A capella group combines cultural music

Photo Courtesy of Taal Tadka

From a young age, Sanchit Malhotra was trained in both Western and Indian musical genres. Music has been his passion and lifelong interest, and it was only natural that he would include that in his college experience than by combining his two areas of musical talent.

“I joined Taal Tadka my freshman year, looking to get involved in a music group of some sort. It’s been a very integral part of my life ever since and definitely added a lot to my college experience. Some of my best friends have come out of the group, and it’s definitely been a place to take my mind off of things in the crazy world of Tech,” said Malhotra, a third-year CS major who has been a part of the group for two years.

Taal Tadka is Tech’s first and only South Asian a capella group. The group is composed of 12 individuals who come together to share their musical talent and interest and grow in that regard.

A capella itself is a genre in which individuals or groups sing without instrumental music, and has become very popular recently in creating mash ups and covers of popular songs together.

South Asian a capella, as this particular genre is now dubbed, combines Western genres, sounds and vocal techniques with Indian rhythms and styles to create a fusion of the music that is at the forefront of both cultures.

Malhotra is currently the music director of Taal Tadka.

“This is my second year as the music director for the group and I’ve had the pleasure of combining many musical elements such as Western theory, Western and South Asian vocal techniques, South Asian sounds and rhythms and of course South Asian and Western songs,” Malhotra said.

A group from University of Pennsylvania, called Penn Masala, is credited with being the first in the world in creating and most successfully spreading the genre in the late 1990’s. Since then, almost every major university has formed a group, and Tech is one of them.

“Many groups have taken strides to push beyond the Bollywood-Western mash-up, foraying into new genres and new styles of world music,” Malhotra said. “I personally like the way it not only brings together songs from two different cultures but also sounds and techniques from the two. In our arrangements, I frequently use traditional Indian sounds, rhythms and other elements in Western contexts, and vice versa.”

Taal Tadka is known is known for being a fun, energetic group, where all of the members are passionate about singing and have a strong sense of community and friendship, according to Malhotra.

“While being passionate musicians, the members of Taal Tadka are also close-knit friends and have a good time together,” Malhotra said. “We love to hang out outside of practice, just going out to dinner or having jam sessions. The combination of good music and good friendship makes it a great group to be part of.”

Taal Tadka, though, looks for the best and brightest to join their ranks. Like most musical groups, Taal Tadka hosts auditions every semester and not everyone has the wide range of musical skills it takes to sing South Asian a capella. Taal Tadka seeks out singers with a diverse range of talent in all styles, background, voice ranges and languages. The group also looks for singers who can sing well in an a capella context and tries to determine how their voices, ability to function in a group and music pattern re-cognition would fit well.

“Other than that, we just look for someone who wants to have a good time!” Malhotra added.

As a member of Taal Tadka, Malhotra feels positively about the music scene at Tech and the exposure of talented students.

“Given Tech’s reputation as an intense and cutting-edge technical school, one would think there are very few opportunities for the arts to flourish. However, in my time here, I’ve seen quite the opposite. There are many musical and artistic groups on campus and several talented students who are very accomplished in their craft while being intelligent technical students. In the last two years, Tech’s made noticeable strides in promoting the arts, and I am thankful for the opportunity it has given student run music groups like Taal Tadka,” Malhotra said.

On what he would like to see more of, as a musician, student and Taal Tadka member, Malhotra said, “I would like to see a little more integration among the different musical groups and perhaps more events that unite artists at Tech. Talent is widespread at Tech, but I feel at the moment it lives in pockets around campus and a little more unification could go a long way in promoting the kind of multi-talented student body Tech has.”

Taal Tadka puts on multiple performances throughout the semester. After a free performance during the second week of this  fall semester, the group has planned their next concert to be held on Oct.6.