Monday, February 15, 2010

Bhangra, Punjabi Folk Dance

Bhangra is a beautiful form of dance that is mainly performed for the celebration of life with zest, enthusiasm and energy. It is one of the most energetic forms of dance that engulfs one`s creative liberty to an altogether different level. Bhangra is originated from the land of five rivers, popularly known as Punjab, situated in the Northwest region of the Indian Subcontinent. In its present form it has become very popular in Jammu and Kashmir, and parts of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Pakistani Punjab. Men perform Bhangra, while the ladies perform their own fierce, elegant, dance called Giddha. Bhangra has evolved to a popular style of music and dance that people perform throughout South Asia and many parts of the world. Nowadays because of its huge popularity people perform Bhangra in all parts of the world at occasions such as weddings, receptions, and parties.

History of Bhangra
The history of Bhangra can be traced back to as long as 500 years, although it may have existed much earlier. The basic movements of Bhangra is related to the farming activities like ploughing, sowing, harvesting and were generally performed for celebrating the harvesting season. The Bhangra season starts with Baisakhi, a festival that reflects the joyous mood of the farmers for there last season`s success and also for the advent of the new season, that falls on April 14th every year to mark the beginning of the solar year. Hence it is also celebrated as New Year among the Punjabis and many other communities. Bhangra is known as the Folk Dance of Punjab and now can be witnessed at any happy or festive occasions and especially in weddings. It is actually the Traditional form of Punjabi Dance that is based on Punjabi folk, popularly known as `Bhangra`, is generally played with a Dhol beat with a single-stringed instrument called the Iktar (Iktara), the Tumbi and the Chimta. The songs played with the dance form are written in small phrases in Punjabi language called `Bolis`. The songs are generally based on current issues social or regional that are faced by the singers what they want to convey to the people.

Music of Bhangra
The music of Bhangra is really vibrant and it has an intoxicating effect on the listeners. The listeners also get connected instantly with the tunes of Iktara and beats of the Dhols. The music brings out the free spirit and un-inhibited flow of emotions that allows people to move the bodies in an energetic way that results in tremendous joy and releases tension. One main difference between Punjabi folk and Bhangra music is the level of complexity. Punjabi folk is mainly based on vocal leads and simple music with little or no instrument leads or solos. All the instruments are played to support the vocal leads. On the other hand Bhangra music aims for a higher level of complexity and Punjabi styled riffs and solos usually played with keyboards or guitars. In this respect it stands out from all other forms of South Asian music.
Bhangra music was heavily influenced by different genres such as classic rock and Punjabi classical music. The Punjabi folk lyrics reflect troubled history of Punjab. Knowledge of Punjabi history gives us an important insight about the meaning of the music. During the last thirty years, the Bhangra music became very popular from early 80s to the mid 90s when it was replaced by the more modern version of Bhangra music.
The main instrument that symbolises Bhangra and is the primary reason of its popularity is a barrel size drum called `Dhol`. The strong bass effect of the Dhol attracts people to the dance floor. There are other instruments like single string instrument known as `Tumbi` and a multi layered string instrument called Sarangi are also used. There are also some other small instruments used to add more sound and flavour to the Bhangra music like Sapera, Supp, and Chimta (Clamps) and smaller drums like Damru and Dholki.
Although traditional performances are done mostly by using these instruments, Dhol is still the main instrument used in Bhangra. Nowadays Dhol beats are also fused with other instruments like Flute, Tabla and Synthetic sounds. Apart from the dance form, Bhangra music has also gain in tremendous popularity world wide. The singers who have popularised this genre of music in modern days in India are Hans Raj Hans, Gurdass Mann, Daler Mehndi, Sarabjeet Cheema, Harbhajan Mann etc.

Bhangra Dance
One of the interesting things about Bhangra is that it`s not just a single dance form but it encompasses large number of sub genres as well. The major sub genres of Bhangra are Dhamal, Jhumar, Daankara, Luddi, Giddha, Julli, Gatka, Saami and Kikli. All these sub genres follow different dance formats and together they combine to form an all-round view of original Bhangra. It is a graceful dance, based on a specific Jhumar rhythm. Dancers generally circle around a drum player while singing a soft chorus. A person performing the Luddi dance, places one hand behind his head and the other in front of his face, while swaying his head and arms.
The various types of Bhangra dances are like `Daankara` which is aactually the dance of celebration, generally performed at weddings. Two men, each holding colourful staves, dance around each other in a circle while tapping their sticks together in rhythm with the drums. Dancers also form a circle while performing `Dhamal`, another dance form. They hold their arms high, shake their shoulders and heads, and shout and scream. Dhamal is a true folk-dance, representing the heart of Bhangra. `Kikli` features pairs of dancers, but are generally performed by women. The dancers cross their arms, hold each other`s hands, and whirl around singing folk songs. Sometimes four girls join hands to perform this dance. Gatka is a Sikh martial art in which people use swords, sticks, or daggers.

Costumes of Bhangra
Costume is an important part in any performance and more so in Bhangra as it transfuses energy from the vibrant colours of the costumes that are generally used by the dancers. Traditional men wear a Chaadra while doing Bhangra. A Chaadra is a piece of cloth wrapped around the waist. Men also wear Kurta, which is a long Indian-style shirt. In addition, men wear Pugerdee (also known as Turbans) to cover their heads. In recent times, men wear Turla, the fan attached to the pugdee. Colourful vest are worn above the kurta. Fumans (small balls attached to ropes) are used on each arm.
Women wear a traditional Punjabi dress known as a Ghagra. A Ghagra is a long colourful skirt which fans out into a giant disk as a woman moves in her dancing ways. Women wear Duppattas, colourful pieces of cloth wrapped around their neck. Women also wear suits called Salwar Kamiz; long baggy pants tight at the ankle (Salwars) and a long colourful shirt (Kamiz). There are other types of costumes that are used while performing Bhangra like,
Kaintha (necklace), some men even wear earrings like the large hoops worn by the women dancers Kurta, Lungi or Chadar, Jugi(waistcoat, with no buttons) and rumal (small `scarves` worn on the fingers) are used while performing Bhangra. The Rumals look very elegant and are effective when the hands move during the course of Bhangra performance.
Bhangra is truly becoming more popular worldwide and people of non-Punjabi background are listening to and performing Bhangra. Universities and other organisations are holding annual Bhangra dance competitions. The idea of any dance form is to spread the message of love and peace with there lyrics and dance forms and entertain the audience and also enhances the mood of the performers, in which Bhangra seems to be leading the path. It can be visualised that the popularity of Bhangra is growing day by day with more regions to cover.

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