Bhangra has its origins in the harvesting celebration Baisakhi, which takes place every year in April. People gather in the villages and dance to the rhythms of the Dhol (large drum) and the sound of double flute and Boliyaan, the folk songs.
Basically Bhangra is the men's dance (the women's dance is called Giddha). However after many Punjabis emigrated - for example to Great Britain and Canada - and took their culture along, both music and dance developed.
The music was mixed with Western influences and the dance is today done during all kinds of festive opportunities such as birthdays, weddings, dance competitions etc. - and also by women. Bhangra is danced in a group or at least a duo - after all its goal is to celebrate and have fun together!
The movements in Bhangra are relaxed and unsophisticated but of full energy. While the feet are hopping and stomping, the arms are raised or swing along to the steps. The shoulders are moving along to the rhythm. Some movements remind of farm work. It takes a little stamina to dance Bhangra over longer time - however the driving rhythm makes it hard to stop! The goal is not primarily technical perfection, but getting the right groove, the feeling for the rhythm. This can be achieved best by listening to the music a lot.
However, college troupes and professional dance troupes around the world represent a more stylised and structured version of Bhangra. This is the format that the experienced dancer DaVid, with the assistance of MEISSOUN, used to develop a teaching program for beginner level adjusted to the western way of teaching.Bhangra music becomes more and more popular in the West. Just look at the success of "Mundian To Bach Ke" by Panjabi MC. By the way this song is a very good example of the typical Bhangra beat: dang-dang take dang.
Further recommended musicians: Malkit Singh, Gurdas Maan, Channi Singh, Balwinder Safri, AS Kang, Jasbir Jassi, DCS, Surjit Bindrakhia. Basically the music is suitable for Bhangra dancing if it has the right rhythm (see above). There are also many pieces which are called Bhangra but have Western rhythms are really more Hip Hop or Reggeae. On request MEISSOUN can provide you with a selection of suitable CDs.
MEISSOUN has taught many successful workshops in Switzerland and Germany and is kind of a "Bhangra missionary" in this region, who has also trained other instructors.
Bhangra is fun for everybody!
article in GesundheitSprechstunde Nr. 18/2003
Article in Brückenbauer of 28. 10. 2003