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Penn Masala

Penn Masala
File:PM Obama.jpg
Penn Masala with US President Obama, 2009.
Background information
Origin University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Genres World, a cappella
Years active 1996–present

Penn Masala is an American a cappella group. It is the world's first[1][2] and premier[3][4] Hindi a cappella group.[5] Formed in 1996 by students at the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Masala’s music has been influenced by the Eastern and Western cultures that represent the group’s membership. The group was featured on the soundtrack of American Desi,[6] and has released eight full-length albums: Awaaz, 11 PM, Soundcheck, The Brown Album, Pehchaan, On Detours, Panoramic, Kaavish, and the compilation album Out of Stock. They are currently working on a ninth album.


Penn Masala, often stylized as pennmasala, was formed in 1996 by students at the University of Pennsylvania who wanted to represent their subcontinental heritage and music through a cappella singing. Among other, more long-standing a cappella groups, Penn Masala stood out as the only one in the world that sang Hindi music.[7] This defining characteristic of the group brought it immediate attention as members fused Hindi and English music in original song formats. Soon, the group began to bill itself as "The world's first and premier Hindi a cappella group". Within just four years of its inception, Penn Masala had gained close to 15 members. By 2002, the group released its first two CDs: Awaaz (Hindi for sound) was released in 1999, and 11 PM was released in 2001. Over the next 3 years, Penn Masala released two more full-length albums, Soundcheck and The Brown Album, and a compilation CD entitled Out of Stock, which included favorites from the first 3 albums. In 2007, the group released its fifth studio album, Pehchaan (Hindi for identity). The group followed up the success of Pehchaan with their sixth album, On Detours, which was released in March 2009 and Panoramic, released in 2011. In 2013, they released their eighth studio album titled Kaavish, which features the hit single "Fix You / Ishq Bina". In March 2014, Penn Masala released The Evolution of Bollywood Music video, which has since received over 1 million views on YouTube. In March 2015, Penn Masala released The Bollywood Breakdown, a compilation of contemporary songs that combine elements of hip-hop with Bollywood music. In May 2015, Penn Masala released the music video for Tonight (I’m Lovin’ You) / Dilliwaali Girlfriend, a mix that will be featured on their ninth album. The group had a cameo role in Pitch Perfect 2,[8] released in May 2015, as competitors to the Barden Bellas.[9]


File:Masala mumbai hrc.jpg
Penn Masala performs to a sold out audience at the Hard Rock Cafe Mumbai

Penn Masala performs around the world, with much of their traveling done in the United States; the group performs at numerous universities and events across the world, spanning cities from Kolkata to London to Montreal and San Francisco.[10]

In 1998, soon after the release of Awaaz, Penn Masala went on its first international tour to the United Kingdom, hitting the airwaves and performing all across the United Kingdom. The group gave two particularly noteworthy concerts in New York City: once in 2000 at the Zee Gold Bollywood Awards in the Nassau Coliseum, and again in 2002 at the Bollywood Music Awards in the Hammerstein Ballroom.

India tours

The group has traveled to India four times. In 2002, the group traveled to Mumbai, India to perform at the Star Screen Awards, during which time the members appeared on MTV Asia. In 2006, the group celebrated its 10th anniversary with a tour of India. The men performed at such venues as the National Centre for the Performing Arts at Nariman Point in Mumbai and Swabhumi in Kolkata. In January 2010, the group did another tour across India, selling out the Hard Rock Cafes in New Delhi and Mumbai. Penn Masala also performed at the Oberoi Trident at a ceremony honoring the achievements of Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani. Present were many notable personalities, including Nita Ambani, director Rajkumar Hirani, director/producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah, actors Imran Khan, Rahul Bose and Vinod Khanna, and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar among others. The group also performed at the well-known Lumbini Park Amphitheatre in Hyderabad, and were featured in numerous media outlets, including NDTV, CNBC TV 18, BBC Asia, The Hindustan Times, Zee TV, and CNN-IBN among others.[11] Penn Masala's fourth India tour took place in January 2013, where they shot a music video of "Fix You / Ishq Bina" and performed in five cities across all of the Hard Rock Cafes in the entire country.[12] The January 2013 tour was covered by many major India new outlets, including The Times of India and DNA India, who met with Ram Narayan and Sam Levenson to write about the tour.[13]

United Kingdom and Canada tours

After its initial United Kingdom tour, Penn Masala continued reaching out to audiences abroad with a tour of the nation in March 2010. Among others, two notable performances were at St. James Piccadilly in central London, and in Hammersmith, where the group headlined a nationwide music competition. In November 2010 Penn Masala performed in Montreal, their first Canadian performance in ten years. Then again in 2012, Penn Masala toured the United Kingdom and did a show for The Rajasthani Foundation's Diwali Charity Gala Ball. Audience members included the Hinduja Brothers of the Hinduja Group, Lakshmi Narayan Mittal, Europe's richest man and CEO of ArcelorMittal, as well as the company's CFO Aditya Mittal.

