UT's South Asian a cappella circuit takes the spotlight this fall

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sudarshan Iyengar | Daily Texan Staff

UT’s South Asian a cappella circuit will take the main stage this November after a group of 48 students achieved a bid to host the first national South Asian a cappella competition on campus.

The Indian Students Association will spearhead the $14,000 competition, called Jeena, featuring six South Asian a cappella teams from around the country. UT’s own group, Hum A Cappella, will only be performing because hosting teams are not allowed to compete.

Architecture senior Sudarshan Iyengar, external director for Hum A Cappella, said the competition might bring the spotlight to an overlooked community on campus.

“I feel like not a lot of attention has been given to the South Asian a cappella circuit,” Iyengar said. “(This competition) is kind of a big step for getting foundational a cappella more exposure.”

While Hum A Cappella has had multiple successes in its 16 years of competing, the group often feels overshadowed by UT’s eight Bollywood and South Asian dance teams, said Aashna Pandya, vice president of external affairs for the Indian
Students Association.

Despite placing every year for the past four years at Awaazein, a national South Asian a cappella competition, including two first-place wins in 2014 and 2015, Hum A Cappella is rarely publicized, said Pandya, a management information systems senior.

“The South Asian a cappella team that we have on campus is amazing, and they’ve won first place at so many competitions, but then the whole dance scene kind of takes over,” Pandya said. “The (South Asian a cappella) circuit is huge, but UT has never really taken an interest in it.”

Iyengar said South Asian a cappella has always been a side note at UT. He said he hopes the event will draw in a lot of the Indian community on campus to see a musical representation of both Western and South Asian culture.

“It’s kind of like a mash-up, a blending of two cultures,” Iyengar said. “It’s a musical expression that you see a lot of in dance and not really much in music.”

Jeena is the first of five regional competitions leading up to a national South Asian a cappella competition called All-American Awaaz in the spring. The Indian Students Association will announce the competing teams on social media in the coming weeks.

Farrien Khan, co-president of the Indian Students Association, said this is the first time the organization has attempted to host an event of this size.

“For the first time ever we’re really branching out and adding something on such a large scale,” said Khan, management information systems junior. “It really give us that … exposure that we have never had before.”

Khan said she hopes the event will bring more attention to South Asian art forms on campus.

“I think a cappella in itself is such a unique and amazing talent,” Khan said. “To be able to showcase it while also spreading awareness of our culture is really sentimental to me.”