Indian Student Association holds South Asian acapella competition Jeena, donates proceeds to charity


Assad Malik

On Jan. 21, 2023, an acapella group preforms at the South Asian Acapella Competition called Jeena. The Indian Student Association donated all proceeds to charity.

Meera Hatangadi, Life&Arts General Reporter

The William C. Powers building on UT campus brimmed with an amalgamation of South Asian and Western music at The Indian Student Association’s 6th annual Jeena competition on Saturday. 

Jeena, one of the first acapella bid competitions in the Association of South Asian Acapella circuit’s season, welcomed seven teams from across the country looking to debut their 2023 acapella set for a chance to compete at All-American Awaaz, a national competition in Atlanta.

Jeena co-director Eshitha Bangray said the event packs a competitive spirit while allowing participants to form interpersonal connections.

“The technical definition of Jeena is ‘life’ and honestly, I don’t think there’s a better way to describe it than that because there’s so much going on just in the competition itself,” computer science sophomore Bangray said. “There’s so much chaos and bonding, …. and at the end of the day, the whole journey of getting to the (competition) is just nice.” 

Since its establishment in 2017, Jeena accrued 350 attendees and gained sponsors such as Student Government, UT Senate of College Councils and the South Asian Institute.

“Jeena used to be really small when it was first established,” Jeena co-director Uttami Godha said. “But (it) has become one of the most loved bid competitions of the entire season. There’s a lot of hype around it since all the teams are performing for the first time for the season.” 

The competition welcomed competitive South Asian acapella teams from Carnegie Mellon University, Texas A&M, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Purdue University, Rice University, Duke University and Rutgers University. 

These teams performed acapella sets combining South Asian classical music with Western music to capture the essence of South Asian music and forge a connection with their culture, Bangray said.

“That’s really important that someone doesn’t have to be fully South Asian or fully American or fully Western,” Godha said. “They can tie those two pieces together and still tell a really nice story and still express their culture.”

For some, like Jeena liaison Hansa Sreemanthula, Jeena also provided a sense of community with the basis of a shared culture.  

“Coming to college, it can be so hard to find your community and a group of friends (where) you really bond over things like cultural identity,” Sreemanthula said. “(At Jeena,) it was so great to see everybody still holding on to their Indian identity so that we can all celebrate what we love.” 

The Indian Student Association donated 40% of the show’s proceeds to a charity chosen by the winning team. Additionally, the organization donated 10% to the charity of choice of the team that won a social media photo contest that took place prior to the event. 

Acappella team Rutgers RAAG won first place and donated the proceeds to Manavi, a South Asian women’s organization aiming to mitigate gender bias and domestic violence in the South Asian community. Winning the social media contest, Purdue Taal donated their earnings to Riley’s Children Foundation.

Bangray said she hoped attendees enjoyed the show and gained a newfound appreciation for South Asian culture.

“It can be an amazing thing to come to (a) South Asian acapella circuit and be able to see such amazing performances,” Bangray said. “I hope (attendees) get a really fulfilling and wholesome feeling out of it.”