Domestic tours

File:Masala OSU.jpg
Penn Masala concert at Ohio State University

Every semester, Penn Masala tours at a few university campuses. For example in 2011, Penn Masala performed full-length shows at University of Michigan, Vanderbilt University, Ohio University, University of Houston, Rutgers University, Philadelphia Museum of Art, University of North Carolina, University of Maryland and a second performance at Rutgers University, as well as an international gig in the United Kingdom. The group performed at Southern Methodist University for Bhangra Blitz in April 2013. However on top of these routine performances, Penn Masala has also performed for a number of famous individuals ranging from Anderson Cooper to Henry Kissinger to Ban Ki-Moon.

On October 14, 2009, Penn Masala performed at the White House in Washington, D.C. for the White House's celebration of Diwali and the signing ceremony of the Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.[14] The event took place in the East Room, with attendees including President Barack Obama, the Secretary of Commerce and Secretary of Education, Associate Director of Public Engagement Kalpen Modi (also known as Kal Penn), members of Congress, and distinguished community members. Penn Masala opened the ceremony with a performance which was followed by a speech by President Obama, who commended their creative energy and contributions to the Asian American community. In fact in 2012, it was leaked that along with artists such as Jay-Z, Adam Levine, Fergie, Arcade Fire and others, Penn Masala was to be courted by President Barack Obama's team in order to obtain their celebrity endorsement.[15][16] In 2011, Penn Masala was invited to perform for the presidents of universities all over the world as well as UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

Penn Masala also holds a large annual spring concert at the University of Pennsylvania in the university's largest performance venue, Irvine Auditorium. The concert features a wide selection of their songs, and incorporates humor throughout the show using skits and videos that often parody or spoof popular culture. The end of the show is usually marked by a traditional gathering of Masala alumni and current members of the group on stage to commemorate the group and its extensive alumni network.


Penn Masala 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 or Hindi, but certain songs include Arabic, Punjabi, Kannada, and Tamil as well.[17]

Penn Masala blends popular songs to create its own independent version, which is melodically and thematically unified. Most songs fuse popular Hindi and English songs (in the past the group has covered songs by artists such as U2 and Justin Timberlake), into an a cappella rendition. Some songs are purely Hindi; for example, "Bahara" on Panoramic,[18] and "Yeh Honsla" on On Detours and others purely English, such as "What Goes Around Comes Around" on On Detours. Other songs, such as "Aicha" and "Is Pal Mein", incorporate Hindi and English lyrics into a single song. "Aankhon Mein Tu Hai" also includes Tamil verses, "Saade Dil Te", "Kangna" and "Tere Werga" incorporate Punjabi songs, while "Masala Dosa" begins with the Kannada hymn "Krishna Ni Begane", "Aicha" includes Arabic verses and "Fix You - Ishq Bina" includes Bengali. While most of the group's songs are interpretations of already-existing songs, the group also composes originals, such as "Main Tanha" and "Pehchaan" on the album Pehchaan, "Kal Ka Sapna" and "Distant Places" on On Detours, "Is Pal Mein" and "Kaash" on Panoramic, and "Mann Mein Ujaala" on Kaavish.

Penn Masala's music has been popularly and critically acclaimed. "Meri Sapno Ki Rani" and "Aap Jaise Koi" were both featured in American Desi, while a music video for "Chamak Challo" debuted in the Top 10 on Channel [V] India. Both "Chamak Challo" and "Bharat Humko Jaan Se Pyara Hai", a celebration of India's 50th anniversary of independence, brought immediate attention to the group in the fall of 1997, and have been fan favorites ever since. Penn Masala songs have been routinely selected for Varsity Vocals' Best of Collegiate A Cappella CD.[19] "Bharat Humko Jaan Se Pyara Hai" was the first Penn Masala song to be honored. After that, " "Pehchaan" from Pehchaan, "Lovestoned/Ya Ali" from On Detours and "Is Pal Mein" from Panoramic have all been selected to be on the Best of Collegiate A Cappella CD for their respective years.[20]

In 2012, the group was named one of the five best college a cappella groups in the United States by USA Today[21] and twelve best college a cappella groups by online magazine Her Campus.[22]


Penn Masala is a living, evolving group. Made up of University of Pennsylvania students, the group's membership constantly changes as veteran members graduate and new members enter the group[23] through an audition process. Although the majority of Penn Masala's members are of Indian descent, non-Indian members such as Brian Hong, Sam Levenson, and Brendan McManus have been or are currently a part of the group.[24]

Penn Masala currently consists of: Dilip Rajan, Prashant Ramesh, Chetan Khanna, Hari Ravi, Aneesh Kanakamedala, Pranay Sharma, Brendan McManus, Kashish Hora, Praveen Rajaguru, Yamir Tainwala, Nikhil Raman, and Vishnu Rachakonda.[25]


