Vibrant Punjabi costumes, beaded, embroidered and draped with luxuriously coloured cloth. Butter chicken and samosas. Henna booths. Energetic performances. Elaborate dance routines. The beat of the tabla. These were the sights and sounds of the ninth annual Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration (VIBC) event, Downtown Bhangra.
Held at the Vancouver Art Gallery on June 7 and 8, the Downtown Bhangra festival began in the afternoon and continued well into the night for the crowds who gathered to experience a few hours of non-stop Punjabi culture. Food stands gave out free samplers of Indian desserts while Vij’s Railway Express parked at the event to offer everyone’s favorite Indian delicacies, such as chicken curry, cassava fries and naan dips. For those who searched for a unique souvenir from the event, henna booths were set-up with henna artists designing beautiful and traditional Indian body art.
The displays of Indian tradition were an attraction on their own but they merely complemented the highlight of the event: Punjabi entertainment enjoyed and appreciated by a culturally diverse audience.
VIBC welcomed international Bhangra singers, bands and DJs from India, the USA, the UK, and Finland. It also included intricately choreographed Bhangra dances from world-class Bhangra dance teams, such as Bhangra Empire, a group that was featured on America’s Got Talent and even performed at the White House for President Barack Obama. Many of the Bhangra dance teams did not only consist of dancers with Indian heritage, but were composed of people from different ethnic backgrounds who simply wanted to honor the Indian race and promote a multicultural global community. Within the HSBC Bhangra dance team alone, eleven languages could be spoken by its multinational members.
As a Royal Academy Bhangra dance instructor taught willing audience members various Bhangra dance moves, I marveled at the beauty of a peaceful and multicultural society.
With all sorts of people throwing their hands up in Indian fashion and Bhangra dance routines choreographed to “Gangnam Style”, Downtown Bhangra was an event that united people of all ages and backgrounds by surpassing race and creating diversity. Punjabi style.