Bhangra, a Punjabi genre of music and dance will be showcased at the 8th Annual HSBC City of Bhangra Festival. The festival will also include an array of world music, hip-hop, rock, flamenco, and percussion instruments.
The festival will be held from May 31 to June 10 with events in the city of Vancouver and for the first time in Surrey, half of them with free admission.
Organized by the Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration Society, the festival is the biggest of its kind in North America, and one of the largest in the world.
Sukhi Ghuman, a director and media relations manager at VIBC Society says that Bhangra started in North India.
“It was a very traditional folk dance, and back then the performers were live musicians,” says Ghuman.
Today, this area comprises several states, including Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan.
Although Bhangra has changed over time, Ghuman says that many artists at the festival, including local talent, were raised listening to Bhangra and have been influenced by it. There will also be traditional artists who will be performing the folk dances much as they have been in the past.
DJ E.V. of A-slam Productions says that Bhangra is different from Bollywood – the popular term used to describe Hindi-language film – because the latter did not originate as a folk art form. Furthermore, Bhangra is sung in Punjabi, while Bollywood music and dance are filmed in Hindi.
Vancouver’s Bhangra scene
E.V. says that Vancouver’s demographic is unique in that it has about an equal number of Punjabi and Hindi speakers. This is not the case in other places, such as the United States, where the majority are Hindi-speakers.
Ghuman says that Vancouver’s festival began 8 years ago and used to be a one day event, “but now has over 30 committee members and up to 150 volunteers during the festival.” She adds that “the Society’s mandate is to promote the event to people of all cultures, and to create cross-cultural collaborations of Bhangra and other music.”
E.V. says that “the festival started off focused on South Asian music and dance” but has quickly grown to incorporate other styles from around the world.
Forms of Bhangra
Bhangra in itself is often a fusion form. DJ E.V., for instance, calls his music style Electro-Bhangra, “and it was not planned,” he adds. What started off as a hip hop song at a show, turned into a faster, more upbeat version when a fellow musicians’ dhol – the Punjabi drum –
and a Bhangra dance team were unexpectedly added to the mix.
“We had such a good response that we started doing Bhangra/hip hop fusion,” says E.V.
Recently nominated for both a Juno Award and a GiMA (Global Indian Music Academy) Award, E.V. says he hopes to see a large and mixed crowd at the festival. He also says that the events, together with the Bhangra.me exhibition created at the Museum of Vancouver, “are making Bhangra accessible.”
E.V. also looks forward to performing with rePercussion on May 31, which features Chinese drums and Afro-Cuban, Punjabi, and Brazilian percussionists. It’s the first time the group will be bringing in a DJ to play house music to their accompaniment. Ghuman says that “rePercussion shows it doesn’t matter what culture you’re from but we can all come together and celebrate each other’s culture.”
E.V. is also thrilled about his own show on June 9 at the Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza. He says that he started his music in the city and has been perfecting it on tour, “but it’s the first time I’m bringing it back to Vancouver.”
The festival includes concerts, workshops, and even a Block party. It’s also “a great family event” says Ghuman.
For information on the Festival: www.cityofbhangra.com; to listen to A-slam music: www.a-slam.com.