Dhamakapella releases EP after winning season


c/o Spotify

“Riyaaz” is Dhamakapella’s newest EP, released on Aug. 23.

Just before classes started Case Western Reserve University’s South Asian Fusion a cappella group, Dhamakapella, released their first EP on Aug. 23 entitled “Riyaaz.” It is available for streaming on all major platforms including Spotify, Google Play and Apple Music.

The EP is three songs long, about 12 minutes in its entirety, and is a blend of American pop and Bollywood music, with a hint of Indian classical music.

Fifth-year student Madhav Nandan, Tenor One and president of Dhamakapella, said that the EP took about two weeks to record at the end of the semester this past spring.

“After we recorded everyone’s voices, the raw tracks were sent to be professionally mastered by Liquid 5th Productions,” Nandan continued. “They went through three separate processes: editing, mixing and mastering.”

Simply put, the editing process took two weeks. The editing process includes lining each of the group’s voices up and occasionally fine-tuning someone’s pitch. The next step, mixing, took three weeks. This is when the production studio balances the soloist’s volume with the background vocals.

“We were in contact with their sound engineers throughout the editing and mixing steps,” Nandan said. “The company would send us a track, and we would provide feedback for that track within a couple of days. Each song went through four edits and four mixes.”

Mastering followed the two previous steps and took the remainder of the total two and a half months used to produce the EP. This last but crucial step entails taking the audio mix and preparing it for distribution; it ensures that the final product has consistent sound throughout.

“It was a long, arduous and sometimes tedious process, but we are extremely satisfied with the end product,” Nandan commented.

Fourth-year student Shaunak Roy, Tenor One and coordinator of the new EP, said that a year of work went into “Riyaaz.”

“I wrote the first draft of ‘Man Mandira’ [the last song on the EP] during my spring break in 2016 but ultimately ended up completely rewriting it prior to our 2017 competition season,” Roy said. “During the summer of 2016, I wrote ‘Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall / Ilahi’ [the first song] and during winter break, I wrote ‘Writing’s on the Wall / Duaa’ [the second song]. Each arrangement took me about 100 hours to initially write and then revisions tack on a significant number of hours as well.”

Roy goes onto say that “Man Mandira” had been rewritten ten times before its release on the EP.

Nandan says that the reason the group named the EP “Riyaaz” is because of what the word represents in North Indian classical music, otherwise known as Hindustani music.

“[The word] ‘riyaaz’ represents a series of vocal exercises, traditionally performed at dawn, in order to improve the modulation of one’s voice, internalize the fundamentals of singing Hindustani music, and progress towards becoming a master, or guru, of the craft,” Nandan said.

Nandan continues by saying that the reason the group chose the name was threefold.

“First, we felt that the three songs together were reflective of the principles of riyaaz, and the word reminded us of the work we put into making this project come to fruition,” he said. “Second, the name serves as a testament to the individual members’ dedication to the group during the competition season… And lastly, the name “Riyaaz” represents the skills we needed to master in order for us to become a consistently successful and respected a cappella group.”

According to Roy, the fact that this group was already recognized and present on campus made him want to join.

“Coming into college, I was certain that I wanted to audition for an a cappella group,” he said. “The fact that Dhamakapella not only performed on-campus, but also competed nationally and produced studio-recorded products was extremely exciting.”

According to Nandan, the past semester was Dhamakapella’s 12th and most successful. They attended four different competitions with the last one being the national championships. At each competition the group either scored first, second or third place with special awards given out to individual members. At the national championships the group won third along with an outstanding arrangement award for “Man Mandira” and the “Crowd Favorite” Award.  

“In order to celebrate our accomplishments, as well as create a permanent memory of our success, we decided to record ‘Riyaaz,’” Nandan said.

Roy credits the success of the group last year to its members.

“Overall, the EP and our competition success last year would not have been possible without the passion and dedication demonstrated by each and every member,” he said.