Year Names
1997 Santosh Govindaraju
1998 Ananda Sen, Siddhartha Khosla
1999 Alekh Dalal, Ankur Gupta, Himanshu Sheth, Naveen Wadhera, Sumit Bothra, Swapnil Shah
2000 Abhijeet Patwardhan, Brian Hong, Budhaditya Bhattacharya, Deep Trivedi, Kunal Bajaj, Mihir Talati, Rishi Patel
2001 Ameesh Shah, Pankaj Kakkar, Sandip Agarwala, Veeral Rathod
2002 Akash Shah, Arpan Punyani, Saurabh Moonat
2003 Gaurav Kapadia, Kalin Agarwal, Rishabh Jain, Sandeep Acharya, Vimal Vora, Vishal Oberoi, Viral Juthani
2004 Indranil Guha, Prateek Sureka
2005 Adarsh Shah, Ashish Doshi, Prashant Shankar, Shakir Iqbal
2006 Ramnath Vaidyanathan, Samir Amrute, Varun Sureka
2007 Anand Anbalagan, Ankit Agarwal, Jay Patel, Sathvik Tantry, Srikant Rao, Tushar Vashisht
2008 Ameya Phadke, Ankit Shah, Samir Sheth
2009 Anup Bharani, Chethan Mudiyam, Ricky Sharma
2010 Ankit Dhir, Nikhil Marathe, Sagar Bhatt
2011 Bhuwan Vashisht, Dhruv Batura, Manoj Racherla, Sachin Amrute
2012 Bharat Moudgil, Harshil Shukla, Mahesh Murali, Shriram Chauhan, Vinay Rao
2013 Akshat Vaidya, Ram Narayan, Sam Levenson
2014 Akiff Premjee, Varshil Patel, Rohan Murthy
2015 Dilip Rajan



  • Kaavish (2013)
  • Panoramic (2011)
  • On Detours (2009)
  • Pehchaan (2007)
  • Out of Stock (2005)
  • The Brown Album (2005)
  • Soundcheck (2003)
  • 11 PM (2001)
  • Awaaz (1999)


  1. ^ Rapkin, Mickey (2009). Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory. Penguin. ISBN 1-59240-463-4. 
  2. ^ Penn Masala performs at the White House Penn Current - October 15, 2009
  3. ^ Penn Masala to perform in city The Hindu - January 10, 2010
  4. ^ Penn Masala - The World’s Premier South Asian A Cappella Group India West
  5. ^ Matheson, Kathy (2007-02-24). "UPenn group spices up college a cappella scene with Hindi songs". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  6. ^ Patel, Anhoni (May 18, 2001). "Penn Masala Croons A Cappella". AsianWeek. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  7. ^ Steinberg, Jacques (Jan 4, 2012). "10 Questions for the Dean of Admissions of the University of Pennsylvania". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-19. 
  8. ^ Lim, Eunice (2014-08-24). "The South Asian a cappella group is the only real collegiate performance group in the movie". The Daily Pensylvanian. Retrieved 2015-05-18. 
  9. ^ Tauber, Michelle; Price, Lydia (2015-05-13). "Pitch Perfect 2: All the Details Behind UPenn's A Cappella Group Cameo". Retrieved 2015-05-18. 
  10. ^ "Penn Masala's Pehchaan". March 4, 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  11. ^ Penn Masala's 2010 India Tour Recap - Penn Masala
  12. ^ [1] Penn Masala Eyes Bollywood
  13. ^ Badola, Shreya (January 4, 2013). "'Penn Masala' eyes Bollywood". DNA. 
  14. ^ Penn Masala performs at White House Daily Pennsylvanian - October 14, 2009
  15. ^ Smith, Grady (January 19, 2012). "Obama's wish-list of celebrity endorsements leaks, but Lady Antebellum says no thanks". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2012-01-19. 
  16. ^ Cass, Michael (January 19, 2012). "Confirmed and Passed Surrogates" (PDF). Tennessean. Retrieved 2012-01-19. 
  17. ^ Sharda, Ashish. "Interview with Penn Masala". Shabd. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  18. ^ Panoramic (Album) XDV Magazine - January 2, 2012
  19. ^ 01/26/10, Honors and Other Things - Almanac, Vol. 56, No. 19
  20. ^ 2012 announced
  21. ^ The 5 Best College A Capella Groups in the Country
  22. ^ 12 Best College A Capella Groups in the Country
  23. ^ Welcoming New Members - Penn Masala
  24. ^ Patel, Ahoni (May 18, 2001). "Penn Masala Croons A Cappella". Asian Week. 
  25. ^ "Penn Masala - About". Retrieved 26 June 2013. 

External links

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