Traditional Bhangra Beats Infuse Punjabi Culture with Dance Music



Interested in expanding your musical tastes? Have a desire to broaden your cultural horizons? Are you an avid dancer or just love to groove to a great beat? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then bhangra is definitely calling your name. Over the past 40 years, bhangra has enjoyed a popular resurgence that has allowed it to become a mainstream genre in many places outside of India. To those who are unaccustomed with it, bhangra is a lively form of Punjabi music that incorporates traditional folk music with dance beats. The music originated as a celebratory part of the harvest season each year in Punjab and is commonly regarded as one of the oldest folk dances in the world. The music centers on the heavy beat of the double-barreled drum, called the dhol. The fast-tempo beats of the dhol, combined with the singing of traditional folk songs, have allowed bhangra to travel through the centuries and to transcend musical and language barriers. With modern elements of dance and illuminating voices mixed together with the forceful beat rhythms, the music possesses a unique radiance. Now, a range of musical styles – including reggae, rap and hip-hop – are influencing bhangra, and its pulsing beats are becoming indistinguishable from Western pop music. In comparison with other genres of music, South Asian Cultural Club (SACC) President, sophomore Amar Bhakta, believes, “It’s getting more and more popular and a lot of producers are tapping into it and it’s influencing their music.” Just as rap music has rallied black youth towards self-empowerment and cultural identity, bhangra music – remixed by young South Asian basement DJs using the turntable techniques of a hip hop record spinner – has become the soundtrack of Indian youth in the UK. Sophomore Kartik Misra, a member of SACC, states that bhangra’s, “playability [and compatibility] with hip hop,” has allowed it to become a mainstream form of music outside of India.At the same time, bhangra is also becoming a major part of the music in Indian commercial cinema. Based in Bombay is the country’s film industry, also known as Bollywood, which has been recognized for its massive output as scenes break into song and dance portions without hesitation. Bhangra is now an established part of Bollywood’s scene, in addition to resonating worldwide.On a local basis, SACC, known for its festive parties and delicious South Asian cuisine, has successfully spread cultural awareness from much of the Indian subcontinent. In February, it held its annual banquet at the Hall of Presidents, in which the theme of the show was Diaspora. Members of SACC participated in comedy skits, traditional and modern dances as well as cultural performances. SACC has a reputation for always pleasing its audiences with its intricate and vivacious dances, regardless of whether it’s at a banquet or a dancefest. First-year Kashif Ahmed, a member of SACC, attributes their dance success to the “guys who get really into [the dances] and the girls [who] dance in such an alluring fashion, so you get beauty and the beast.”While the Banquet is usually the most popular event of the year because of its publicity, the once-a-semester Bhangra Nights have blown away the many people who have had the opportunity to attend. Since they occur only once a semester, they always retain their party flavor and atmosphere without disappointment. Sophomore Amar Bhakta, also known as “DJ Plan B,” believes the popularity of Bhangra Night can be attributed to a few factors. “It’s a good way for SACC to branch out into the Colgate community because it provides a party atmosphere while at the same time showing Colgate students an entirely different culture, one that shows that South Asian students are not studying and working all the time, but that we know how to throw a good party.” SACC held its Spring Bhangra Blast ’05 this Saturday night at Creative Arts House, where it was an absolute success. In addition to the members, all students are always encouraged to attend since it is free and it is a night of tremendous fun, great music and tons of dancing. To persuade an even larger crowd next semester, Ahmed states that “dancers of all levels could feel comfortable at the party because of the beats and then there are also the samosas.” From one semester to the next, the Bhangra Night parties only increase in their success and excitement because it is the one night during which you are guaranteed to have a lot of fun. “The fact is that those who did not know what bhangra music was suddenly became its biggest fans, and always return to bhangra night,” remarked Bhakta. So, if this meets your tastes and interests, I intend on seeing you there next semester!