I went a little obsessive about Penn Masala last night on Facebook and then I woke up this morning and realized I had a blog. Not only that, but a blog devoted to all things India, so really what better place for this?
I got to know Penn Masala the way I imagine a lot of us did--I caught some of their songs on the American Desi soundtrack and was hooked.
Penn Masala was formed in 1996 at the University of Pennsylvania, and at the time they were believed to be the first ever Hindi a cappella group. As their popularity has grown universities all over the country have emulated their model; even my alma mater, the University of Maryland, has a Hindi a cappella group called Anokha. Penn Masala performs all over the country (they did a show at Vanderbilt last month that I'm kicking myself for missing) and has even gone international with a big tour of India.
NPR did a great piece on them a few years ago--check it out for some more background as well as a taste of their work.
So what have they got going for them? What makes them stand out from the dozens of other college a cappella groups?
Well for starters...these are some fine looking men. Yeah, I said it. They're hotties. All of them. Who wouldn't want to be sung to by these guys?
photo from the Penn Masala website
And check out Ashima Yadava's excellent photo set from their tour in India:
Ok. I've had my swoon. Let's get to the substance. These boys can SING.
Normally the guys pick a Hindi tune and a western song and blend them perfectly, but from time to time they compose their own original songs, like this one: Distant Places is gorgeous. The lead singers are Ankit Dhir (English), Bharat Moudgil (Hindi) and Manoj Racherla (background).
Amazing right? They have fantastic variety. Check out their mix of Justin Timberlake's "Lovestoned" and "Ya Ali" from Gangster.
Here's Ankit, with his crazy 'fro which I love (and from the sounds of it so do the women in that audience!). Bharat's singing the Hindi again--someone get that boy a job on a film soundtrack, he's fantastic.
Another professionally done video, this time it's a mashup of Coldplay's Viva la Vida and Jashn-e-Bahara from Jodhaa Akbar.
And pretty much my favorite thing ever, Manoj busting out his best Kevin Lyttle impression at Philly Fest:
Not content with Youtube videos? No problem! Penn Masala has recorded 7 albums (their latest, Panoramic, JUST came out) along with a compilation album. They're all fantastic--you can head over to their site to get your own copies. Do it! They're well worth the money, and all the proceeds from album sales go straight to the group to help fund their tours, etc.
As a bit of a teaser, here's the song that put these guys on the map--their mega popular take on Aap Jaisa Koi!
PS: Ankit Dhir, if you see this, I love you. Call me. xoxo