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November 30, 2005

Raagapella wins title

Stanford Daily (CA):

Tacked to the wall of senior Sanjay Kairam’s room in Durand House is a black shirt proclaiming, “I directed the National Champion South Asian A Cappella group, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” On Nov. 5, under Kairam’s direction, Raagapella — Stanford’s only South Asian a cappella group — won Anahat, the second national South Asian A Cappella Championship.

Raagapella was founded in 2002 by Bobby Ghosh, Class of 2005, senior Jay Pandit, senior Sudeep Roy and co-terminal student Mehul Trivedi for just one performance. It rapidly became something far bigger in scope. The group presents a fusion of Western and South Asian music. At the competition earlier this month, it performed three songs — “Vande Mataram,” a patriotic salute to motherhood, “Meri Jaan,” a fusion hip-hop piece and a mix of the Hindi song “Chak De” and the Maroon Five pop hit “This Love.”

Those three songs buoyed the group to victory over its five competitors. Despite its small size, the contest has become much more competitive over the last few years as South Asian a cappella experienced a boom. “It’s great to see how these groups have developed across the country in the past few years and spread awareness of and appreciation for South Asian culture,” said Sunil Parekh, a sophomore.

Winning isn’t too bad either. “We’ve been saying national champions in a semi-ironic way,” Kairam said. But the Raagapella men did take top honors. One of their high points was beating two teams they had lost to last year. Their enthusiasm was shared by the audience, which filled UC-Berkeley’s Julian Morgan Center. “It’s been really rewarding for us to watch this sort of pet project become something so much larger,” said Trivedi, the longest-standing member of the current group, which consists of mostly new students and — for the first time — non-South Asian singers.

For Raagapella members, the win at Berkeley does not bring an end to their hard work. Kairam referred to it as merely “a good note on which to start the year.” With the group’s first album, “Raags to Riches,” a compilation of most of Raagapella’s pieces from the last several years — including the three that won them top honors at Anahat — in the final stages of production, group members look forward to the rest of the year. The group’s success comes on the heels of the Basmati Raas dance team’s national title and the competitive emergence of the Hindi Film Dance, helping to make South Asian performance as popular on Stanford’s campus as it is nationally.

Posted by acapnews at November 30, 2005 10:00 PM