Bhangra celebrates the harvest and is associated with the festival of Baisakhi (April 13) when the sight of tall heaps of golden wheat fill the farmer’s heart with joy. The Bhangra dance is performed to Bhangra Music, which is based around the catchy sound of large drums called dhols. The farmer and his fellow villagers circle round and round in a leaping, laughing caper. It’s a dance that cuts across all divisions of class and education.
At marriages, parties, or celebrations of any sort, it is quite common for men to break out in Bhangra dance. The music with its impulsive rhythms and pulsing beats overcomes the resistance of most spectators. There are few sights more cheering than that of a dignified elder in three-piece suit getting up to join the young fellows for a moment of bhangra revelry.
The Bhangra is perhaps the most virile form of Indian Folk Dances. Springing from the land of five rivers, it abundantly reflects the vigor, the vitality, the leaven of exuberance, and the hilarity permeated among the rural folk by the promise of a bumper crop. The Bhangra season starts with the wheat sowing and then every full moon attracts teams of young men in every village who dance for hours in open fields.
The dancers begin to move in a circle around the drummer, who now and then lifts the two sticks, with which he beats the drum, to beckon the dancers to a higher tempo of movement. They start with a slow movement of their feet. As the tempo increases, the hands, the feet and in fact the whole body comes into action. They whirl round and round bending and straightening their bodies alternatively, hopping on one leg, raising their hands, clapping with their handkerchiefs and exclaiming Bale Bale! Oh Bale Bale to inspire themselves and others to the abandon of the dance.
At intervals the dancers stop moving, but continue to beat the rhythm with their feet. One of the dancers come forward near the drummer and covering his left ear with his palm sings a boali or dholla, derived from the traditional folk songs of Punjab. Picking up the last lines, the dancers again start dancing with greater vigor.
The dancers are accompanied by a drum, which is known as a dhol. The person who plays it is known as a dholi. The dhol is a large two headed barrel shaped wooden drum played with 2 sticks, a dagga which is played on the base side, and a tilly which is played on the treble side. In India the drum skins are traditionally made of goat skin, however in England there have been some modifications, so that the treble is now played by many dhol players with a traditional English drum kit skin. In addition to a drum, chimta-musical tongs and burchu and sound of the beats from earthen vessels are used as accompanying instruments. The costume of a Bhangra dancer consists of a bright, colored Patka on the head, a lacha or lungi of the same color, a long tunic and a black or blue waistcoat and ghunghroos on the ankles. Some dancers also wear small rings (nuntian) in their ears.
When the wheat crop is nearing ripening, the breeze softly touches the surface of the golden crop creating a ripple and beckoning the sickle, when the hard labor of the farmer is about to bear fruit, it is a time of rejoicing and merry making and through Bhangra their emotions find uninhibited and spontaneous expression of genuine happiness. The Bhangra season concludes with the Baisakhi fair when the wheat is harvested.
Bhangra is considered the king of dances. There are several styles of dancing Bhangra. Sialkoti, Sheikhupuri, Tribal, Malwa, Majha. One of the Bhangra's moves is also akin to the moves of Shiv-Tandav dance, which is danced on one leg. Damru, hand-drum is also used in Bhangra which shows that folk dances and war dances have similar parentage.
Free Style Bhangra: This is a new phenomenon, which was first seen in Britain around 1986. Freestyle is a fusion of traditional bhangra dancing and modern western dance and music. The dance resulted from the fact that the members of many western Bhangra groups have been brought up in the west, and thus were influenced not only by their cultural roots, but also by western culture. These youngsters decided to fuse the two forms of dance and music together, and freestyle bhangra was created.
Freestyle is performed to a combination of backing tracks and live percussion. This is a very popular type of dance, and is very specialist. In recent times freestyle has seen more and fusion and experimentation take place. This is essentially a British phenomenon, and has proven to be very popular with youngsters as well as adults.
Bhangra dancing, as stated earlier, orginates from the Punjab, which traditionally has been a rural state, made up of a network of villages. The costumes worn by the dancers can be seen worn by people in their day to day work in the villages, although they are obviously not as colorful as the dancer's costumes. A traditional costume of the males is made up of the following-
- Kurta: Similar to a silk shirt, with about 4 buttons, very loose with embroiled patterns.
- Chadar: This is a loose loincloth tied around the dancers waist. Again it would be decorated .
- Jugi: A waistcoat, with no buttons.
- Turban: This is tied different to the traditional type of turban which you can see Sikh's wearing in the street. The turban has to be tied before each show, and is not ready made like a hat.
- Torla: This is placed within the turban, and is like a fan. You would not see people wearing this in the street, as this is essentially an extra decoration to make the costume stand out.
- Rammal: These are essentially scarves worn on the fingers, they look very effective when the hands move during the course of the performance.
For dress for the female see below.
- See also Giddha
- World of Bhangra
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