Whitley Auditorium brimmed with students, sounds and bright pink decorations as Elon sophomore Prahb Saini led Vital Signs in a set for the a capella group’s 10th annual Make-A-Wish concert Feb. 18. Once the musical mashup and intricate choreography came to an end, Saini ran off stage to continue mixing the rest of the show.
At the concert, Vital Signs planned to showcase its set from the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella quarterfinals. Due to miscommunication with scheduling a sound engineer, Saini, using his experience with a cappella recording company Liquid 5th Productions, mixed audio for the concert when he wasn't performing. Freshman Nicole Bazos, a member of Elon a cappella group Shirley Tempos, took over the sound board during his performances.
Saini is the music director of Elon a cappella group Vital Signs, a beatboxer in the beatboxing duo DoubleKill, an intern at Liquid 5th and a guest arranger for other a cappella groups on campus, such as Twisted Measure and Smooth Progressions.
Saini said he loves his busy schedule because it brings him closer to his goal for Vital Signs, which would be to put the group “on the map” alongside prestigious collegiate a cappella groups. He is pushing the group to record more original songs and participate in competitions.
Vital Signs first competed in the ICCA’s in 2022 when Saini encouraged former music director and Elon alum Miles Caraballo ‘22 to register the group.
“I talked to him after the Masquerade concert and I was like, ‘You guys need to compete, you guys sound incredible, I know you guys will make it to the semis and possibly the finals,’” Saini said. “And I think he took my advice.”
Vital Signs made it through the quarterfinals and then performed at the Carolina Theatre in Durham for semifinals, though they did not place there for the South region. This year, Saini led the group to quarterfinals, but they also did not place.
Despite this setback, Saini was grateful the group got to compete at all.
“It was a very tough quarterfinal, honestly to the point where it felt like a semifinal round,” Saini said. “At the end of the day, we were just lucky enough to get on that stage and perform with amazing groups.”
Saini said whether Vital Signs decides to compete in the 2024 ICCA’s is “up in the air.”
Aside from ICCA’s and leading up to Make-a-Wish, Saini invited University of Houston’s Vibe A Cappella group to be the guest performer. The group performed “Snakeskin” by Rina Sawayama and “Better” by Haley Reinhart, prompting waves of cheers from Elon students and a cappella groups.
Vibe A Cappella was founded by Saini’s best friend, sophomore Wedler Lordeus, last year. Saini and Lordeus met doing theater while attending Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle School in Fort Myers, Florida.
Lordeus and Saini started doing a cappella while they were students at Cypress Lake High School, a school that specializes in the arts. In the middle of his sophomore year, Saini joined The A Cappella Group through a closed audition initiated by Lordeus, who had already been in the group since his freshman year.
Because of Lordeus’s encouragement, Saini performed with T.A.G. from 2019 to 2021, participating in the International Championship of High School A Cappella as well as guest performing at the 2019 ICCA semifinals in Florida.
“I owe him so much credit for really getting me into the art and cultivating me into those fields,” Saini said.
At Make-A-Wish, Saini and Lordeus also performed together as a beatboxing duo named DoubleKill, a decision made a mere two weeks prior to the show. Lordeus first taught Saini how to beatbox in preparation for a middle school pep rally, with more sophisticated teaching arriving later in their high school years.
DoubleKill was formed in the summer of 2021 at a Florida bar called Kava Culture, where open mic nights would be held weekly. Lordeus spotted two microphones on stage and asked Saini if he wanted to freestyle. They beatboxed for 20 minutes, choosing their name on the spot.
Since the two attend different universities, they had not rehearsed their DoubleKill set since winter break. With only one soundcheck to get it right, the two were shocked with what they produced. Lordeus said it sounded like they had been rehearsing for months.
“We knew what to perform and we had the general sound but some of the things that happened in the set definitely were improvised,” Lordeus said. “It worked out so perfectly.”
Lordeus said he and Saini both have creative minds and are “open with each other in terms of musicality and personally,” which is how they are able to hype each other up and encourage one another to be successful.
“I definitely want to help out because I know he has literally the potential to be a superstar,” Lordeus said. “I just don’t think he sees it that way.”
Saini attributes community to why he sticks with a cappella, even at his lowest. Aside from Lordeus and T.A.G's support, Saini said he appreciated the community he found through Elon a cappella — a quality he noticed immediately upon first seeing Vital Signs.
While on a gap semester interning at Liquid 5th, Saini’s boss urged him to see the group at Elon’s Masquerade a cappella show in November 2021. Upon arriving from Chapel Hill and sitting in the back of Whitley, he said he was “simply in awe.”
“It’s a live community of a cappella that is thriving, which I’ve never seen before in my life,” Saini said. “In T.A.G, we were always competing or we were always making albums and we never really collaborated with other groups; it was just us.”
Witnessing Vital Signs perform and meeting them afterward inspired Saini to apply to Elon. It’s been a year since he arrived on a campus that Lordeus and the rest of Vibe A Cappella described as calm, and Saini still embraces his love for a cappella. Saini said it’s the one thing he nurtures and believes he’s good at – and believes it has to be worth something.
“My overall goal for Elon a cappella is to make everyone better, not just Vital Signs,” Saini said. “It comes from a place where I love the art so much, and seeing everyone do better and sound better puts us more on the map.”
With Saini’s schedule freeing up after ICCA’s and Make-a-Wish, he said he is preparing Vital Signs for their spring concert May 6, which will be held in Whitley. There will be a 10-song set, which he said will “tell a wonderful story.” He also hopes to usher in one or two original songs from the group, even if they don’t end up performing them at the show.