The Bollywood a cappella group Chai-Town ushered International Fair in by melding two culturally distinct types of music and demonstrating their complementary nature.
On Jan. 30, Chai-Town performed in a crowded Kresge Recital Hall. Union Board and South Asian cultural club AAINA sponsored the event. The group sang a variety of pieces, seamlessly blending Bollywood hits and American pop.
“We mix Bollywood music with English songs, or we do English songs alone. It’s fusion music,” Chai-Town president Siddharth Soni explained.
Bollywood music, or filmi music, sprang from Hindi films, which often incorporate extravagant song and dance numbers. Filmi music was derived from classical Indian music, and has been instrumental in disseminating Indian culture throughout the world.
Chai-Town’s performance last Friday began with an recycling and learning new things. It’s a growing experience,” Soni said.
Chai-Town was interactive throughout the performance, reacting and responding to each other and their audience. The group stood in a semi-circle formation, which brought attention to their soloists and allowed the remaining members to create a dialogue as they reacted to the soloist’s words and tone.
The a cappella group is tight-knit, and this social element is clearly transmitted onstage. “It’s a way for college students to share music. It’s a brotherhood. It’s basically a fraternity without the pledging,” quipped Soni.
The performers were extremely kinetic as they moved from song to song. They were in constant motion as they shifted and swayed to the rhythm of the music. The group used their hands to emote the feelings being expressed by the soloist or to raise energy levels during particularly fast-paced arrangements.
“We just try to keep the audience engaged, and the only way to keep the audience engaged is to engage yourself,” Soni said.
Members of the crowd reacted favorably to Chai-Town’s performance, charmed by the group’s talent and antics.
They were energetic and extremely talented. I couldn’t stop smiling the entire time,” freshman Miranda Corbett beamed.
Other students were struck by the amalgamation of cultures evident in the performance.
“I really liked the Bollywood songs they did. I’m really into Bollywood now, and I liked how the melodies danced around each other like in a Bollywood song,” junior Eryn Matheny said.
Freshman Emily Johnson was fascinated by “the use of different languages in each song and the unity of the group.”
For the finale, Chai-Town called for the audience to approach the stage, and then launched into a powerful rendition of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us.” The infectious energy of the performers enlivened the crowd, and soon the two groups sang and moved together in tandem.
“We can’t get the energy from the crowd, we have to get it from ourselves. Then the audience gets their energy. We’re feeding off each other,” Soni said.