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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


One Comment

  1. Brent O'Brien says:

    To expand on the idea that Bhangra has come a long way in the twentieth century. Bhangra started as a Punjabis folk dancing, and has grown in popularity in the western world through shows and completions. Recently bhangra has also become popular in the fitness world as a form of aerobic workout. Classes are held in fitness centers across the United States and work out videos are sold for in home instruction. This is an example of one of her classes, it has over 600,000 views, in a world where YouTube views have a level of important. The level is reasonably impressive.

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