Obama, Penn Masala wants to hit Bollywood

The ever evolving all-male student group, formed in 1996 from the University of Pennsylvania, are back in the country after three years for a tour, still living in the afterglow of their performance at the White House last Diwali.

"We were humbled and honoured to play in front of President Obama, it was a pinnacle for us. No words can describe the feeling and we were happy to represent India and Indian-American community. In his speech that followed he mentioned our creative energy and really appreciated our music," Ankit Bhir, President of the group told PTI.

As the term 'A Capella' suggests, Penn Masala whose music is a confluence of Western and Eastern culture does not use any instruments. The band has come out with six albums in the past and their music also featured in film 'American Desi'.

"We have collaborated with Sunidhi Chauhan and we are always looking for opportunities to work with more Indian artists. We would love to work with Bollywood.
American Desi provided us with a big boost and was a huge step for us as artists," Bhir, who was in the capital with the group to perform at the Hard Rock Cafe, said.

"We have never done a Bollywood movie and since we are here, we are planning to meet a couple of people," he added.

Penn Masala, whose members change every year as the graduation day nears, was formed to represent South Asian culture and music on campus through a capella and stands out as the only a capella group in the world that sang Hindi music.

"The University of Pennsylvania has rich culture of a capella and in 1996 we saw that India also has a rich tradition of culture so we decided to blend a capella with Indian music," the group said.

"All the parts come together to form a choir. We also have a vocal percussionist that mimics sound of drums. In March 2009 we released our last album On Detours and hopefully there will be many more to go," they added.

From 'Nahin Samne', 'Aankhon Mein Tu Hai', 'Meri Sapno Ki Rani' and "Aap Jaise Koi' to a Hip-Hop track like 'Aicha' by Outlandish the group has re-adaptated an array of existing songs, apart from their own compositions like 'Midnight' on the album Soundcheck, 'Desi Ladki' on 11 PM, and 'Distant Places' on the album On Detours.

Although, Penn Masala primarily sings in Hindi they occasionally include lyrics in languages like Punjabi, Tamil and Arabic in their songs.

"Our ambition is to be a South Asian a capella group and to stay true to our roots. The beauty of a capella is that it can change overnight so we have incorporated Carnatic, Arabic and Tamil sounds in our music," the group members said.

Penn Masala, whose favourite songs include 'Chamak Challo' and 'Bharat Humko Jaan se Pyara Hai' were also elated by the response of the audience to their music.

"It was an amazing experience to play in India, we were so happy when after the show around 500 people came to us to congratulate us for our performance," the group said.

However, as another year dawns veteran members would leave 'Penn Masala' to give way to new members who are auditioned into the group.

These are my last few months but I am not sad. Penn Masala is always evolving and it's a sweet moment as you are leaving behind memories to shape the future of Masala," Bhir said.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)