What Is Bhangra


Bhangra is a beautiful form of expression that will engulf you in its spirit as soon as you experience it. It’s a celebration of life and is done with zest, enthusiasm, and energy. It is perhaps the most vigorous form of South Asian Dances. Bhangra originated in the fertile land of Punjab, India. Punjab means land of five waters (rivers); it is a Northwest region of the Indian Subcontinent, currently spread amongst Indian states of Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, and parts of Himachal, Hariyana and Pakistani Punjab.

Though bhangra may have existed longer, its history can be traced as far back as 500 years. Bhangra was created among farmers while they worked in fields. Since its grounded in earth, its basic movements relate to farming activities like ploughing, sowing, and, harvesting. Traditionally performed to celebrate the harvest, Bhangra reflected the enthusiasm and appreciation shared among rural folk as they witnessed their hard labor bear fruit. Bhangra season concludes with Baisakhi, a festival that marks the arrival of the harvesting season. Baisakhi always falls on April 14th, and marks the beginning of the solar year and is therefore also celebrated as the New Year among Punjabi’s. Bhangra is truly one of the most joyous and celebratory forms of dancing. It is no longer done just among farmers and is now known as a folk dance of Punjab and can be seen at any happy/festive occasions and celebrations especially weddings.

The main instrument played during bhangra is a barrel size drum called the Dhol. Its strong bass beats are so contagious & can lure even the most dedicated of wallflowers onto the dance floor. Other instruments played during bhangra are a single string instrument called the tumbi, and a multi layered string instrument, somewhat similar to the violin called, sarangi. Some other small instruments used to add more sound, are sapera, supp, and chimta (clamps) and smaller drums such as the damru and dholki. Though traditional performances most often include many of these instruments, Dhol is still the most important and most common instrument used in Bhangra. Now, dhol beats are also often fused with other instruments such as flutes, tablas (a smaller Indian drum), and synthetic sounds.

The music is so vibrant and has almost an intoxicating effect on those listening as if some chemical gets released in their bodies when the dhol(drum) beats kick in; you can’t help but move your feet to the beat. It’s truly a beautiful thing to watch as it brings out the free spirit and un-inhibited emotions and allows people to move their bodies in a way that brings tremendous joy and release.

Bhangra music is well known in the UK as that’s where a large population of punjabi’s migrated. Over the last 10 to 15 years, it has gained more recognition in North America, as up and coming dj’s and producers have started playing this sound to a wider audience. Now Bhangra has become a synergistic blend of its traditional origins and contemporary musical styles ranging from Reggae, Hip-Hop, to Drum N Bass. Bhangra continues to reach the masses, emerging as a popular global sound.

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