South Asian A cappella group fuses American pop with Bollywood hits

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Members of Hum A Cappella, a South Asian fusion a cappella group, practice a pre-performance ritual during a rehearsal Jan. 19. The group plans to host an a cappella event called Riyaaz on campus Feb. 14.
Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

A pitch pipe echoes through an auditorium. Eleven students dressed in black and gold salwars and kurtas — loose clothing worn in South Asia — sway across the stage as a beatboxer emerges for a solo. Hum A Cappella is about to do what it does best: fusing American pop songs with Bollywood hits. 

Hum A Cappella, UT’s only South Asian fusion a cappella group and second oldest a cappella group on campus, placed first at the national Anahat A Cappella competition in November. The students competed against eight other South Asian groups from colleges across the nation. For economics sophomore Ruchir Elhence, the group’s financial director, musical mashups were key to Hum A Cappella’s success.

“At Anahat, you want to show diversity, so you want to show Hindi as well as English,” Elhence said. 

This semester, the group is focused on promoting its fourth album, “Humsafar.” Released in December, the album is available on both Spotify and iTunes. “Humsafar” is a Hindi term that means “journey” and “companionship.” The group fused songs from all different genres, such as pop, indie, hip hop and rap, with Bollywood songs. With mashups of American songs such as “Love the Way You Lie” and Bollywood songs such as “Guzaarish,” management information systems senior Aneesha Mayekar — Hum A Cappella’s captain — believes the album reflects the group’s musical evolution.

Hindi a cappella groups first began in the U.S. in 1996 with the creation of Penn Masala — the South Asian a cappella group at the University of Pennsylvania. Several other groups have sprouted up over the years, but Hum A Cappella, which began in 2001, was the first group in Texas. Spring semester tryouts for female singers and beatboxers will take place Monday and Tuesday. 

The name “Hum” means “us” in Hindi. Pranav Bhamidipati, external director and biology and Plan II sophomore, said the group allowed him to find a community outside of classes.

“When we’re backstage, we’re joking around with each other and taking pictures. We’re enthusiastic and have a really good dynamic,” Bhamidipati said. 

Nishant Gupta, musical director and chemical engineering and computer science junior, said Hum A Cappella quickly became a source for friendship and support after he joined freshman year. 

“It’s great to be able to share something that we are all passionate about and relate to one another through music,” Gupta said. 

Over the years, the group has performed at weddings around Dallas and Houston and at showcases on campus such as Texas Review and Jhalak. Members also sang at a Be the Change rally and at benefit shows for groups such as China Care Foundation. On Feb. 14, the group is hosting an event on campus called Riyaaz, where South Asian a cappella groups from colleges across Texas will show off their work. Bhamidipati said that the best part about performing is the excitement the audience provides — when Hum A Capella practices three times a week, the energy level can’t compare, he said.

“A big part of our performance is reacting to the crowd and picking up their energy,” Bhamidipati said. 

While some members have prior performance experience, other members of Hum A Cappaella are singing on stage for the first time. Mayekar said being a part of a performance is always the most satisfying part.

“The most rewarding thing is performing and being able to share what you sing and what you made to a big audience,” Mayekar said.