Bhangra is a form of dance and music that originated in the Punjab region. Bhangra dance began as a folk dance conducted by punjabi farmers mainly Punjab in 11th century to celebrate the coming of the harvest season. The specific moves of bhangra reflect the manner in which villagers farmed their land. This hybrid dance became bhangra. The folk dance has been popularised in the Western world by Punjabi and is seen in the West as an expression of South Asian culture as a whole. Today, Bhangra dance survives in different forms and styles all over the globe ï¿½ including pop music, film soundtracks, collegiate competitions and cultural shows.
Bhangra dance is based on music from a Punjabi folk drum,folk singing, a single-stringed instrument called the iktar, the tumbi and the chimta. The accompanying songs are small couplets written in the Punjabi language called bolis. In Punjabi folk music, the dhol’s smaller cousin, the dholki, was nearly always used to provide the main beat. Nowadays, the dhol is used more frequently. Additional percussion, including tabla, is less frequently used in bhangra as a solo instrument but is sometimes used to accompany the dhol and dholki. This rhythm serves as a common thread that allows for easy commingling between Punjabi folk and reggae, as demonstrated by such artists as the UK’s Apache Indian.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, several Punjabi Sikh bands from the United Kingdom set the stage for bhangra to become a form of music instead of being just a dance. The success of many Punjabi artists based in the United Kingdom created a fanbase, inspired new artists, and found large amounts of support in both Pakistani and Indian Punjab. These artists, some of whom are still active today, include, Heera Group, Alaap band, A.S. Kang and Apna Sangeet. Folk singers of Punjab have also contributed to the development of bhangra in the UK. These artists are Alam Lohar and Yamla Jatt.
Bhangra has developed as a combination of dances from different parts of the Punjab region. The term Bhangra now refers to several kinds of dances and arts, including Jhumar, Luddi, Giddha, Julli, Daankara, Dhamal, Saami, Kikli, and Gatka.
- Jhumar, originally from Sandalbar, Punjab, comprises an important part of Punjab folk heritage. It is a graceful dance, based on a specific Jhumar rhythm. Dancers circle around a drum player while singing a soft chorus.
- A person performing the Luddi dance places one hand behind his head and the other in front of his face, while swaying his head and arms. He typically wears a plain loose shirt and sways in a snake-like manner. Like a Jhumar dancer, the Luddi dancer moves around a dhol player.
- Women have a different and much milder dance called Giddha. The dancers enact verses called bolis, representing a wide variety of subjectsï¿½everything from arguments with a sister-in-law to political affairs. The rhythm of the dance depends on the drums and the hand claps of the dancers.
- Daankara is a dance of celebration, typically performed at weddings. Two men, each holding colorful staves, dance around each other in a circle while tapping their sticks together in rhythm with the drums.
- Dancers also form a circle while performing Dhamal. They also hold their arms high, shake their shoulders and heads, and yell and scream. Dhamal is a true folk dance, representing the heart of bhangra.
- Women of the Sandalbar region traditionally are known for the Saami. The dancers dress in brightly colored kurtas and full flowing skirts called lehengas.
- Like Daankara, Kikli features pairs of dancers, this time women. The dancers cross their arms, hold each other’s hands, and whirl around singing folk songs. Occasionally, four girls join hands to perform this dance.
- Gatka is a Punjabi Sikh martial art in which people use swords, sticks, or daggers. Historians believe that the sixth Sikh guru started the art of Gatka after the martyrdom of fifth guru, Guru Arjan Dev. Wherever there is a large Punjabi Sikh population, there will be Gatka participants, often including small children and adults. These participants usually perform Gatka on special Punjabi holidays.
In addition to these different dances, a bhangra performance typically contains many energetic stunts. The most popular stunt is called the moor, or peacock, in which a dancer sits on someone’s shoulders, while another person hangs from his torso by his legs. Two-person towers, pyramids, and various spinning stunts are also popular.
Traditional men wear a chaadra while doing bhangra. A chaadra is a piece of cloth wrapped around the waist. Men also wear a kurta, which is a long Indian-style shirt. In addition, men wear pagadi (also known as turbans) to cover their heads.
In modern times, men also wear turla, the fan attached to the pagadi. Colorful vests are worn above the kurta. Fumans (small balls attached to ropes) are worn on each arm.
Women wear a traditional Punjabi dress known as a salwar kameez, long baggy pants tight at the ankle (salwar) and a long colorful shirt (kameez). Women also wear chunnis, colorful pieces of cloth wrapped around the neck.
These items are all very colorful and vibrant, representing the rich rural colors of Punjab. Besides the above, the bhangra dress has different parts that are listed below in detail:
- Turla or torla, a fan-like adornment on the turban
- Pag (turban, a sign of pride/honor in Punjab). This is tied differently than the traditional turban one sees Sikhs wearing in the street. This turban has to be tied before each show.
- Kurta, similar to a silk shirt, with about four buttons, very loose with embroidered patterns
- Lungi or chadar, a loose loincloth tied around the dancer’s waist, which is usually very decorated
- Jugi, a waistcoat with no buttons
- Rumal, small “scarves” worn on the fingers. They look very elegant and are effective when the hands move during the course of bhangra performance.
Bhangra lyrics, always sung in the Punjabi language, generally cover social issues, such as love, relationships, money, dancing, getting drunk and marriage. Additionally, there are countless bhangra songs devoted to Punjabi pride themes and Punjabi heroes. The lyrics are tributes to the rich cultural traditions of the Punjabis. In particular, many bhangra tracks have been written about Udham Singh and Bhagat Singh. Less serious topics include beautiful ladies with their colorful duppattas and dancing and drinking in the fields of the Punjab.
Bhangra singers do not sing in the same tone of voice as their Southeast Asian counterparts. Rather, they employ a high, energetic tone of voice. Singing fiercely and with great pride, they typically add nonsensical, random noises to their singing. Likewise, often people dancing to Bhangra will yell phrases such as hoi, hoi, hoi; balle balle; chak de; oye hoi; bruah (for an extended length of about 2ï¿½5 seconds); haripa; or ch-ch (mostly used as slow beats called Chummer/Jhoomer) to the music.
One famous bhangra or Punjabi lyricist is Harbans Jandu (Jandu Littranwala), who has written famous songs such as “Giddhian Di Rani”.
Many different Punjabi instruments contribute to the sound of bhangra. Although the most important instrument is the keyboard, bhangra also features a variety of string and other drum instruments.
The primary and most important instrument that defines bhangra is the dhol. The dhol is a large, high-bass drum, played by beating it with two sticks – known as daggah (bass end) and tilli (treble end). The width of a dhol skin is about fifteen inches in general, and the dhol player holds his instrument with a strap around his neck.
The string instruments include the guitar (both acoustic and electrical), bass, sitar, tumbi, violin and sarangi. The snare, toms, dhad, dafli, dholki, and damru are the other drums. The tumbi, originally played by folk artists such as Lalchand Yamla Jatt and Kuldip Manak in true folk recordings and then famously mastered by chamkila, a famous Punjabi folk singer (not bhangra singer), is a high-tone, single-string instrument. It has only one string; however, it is difficult to master. The sarangi is a multi-stringed instrument, somewhat similar to the violin and is played using meends. The sapera produces a beautiful, high-pitched stringy beat, while the supp and chimta add an extra, light sound to bhangra music. Finally, the dhad, dafli, dholki, and damru are instruments that produce more drum beats, but with much less bass than the dhol drum.
The keyboard and guitar are the most important melodic instruments used in bhangra, with even the sitar being used on certain albums.