India - Bhangra Music

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)


The Bhangra is a lively form of folk music and dance that originates from Punjab. It is sung during the celebrations of the harvest. People sing Punjabi Boliyaan lyrics, with one person playing the dhol drum, and others playing the flute, the dholak drum, and other musical instruments.

Even though, the Bhangra had originated since 300 BC, over the past forty years it has experienced new heights in popularity and innovation. The term "Bhangra" has gradually evolved and now refers to many different sub-classes of dance and music for many occasions.

The historians speculate that this music-dance may have originated in the time of the wars with Alexander. Around the 14th or 15th Century, Punjabi wheat farmers danced and sang songs about village life to pass the time while working in the fields. As time passed, these became a part of harvest celebrations at Bhaisakhi festivals. Later the dance quickly moved through all divisions of class and education, eventually becoming a part of weddings, New Year parties, and other important occasions.

The Bhangra is primarily performed by men, while the ladies performed their own elegant dance called the Giddha. The men wore the turban on the head with lungi or the long cloth wrapped around the waist and the kurta or the traditional Indian shirt. The women, when performing Giddha, wore the salvar kameez which is a long colorful shirt accompanied with a baggy style bottom piece along with bright colored duppattas wrapped around the neck.

The Bhangra has been 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 the Jhumar, the Luddi, the Giddha, the Julli, the Daankara, the Dhamal, the Saami, the Kikli, and the Gatka.

The Jhumar, originally from Sandalbar in Punjab, forms an important part of Punjab folk heritage. It is a graceful dance, based on a specific Jhumar rhythm where the dancers circle around a drum player while singing a soft chorus. In Luddi dance, the dancer 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.

The Gidda is an exuberant dance of women with the verses called bolis. The Julli dance is associated with Muslim holy men called peers and is generally performed in hermitages. Typically, the dancer dressed all in black performs this dance in a sitting posture.

The 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. In the Dhamal dance, the dancers also form a circle holding their arms high, shaking their shoulders and heads, and yelling and screaming. It is a true folk-dance, representing the heart of Bhangra.

The Sami is traditionally performed by women of Sandalbar region. The dancers are dressed in brightly colored kurtas and full flowing skirts called lehengas. The Kikli dance has a pair of women dancers who cross their arms, hold each other`s hands, and whirl around singing folk songs. Sometimes, four girls join in hands to perform this dance.

The Gatka is a Sikh martial art in which the dancers use the swords, the sticks, or the daggers. It is believed that the sixth Sikh guru started the art of gatka after the martyrdom of fifth guru Guru Arjan Dev. In addition to these different dances, a Bhangra performance is popular for 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. Also, the Bhangra singers do not sing in the same tone of voice. They employ a high, energetic tone of voice, singing fiercely, and with great pride.

Often the performers of Bhangra will yell the phrases such as "Hey hey hey," "Balle balle," or "Hey aripa" to the music.


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