Chai-Town mixes Indian, American music

A cappella group brings American and Indian culture together

February 23, 2011

Part of a series on Music

Setting the tone for the event, Saturday’s performance of the Chai-Town a cappella group started with a strange request—for everyone to move to the first few rows. The audience reluctantly obeyed.

Chai-Town’s show was more open and informal than a typical performance, with the group routinely asking the audience questions, inviting them to sing along and even inviting people to dance on stage, an offer of which no one took advantage.

The first few songs were a mix of Hindi and English, with the group backing up one or more soloists while one of them beatboxed, typical of Chai-Town’s music.

Chai-Town is an a cappella group from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that specializes in mixing Indian and American songs, according to their website.

The group started at the University of Illinois in 2002 and “it’s been going strong ever since,” Jaison Alexander, the group’s president, said.

According to Alexander, they specialize in this mixing of Indian and American, trying to combine two songs with the same meaning.

One of the audiences’ favorite songs was dubbed a “sandwich,” consisting of two American songs, “Let’s Make Love in the Club” by Usher, “Put it on Her” by Day 26 and an Indian song.

Other songs included “Amplifier” from the movie “My Name is Khan,” “Kissed from a Rose” by Sea and an Indian song translated as “What is Behind My Blouse,” which included humorous choreography.

The group performs all over the country and will be flying to Columbia University to perform next weekend.

They also participate in competitions twice a year, going to Anahat, a competition at the University of California at Berkeley in the fall, and University of Iowa’s Gathe Raho competition in the spring.

Alexander and senior member Vinay Srinivasan both emphasized the sense of community and brotherhood the group experiences with each other.

“I’ve become very close to them,” Srinivasan said.

This sense of community was obvious as the members joked around with each other on stage between songs.

The Asian Student Association (ASA) and South Asian Cultures Club (AAINA), have been planning this event since fall term.

The goal of the event was to “showcase Indian-Americans,” according to ASA president senior Willie Ow, who said the club tries to present lesser known Asian cultures, especially in entertainment.

Ow thought the show was a success.

“Everyone who came enjoyed it,” he said.

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