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Modern Bhangra Music and Show

Bhangra is a type of popular dance music, combining Punjabi folk traditions with Western pop music. (Punjab is India and Pakistan.) This fuse traditional drum based music with elements of reggae, raga, hip-hop, rock, soul, and dance music. Traditionally, Most popular folk dance of the Punjab is performed on festive occasions, particularly at weddings, along with sowing and harvest celebrations. The brightly dressed villagers dance vigorously in a large circle, accompanied by powerful drumming, clapping, and singing. Although Bhangra has possibly existed since as long ago as 300 BC, over the past forty years it has experienced new highs in popularity and innovation. The term “Bhangra” has gradually evolved and now refers to many different sub-classes of dance and music for many occasions.

Bhangra has come a long way in the 20th Century and has recently taken the entertainment industry by storm. Modern Bhangra has changed and evolved into more of a show instead of a celebration.  There are now more like break dancing in patterns rather than just dancing in circle. Performers now use a mix of traditional Punjabi and modern western break dance moves. Modern Bhangra artists, in addition to recording and performing traditional Bhangra, have also fused Bhangra with other music genres, such as hip-hop, reggae, house, and drum-and-bass.

It’s really funny to watch because the dancers still wear the traditional outfits while on stage basically break dancing.  The men wear what look like fans on their heads called Bhugaris, a long Punjabi style shirt called a kurta, and a Lungi which is a colorful piece of cloth wrapped around the waist.  The women wear traditional Punjabi dress called a salvar kameez, which is composed of a long colorful shirts and baggy vibrant pants. They also wear a duppattas, a colorful cloth wrapped around the neck.

On the Sides of the stage (and sometimes dancing on stage) the percussions drums can be seen.  Bhangra uses large Dhol drums, sometimes beaten bare hand and other times with a two canes.  It is a high-bass drum. The width of the dhol skin is about fifteen inches in general and is held up by a strap around the players neck. http://www.binaswar.com/percusion2.htm

Example1) [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BxMMQs-6nQ[/youtube]

This is the Bhangra Empire (from California’s Bay Area) performing at Bruin Bhangra 2009. They placed first at this competition.  From this angle you can really see the new style of dancing in patterns rather than just in a circle. The performers are following many of the traditional rules for dancing; they never show the bottom of their feet to the crowd for example.

Example2) [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFAA1AVVbas[/youtube]

This is Anakh E Gabroo (AEG) representing US East performing at Elite 8 Bhangra Invitational 2012. This was the third “competitive” performance of the night at Elite 8 Bhangra Invitational 2012. This show was held in Washington DC at the Warner Theater on March 3 2012. It has quickly become known as one of the “top tier” level competitions in both the performing and attending aspects. I really like the pep speech given by the leader at the beginning of this video before they go on stage. I also really like how colorful this performance. wear of groups of different color outfits and use that to make really cool patterns while dancing. Then, a girl turns out to be one of the guys dancing, which is very provocative for the culture. And at the end they interact with the crowd ,you see how the performers feel after and get a close up of what the costumes look like.

Example3) [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEn7WMrHNxs[/youtube]

This is Bhangra Empire performs at Halftime of the Golden State Warriors game as they take on the future 2011 NBA Champions, Dallas Mavericks. I think this is a great halftime show. The basketball court lines are set perfectly where everyone needs to dance. The dhol drummers are standing in the two pointer circle and the dancers use the rest of the court to make patterns. There is so much space that they can really spread out. Between 2:30 and 2:50 I love how when they play “Right Round” by Flo Rida, they climb on top of each other and bend backwards spinning around.  The end of the performance is cool how they have “warriors” spelled across their backs. It really got the crowd going.

Example4) [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wlgjd3p35tw[/youtube]

This is just a fun video of Simon Fraser University  (SFU Bhangra) students surprise unsuspecting Canucks fans by performing a flash mob outside Rogers Arena. The beginning is kind of sketchy as they set up, but it’s funny to see the reactions.  Obviously they couldn’t wear the crazy outfits and fun hats, but it was still very colorful. I don’t think the crowd knew it was bhangra, but they were entertained. This video just shows that anyone can enjoy the Punjabi culture, dance, and have fun.





1 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/bhangra

2 http://www.binaswar.com/percusion2.htm

3 http://www.punjabonline.com/servlet/library.history?Action=Bhangra


“Down In The Bottom” “Dust My Broom”

African American Blues, or Delta Blues Music is Amazing.  Blues is not another name for Jazz.  Jazz  is a improvisational composition technique meanwhile Blues can be thought of as a literary tradition complete with mythology, idioms, and an emphasis on contextual “truth.” A lot of the contents or lyrics can be taken tons of different ways with the use of symbolism and idioms. There are many common phrases reused and have multiple possible meaning.  Most the references in this time period are about slavery, freedom, Jim Crow laws, or the south and change in general. However, in these two examples, “Down In The Bottom” and “Dust My Broom”, the idioms and symbols can be interpreted differently in a few ways. They make references cheating, breaking up, running from trouble, and picking up to move on.


