Eight South Asian student groups converge for cultural 'That Brown Show'

By Lauren Caserta, Daily Community Culture Editor
Published March 9, 2012

Spring break has come and gone, and the countdown until finals has officially commenced. The annual year-end academic scramble leaves little time for attending the University’s countless student shows, forcing students to pick and choose between performances for groups they swore they would make time to see.

That Brown Show


Tomorrow at 7 p.m.
Power Center
From $8.50


Fortunately, Michigan Sahana has tuned in to the plight of the average time-crunched, culture-starved student, creating an eight-in-one package deal that gives viewers an all-access pass into the world of South Asian music, dance and performance. Welcome to the affectionately named “That Brown Show.”

The show consists of eight different South Asian student groups, each of which are given eight minutes of performance time. Though the groups had been performing separately before the creation of “That Brown Show,” the compact variety of a collective “TBS” showcase is a huge draw for crowds.

“I think it’s awesome that you get an opportunity to see how many groups there are,” said Saloney Arora, an LSA junior and performance chair for “That Brown Show.” “You don’t need to go to eight different shows. Instead, you get them all in one.”

The lineup for the show will include Michigan Sahana, Maya, Maize Mirchi, the Michigan Bhangra Team, Michigan Manzil, Taal and Wolverine Bhangra. Each group specializes in a type of classical Indian and South Asian vocal music or dance style.

This year’s performance will be the second ever for “TBS,” which was formed last year under the direction of Michigan Sahana. Though the Indian American Student Association had been showcasing Indian dance groups for years, Michigan Sahana realized there was still no unifying event for classical Indian vocal, dance and other performance groups.

“When I first heard the idea last year, I thought it was the most ingenious thing ever,” Arora said. “It sounded like so much fun. And there are so many brown organizations in particular on campus, you know, why wouldn’t we do that?”

This year will also mark the first time the Power Center will host “TBS.” Arora emphasized that the new venue is a large improvement over their old haunt, the Michigan Union ballroom, giving them some much-needed space along with a few technical upgrades.

A quick look at YouTube videos from their previous performance reveals wall-to-wall crowds and performers packed onto a half-raised stage — a far cry from the luxury of the Power Center’s numerous amenities. But even though the new location may be a little more upscale than an undersized ballroom, “That Brown Show” participants have no intention of letting the glare of the stage lights go to their heads.

“We’re not trying to make it more formal because of this,” Arora said. “It should still have a laid-back, fun atmosphere. It just helps showcase the groups in the best possible way. It’s a relaxed atmosphere because it’s everyone’s friends that are up there.”

The show will also be a learning experience for those not familiar with the sheer variety of classical performances, each of which will tackle a separate facet of Indian and South Asian culture.

“We’ll have some different fusion dances,” Arora said. “India and South Asian countries are each known for their different styles of dance and music, and so we want to showcase each different group in one single performance.”

With a different performance from each student group, audience members will get the rare opportunity to watch centuries of cultural evolution packed into one performance designed to keep viewers engaged and on their toes.

“It’s really cool to see that all these different styles come together,” Arora said. “When you go to a single concert of a single group, sometimes it becomes boring at a point because it’s just the same thing repeatedly. Here you see all these different brown organizations, just eight minutes of each one, and it’s like a big culmination.”

Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly described the cultural groups mentioned as representing Southeast Asia.