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Bhangra is a style of music and dance from South Asia, known for its fluid, energetic choreography and harmonious vocals. Learn about the genre’s evolution and the main characteristics that comprise the sound and performance style.




Bhangra is an umbrella term for several traditional South Asian folk dance forms and folk music styles, with origins in the Punjab region of Northeast Pakistan and Northern India. Traditional bhangra dance features several dancers in a circle. They move energetically, often with raised arms or shoulders, to the syncopated beat of the double-headed dhol drum.




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Originally a rural dance performed at harvest festivals, the heavy rhythmic swing of bhangra music remains popular in modern Punjabi culture while also gathering new devotees from other points on the globe. The music of bhangra artists plays on dance floors worldwide, often as part of a remix with Western music genres like hip-hop, electronic dance music (EDM), and reggae.




The exact origins of bhangra are unclear, but historians speculate that Punjabi farmers may have performed bhangra moves to pass the time while working as early as the fourteenth or fifteenth century in Sialkot, a Punjab district in Pakistan.


The beginnings of modern bhangra. Over time, bhangra became a traditional dance performed at festivals celebrating the Vaisakhi (or Baisakhi) season, marking the beginning of the Hindu solar new year. In the twentieth century, bhangra followed the Punjabi diaspora, which saw millions of ethnic Punjabi citizens departing the Indian subcontinent and bringing their culture and tradition to numerous countries, most notably the United Kingdom. There, the Punjabi community began recording bhangra music in the 1960s. These recordings featured traditional Punjabi folk songs recorded by some of the earliest British bhangra artists,like Kuldip Manak.


Experimenting with new sounds. By the 1980s, popular bhangra bands like Alaap, Heera, and Malkit Singh blurred the lines between Punjabi music and Western pop and rock, leading to greater exposure in mainstream circles and a more diverse array of experimentation. Canadian-born musician Jazzy B merged traditional folk with hip-hop influences, while Bally Sagoo remixed bhangra songs for his electronic dance music releases.














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Bhangra competitions grow in popularity. As modern bhangra music drew closer to Western influences, its traditional dance forms also adopted new choreography. A staple of Punjab entertainment for decades, Bhangra competitions featuring bhangra teams performing traditional dance moves began to spring up in the United Kingdom, United States of America, and Canada. These international contests added Western dance styles to their repertoire, which proved extremely popular with younger audiences.



Punjabi instruments: Traditional bhangra music features several Punjabi musical instruments, namely the dhol drum, which is necessary for creating the bhangra beat. Other instruments in bhangra music include the single-stringed tumbi, the violin-like sāraṅgī, and an array of additional percussion instruments like the tabla and had.


Upbeat lyrics: Singers of traditional bhangra sing in Punjabi, and bhangra songs typically focus on upbeat topics to match the high energy of the music. Popular subjects in Western music—love, marriage, the joy of dance, the pursuit of happiness— are also frequently referenced in bhangra songs. Pride in Punjabi culture and heritage is also a favorite lyrical topic.


Impassioned vocals: Bhangra singers do not employ the reedy tones of other Indian vocal styles but instead deliver songs in a high and impassioned voice. They also often ad-lib sounds and phrases to encourage a call-and-response with the audience.














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The dhol is most commonly associated with Punjabi Bhangra dance. This is the king of all Punjabi musical instruments. It is the soul of Bhangra. It is a two-sided barrel drum. It is used to some extent to tabla. It is made from a shell of hollowed-out mango or sheesham wood, with the treble on the right and the bass on the left. Historically, both sides of the drum were prepared from goatskin, but now plastic is sometimes used for one of the sides. Two drum sticks are there to play the dhol. The sticks are wooden usually made out of bamboo and cane wood. The most common rhythm played on the dhol is the Chaal consisting of 8 beats per measure. The stick used to play the bass side of the drum is a bit thicker (roughly about 10 mm in diameter and is bent in a quarter-circular arc on the end that strikes the drum, the dagga. The other stick remains much thinner and flexible and used to play the higher note end of the drum, the thili. The drum is hung over the neck of the player with a strap usually made up of ropes.












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Iktara is widely used in Punjabi Bhangra songs. It usually has one string coming out of ahead. The various sizes of iktar are soprano, tenor, and bass. The bass iktara is sometimes called a dotara often having two strings. The pitch is adjusted with the stretching of the strings. No marking or measurements is indicating the pressure which should be given to adjusting the pitch. It should be adjusted by ear.












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This instrument was popularized by the Punjabi folk-singer Lal Chand Yamla Jatt. It is a one-string instrument made out of natural Tumba. A metallic string is passed on a tumba over a bridge and tied to the key at the end of the stick. The string is plucked with the continuous flick

and retraction of the forefinger. The body of the instrument is made out of various types of wood. It can be made of pumpkin gourd or coconut or aluminum with a nylon case.










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China is a percussion long instrument most commonly used in Bhangra. It is made of two long, flat pieces of metal (usually iron) with pointed ends with which several rings are attached. The rings are plucked in a downward movement to produce tinkling sounds.


Besides these other musical instruments of Bhangra include sarangi, dhadd, algoza, sitar saaps, kato, and khunda.











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The sarangi has a box-like shape. It is usually around two feet long and half a foot wide. A bridge is placed in the middle. Usually, this instrument has three strings of varying thicknesses. The modern sarangis have 35-40 sympathetic strings running under the main strings. This is played for accompaniment by artists and is ideal for producing all types of Games and Meends.














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It is a percussion instrument having the shape of a damroo drum. Held, on one hand, it is struck on another side, with the other hand. This instrument is very pop[ular with the ladies.














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This magical Bhangra is also called Jori. Alonza resembles a couple of wooden flutes. The playing of this instrument is very tough and challenging. The sound is produced by rapid breathing.





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The stem of the sitar constitutes a neck that runs into a hollowed-out resonating chamber that is a gourd rather than wood. A second and smaller gourd, detachable on most sitars, is located at the top end of the instrument, near the tuning pegs. The strings are usually metallic

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