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Arts & Culture

Loud and Proud

A Guide to A Cappella Groups at UMD

By Sala Levin ’10

Anokha a cappella group performs

Anokha, founded in 2001, belts out its South Asian fusion music sans instrumental backing. It's one of a panoply of UMD a cappella groups enlivening the campus's musical landscape.

Photos courtesy of UMD a cappella groups

Keeping track of all the a cappella groups at the University of Maryland could drive a person aca-crazy. (Sorry, but we had to.) The 10 official all-vocal music groups each have their own unique flavor, whether it’s a focus on the music of a certain region, the gender or cultural makeup of their members or a signature performing style.

As fall auditions begin this evening, Maryland Today offers a primer on the campus’ instrument-free groups and what makes each of them tick (or sing).

[Terp Group’s Virtual Performance Earns First Place in International A Cappella Competition]

Anokha: Since 2001, Anokha has been the university’s sole a cappella group dedicated to South Asian fusion music, and is the first collegiate group of its kind, said Rishika Jadhav ’25. Performing in languages like Hindi, Tamil and Punjabi, the singers tackle songs from Bollywood films or pop hits from India and Pakistan, mashing them up with Western counterparts. One of Jadhav’s favorite performances combined the song “Saathiya,” from the 2002 Bollywood film of the same name, with Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious.” The group “gave me such a good sense of community, and a Desi community, within Maryland,” said Jadhav.

Ethnobeat a cappella group

Ethnobeat: Calling itself “the University of Maryland’s premier world music a cappella group,” Ethnobeat sings pop, folk and traditional songs from countries around the world, in their original languages. The 8-year-old group has taken on “Hikari,” a Japanese song from a video game soundtrack, and “Lev Nu Dö Sen,” a Swedish tune whose name roughly translates to “live now, die later.” Though members of the group speak a range of languages, including Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and German, “the pronunciation can definitely be a challenge,” said Andrés del Campo ’22. “All the songs we sing are uplifting or have some sort of message of hope,” he said.

Faux Paz a cappella group performs

Faux Paz: The university’s first all-gender a cappella group, Faux Paz has been entertaining audiences with pop and R&B hits since 1993. Recent songs have included “Butter” by BTS, “Adore You” by Harry Styles and “Only 1” by Ariana Grande. In 2021, Faux Paz took first place overall in the International Competition of Collegiate A Cappella—the collegiate a cappella world’s Super Bowl—with its virtual performance of Sam Smith’s “How Do You Sleep?” “Just being together and learning music—that’s the best part,” said Ethan Limansky ’23.

The Generics: The only all-male group on campus, and by some accounts the university’s oldest a cappella troupe, the Generics tend to “opt for higher-energy songs to get the crowd to feel what we’re feeling as much as we can,” said Aaron Kent ’23. Since 1987, the Generics have been known for their onstage excitement and their camaraderie, Kent said. Some of his favorite songs have included “Face to Face” by Ruel and “Down” by Jay Sean and Lil Wayne. “It is difficult to find the voices on the highest end of the spectrum for our group,” said Kent, “so we just adapt and we arrange the songs ourselves so we’re able to understand how we can work with our own voices to match a song and translate it.”

Kol Sasson a cappella group performs

Kol Sasson: Formed in 1997, Kol Sasson is the first of three Jewish a cappella groups formed on campus. Singers of all backgrounds are welcome to join the group, which performs a combination of English and Israeli pop music, as well as some traditional Jewish pieces. Binyamin points to the group’s “Lovers’ Medley,” a combination of Taylor Swift’s “Lover,” Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” and Jason Mraz’s “Let’s See What the Night Can Do,” as a current favorite of the group. “It’s about love, and everyone has a solo, and it’s adorable,” Keren Binyamin ’23 said.

Mezumenet: Radio hits, Israeli pop songs and traditional Jewish medleys are the bread and butter of Mezumenet, UMD’s all-treble Jewish a cappella group. Established in 2008, the group takes its name from the feminine form of the Hebrew word for “to invite.” A medley of Hebrew songs that welcome the Jewish Sabbath and “Feeling Good,” originally by Nina Simone, are part of the group’s repertoire, said Danielle London ’25. “The best part about being in the group is the sisterhood that’s formed,” she said.

Mockapella: In 1998, a group of UMD students noticed a void on campus that they thought they could fill: Weird Al-style musical parody. Since then, Mockapella has adapted popular songs to point out the absurdities of student life, express academic anxieties and, on occasion, give the university some musical grief. One song, based on “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus, takes up a classic student complaint: the parking difficulties on campus. Another, “Last Report,” turns Papa Roach’s “Last Resort” into an anthem of end-of-semester stress. “We’re trying to just be fun and funny, and especially during the pandemic, it was really important for us to bring that joy to people,” said Ava Jacoby ’23.

PandemoniUM: Known as “UMD’s most eclectic all-gender a cappella group,” PandemoniUM sings indie pop music that allows every member’s personality to shine through, said Catherine Dangel ’24. “We are all super unique in the way that we sing, but we come together in terms of wanting to produce the most cohesive and beautiful music that we possibly can,” she said. Active since 1993, the group has a tradition of calling members “pandas” and hollering out a made-up noise meant to sound like “be you” when they see another member on campus. “You could be in the middle of frantically walking to class, and you hear someone screaming across the mall and everyone looks at you,” said Dangel.

Rak Shalom: Since 2005, Rak Shalom has brought a mix of English and Hebrew songs—both pop and traditional—to campus and beyond. The group’s song selection tends toward the powerful and intense, with “a lot of belting,” said Morgan Donohoe ’24. Rak Shalom has toured synagogues and nursing homes around the country, where they sing songs like “My Own Hero” by Andy Grammer and “Powerful” by Major Lazer, Ellie Goulding and Tarrus Riley.

The Treblemakers a cappella group performs

The Treblemakers: Founded in 1989 as a counterpart to its brother group, the Generics, the Treblemakers is UMD’s oldest all-female a cappella group. Julia Baumel ’23 said she looks for “busy, layered songs,” which translate well to different vocal parts, for her contributions to the song selection process. The Treblemakers sing mostly pop and R&B, performing songs by artists like Lorde, Post Malone and Halsey. Members train to reach the lower registers that coed groups can achieve easily. “I started off the group always being a soprano … and now I’m currently a bass and a lot lower than I thought I could (sing),” said Baumel.

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