The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

UNC is home to the state’s only South Asian a cappella group, Samaa

Southeast Asian a cappella
Southeast Asian a cappella UNC

Translating to “sea of music” in Hindi, Sangeet Saagar featured South Asian fusion a cappella groups that sang mashups of popular western and traditional South Asian music from college campuses across the nation.

Delta Sigma Iota Fraternity Inc., a South Asian-oriented organization, invited Samaa to help screen the contestants. Both N.C. State and UNC chapters of the fraternity collaborated to organize the event.

Because it gave its recommendations during the voting process, Samaa did not compete in Sangeet Saagar. Instead, the group performed at the end as an exhibition.

Of around 11 groups that submitted videos, six were selected to compete: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Ohms, Ohio State’s Dhadkan, Rutgers University’s RAAG, Case Western Reserve University’s Dhamakapella, Pennsylvania State’s Fanaa and the University of Virgina’s Ektaal.

Samaa musical director Savita Sivakumar, a senior economics and global studies double major, is inspired by the emerging enthusiasm for South Asian fusion a cappella.

“There’s a lot of South Asian fusion a cappella groups slowly growing, so it’s really nice seeing a competition so close to home — it makes it more worthwhile to see lots of people doing the same thing as you,” Sivakumar said.

Samaa executive director Karina Javalkar, a senior health policy and management and biology double major, was excited for the chance to see other national South Asian a cappella groups.

“It’s nice to know that there are other groups,” Javalkar said. “There’s not another one in North Carolina, so we’ve never met anyone else.”

Akshay Iyer, event leader and previous president of the N.C. State chapter of Delta Sigma Iota Fraternity Inc., is a senior electrical engineering major.

“We felt that there was a great market for this sort of event because there are a lot of dance competitions, and people tend not to focus on vocal competitions at the collegiate level,” Iyer said.

The proceeds from the event will go toward Drive Education and the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation. Both organizations support children’s education in both the U.S. and rural parts of India.

“This is kind of really important to us — important to both Beta and Gamma chapters — because we’re just trying to not only raise money for these great nonprofit organizations but to promote ourselves by saying we’re an organization that really cares about education,” said Tim Thomas, service co-chairman of UNC’s chapter of Delta Sigma Iota Fraternity Inc.

The MIT Ohms won first place at the competition, and Case Western’s Dhamakapella came in second.

Because Sangeet Saagar was a success, both the Beta and Gamma chapters of Delta Sigma Iota Fraternity Inc. are trying to make it a recurring event at alternating campuses.

“It’s also a great way for both of our communities to come together to show their support for children’s education,” Thomas said.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.