With the season of Vaisakhi upon us we, at Simply Bhangra, decided to take a look at the evolution and impact of Bhangra in the UK in keeping with the festive mood.
Bhangra originated in the Punjab and is traditionally performed by farmers during Vaisakhi. As Vaisakhi is the celebration of harvest, Bhangra moves tend to depict the way in which the Punjabis farm their land.
Bhangra was introduced to the UK by first generation Punjabis, who used it as a way of socializing and keeping in touch with the culture and traditions of the Punjab, which they had left behind. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s Bhangra dance was brought to the forefront and made popular by the formation of groups such as The Great Indian Dancers and Jugnu Bhangra.
Since then Bhangra has been growing in popularity and is now commonly used as a form of entertainment at Indian parties and functions.
Simply Bhangra caught up with Vin from Nachda Sansaar; one of the UK’s leading Bhangra groups and Raj from Suruj Bhangra group to look at how the older generation of British born Indians are still upholding the tradition of Bhangra, while at the same time the youth of today are rediscovering the beauty of this popular dance form.
Simply Bhangra: What has been Nachda Sansaar’s biggest achievement?
Vin (Nachda Sansaar): Well, I would say Nachda Sansaar’s biggest achievement is it’s been going for 25 years for a start and keeping the culture alive through the art of Bhangra.
Simply Bhangra: Nachda Sansaar have been performing since 1984. What is the key to the group’s success and longevity?
Vin (Nachda Sansaar): I reckon it’s respect. Respect for many things; respect for the culture, respect for each other, respect for everyone out there who wants to learn something about Bhangra.
Simply Bhangra: What do you think are the most important attributes needed to be a Bhangra dancer?
Vin (Nachda Sansaar): First of all, the love and passion for Bhangra. Secondly I would say stamina, which is half passion and half strength. Loyalty is a massive thing. Some of the guys who started the group are still dancing so that’s a lot of loyalty, a lot of passion and love for the art.
Simply Bhangra: Both Nachda Sansaar and 4x4 Bhangra claim to be the pioneers of freestyle Bhangra. Can we get some clarification on who came up with it first?
Vin (Nachda Sansaar): If you look at the dates that should say a lot really, we’ve been going a lot longer!
Simply Bhangra: In what ways do you thing UK Bhangra is different now compared with when Nachda Sansaar first started in the 80’s?
Vin (Nachda Sansaar): In the 1980’s there was a totally different vibe. It was quite new, it was quite fresh. It was how we interpreted Bhangra. Because we were born and brought up here we had our own style which developed over the years. We’ve learnt more, we’ve experienced more and been influenced by more traditional moves.
It’s more traditional now than before. I think it’s fantastic that we’re getting more Bhangra groups. More people pushing the culture and Bhangra is a good thing. Some people see it as competition but I see it as pushing the culture and getting Bhangra out there to the public. If people see it, people know about it and the more people know about it the more they can embrace it.
Nachda Sansaar on their India tour
Simply Bhangra: What inspired you to become a Bhangra dancer?
Raj (Suruj): My Dad ran a Bhangra team, pretty much from when I was born and I always used to go with them when they trained. Through watching I was able to pick up the choreography and got into the team and have carried on since.
Simply Bhangra: What do you enjoy most about being part of the Suruj Bhangra team?
Raj (Suruj): We’ve been around the country and have even been to Spain and Switzerland to dance. We get to meet lots of different people from different cultures and backgrounds and experience new things that I probably wouldn’t be able to experience if I wasn’t part of the team.
Simply Bhangra: What has been your most memorable experience with Suruj Bhangra?
Raj (Suruj): We danced with Angrej Ali, we’re Angrej Ali’s official dancers, we performed in front of a huge crowd at the East London Mela and have also been able to perform at the House of Commons; these three are probably the best experiences.
Simply Bhangra: Suruj Bhangra has been part of many high profile events and featured in Aman Hayer’s latest music video ‘Nachdi De.’ Why do you think the group has become so popular?
Raj (Suruj): Through the hard work of my Dad. We built up from quite a small foundation. Through word of mouth, people watching us and through the effort from all the dancers we’ve been able to put on good shows for people and other people have also booked us through that. Also, the backing of Aman Hayer; he supported us. All the hard work has come together and we are where we are today.
Simply Bhangra: Where do you see Suruj Bhangra in 5 years’ time?
Raj (Suruj): Hopefully touring the world and taking part in some Bhangra competitions.
Suruj Bhangra group in action
It seems that Bhangra is more popular now than ever before. With more new groups emerging and with the introduction of the ‘Bhangra Showdown, an inter-university Bhangra competition, in 2007 there’s no stopping the Bhangra revolution.
Even female dance groups are no longer restricting themselves to Gidha dancing and are giving the male groups are run for their money.
Look out for more interviews with your favourite Bhangra groups coming soon on SimplyBhangra.com - The Home of Bhangra Online.
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Article was written by Sarb Mann & Manjinder Mann