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 is considered to be one of the oldest dances in the world. While Bhangra historians speculate the dance may have originated in the time of the wars with Alexander no one is sure it existed until about five hundred years ago. Around the 14th or 15th Century, Punjabi wheat farmers danced and sang songs about village life to help pass the time while working in the fields. With time, these became part of harvest celebrations at Bhaisakhi (April 13) festivals, as the sight of their crops growing invigorated the farmers. From here the dance quickly moved through all divisions of class and education, eventually becoming a part of weddings, New Year parties, and other important occasions. One theory also relates it to Lord Shiva. Bhangra has been attributed to the disciples of Shiva who, while grinding bhang or marijuana, sang and danced. Hence the name, bhangra… interesting!
Though danced now at every gala day, bhangra is closely associated with the Baisakkhi festival on the day the harvesting of wheat begins. The dancers are dressed in a kurta (long, flowing, collarless shirt), waistcoats, loin cloth up to the ankles and a colourful turban with a folded tail hanging down like a plume. A golden band to keep the turban in piace is also worn. The song for the dance is called saddh or boli or the call. Adrum, musical tongs and empty earthen vessels provide the rhythmic beat.
Starting with a slow beat, the dancers circle the drummer, who, with a gradually increasing rhythmic beat, beckons them on. Being a virile dance, acrobatics are also performed to display the vigor of their bodies. A man with a whistle accompanies the party to Indicate a change in the movement of the dance. Another. holds a pole atop which a squirrel in puppet form is holsted attached to a string which indicates agility.
Jhoomer also called the the dance of the theives, is performed by male dancers with a graceful gait. The costumes are the same as worn for bhangra. To the tunes of emotional songs, the dancers with a waving of arms. move in a slow circle around a single drummer in the centre. No acrobatics are pertormed during this dance.
Luddi is danced to celebrate a victory in any field. The dance has its historical linkages to the moment when Punjabi Sardars rescued women who were forcibly taken towards the Middle East. The costume for this dance is simple consisting of a kurta, loin cloth and a turban. The performers dance by placing one hand at the back and the other before the face copying the movement of a snake’s head. Thic is also danced with the drummer in the centre. This dance, however. is not as popular as the bhangra in India.
Jalli is a religious dance associated with the Pirs and recluses and is generally danced in their hermitages. The dance is generally pertormed while in a sitting posture. After donning black clothes and a black scarf over the head, the dancer holds a thick staff in his hand and dances by revolving it. This dance is very rarely pertormed these days and is fast disappearing.
Dhankara, like other male dances, is also performed in circles generally ahead of marriage processions to exhibit joy. Also known as the gatka or tippi dance, the dancers rhythmically ply colourtul staffs in their hands crossing them with each other. The high point is reached in the sitting position when the bitons are crossed. No special costumes are worn.
Many different Punjabi instruments contribute to the sound of Bhangra. Although the most important instrument is the dhol drum, 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. 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 tumbi, sarangi, sapera, supp, and chimta. The dhad, dafli, dholki, and damru are the other drums. The tumbi, famously mastered by Amar Singh Chamkila, a famous Punjabi singer, is a high-tone, single-string instrument. Although it has only one string, mastering the tumbi takes many years. The sarangi is a multi-stringed instrument, somewhat similar to the violin. The sapera produces a beautiful, high-pitched stringy beat, while the supp and chimta add 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.
Bhangra lyrics (Boliyan), always sung in the Punjabi language, generally cover social issues such as love, relationships, alcohol, dancing, 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 adies 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 “Hey hey hey,”Balle balle,” or”Hey aripa” to the music.
Do the Bhangra : Punjabi Style
Do the Bhangra : Punjabi Style