The lyrics in “Down in the Bottom” refer to a man making love to a woman but has to cut it short and run before her husband came home and he is caught. This is one of the most common themes and motifs in  Delta Blues.  “Down in the Bottom” is a classic 12-bar blues straight from the Mississippi Delta. Accompanied vocals with slide guitar, alternating slippery melodic lines with choppy rhythmic chords, giving the song its propulsive force. Backdoor Man  is the lover of a married woman who sneaks out the back door before the husband of the house gets home. The Imagery created in this Blues song is that of a man crawling out of a bedroom window and a woman throwing his shoes out behind him so he can get away in time. You can really form a strong mental picture when you listen to the lyrics behind “Down in the Bottom”.

Here is “Down in the Bottom”  preformed by Howlin’ Wolf on his 1961 album Chess.



In the second example, “Dust My Broom” the lyrics have a couple means. The literal translation of “Dust my broom” refers to cleaning a rented apartment before leaving. It can be broken down to sexual references. Not only has he lost his woman, he has lost the ability to ‘satisfy’ any more women in the future. Johnson frequently used sexual imagery in his lyrics.  However, the most popular motif refers to creative destruction. “Dusting Mr Broom” is an idiom for starting new by getting rid of the old. Quite literally, shaking off the dust and starting fresh. Moving on is still popular theme in music today and can be seen in modern artists like Taylor Swift and One Republic.

Here is “Dust My Broom” performed by Delta Blues guitar legend Robert Johnson.


A ZZ Top Cover of “Dust My Broom” (Just an awesome video I came across)


Taylor Swift’s new hit single “We are never ever getting back together.” Which is all about moving on and starting over after a break up even though the past seems to haunt her.


One Republic’s song ” Marchin On” from their 2009 album ” Waking Up.”  Which is all about putting the past behind you and accepting change by growing and moving forward.



In both, “Down in the Bottom,” and “Dust My Broom”  the major themes are different in many ways but some ways they are similar. They both refer to relationship  issues with women; in “Down in the Bottom” the act over avoiding getting caught and in “Dust My Broom” Moving on after a bad break up.  Both of these are also full of  idioms and emphasis on contextual truth. Both songs create believable situations and imagery which at this time is very popular.

African Talking Drum vs. Modern Talking Guitar

In My Modern World Music class, we were going over the African Drummers specifically The Dagomba Drummers that can make a drum talk. Instantly I thought, ‘Hey that’s really cool!’ There are a ton of ways to communicate through music, the tamber and emotions behind a melody for sure. But who would have thought literally through your instrument. We hear this not only in African Triditions but also in some modern music as well.

A little bit about the drums I’m talking about. They are double end and held together with leather bands. squeezing the bands under your arm with different amounts of pressure changes the tune that is produced and you beat it. Simple enough. Here is a great example of what I’m talking about. This guy is explaining his drum and how it works. He tells us that they don’t have cell phones or anything so they use the drums to communicate. To understand he plays his name and then the very common song ‘twinkle twinkle little star’. That’s pretty cool because it’s not just the tune, it sounds like the drum is saying the words.  [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDSPPHGht5s[/youtube]

Now that you get where I’m coming from, here is an example of a Dagomba Wedding Ceremony and Praise Drumming taking place in Ghana.  [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=of1Up3M_Y5Q[/youtube]  If you listen, you will hear a leader followed by what seems like a ton of random chaotic drumming. Then if you go back and listen closer you can pick out that a lot of them are using the drum to repeat what the leader is singing. This is great! You can really feel the emotions going on even if you just listen to it without watching whats going on. You can feel that it is very up beat and happy even if you can’t understand what they are saying.

The Talk Box is an instrument that makes your voice sound like the guitar your playing. Artists from Peter Frampton to Stevie Wonder to Slash use this crazy piece of technology to change and really dig deep into the music. Here is a video of Peter Frampton talking about his history of the Talk Box and he shows us how it works.  [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-jrpxL3aP8[/youtube]  And here is a link to hear him play the famous ‘Do you feel like we do’.  [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDn2lbIltHM[/youtube]

This is interesting because you can hear him literally communicating through his guitar, just as the we heard the Dagomba Drummers speak through their instruments. Yes, they aren’t exactly the same thing they are doing it for different reasons.  However something has to be said about the influence of African Talking Drums and the Modern Talk Box.  It’s pretty awesome to think that living creatures are not the only talking objects on the planet.

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Music 2 Me

Music is a bunch of noise put together that cause a reaction. It can motivate you and pump you up. It can calm you down. It can hit all the right beats and make you smile, or it can hit all the wrong ones and give you a headache. When you’re happy you enjoy the beat, and when you’re sad you hear the lyrics. Music is not “good” or “bad” nor “right or wrong.” There is no music police, there is only the listener. There is only a next and back button; if you don’t like the song, you hit the next button, if you like it you keep going back to it.   Now me personally, I hate the question “what kind of music do you like?” It is by far the worst. I don’t like “everything” or “everything except xyz…”  I like the old stuff, the new stuff, the stuff you can only find on records, the hip stuff, the strange stuff and the eclectic stuff. I feel like my taste in music very much reflects on my personality. I’m very loud and strange and different. Yes I like to fit in but I also like to stand out. Music to me is a reflection of who the artist is and how he feels. You might be like him and feel the same way, or be the polar opposite. But you only have two options, back or forward.

@Musicintheworld @DjKjorness ;P