After discovering a South Asian acapella group at UC Los Angeles, computer science sophomore Shubh Khandhadia said he was inspired to create “SLOkapella” at Cal Poly.
Khandhadia was in choir at the time — thinking about auditioning for an acapella group — but he said he wished there was a South Asian specific group on campus.
“I took Thanksgiving break to think about the idea and when I came back to campus I asked my friends and the Indian Students Association (ISA) president and they all said that I needed to do it,” Khandhadia said.
Khandahadia said that there were many situations where he felt out of place at Cal Poly.
“That is why I took a lot of pride in this acapella group and just being with other people of color who kind of understand what that is like,” he said.
Biomedical engineering sophomore Aditi Sriram, the group’s music director, said the ISA was one of their many supporters.
“A lot of the board from ISA came out to our practices and sang with us, so that was super kind of them to do,” Sriram said. “I think that anybody who showed up to our practice was so supportive of us.”
After the idea was solidified, the group took approximately four months to get approved by Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) at Cal Poly. Within those few months, Khandhadia got people together for practice sessions and found others who were musically experienced.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the group could not attend competitions in the spring against other schools across the nation and perform at events such as PolyCultural Weekend in April.
“It is really hard being a singing group over Zoom because you cannot really synch up voices that way,” Sriram said. “I really hope that we’re able to perform and sing because that is all I have really wanted to do with this group.”
The group is also struggling with having members who can make the time commitment to the group. After meeting others who are in different performance groups, Khandhadia knows how much effort needs to be put into the team.
“With performance groups and groups who compete, you practice a lot,” Kahandhadia said. “There is a good amount of time and a good amount of pressure that goes into it.”
Once in-person classes start back up the group said they hope to start practices, host auditions and possibly workshops for anyone who would be interested in joining. The workshops would allow for people to be introduced to acapella and what it is about, Kahandhadia said.
The group has been arranging music for the past three months in preparation for future competitions. Some of the songs are in Hindi — the official language of India — as well as English.
“The songs that we’ve arranged so far are all mashups of Bollywood and Western songs,” Political science senior and lead arranger of the group Sean Weissman said. “We try to mash them up in different ways and to not have some cookie-cutter format of how we do each one[song].”
Apart from all of the arranging, the members of SLOkapella want to make sure that all of its future members feel included and supported, especially since the group would only consist of about 10-15 people.
“I just want it to be not only a space where we can make music but also a space where we can trust each other and everyone feels welcome to share their thoughts and opinions,” Architecture sophomore and co-assistant director for the club Anita Shanbhogue said.
Weissman said that people should not be afraid to audition for the acapella group.
“We are all so critical of ourselves all the time, so don’t let your judgment of yourself get in the way of letting other people experience your talent,” Weissman said.
Khandhadia added that the cultural aspect of acapella group celebrates the diversity at Cal Poly.
“Cultural clubs are becoming a new thing and I think we came up at a good time,” Khandhadia said. “There are so many clubs that are growing like SLOkapella and the other acapella groups and cultural clubs, and I think it’s that time where Cal Poly is becoming more diverse every year.”