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A capella blend at the Englert

BY ALYSSA MARCHETTI | APRIL 08, 2010 7:30 AM

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After its well-received début, the South Asian a cappella event Gathe Raho will return to the University of Iowa to deliver more cultural bragging rights.

Gathe Raho is a unique singing competition that blends popular songs from India and the United States.

“Last year, we had more than 300 people attend,” event organizer and Indian Student Alliance President Rohit Vuppuluri said. “We [estimate] even more this year.”

As the largest competition of its kind in the country, Gathe Raho invites collegiate teams from across the United States to compete for prizes worth $4,000.

“Interested teams contact us for an application packet, and we ask them to send in an audition tape,” he said. “We pick teams based on their performance and choreography.

The Indian Student Alliance will present Gathe Raho, the second South Asian a cappella competition at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St. Admission is $5 for UI students, $8 for others.

“[The Indian Student Alliance] spent a lot of time not only planning the show but also raising funds and working with the teams,” said Vuppuluri, a Burge resident assistant. “We started organizing in November.”

The seven competing teams represent the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, St. Louis University, Carnegie-Mellon University, Boston University, Case Western Reserve University, and the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign. They will be judged by a panel of professionals.

“[Because] it’s a legitimate competition … we try to do a good job of creating a clean environment [that is] as professional as possible,” Vuppuluri said.

This year, the Indian Student Alliance will also showcase UI talent at the competition. An exhibition team — Iowa Agni — has been fervently practicing for its début.

Agni means fire, and the members hope to channel this energy into their performance.

“Make sure you are feeling that bounce, that playful energy,” Agni music director Renugan Raidoo said during a practice session in the Stanley Hall piano lounge.

Feeding off each other’s enthusiasm, the 11 ensemble members rock on their heels and move to the beat, their vocals harmonizing in an easy flow.

Forming a cohesive sound was a daunting task initially, because everyone came from different musical backgrounds.

“Some people have classical training, some did high-school choir,” UI sophomore and Agni member Janani Veluchamy said. “Some of us didn’t even know how to read music. To channel all that into one group has been difficult.”

Adding to the stress, most members do not know Hindi, the language of traditional Indian songs.

“We wanted to blend Hindi with [contemporary] English songs to keep things relevant but still showcase that bit of culture,” said Veluchamy, a biomedical-engineering major.

Despite the obstacles, the Agni members hope to put on a good show for the audience and represent the UI well.

“We picked a fairly easygoing song,” UI graduate student and Agni vocalist Ankush Bhasin said. “It’s a remix of an old, traditional Hindi song with ‘Replay’ [by R&B artist Iyaz].”

While slightly nervous about their exhibition performance, the Agni members are looking forward to the show on Saturday.

“We can learn a lot from the [competing] teams,” Veluchamy said. “It’s really exciting to have these top teams performing here, especially because this is only the second year of the competition.”



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