â€œWeâ€™re always planning for the future,â€ remarked Adarsh Shah, markedly eloquent amidst the bustle of a popular University of Pennsylvania coffee bar. â€œWeâ€™re fairly demanding while training our newcomers, but itâ€™s a good investment.â€
For Penn Masala, the worldâ€™s first and premier Hindi all-male acapella group, itâ€™s certainly an investment that has proven itself worthwhile. Eight years after its conception, Masala (as the boys casually refer to themselves) has won the hearts of Indian music lovers across the world, continually offering innovative renditions of popular music in the unique genre of acapella.
And despite the waves of imitator groups popping up in colleges and universities across the world, Masala still reigns as the king of Hindi acapella â€“ an astonishing accomplishment, especially given that this Penn-based group changes its composition yearly as members graduate. â€œWe keep in very good touch with our Alumni, and they help us out a lot. Itâ€™s a continual learning process,â€ says Shah.
Well whatever their secret is, Masala certainly doesnâ€™t seem like itâ€™s going to give up its spot at the top anytime soon. Having released its newest album Soundcheck last April and preparing for the release of their first compilation album entitled Out of Stock, itâ€™s amazing that these boys have the time to tour as much as they do â€“ which is about 4 to 5 shows a semester, in cities across the world.
â€œAlmost every trip is like an escape from reality,â€ says newcomer Jay Patel. He admits that being part of Masala was a little overwhelming at first, but he hasnâ€™t seemed to get carried away by their ever-expanding fan base. â€œItâ€™s very flattering,â€ says Patel, â€œbut it only helps us to perform better.â€
However, performing better isnâ€™t necessarily something theyâ€™ve had a problem doing over the years. Musically, Masalaâ€™s become more experimental with their music, introducing increasingly complex rhythmic patterns from new genres, even within Indian dialects. Organizationally theyâ€™ve become much more structured and have expanded their reach, including a song featured in the hit movie American Desi. Even the shows themselves have developed, especially through the integration of humor to Masalaâ€™s sets. â€œOur goal is to provide a total entertainment package,â€ says Patel.
But the music development process itself has changed little. â€œItâ€™s a long process,â€ notes Shah, which starts out with group-wide song selection, followed by an arrangement and song mixing by one or two members.
Speaking of which, Masala is currently in the process of developing its next album, to be released in April, 2005. While the boys wonâ€™t splurge too many details on what to expect, itâ€™s likely to contain even more complex tracks with more originals â€“ the next step in their musical evolution.
But for now, the boys are just enjoying the music and each otherâ€™s company. (Yes, the boys are friends, and claim they never really fight amongst themselves.) â€œWe spend lots of social time together, both in and out of Masala,â€ says Shah. And yes, ladies, exactly 70% of the boys are single. Theyâ€™re smart, talented Indian boys who would serenade you regularly with love songs â€“ what more could a girl want? â€” ANERI JAMBUSARIA
To learn more about Penn Masala, visit their website at http://www.pennmasala.com.