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Brown Barsaat offers fusion music, tight-knit community

Group combines Western, Bollywood music, will perform at annual spring show

<p>Brown Barsaat, Brown’s South Asian fusion a cappella group, draws upon South Asian and Western styles in their musical performances and provides a tight-knit community for its members.</p><p>Courtesy of Brown Barsaat</p>

Brown Barsaat, Brown’s South Asian fusion a cappella group, draws upon South Asian and Western styles in their musical performances and provides a tight-knit community for its members.

Courtesy of Brown Barsaat

Like most members of Brown Barsaat, President Rohit Panse ’24 sang before he got to Brown, performing in a vocal jazz group throughout high school. He also grew up listening to both Bollywood and English music, which made joining a club where he could perform in both styles particularly exciting.

Founded in the early 2000s, Barsaat is Brown’s South Asian fusion a cappella group. The 14-member group consists of singers with both classical South Asian and Western musical training, and draws upon both styles in their performances on campus and beyond.

Panse highlighted the tight-knit community that Barsaat provides, noting that it makes the club unique.

Growing up, former Barsaat Music Director Urvi Binjrajka ’23 kept busy by participating in musical groups.

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“I came to Brown looking for a similar community to get involved in and auditioned for several a cappella groups,” Binjrajka said. “During callbacks, Barsaat made me feel especially at home, which instantly compelled me to join. Upperclassmen also played a huge role in mentoring ‘bar-babies’ and helped us navigate our way through the chaos of freshman year, and we’ve made lifelong friends.”

Soumya Karwa ’23, former social chair at Barsaat, said that when she came to Brown as an international student, she experienced a major culture shock. Seeking a community on campus, Karwa auditioned for Barsaat and was accepted into the group.

Barsaat is a group where “there are people looking out for you and people who will always be there for you,” Karwa said.

“Despite the fact that we may not have any classes in common and we are not in the same year, we have music in common,” she added. “Barsaat is a group of diverse people brought together by their passion for music. Everyone has their own special place in the group, and that’s what makes us unique.”

Though Barsaat has focused on performing both popular South Asian and English-language songs, Binjrajka emphasized that the group remains open to “people from all backgrounds and cultures and ethnicities.”

“They should all feel comfortable and welcome to join.” 

Binjrajka said that Barsaat inspired her to have a greater appreciation of her culture and music. “Growing up never having learned South Asian styles of music, I was too intimidated to try (them) out” alone, she said. 

“We have a lot of gratitude for cultural organizations like the South Asian Students Association for having such a huge presence on campus and giving us a platform to perform,” she added.

This year, Barsaat’s performances have taken them beyond College Hill to neighboring campuses. Last fall, Barsaat performed at Wellesley College’s South Asian culture show. “It was really fun and a different experience,” Panse said, describing the performance as the group’s best of the semester. “It was great being able to showcase our talent in front of so many new people.”

Back at Brown, Barsaat is preparing for their spring show, which will take place in April.

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Currently, most of Barsaat’s repertoire focuses on popular Bollywood and English-language music. But the group hopes to “bring more music from different styles, languages and less mainstream artists into the spotlight,” Binjrajka said. “South Asian music is so much more than the Hindi-centric pop music we listen to.”

The group has been experimenting with songs in other languages like Korean and Tamil and are excited to debut their new arrangements soon. They also plan to collaborate with other campus groups, building on past relationships with fellow a cappella groups Shades of Brown and Alef Beats, Binjrajka said.

Karwa said that given the group’s talent and originality, she hopes that Barsaat continues to grow “not just in size but also presence.”

Moving forward, Barsaat aims to become a more established presence on both Brown’s campus and throughout New England, Panse said. “We are excited to explore what this new chapter holds for us.”

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