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The Daily Tar Heel

Q&A: Clef Hangers prepare for new season

The UNC Clefhangers pose for a picture after a concert on Oct. 26, 2023.

As a cappella groups prepare for the upcoming season, The Daily Tar Heel's Mila Mascenik spoke with Imani Chabikuli, the president of UNC's oldest a cappella group, the Clef Hangers.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The Daily Tar Heel: As UNC’s oldest a cappella group, what are some of the traditions that you’ve established over the years? 

Imani Chabikuli: Well, for one, I’ll start with attire; we traditionally wear an attire called 'vest attire' at our fall and spring concerts. That's been a tradition since 1977 when the group was created, and it hasn’t gone away for tradition’s sake, so that’s something we hold near and dear to our hearts — the vests.

We have fall and spring concerts every year, and try to get a good amount of people to come to those.

We also have these things called 'Old Well Sings' on LDOC. Not too sure when that tradition started, but it's been going on for a while, where; on the last day of classes, Clef Hangers will sing at the Old Well. 

Usually get a good amount of people to come to that too, just feels like a fitting way for Carolina students to go off into the holiday season, or exam season, I should say. 

Those are the big ones that come to mind. 

DTH: What do you feel makes you stand out from other a cappella groups on campus? 

Chabikuli: We have a large history of members that have gone on to do some pretty interesting things. 

One of our alumnus, Anoop Desai, was one of the first people to really put us on a national scale instead of just a collegiate scale when he was a finalist for American Idol in 2009. And after that point, I think our audience kind of grew by a whole lot more than other collegiate a cappella groups. 

Since then, we’ve been able to do a whole lot more interesting activities outside of just UNC and reach a fan base larger than just at UNC. 

That’s also allowed us to perform in front of larger crowds and feed off the crowds’ energy a little more and then have the focus on the Clef Hangers be on the energy of the crowd instead of just what we feel like doing. 

DTH: You’ve had a couple of remarkable performances over the years, like singing to former President Barack Obama at the White House and performing at Dean Smith’s funeral. Of these performances, do you think there’s one that stands out to you as the most memorable, and why? 

Chabikuli: For me personally, since my time being in the Clefs— I’m a huge soccer fan, and we recently got to perform at the Chelsea vs. Wrexham game over the summer. And that was like huge; I think that’s the largest crowd we’ve ever performed in front of, or at least I’ve ever performed in front of. 

So that was a really, really cool experience for me to sing the National Anthem before the game started and to see all players live in front of my eyes was pretty memorable. 

DTH: Are you currently working on a new album, and if you are, how has that process been? 

Chabikuli: We’re working on a few digital projects, I’ll call them. 

The process has been interesting because COVID kind of slowed down a few things for us, so we are in the process of releasing things that previous groups around the COVID-era have tried to release but weren’t able to because everything shut down. 

So we’re going to dish those out first, and then we also have been in the studio for a few years now working on our own project to add — really, really, really excited for whenever those come out. 

I’ve been working alongside Pablo Vega, who is the mixer — the guy who mixes our studio recordings — and listening to some of the tracks. They are really fun and I cannot wait for them to get released. 

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The Clef Hangers perform on two nights for their fall concert, one on Nov. 9 at Sonark Media's venue, and another on Nov. 10 at Varsity Theatre.


@dthlifestyle |