4 South Asian A Cappella Groups You SHOULD Be Listening To

A cappella simply put is singing without the use of musical instruments. The use of various voice modulations and harmonies helps A cappella singers emulate musical instruments and other background music. The concept of A cappella music is rather popular in the west but as an Asian person, a cappella is not something very popular in the east. However, about twenty years ago things changed for us. This is when the first South Asian A cappella group was formed, and boy were they good! This group was created as a college organization and in fact, most South Asian A cappella groups are a part of college organizations, but that does not hinder their rise to popularity. South Asian A cappella groups particularity focus on blending English music with South Asian regional music forming an artistic delight. Hence, I have decided to highlight four such a cappella groups you HAVE to listen to:

  1. 1. Penn Masala

    Formed right here in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania in 1996, this was the first South-Asian A cappella group EVER! It is an all-male group formed that primarily focuses on blending English music with regional languages like Hindi and Punjabi, much like the blend of eastern and western cultures that represent the group’s members. Initially, the group started with primarily south Asian members but over the years other ethnicities have been a part of this prominent group. Their rise in sudden popularity was when they released the song ‘Viva La Vida/Jashn-e-Bahara’ in 2011 and since then they have gradually become a common name in several eastern households. Since then, they have travelled around the world for several musical tours and they have also performed at the White House, at the Indian Filmfare Awards and they even had a cameo in the movie Pitch Perfect 2. Overall, this group is a great introduction to the world of South Asian A cappella music with their latest album, Musafir, having released on February 9th.

  2. 2. Chai-Town

    This is another premier all male South Asian fusion A cappella group created at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). It started with two young men, Anish Parikh and Rishi Jain, who created an act for a talent show at UIUC which went on to be a massive hit, hence their decision to start such an organization. Upon the group’s formation towards the end of 2000, they have since released six albums/EPs along with several singles which are primarily in Hindi and English. They have performed at several South Asian A cappella competitions like Anahat and Gathe Raho where they secured top positions. Their covers are extremely refreshing, and the combinations of songs fit extremely perfectly such as in “Beautiful Soul/Khabar Nahi’ and “Bang Bang/Get Lucky’. A fun fact about this group is that their name comes from the mutual love both the founders had for chai. They grew up in Chicago also known as Chi-town, hence the combination to form Chai-Town. Their latest release ‘Chai Time, Vol. 1’ is a worthwhile listen.

  3. 3. Dhamakapella

    The first-ever coed South Asian A cappella group is none other than Dhamakapella (abbreviated to Dhamaka). They are based at the Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. They focus primarily on a range of genres from western and eastern music with students of various ethnicities, not just of South Asian descent. With over 21 released tracks, this fusion group primarily focuses on competing nationally. As a group they have performed at several competitions all around the country, winning some sort of title/position in 19 of them. They may not be as popular as the ones mentioned above but their unique combination of female and male voices through fusion music helps them stand out. Some of their most well-known covers are ‘Radioactive/Dil Se’ and ‘Airplanes/Tujhe Dekha To’ which are both very well mixed to form seamless pieces. Personally, this is one very underrated group considering they are very decorated with accolades and can optimize music production using both male and female voices.

  4. 4. New York Masti

    Here’s the best for the last, a premier all-female South Asian A cappella group: NY Masti. These girls are all a part of New York University, New York where the group was formed in 1999. They are one of the older A cappella groups and have since performed at various Indian award shows, South Asian conventions, and dance competitions. They have even performed at the Loombda Foundation Charity Dinner at the United Nations. Their creativity and originality are something they are very well known for as their vocal arrangements of Western and South Asian beats help them stand out. The girls together are not only able to hit the high notes but even the really low notes. One thing that stands out about this group is their amazing ability to rap and beatbox which is very well evident in their covers of the songs ‘As Long as you Love Me/Tumhi Ho Bandhu/Titanium’ and ‘All of me/Laal Ishq”. This group has convinced me that women can rap and beatbox just as well as men can despite their higher and poised voices.

These groups are all extremely unique and amazing in their own, but this article would be incomplete without mentioning an A cappella group from Drexel. So here it goes, Drexel Dhvani is the only South Asian A cappella team here at Drexel. Formed less than a month ago, this group seems promising and is something definitely to look forward to. I hope this helped convince you that South Asian A cappella is just as good as other A cappella groups, if not better. So, what are you waiting for? Go check them all out :)