Penn Masala performs at International Indian Film Academy Awards


John Travolta and Kevin Spacey attended the event


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The members of Penn Masala pose from the prime seats the IIFAA this weekend.



Penn Masala is red carpet ready.

Their newest song, “Evolution of Bollywood Music” not only captured the attention of its usual fans, but also gained notice from the organizers of the International Indian Film Academy.

Members of Penn Masala, a widely recognized South Asian a cappella group, traveled to Tampa, Fla., this past weekend to perform at the annual International Indian Film Academy Awards. The event is considered the “Oscars” of Bollywood and combines performances with an award ceremony. The biggest stars in the Hindi language film industry were present in the audience of close to 25,000 people.

“It was a surreal experience. For a lot of us, it was a dream come true,” Penn Masala Business Manager Varshil Patel , a Wharton and Engineering senior, said.

“Evolution of Bollywood Music” is an arrangement incorporating a medley of Bollywood songs from the 1940s to present-day. Although it has hit close to one million views on YouTube since its online release a month prior, the performance opportunity was unexpected, according to Patel. A representative of IIFA reached out to the group only about two weeks ago to see if they were interested in performing.

While Patel felt that “it was an awesome opportunity to see the show live and also get to be a part of it,” he noted the logistical difficulties of performing “Evolution of Bollywood Music.” Weeks leading up to the event, the fourteen members put a lot of time into perfecting their performance and practicing how they wanted to present it on stage.

Masala has done its fair share of traveling and performing in the past. In early 2013, the group partnered with Hard Rock Cafe in India for its tour, performing at locations in five cities. While they experienced India together and introduced a cappella music to Indian audiences who were unfamiliar with the genre, they also participated in community service with the Teach for India organization.

Patel, reflecting on his last four years in the group, says that one of the most meaningful experiences in his Masala career was volunteering in a classroom with students who did not have access to music within their curriculum. The group taught fourth grade students an a cappella arrangement. “It was a moment where we saw our music have an impact.”

“It’s cool to be popular. It’s cool to tour and have shows, but it’s awesome to say that our music does more than entertain people,” Patel said.

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