Vancouver’s City of Bhangra Festival 2016

Posted by Fatima Ahmed & filed under Festivals, Life.


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If anyone knows anything about Bhangra music and dance, they know its wild and intense. Vancouver is welcoming its 12th annual City of Bhangra festival this week which will be held from June 11 to 18. The festival will feature the best South Asian DJs and brilliant ‘desi’ tunes. The CoB festival promises a thrilling look into the local Bhangra scene of Vancouver which has produced some amazing musicians and dancers. If you’d like to learn more before visiting, keep reading below.

Bhangra is a music and dance form that originated in the Punjab region of South Asia. It’s a form of lively expression which was initially a part of harvest celebrations. Bhangra lyrics center around love, relationships, dancing, and making merry. Eventually, Bhangra became a large part of all celebrations, including festivals and weddings. Its depth and breadth expanded to complexities as Bhangra became a way of expressing the tumultuous history of Punjab. Nowadays, Bhangra is increasingly becoming popularized and modernized by way of fusion with other western genres. While the music and dance style still remain an expression of Punjabi identity and culture, it is no doubt quickly becoming mainstream.

Punjab is located at the heart of South Asia; in northern India and eastern Pakistan. Its identity and culture revolve around its agricultural roots. Known as the “Land of the Five Rivers,” Punjab is defined by its natural surroundings, vitality, and vigor. With life revolving around community and family, Punjab boasts strong kinship among its people. It also possesses a complicated history that involves invasions, colonialism, and a bitterly violent partition that divided the region in half. Above all, the culture and people of Punjab are resilient and this is exactly what Bhangra celebrates today.

Bhangra music is get-off-your-seat-and-dance lively. The moves are complex and require great rhythm and intense stamina. Often done in groups, it is a type of folk dance. It’s mostly done in circle formations and uses a lot of arm and shoulder movement as well as intricate footwork. Bhangra can even involve props such as staffs, and stunts such as lifting. The costumes are bursts of vibrant colors and hues. The men usually wear a ‘lungi’ while the women wear ‘salvar kameez.’ The clothes, hair, and accessories are as much a part of Bhangra dance and lyrics as anything else, often utilizing them as props. Bhangra music is all about percussion instruments. Traditional South Asian instruments, mainly the ‘dhol,’ are a large part of Bhangra music. The loud bass of the drum is what traditionally defines the upbeat and energetic mood of Bhangra.

Bhangra in the twenty-first century is evolving. South Asians music artists are now mixing Bhangra music with hip-hop, pop, and even rap styles to add layers to this already complex art form. It has been played in night clubs and family functions alike, allowing Bhangra to become versatile. Moreover, the South Asian diaspora has spread the influences of Bhangra all over the world which has allowed this dance form to become a global phenomenon. Today, this style of dance reaches a massive audience previously unprecedented. If you’d like a chance to witness this exhibition of colourful talent right here in Vancouver, please visit this link for more information.

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