Bhangra (pronounced BONG-gra if you're a gringo) (pronounced BAH-ga-da if you're a cool kid)
On Saturday night The Hubster and I ventured into the big city to see some Bhangra at the old-school-fancy-gilded Warner Theater. It was a competition between a bunch of University Bhangra teams from all over the US, and it was epic awesome. I have been wanting to see one of these for years and I finally made it to one... of course there was bound to be one in DC while we were here!
Bhangra is a folk dance from the Punjab region spanning northern India and southern Pakistan. When I say folk dance I don't mean cute little peasants in quaint costumes doing do-si-dos in a circle to a few acoustic instruments. Picture instead if you will: hard-driving drums and crazy dancing percussionists, melodies and chants that will make you want to sing and shout along with the dancers even though you have no idea what they're saying or if they're even singing real words, and forget about sitting still -- I guarantee it will make you want to bounce, skip and do the complicated Bollywood-style hand-tweaking-poses along with them until your legs give out. In these competitions, school teams choreograph and rehearse for months, and spend a bunch of money traveling around to compete. Everyone in the audience is screaming their heads off the whole time, blowing air-horns and videotaping the whole thing. The teams all have matching track suits they wear when they aren't in their amazingly bright and intricate costumes.
Bhangra competitions have been held in Punjab since the 1950s and started being held in the US, Canada and England sometime in the 1990s. In Punjab the music and dance is more traditional, but here in the west these kids like their Bhangra a little more fusion-style with a good amount hip hop, rock and pop mixed in with authentic songs. The hip hop samples drove the crowd extra wild.
The home team from UVA won first place, some money, and a big trophy.
Here's a little video of one of the teams: