Through this original composition, the artists hope to create awareness and raise funds for migrant labour, who have suffered greatly due to the ongoing pandemic
On August 26, music director-singer Vishal Dadlani tweeted about a new song that he had been working on in collaboration with lyricist Poojan Sahil and Penn Masala, the world’s first South Asian a cappella group, run by students at the University of Pennsylvania. Titled Main Hoon Na Tera, this new original composition premiered on Penn Masala’s Youtube channel on 29 August at 8 pm, and is in support of the migrant workers, who have seen tremendous suffering during the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. “Many are deeply stuck in debt traps and need help," Dadlani posted.
The artists have tried to create a song of hope and solidarity. They call out to the migrant labour, telling them that they are not alone. Even in times of great crisis, there are people standing with them. As Dadlani has explained in the note about the song: “What makes us human? I believe compassion makes us human. If we can find it in our hearts to come together and even now help them a little more— as much as we can—I think we can make a huge difference."
The song has been created remotely, with the artists based across cities like Pune, New Delhi, Mumbai, San Francisco, Boston, Portland and New Jersey. “It was mastered in a Philadelphia studio and then edited in New Delhi," says Saaketh Narayan, a member of Penn Masala. At the moment the group comprises ten members including Kushal Modi, Harsh Meswani, Dev Shaurya Singhal, Vish Dhar, Albert Gu, and more. With the university closed, they have been jamming on online video calling platforms.
As they watched the visuals of migrant workers walking to their villages, the Penn Masala members were deeply moved. “Two of our members, Harsh and Dev, were in Mumbai and Delhi respectively. And they could offer greater perspective on this, having witnessed the crisis closely," explains Narayan. The group wanted to do something for the migrant workers.
In the meanwhile, two not-for-profit organisations, The Indian Leadership Forum Against Trafficking and Tafteesh, were raising relief for the migrant workers, who were caught in debt traps and could become victims of human trafficking due to their vulnerable state. Penn Masala joined in the efforts and this led to their first-ever collaboration with Dadlani and Sahil. “Even though we didn’t have professional quality microphones with us, we wanted to do this to raise awareness and relief for the cause," says Narayan. “While Poojan and Vishal worked on the lyrics, and did a great job of that, we collaborated with Vishal on the melody. Once that was ready. We converted that into an ‘a capella’ arrangement."
This isn’t the first time that Penn Masala has worked with Indian composers and singers. In their album, Musafir, which released in February 2020, they collaborated on a song about mental health with singer Benny Dayal. In the past, the group has toured India in 2016 and 2017, and even performed at the Indian International Film Academy Awards. Besides this, Penn Masala has performed at the White House and been part of the soundtrack for Pitch Perfect 2. “And 2021 is the 25th year of the group’s formation. We are very excited about it," says Narayan. Each year, as the seniors graduate from the university, freshers are auditioned to be added to the group. “The composition of the group keeps changing but our ethos stays the same. There is a seamless transition year after year," he adds.
The song can be viewed at https://youtu.be/eP_E1pIVoZA