Penn Masala, the well known Hindi a cappella group performed in Boston at Tufts University on the 5th and 6th of October, at an event organized by TASA, the university’s South Asian students’ association. The group was formed in 1996 by south Asian students in the University of Pennsylvania. Since then the composition of the group has changed over time, with four new members joining the team this year. What has not changed, however, is the exceptional quality of their music.
The performance was accompanied by a fusion dance by Harvard’s South Asian Fusion Dance Troupe. The troupe performed “Jab Dil Mile”, a piece that combined dance styles ranging from Hip Hop to the traditional Bharatnatyam. Boston University’s Dance Theatre Group also performed a piece titled “Shards of Glass”, a tribute to the victims and survivors of disasters.
The show began with a group of young boys and girls from Tufts doing some energetic dance routines. Their name “Turbo” was quite appropriate, as they did headstands and moonwalks that would have put our Bollywood dance troupes to shame.
A videotape about Penn Masala was creatively used to divide their performance into three sets. The tape itself was a hilarious parody that traced the `rise and fall and subsequent rise’ of the group. The storyline was not unlike that of the Wonders in “That thing you do”, and had the audience in splits.
The group sang several numbers, in Hindi and in English. “With or Without You” sung by Arpan Punyani and Tyrese’s “Lately” by Sandeep Acharya were complemented by Hindi all time favorites “Jumma Chumma” by Viral Jhuthani, and “Bharat Humko Jaan Se Pyaara Hai” by Pankaj Kakkar. Newcomers to the group-freshmen Prashant Shankar and Rishabh Jain-had the crowd mesmerized with their rendition of a classical number.
Penn Masala are comfortable as entertainers. They know how to hold the audience, with little jokes, small asides and fantastic music. With a successful album “Awaaz” already under their belt, and on tour promoting their second album “11pm”, the performers exuded confidence and an uncanny ability to gauge the mood of the audience, including a range of songs in the evening’s repertoire.
Next time they are in town, go and see the performance. You can check them out at www.pennmasala.com, and also buy the CDs on their website.