Two SLU Acapella Groups Compete At ICCA Midwest Semi-Finals

On Sat., March 28, two SLU teams competed at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella Midwest Semifinals (ICCA) at Washington University.    

Astha with soloist Laasya Sarva (Gabrielle Chiodo).

The two groups, Astha and the Bare Naked Statues, perform in the same debut but have different elements incorporated into their shows. Astha is a co-ed fusion group and their music features mashups from South Asian artists and English music, while Bare Naked Statues is an all-male group. 

The teams perform mashups of songs written by their music directors. Combining two different cultural elements in one set, Astha’s music director and Saint Louis University junior, Aakash Nagarapu, faces a unique assignment.

        “It’s my job [as a music director] to facilitate teaching aspects so newcomers can be at the same level while also writing music so that what we compete with is original and so we’re fusing songs,” Nagarapu said.

       Merging songs is difficult but when it comes to different cultures, Astha faces a particular hurdle.

    “For me, it wasn’t so hard combining the two cultures because I have a South Asian music background. What was hard though, was realizing the impact that culture has on rhythm. It’s so deep and not something I recognized until I went in and started trying to compose.”

Bare Naked Statues with soloist Noah Scott

         According to Joseph Case, Bare Naked Statues’ music director and SLU junior, his job focuses heavily on the leadership aspect as well as music.

         “Knowing when to push the guys to do our best and grow is a big thing. Whether that’s with a challenging piece of music or just in general, it’s part of being a music director,” Case said.

          Both teams began this journey in early November when they submitted three-minute audition tapes to Varsity Vocals, the tournament coordinator for ICCA, and only a select number of teams were allowed to compete in the quarterfinals. The top two teams at each quarterfinal competition then advance to the semifinals. 

       Quarterfinals occurred on Feb. 19 at Washington University and both Bare Naked Statues and Astha advanced, with Astha winning first place and Bare Naked Statues winning second. Coming into the semi-finals on Saturday, both teams were brimming with excitement and anticipation.

      “Honestly, I’m just excited to perform. I don’t really care if we win or lose. I just love performing with this group of people so much,” said Kate Embry, a freshman member of Astha. 

     The order is determined randomly prior to the competition with representatives from each team pulling from a hat. Competing against a total of nine other teams, the Bare Naked Statues performed second and Asha fifth. 

          Bare Naked Statues performed three mashups including songs like “Neu Roses,” “G-Train” and “The Overpass.” Their high-energy performance along with two soloists, Noah Scott and Gerard Peña, kept the audience engaged. This group of guys combined intensity and passion to create a show worth watching.

        Astha’s setlist included a variety of songs in South Asian languages and English such as “Bleeding Out,” “Shubuhaaram” and “You Move I Move.” Their vibrant traditional South Asian dress and entrancing choreography set them apart from other groups and thrilled the audience. Showcasing their vocal talents with six different soloists, Madhura Puntambekar, Laasya Sarva, Rithika Somasundaram, Shweta Subramanian, Vrisha Jagdish and Karun Puri, Astha won third place, and the Outstanding Choreography award.

         While neither group advanced to the next round of competition, the two teams made it clear they’ve won when it comes to companionship and community.      

       President of the Bare Naked Statues, junior Blake Peftoulidis, explained that this group is more to him than just a team. “Being able to sing with a group of people that you genuinely enjoy is great. We hang out all the time,” Peftoulidis said. They also have an annual retreat where members discuss topics they normally wouldn’t during their scheduled rehearsals.

        “We go to the lake center and have deep conversations that we don’t really feel like we can have with other people,” Case explained. “I feel so comfortable around these guys. It’s the same way I feel about my family.”

          Nagarapu recalls the day he was recruited for Astha. He had no idea about the community he was about to join and help create. “I was actually thinking of joining a frat,” he laughed. Contemplating his time with Astha since then he said, “We really are a family and we love each other no matter what.” 

        Both teams extend invitations to audition for those interested in becoming a part of their musical families. 

       “This is the nicest group of people I’ve ever met and one of the most talented as well. I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t want to join,” Embry said.

          Peftoulidis echoed this sentiment for his team. “Just take that chance. Just audition and if you don’t like then you don’t have to go any further, but taking that first step and auditioning will really change your college experience. I’ve met so many great guys through this group.”

         While the team’s competitive seasons have come to a close they will continue to host events throughout the rest of the year. Both teams give live performances on special occasions. Astha is holding a concert at the end of April and Bare Naked Statues continues to practice for future events.