Q&A: Akhil Katakam, president of SASA

Helen Lee, Reporter


Northwestern’s South Asian Student Alliance (SASA) is bringing singer Jay Sean to Ryan Auditorium on Friday night. All proceeds from the event, a sell out, will go to The Umbrella Foundation, a non-profit NGO working to alleviate the impact of trafficking and poverty in Nepal. The Daily chatted with SASA’s co-president Akhil Katakam to learn more about the organization and the performance.

Could you give me a quick overview of SASA?
What SASA aims to do on campus is to really create a unifying platform for South Asians and other community members of Northwestern. We aim to host South Asian events, learn more about South Asian cultures and really unify the South Asian community at Northwestern. We look for South Asians in general, but we’ve been trying more recently to have a general focus and include those who are not exclusively South Asian. We have a two tier approach — one as an umbrella organization for other South Asian interest groups around campus and also as a unifying organization to celebrate South Asian culture.

Why did you all choose Jay Sean as your performer?
We like to have a diverse array of performers and people we bring to campus. We’ve had educational speakers this past year, so we wanted a more entertainment-focused event. So we thought Jay Sean would be perfect. He’s also from a South Asian upbringing and he doesn’t deny that. In interviews, he likes to celebrate his South Asian culture and he embraces his South Asian roots in his music.

How did you go about booking him?
For the booking process, we knew that he performed a lot of shows on the East Coast, so I personally contacted one of the organizers of one of his concerts back home in Philadelphia. I was able to contact one of the event coordinators, was put into contact with some other person and eventually I talked to his agent. It was a long-winded process. We were able to negotiate a price and eventually we booked him. It was all done around Fall Quarter.

What are you all hoping in terms of the audience?
Ryan Auditorium holds around 600 spots and we’re expecting to sell out.

What are you most excited about?
I’m definitely excited about throwing an event of this scale. In previous years, SASA has never been able to bring a performer of the magnitude of Jay Sean. We usually have local performers for spring performances, so having a worldwide-known artist is something very new and very exciting for us. It shows that we can lead and we hope that other SASA chapters from other schools can garner inspiration from it.

What’s next for SASA?
For our spring programming, we have an event called Holi coming up. I feel like we can appeal to people outside the Asian community and let them see what South Asian culture is really about, so my biggest goal is to appeal to a wider audience.

Email: [email protected]