By Neha Gandhi
Over the past two decades, the world has been blessed with a cappella geniuses from Pentatonix and Pitch Perfect to Penn Masala. The South Asian a cappella genre has grown exponentially, especially as the collegiate a cappella scene continues to push its musical boundaries.
Did you know that some of your favorite Desi artists were actually former collegiate a cappella singers themselves? Check out some of your favorite Desi stars who made appearances on the collegiate a cappella stage!
That’s right! The talented Aditya Rao with his smooth, buttery voice has worked with incredible artists like A.R. Rahman and has won awards including “Best Debut Artist” (92.7 BIG FM Tamil Melody Awards) in 2015. But did you know that during his tenure at Carnegie Mellon, Rao was actually a part of Deewane, the university’s all-male South Asian a cappella group? His voice can be heard in classic mash-ups such as “Ainvayi Ainvayi/Sadi Galli”.
He is now taking over the music industry, pursuing his immense passion for music by collaborating with A-list and upcoming artists from around the world, fusing Indian classical vocals with global rhythms.
It’s likely that Harve has been a part of some of your favorite Bollywood jams and you just didn’t know it! His musical career pursuits first began when he joined the University of Michigan’s South Asian a cappella group Maize Mirchi. As the group’s musical director, he guided the group to their first two placements in competitions with his arrangements. Harve has continued with a cappella even after graduating college by producing his own a cappella covers, and judging competitions, including the first national championship competition All-American Awaaz in 2017. He then broke into the sound engineering scene by joining the renowned a cappella recording company Liquid 5th Productions.
Harve has worked with the iconic Bollywood duo Vishal and Shekar as a sound engineer and even won the 2015 Mirchi Music Award in Sound Engineering for the song “Manwa Laage.”
Dixi Patel has impressed crowds with her delicate, sweet vocals, by opening for industry veterans like Shreya Goshal. Patel has been a musician since she was a young girl but she found her confidence while singing and competing with Texas A&M University’s Swaram a cappella.
Recently, she’s gained recognition singing at events like the 2018 Urban Desi Concert in New York City, which brought in a live crowd of over 1,500 people. Patel’s alumni a cappella group, Swaram, became the first national champion of South-Asian collegiate a cappella at the first ever All-American Awaaz in 2017.
There must be something in the water at Carnegie Mellon. Neel Nadkarni has been sweeping into hearts with original songs like Soniye and What You Do To Me, but did you know that Neel was also an arranger for the award-winning Deewane set at Gathe Raho 2014?
A musician that strives to collaborate both Western and Desi elements into his music, Neel’s influence on Deewane brought the group to new heights. That collaborative foundation is still evident in his music today.
If you haven’t heard these glorious voices yet, you should do your ears a favor and head over to their Facebook page immediately. Formed from UIUC’s Chai-Town, these boys have kept true to their roots by building on their passion for fusing Bollywood music and Western hits.
Collaborating with artists like Jonita Gandhi and Samica, SAMAA has put a twist on contemporary South Asian a cappella and instrumental fusion.
With over 30 competitive groups, hundreds of singers and beatboxer, the South Asian a cappella circuit is a pool bubbling with rising talent. You can get ahead of the new, budding talent from the collegiate Desi a cappella circuit by checking out the national championship competition All-American Awaaz taking place on April 21st, 2018 in Chicago at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance.
P.S. If you didn’t know, even Bollywood is getting in on the a cappella action. Amitabh Bachan recently released a new a cappella video cover of the Golden Oldie “Ser Jo Tera Chakaraey”.
Neha Gandhi is a communications and media specialist based out of New York. She is also a co-director for All-American Awaaz, hosted by the Association of South-Asian A cappella, aimed to foster the growth and expansion of the South Asian a cappella community, both competitive and non-competitive. You can usually find her harmonizing with the sounds of the Q train.