The 15-member band, which is now touring the country to promote their latest album Yuva , will be performing in the city for the first time at the Phoenix MarketCity on Sunday at 7.30 pm.Penn Masala Chennai: As they gear up for their first performance in the city, Indo-American a cappella group, Penn Masala, speak to DTNext about music, mash-ups, brotherhood and their latest album Yuva. Penn Masala, the world’s first South Asian a cappella group (sung without instrumental accompaniment), was born with the desire to create music that traverses traditional cultural boundaries and captures the experience of growing up with both Eastern and Western cultures.
Formed in 1996 by students at the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Masala has been at the forefront of South Asian-Western fusion ever since. “The Penn part comes from the fact that we are all students at the University of Pennsylvania, and we felt that ‘Masala’ best describes the blend of Indian and American music that we strive to create,” begins Hari Ravi, one of the members.
Since inception, the band has released 9 full-length studio albums also including Awaaz, 11 PM, Soundcheck, Brown Album, Pehchaan, Kaavish, and Resonance , and performed for President Obama at the White House, the IIFA and Star Screen Awards, Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal in London, and sold-out concerts even in India that was attended by Sachin Tendulkar and the Ambanis.
The 15-member band, which is now touring the country to promote their latest album Yuva , will be performing in the city for the first time at the Phoenix MarketCity on Sunday at 7.30 pm.
“From a musical standpoint, we really looked to experiment with new styles of a cappella while capturing the theme of youth’s many manifestations in this album. We explored electronic elements through songs like Nashe Si Chadh Gayi/ Hymn for the Weekend to bring out that teenage party vibe. On the other side, we used snaps, claps, and whistles in One Thing/Jeena Jeena and Baar Baar Dekho to bring out a more care-free, childish vibe. Make sure to listen close for these things on the album,” says another member Praveen Rajaguru. Penn Masala effortlessly combines various musical traditions, including Hindi film music, pop, hip-hop, R&B, rock, and Indian classical styles.
The group also uses a wide array of languages in their songs. Their compositions are primarily sung in English and Hindi, but certain songs include Arabic, Punjabi, Kannada, and Tamil as well. However, performing live with so many musicians on stage takes a great deal of synchronisation and a small slip can result in cacophony. “The primary focus for all of us at the end of the day is the betterment of the group as a whole.
Performing our music live takes a great deal of coordination between different parts, so it’s important that we function well as a team. That being said, we understand that each member we take in has a lot to offer. We’ve taken people who demonstrate natural talents for a specific style of music, administrative skills like a knack for videography or design, and everything else in between.
We try to showcase individual flares like these in our shows and the content we release. At the end of the day, the numerous perspectives we have among our members, the brotherhood and creative conflicts really enable us to continue the group’s success.,” adds Nikhil Raman, one of the newer members.
Interestingly, the band also has a different approach in terms of recruiting new talent. The founding members decided it was best to keep the band synonymous with the alma mater. So, each year, in what they call a bittersweet ceremony, members who graduate from the university leave, making way for new members. And to take in the talent they organise open auditions annually.