Vandy Taal released debut album “Aalap” Aug. 19


Avery Muir, Life Editor

Last February, Vandy Taal was preparing for their final competition of the season, Awaazein. After walking away from the previous competition empty-handed, the team decided to recalibrate, change their set and practice—for two hours a day every day for two weeks leading up to their last performance. This performance would become the driving force behind Vandy Taal’s debut album, “Aalap.”

Recalling all of their hard work leading up to Awaazein, Vandy Taal President Umang Chaudhry explained how the group had drawn inspiration from the top Desi a capella groups who had previously won awards at the competition. Desi a capella is unique in that it blends Hindustani and Western music to create an original, South Asian fusion sound. Despite having learned to mimic top-tier a cappella groups’ styles and develop their own, Vandy Taal still felt somewhat defeated as they waited on deck to perform their own set after watching the other teams perform in full force.

“We decided that we had nothing to lose, so we gave it our all,” Chaudhry said. “We went on stage and had fun, and that really translated into our music. The crowd went wild when we were on stage because our songs are just boppers. We just like to sing fun stuff, crowd pleasers, and we did exactly that.”

Their efforts paid off when Vandy Taal placed third at Awaazein, with two of its members, Parth Parikh and Akash Majumdar, winning individual awards for best male soloist and best arrangement, respectively. Along with Chaudhry, Vandy Taal Musical Director Jude Franklin felt that the accomplishment was worth remembering, which led to their decision to record an album featuring their award-winning set.

“What makes us unique is that we play and perform music that conveys how we feel. We have two upbeat boppers, but one that is very soft and soulful,” Franklin said. “This was something special that we had, that other people now see, so we decided we should document it. Thus, the album.”

Photo courtesy Vandy Taal.

“Aalap” is a Hindi word which translates to “new beginnings.” Chaudhry said that it signifies a new start for Vandy Taal in the world of music. Before recording the album, Chaudhry and Franklin had no experience producing music. With help from Vandy Recording Studio, they learned how to use the production equipment and recorded the 13 members’ parts twice for each of the three tracks.

Seventy-eight recordings later, Chaudhry began working with Raag and Tonic, a production group based in India, to find the right sound for the album. He said that communicating exactly how Vandy Taal envisioned the album, and trying to make the album match that ideal, was the most challenging part of the process.

“We wanted our sound to feel raw and like music for what it is, and not edited to make it sound like what it is today,” Chaudhry said. “It took awhile for us to communicate that we wanted our voices to be in there, we want to represent ourselves, and just not this concept of music that we had.”

Chaudhry and Franklin wanted a memento of their performance at Awaazein, and downloaded the competition’s livestream to show Raag and Tonic what kind of sound they were looking for in the album. It took a while to reconcile the fact that a live performance will always sound different than an album recording, but Chaudhry said that once they realized this, they were able to use the studio’s tools in a more creative way.

“[The album] lets us document those particular voices that were in that setting at that time—which are very unlikely to be on a stage together ever again, because every year, every semester, the voices change,” Franklin said. “The effect of recording that was finally putting everything that all of those voices had put into that year on paper and in a physical form.”

The entire production process took about three months, and because the album costs were built into the club’s budget (the entirety of which was met by AcFee), the project required no additional fundraising. Overall, Franklin and Chaudhry appreciated how much they learned about music production, how much work it takes to make an album and how accessible professional recording equipment is on campus, thanks to Vanderbilt Recording Studio.

Now, Vandy Taal is looking forward to another year of on-campus performances and elevating their competition presence at this year’s International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA).

“At the end of this, we don’t want to be looked at as a South Asian a capella group,” Chaudhry said. “We want to be looked at as a very good a capella group”

Check out Vandy Taal when they perform at the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Night Market Sept. 23 at 6 to 8 p.m on Commons and Fall for the Arts Sept. 28, also on Commons. “Aalap” is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.