Watching the zestful young generation dancing and vibing on dynamic music is a feast for the eyes and implores everyone to join. There are many dance forms that ultimately make your feet start popping with the beat itself and bhangra is one of them.
You must have heard “punjabiyan di battery charge rehndi hai”. Bhangra is an energetic form of folk dance that originated in Punjab and Pakistan. Bhangra is a celebrated dance form in both parts of Punjab in India and Pakistan.
On the outside, bhangra may look easy but it is much more than kicking legs vigorously. It is strongly connected to the celebration of farmers' happiness after harvesting healthy crops during Vaisakhi or spring season. Studies reveal that bhangra used to be performed since the late 1800s.
It is believed that bhangra is a blend of a variety of folk dances influenced by the different regions of Punjab such as Sammi, Jhummar, Luddi, Giddha, Dhamaal, Sialkot, Kikli, Gatka and a lot more. For example, the dance form Sialkot originated and was performed in the region Sialkot, it is particularly done with one leg in the air and many bhangra steps are performed with the same step.
Sammi is a dance form that is dedicated to singing about fictitious girls. Eventually, communication of Punjab with its region was increased during the time of independence and people adapted the standard bhangra routine and the dance was performed during the time of celebration.
Post partition bhangra was performed in different regions of countries with its own uniqueness and different forms of bhangra, but the form stayed united and further contributed to a variety of steps.
Originally bhangra used to be a men's dance but with the passage of time women also started participating in bhangra. Men and women also wear jewellery made up of woolen cloth called phuman and scarfs in their hand to make the performance look more colourful. Generally, kenthas are worn by men in their neck and women tend to wear maang tikka and necklaces.
It is now that we can plug in the leads and set the stage for dancing, but the originality was back then when music and sound was all man made by using various types of techniques. Boliyan (musical lyrics) were sung by performers and beats or tones were provided by clappings, playing dhol, tumbi etc. We can agree that this tradition is still maintained throughout the time in many regions of Punjab.
Bhangra in the modern era
Bhangra has gained an immense audience and now it is not only performed during Vaisakhi but in every happiness such as weddings, special ceremonies, birthdays, celebrations, school/university fest and parties. From traditional to modernisation people have developed their individual style infused with bhangra. It is now a mainstream dance form and its influence can easily be seen in the western world and bhangra music is extremely popular in the United Kingdom.
Owing to the increased demand of this folk dance especially in the younger generation many organisations have started providing workshops and bhangra classes. We can take the example of BFunk and Bhangra Empire, who are doing wonders and ruling the internet.
Bhangra has reached global heights, in recent years we can see dancers spreading magic and entertaining audiences with their lively moves on the stage of America's Got Talent, London Olympics, the opening of NBA match and even in the White House. Moreover, nowadays large bhangra competitions are done across countries.
There are a variety of props and instruments used in bhangra traditionally to add spark and flare to the stage. Here are some of the most popular bhangra props you may have seen in the hands of dancer:
Khunda: A khunda is basically a long stick approximately 5 feet which has a hook type moulding, at its one end. It is considered that Punjabi farmers used to roam in their fields with this walking stick, and it became incorporated into bhangra prop. It is also a symbol of pride and brought respect to their farms of villagers. You can see bhangra performers mounting khunda on their one shoulder or both by swaying from side to side. Khunda is also known as daang.
Kato: In Punjabi language, kato means squirrel and so the shape of the instrument's body appears like a squirrel. It is made up of a long stick with a wooden block resting on the top. The wooden block has a flap that is the squirrel's “head”, and a tail. Both the head and the tail are connected to the strings coming down, which can pull and produce sound which is turned into a beat while swinging up on the shoulder.
Saaps: As the name suggests, saaps means snake, this prop seems like a snake. It is a wooden instrument made up of small X-shaped parts that expand and contract. Using this instrument produces thunder-like sounds. It is also known as shikke or kenchi.
Here are some of the most famous, instruments which give original sounds and beats to the performers:
Dhol: Dhol is the most famous bhangra instrument. It is a double-sided barrel drum that creates the beats.
Sarangi: The sarangi is a stringed instrument with a small neck. It is made from Tun wood and has a box-like shape with three hollow chambers.
Tumbi: The tumbi or toombi, also called a tumba or toomba is a traditional musical instrument from the Punjab associated with folk music. It is hung on one side of the shoulder and then played.