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Who were the young men in black singing Chaiyya Chaiyya as the crowds waited for Modi at the White House?

BY VEENA RAO

Washington, DC, June 25, 2023: Who were the dapper young men in black singing “Chaiyya Chaiyya”, “Dil Se”  and “Jashn-e-bahaara” at the White House steps, as the large crowd of close to 7000 people waited for the arrival ceremony for Prime Minister Modi?

Penn Masala, the world’s first South Asian A Capella group is made up of around 19 students of the University of Pennsylvania and has been in existence since 1996. The band has made a considerable name for itself singing for heads-of-state, prominent businessmen, and international leaders, while traveling to some of the most vibrant cities across the world including India.

White House photo

“A few days ago, we had the opportunity— and honor—to perform for President Biden and Prime Minister Modi at the White House for the State Arrival Ceremony and State Dinner!” the group said through a social media release.

“It was the largest gathering of Indians to ever be invited to the White House. We were incredibly excited to share the blend of Western and Eastern that unite our music and us as artists, being descendants of first-generation immigrants.”

“It was a true honor to be invited to perform again at the White House. We hope we have shared our passion for uniting through music, but we would like to include that we performed for sharing our music and not to support/not support any political agenda.”

The band has earlier played for President Obama at the White House, at the Indian International Film Academy (IIFA) Awards, and in the Hollywood feature film and soundtrack for Pitch Perfect 2 which received an American Music Award for Best Soundtrack in 2015.

Penn Masala was born with the desire to create music that traversed traditional cultural boundaries and captured the experience of growing up with both Eastern and Western cultures. As the first group in the world to bring the sounds of the Indian subcontinent to a cappella, we’ve consistently been at the forefront of South Asian-Western fusion ever since,” their website says.

“Our music has grown to attract fans from all backgrounds, and we in turn have been influenced by a wide range of cultures. The Hindi-English mashups we pioneered bring together Western pop and Eastern melodies to form harmonies you won’t hear anywhere else.”

Penn Masala’s original compositions, complete with innovative sounds, rich textures, and complex arrangements, showcase the distinct sound the group has created.

Although the band has been in existence since 1996, the current team consists of students of the class of 2023, 2024, 2025, and 2026.

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