Gathe Raho takes A Capella beyond Pitch Perfect

BY DEVYN YOUNG | APRIL 09, 2015 5:00 AM

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In 2012, the comedy musical Pitch Perfect premièred and captivated the country. Apart from a funny performance by Rebel Wilson and catchy cup-drumming by Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect’s strongest appeal lay in its portrayal of a cappella performance.

At 7 p.m. Saturday, Iowa City will host its own a cappella competition at the Englert Theater, 221 E. Washington St., one that predates Pitch Perfect fever. Gathe Raho, the largest South Asian a cappella competition in the United States, will welcome seven teams from six states to perform a blend of English and Hindi songs throughout the night. 

“Think of [Gathe Raho] like a real life Pitch Perfect,” said Justin John, a member of the University of Iowa Indian Student Alliance as well as the overseer for Gathe Raho.

The Alliance hosts the competition annually as one of its four large-scale events each year, including Garba, Raas, Bhangra, and Bollywood, Diwali, and Nachte Raho. Gathe Raho is the group’s last event of the spring.

“These teams have all races of people coming to sing a fusion of American and Indian songs, and it’s a phenomenal opportunity for community members to watch a fusion of culture portrayed in the talents of young people,” said Gathe Raho committee member Kruti Doctor. 

In a cappella, singers harmonize, scat, hiss, and beat-box to represent both the vocal and instrumental aspects of a song. A cappella dates back to Jewish religious music in 20 B.C.E. It was used throughout history in various kinds of religious music until the early 20th century, when a cappella hit mainstream culture through the barbershop quartets. Today, a cappella has not only been made popular through Pitch Perfect, but other outlets such as “Glee” and “The Sing-Off.” 

Gathe Raho — which translates as “keep singing” — had more than 30 entries this year from across the country. The Gathe Raho committee selected seven teams to compete for first place (worth $3,000), second place ($1,000), and the new Audience Choice awards. These teams include Swaram from Texas A&M University, EkTall of the University of Virginia, and Illini Awaaz hailing from the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign. 

There will also be special performances by the UI’s a capella teams Intersection and Iowa Agni. Those teams could not enter into the competition because of home-voice advantage, but they are still getting the chance to perform.  

“I’m looking forward to seeing and meeting all these teams,” John said. “The amount of hard work and number of hours they put into this competition is crazy. So I’m really looking forward to getting to meet all these people, seeing them all perform, and seeing which team is truly the best a cappella team in the nation.” 

Doctor agreed.

“The show is getting more and more successful each year,” she said. “Bringing in new teams and audience members is making our show more well known. We have more than 1,000 likes on Facebook, and it only gets higher. Gathe Raho is an amazing show, and we are so lucky to be able to host it here at Iowa.” 

Doctor has been interested in getting involved with Gathe Raho since before she came to the UI.

“I wanted to be behind the scenes,” she said. “It’s amazing how such a small number of students can host and produce a show with more than 100 people participating and more than 200 to 300 people watching.”

Indian Student Alliance President Abhishek Dsouza, who sits on the committee for Gathe Raho, got involved with Gathe Raho during his sophomore year as the publicity representative. He said there is a lot of hardwork that goes into one night. 

“It starts over the summer,” Dsouza said. “We start calling all of the teams, talking about Gathe and trying to get them involved. In November, we select the teams by watching their videos, we figure out how good they are, and then, by January, they accept our confirmation.” 

Through all of the hard work, the Alliance expects an electrified crowd on Saturday night. John said he’s particularly excited about people that are coming to Gathe Raho for the first time. 

“When I first went my freshman year, I walked in, and I was amazed by what I saw,”  John said. “I saw teams mash up music and do it all on stage. If you’ve seen Pitch Perfect and you’re a lover of music, then you should definitely come to this …  [Gathe Raho] will take your breath away.”

Gathe Raho
Where: Englert, 221 E Washington 
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Admission: $10 general and student, $12 and $15 VIP; tickets available at the IMU Hub or at the door 

Competing teams:
• Swaram, Texas A& M University
• Astha Acapella, St. Louis University
• LUC: Raag, Loyola University
• Dhamakapella, Case Western University 
• EkTall, University of Virginia
• Illini Awaaz, University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign

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