Penn Masala is set to unravel a capella magic with ‘Homecoming Tour’ in India

The US-based first South Asian a capella group Penn Masala is set to bring their Bollywood mashups, original tracks and signature beatboxing to India with their Homecoming Tour from May 19, 2023

May 18, 2023 11:55 am | Updated 02:23 pm IST

Campus notes for Penn Masala

Campus notes for Penn Masala | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Being a part of a group that was formed even before one was born can truly be euphoric. The Gen Now members of Penn Masala are the proud carriers of the a capella legacy that their predecessors started in 1996. Founded by the South Asian students of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, the group has stayed loyal to the a capella format and incorporated jazz, rock, hip hop and their signature renditions of Bollywood mashups with regional language tracks and Carnatic and Hindustani ragas too finding space in their concerts.

The group is excited about its much-awaited multi-city India tour set to begin on May 19, 2023. Two days before they set to travel to India, three members of Penn Masala Raghunandan Raman, Prateek Adurty and Gaurish Gaur join us over a video call to update us about their Homecoming Tour, their stint with the iconic band and what it means to them to perform in India.

The a capella allure

The unconventional music group that performs sans instruments and invokes chords through their vocals intrigued the audience and their families. Prateek’s grandparents were no different. “They would always ask me what this Penn Masala is and what I’m up to. I am happy that we can finally perform for them in India,” he says. “A lot of us hadn’t been to India in a while because of the pandemic. So it’s a nice time to meet and perform for our family. Most of our families haven’t heard us sing in a while. It’s going to be an amazing opportunity,” says Raghunandan.

Apart from performing for the home crowd, Penn Masala considers this India tour special because of some of the original music they are ready with on their setlist. The nearly two-year preparation that went into this tour will also have new sounds and songs from different languages. “Without completely moving away from our format, we will focus on creating our music rather than just being cover artistes,” says Prateek.

Penn Masala has been planning to tour India since 2017, informs Raghunandan, “We love performing in India and our largest audience is here. It’s like re-energising with our fans and directly connecting with our biggest fan base. After the delayed plans due to the pandemic, we are glad everything worked out this summer,” shares Raghunandan.

Voice of melody

Academics and music go hand in hand for Penn Masala

Academics and music go hand in hand for Penn Masala | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

A pioneer in the South Asian a capella movement, Penn Masala has remained an all-male band whose members say they are not against admitting a female voice; however, the setlist traditionally has been for male voices. Explains Prateek, “A lot of our songs from our current setlist and our setlist in the past have primarily been arranged for male voices. So we use tenor one, tenor two baritones, and bass splits; this mix identifies us. That doesn’t mean we won’t collaborate with female artists. We have a bunch of capella groups on campus currently, there’s the female counterpart to Penn Masala. We are looking forward to collaborating with them.”

Nearly a decade ago Penn Masala paid tribute to Bollywood by releasing a video called The Evolution of Bollywood featuring 39 songs covering the period from 1949 to 2013. This video went viral and garnered nearly five million viewership. Says Gaurish, “The idea came from the trend at the time, of the evolution of music into different categories. And I think the founders were inspired by that and the idea triggered a South Asian-like twist to it.”

At any given time, Penn Masala has a huge number of members. Currently, they have 13. Every Fall semester auditions are conducted and the criteria for the selection, apart from being a good singer is the ability to get along with the group, say the team. “As an a capella group, we spend much time practising and touring together. So it is important to get along with the person,” says Raghunandan. “In terms of musical talent and experience within the group, it’s a wide variety. Some are trained in Western music, some in Carnatic and Hindustani while a few are just shower singers without formal training, It’s the love for fusion music and passion to sing that works for the group,” says Prateek.

As undergraduate students Penn Masala Members spend four active years as part of the group and after graduation become part of the alumnus. “Once you graduate you say goodbye to the group yet remain a part of them. Our alumni are still very involved, we often call them and ask for help in arranging new songs to know what the group should do and we’re grateful for our strong alumni relationships.”

Balanced view

The discussion surrounding their academics-music balance keeps cropping up, admit the singers. “We are all here at the University of Pennsylvania primarily to study. A capella is something that we do on the side, though oftentimes it does feel like it is our main priority, “ laugh the boys. Gaurish says, “Penn Masala is something that we are very fortunate to be a part of, to be involved in something that’s so much bigger than ourselves outside of academics. At the end of the day, we’re able to study together, work together and do better in the class. So I think that a strong sense of community motivates you to study too.”

Presented by TribeVibe, Penn Masala’s Homecoming Tour concert in Hyderabad is on May 25, 2023. They tour Delhi (May 19), Pune (May 20), Mumbai (May 21 & 28), Bengaluru (May 26), Goa (May 27). 

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.