Penn Masala performs for President Obama at the White House

The a cappella group Penn Masala performed for President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday, Oct. 14, to celebrate the signing of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The initiative is designed to improve the health, education and economic status of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States, and the signing of coincided with the holiday of Diwali – the festival of lights – observed by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists.

To honor the signing and celebrate the holiday, Penn Masala sang in the East Room for President Obama, performing the national anthem along with one of their songs, “Aicha.” Click here to see video of Penn Masala’s performance. In his remarks, President Obama praised the “creative energies of musicians like the singers Penn Masala.”

The all-male group was formed in 1996 as the world’s first Hindi a cappella group. Its music has been influenced by the Eastern and Western cultures that represent the group’s membership.

The singers who performed at the White House were Sachin Amrute, Dhruv Batura, Sagar Bhatt, Ankit Dhir, Samuel Levenson, Tarub Mabud, Nikhil Marathe, Bharat Moudgil, Mahesh Murali, Manoj Racherla, Vinay Rao, Harshil Shukla, Akshat Vaidya and Bhuwan Vashisht.

Two of the group’s songs were featured in the 2001 movie “American Desi,” and the group is currently promoting its sixth studio album, “On Detours,” released last March. The album features a mix of Hindi and English covers as well as three original tracks, “Detours,” “Kal Ka Sapna” and “Distant Places.”

In 2003, Penn Masala received the Project IMPACT Award for outstanding contributions to the South Asian-American community, and in 2006 the group toured India, performing before thousands. In 2007, the Penn students performed with legendary musician A.R. Rahman at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts -- and now the White House.

Originally published on Oct. 15, 2009