University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Masala acapella group has successfully brought light to South Asian acapella, a beautiful sector of musical art. The group has received recognition from press all over the world, was featured in Pitch Perfect 2, and even met former President Barack Obama. Penn Masala has definitely shined in their spotlight, releasing 10 albums and an EP over 24 years. Now, they have released their newest album- Musafir.
Musafir, traveler. Even the name of the album emanates with curiosity, love, and depth. The intro itself started out with beautifully blended chords- something you would listen to when you’re studying and need to relax. The introduction made me feel like singing and dancing along, with lighthearted notes adding to the simplicity of the music. It signaled great things to come.
And so it did. Musafir absolutely was a stunning album, ranging from emotional, nostalgic tunes, to upbeat, fun songs.
The first song was a mashup of Castle on the Hill and Ilahi. Starting off with a fast beat, the song progressed with the velvety smooth voices of Penn Masala. The melody put me in a good mood instantly, with the background beats supporting the music really well. As the different components built on top of each other, the whole song came together perfectly, like a jigsaw puzzle about to finish. The mashup was well coordinated with seamless transitions between Hindi and English and made me personally feel overjoyed and nostalgic. The bridge created a more slow, soft, and low-key aura, which then transitioned into high notes and the melody which was perfectly sung and ended.
The second song, Miss Independent/Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, was again a mashup of two songs, however, this one started out with a more smooth legato crescendo into the song. The full melodious timbre of the voices was soothing, calming, and rejuvenating. The background music provided a warm texture keeping it lively. Boldly, the group sang the chorus, which was cleverly written to mix the English and the Hindi. The fresh, heartfelt Indian part contrasted well with the English, but still fit in perfectly layering the lush, lyrical beats together. The song ended with a very impressive vocal ending, creating a well-rounded, polished, and passionate piece of music.
The album continued with a fun, joyful introduction to Tu Hi Hai/Jaane Kyon Log Pyaar, a light, vibrant Hindi song. The chords mixed together perfectly, creating an aura that makes you feel like a kid again.
The clean, catchy tune was emotionally rich and entertaining; it was something to listen to when you’re excited and need something to agree with you. The harmonically rich and multi-level textures added to the beauty of the song. It ended with a feel-good vibe and definitely was a must-listen.
The next track was a bonus track, starting with Hindi in a more toned down softer, heartfelt tune. It still kept the beat and tempo, but the lower notes created a different emotional feeling. The English part came in blending melodiously, adding a dash of surprise and a certain lovable style to it. It seemed to be a happy song, but at the same time oozed with a tinge of sadness. Unique notes bounced out of the song giving it a pop, but the lustful, lyrical notes brought it back down to Earth giving the song an almost heartbroken, soulful, mourning feeling. However, the passionate chord at the end gave the song a breathtaking and cohesive finish to the song.
Fifth came a deep chorale style start to Mast Magan/Iktara, with long legato, solid, reverbing notes. After this slow start, the accompaniment beats sped up leaving the solo singer in a slow ballad. The chorus in the song contrasted, becoming more upbeat and blissful before slowing down again. It felt like a lost love piece, with a faster tempo later on creating a feeling of regret and that you should give your lover a second chance. The song paints a love story while also providing a blissful, connected, relaxing, and melodic escape. The dulcet euphonious voices of Penn Masala finally fade and decrescendo out leaving listeners with desire for more.
The next song, Ae Watan, came in extremely slow and legato with a soft voice range. However, the beat does speed up a little, creating a bouncy feeling and fades out. This song featured stunning voices and ranges. There was also a mashup between the Hindi song Bandook Meri Laila and Charlie Puth’s Attention. The mix welded the two classic songs perfectly.
PaI/In My Blood came next with a significantly slower pace, but an uplifting tone creating a sense of getting lost in love. The Mendes song enveloped into the track really well and fit the tone of the Hindi song. It almost felt better than the original as this mashup had more layers and hits different. The chorus leads into a chorale-like section which consists of underlying Hindi parts and an amazing combination of the melody blending with the harmony.
The album continued with Bulleya/Dusk Till Dawn, a more upbeat, dancing tune. Again, Penn Masala did a great job of incorporating seamless transitions between their mashups. The chorus in this song was more simple with harmonizing notes in the background. Later on, the song does improve with a higher level of complexity, providing depth to the song. Next, the twelfth song, When we were young/tera year hoon main, began with harmonized notes and the English lyrics. The lyrics in this song felt more significant; in particular, it painted a picture of wonder, travel, and living your life.
A couple of tracks later, a mashup between Havana, Bom Diggy, and Mein Tera Boyfriend played. This song was one of my personal favorites, combining three classic songs to create a beautiful combination. Let me love you/High Rated Gabru was also another one of the stellar songs from this album. The chords just melt into the song and the soaring English section compliments the low Hindi harmony beats very well. Cake by the ocean/Ghungroo/Stronger was also a notable song featuring a rap section and altered lyrics for comic appeal. The last two songs of the album end with medleys of classical Desi pieces, bringing the album back to its roots and core, featuring not only Hindi but Telugu songs as well.
Overall, Penn Masala definitely brought their A game with Musafir, painting pictures, creating seamless transitions, and never-seen-before combinations that just stunned me. I highly recommend listening to this album and experiencing the wonder, love, and excitement it brings.