pennmasala

Penn Masala was invited over the summer to perform for fans in Dubai. This served as their debut in the Middle East. | Courtesy of Penn Masala

Many Penn students traveled this summer for work, classes or pleasure. But not many can say they traveled to please their fans.

Penn Masala, the world’s first South Asian a cappella group, ventured to Dubai the week before classes started — by invitation — to perform for their many fans in the city. The Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Center is a prominent cultural hub and served as the venue for the introduction of Masala’s music to the Middle East.

Performing in India provided the 11 members the chance to celebrate their South Asian roots further.

“The music that we perform in Penn Masala draws on these roots as well as our upbringings in America,” Wharton senior Hari Ravi said. “But every performance is really special to us because it’s a representation of our family values and background.”

Wharton sophomore Sanjit Chakravarty, who is a native of the United Arab Emirates, found the opportunity especially meaningful as he had the chance to perform for friends and family.

“Because Dubai is so far away, when I joined Penn Masala I never thought that those closest to me would ever be able to see us perform,” he said. “Dubai has been so essential to my identity growing up and it was really nice to be able to show my friends what makes the city so great.”

Members found that performing for the diverse Dubai audience in itself was a unique experience.

“Most of Dubai’s population are expatriates, with a very small number of Emirati nationals," said College senior Praveen Rajaguru. "What made the show really special is that the audience was not from a single geographical location. There were people from all over the world, East and West alike. Since our music aims to bridge these two hemispheres it was great to be able to perform to an audience that really represented them.”

Following their performance, the 11 members had a chance to tour the bustling cultural capital that is Dubai.

“I know it’s a little bit cliché but honestly the best part about Dubai is its diversity ... You can be walking in a mall and looking at the passersby and no two people would be the same,” Chakravarty said. “People come from all over the world and share their cultures, food, music, language ... It’s a great place to learn about the world without really needing to travel.”

Although they are done with touring, Masala has a lot in store for the next semester — in addition to a few show lineups, the group will soon be putting out their next studio album.

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