Bhangra (music)

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Bhangra
Stylistic originsTraditional Punjab and contemporary British music styles.
Cultural origins1980s, United Kingdom
Typical instrumentsVocals, drum kit, tumbi, dhol, sarangi, keyboard, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, sitar, violin, dhadd, daf, dholki.
Derivative formsBhangra dance
 
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Bhangra
Stylistic originsTraditional Punjab and contemporary British music styles.
Cultural origins1980s, United Kingdom
Typical instrumentsVocals, drum kit, tumbi, dhol, sarangi, keyboard, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, sitar, violin, dhadd, daf, dholki.
Derivative formsBhangra dance
Music of India
A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735.jpg
A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735 (Rajasthan)
Genres
Traditional
Modern
Media and performance
Music awards
Music festivals
Music media
Nationalistic and patriotic songs
National anthemJana Gana Mana
Regional music

Bhaṅgṛā (Punjabi: ਭੰਗੜਾ (Gurmukhi); pronounced [pə̀ŋɡɽaː]) is a genre of riff-oriented popular music associated with Punjabi culture. It was developed in Britain in the 1980s by first and second generation immigrants from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan forming the Punjabi diaspora, drawing from music and song of the Punjab region as well as various Western musical styles.[1] It is seen by some in the West as an expression of South Asian culture as a whole.[2] Bhangra music was replaced by Punjabi folk music in the mid 90s.[3] Using the derivative form of Punjabi Folk music and Hip hop, known as Folkhop

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

The roots of Bhangra music date back to the late 1970s, when several Punjabi bands started experimenting with Western styles in addition to the traditional sounds from their homeland in Punjab. Also occurred during the harvest time in small villages in Punjab. Chief amongst these were 'The Black Mist', 'The Shots', 'The Jambo Boys', and 'The Saathies'.[citation needed] However, the first recording artist/group in the UK was Bhujhangy Group, founded by brothers Balbir Singh Khanpur and Dalbir Singh Khanpur in Birmingham in 1967.[4] Bhujhangy Group's first major hit was "Bhabiye Akh Larr Gayee" in the early 1970s, released on Birmingham's Oriental Star Agencies label. This was the first song to take the momentous step of combining traditional Asian music with modern western instruments, setting the template for the developments in bhangra that would follow.[5]

United Kingdom[edit]

1980s[edit]

Live concert by Bhangra band Alaap

Bhangra music was invented in the 1980s by Punjabi immigrants who took the folk sound of their home country and began experimenting by altering it using instruments from their host country. In a sense Bhangra music is one of the few immigrant music genres of the world in that it is absent in the home country. The new genre quickly became popular in Britain replacing Punjabi folk singers due to it being heavily influenced in Britain by the infusion of rock sounds and a need to move away from the simple and repetitive Punjabi folk music. It signaled the development of a self-conscious and distinctively rebellious British Asian youth culture centred on an experiential sense of self, e.g., language, gesture, bodily signification, desires, etc., in a situation in which tensions with British culture and racist elements in British society had resulted in alienation in many minority ethnic groups, fostered a sense of need for an affirmation of a positive identity and culture, and provided a platform for British Punjabi males to assert their masculinity.[6][7][8][9][10]

In the 1980s, distributed by record labels such as Multitone Records, Bhangra artists were selling over 30,000 cassettes a week in the UK, but not one artist made their way into the Top 40 UK Chart despite these artists outselling popular British ones; most of the Bhangra cassette sales were not through the large UK record stores, whose sales were those recorded by the Official UK Charts Company for creating their rankings.[11]

The 1980s is also what is commonly known as the golden age, or what the "bhangraheads" refer to as the age of Bhangra music, which lasted roughly from 1985 to 1993. The primary emphasis during these times was on the melody/riff (played out usually on a synthesizer/harmonium/accordion or a guitar); the musician/composer received as much fanfare, if not more, than the vocalist.[citation needed] The folk instruments were rarely used, because it was agreed that the music was independent of the instruments being used.[citation needed]

This era saw the very first Bhangra boy band, called the Sahotas, a band made up of five brothers from Wolverhampton, UK. Their music is a fusion of Bhangra, rock and dance.

One of the biggest Bhangra stars of the last several decades is Golden Star UK. Its lead singer Malkit was born in June 1963 in the village of Hussainpur in Punjab. He attended the Lyallpur Khalsa College, Jalandhar, in Punjab in 1980 to study for a bachelor of arts degree. There he met his mentor, Professor Inderjit Singh, who nurtured his skills in Punjabi folk singing and Bhangra dancing. Due to Singh's tutelage, Malkit entered and won many song contests during this time. In 1983, he won a gold medal at the Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, Punjab, for performing his hit song "Gurh Nalon Ishq Mitha", which later featured on his first album, Nach Gidhe Wich, released in 1984. This album, created with the aid of one of Bhangra's greatest musicians, Tarlochan Singh Bilga, was a strong hit among South Asians worldwide. The band has toured 27 countries. Malkit has been awarded the prestigious MBE by the British Queen for his services to Bhangra music.

The group Alaap, fronted by Channi Singh, the man made famous by his white scarf, hails from Southall, a Punjabi area in London. Their album Teri Chunni De Sitaray, released in 1982 by Multitone, created quite a stir at a time when Bhangra was still in its early days. This album played a critical role in creating an interest in Bhangra among Asian university students in Britain[citation needed]. The music produced for Alaap included the pioneering sounds by Deepak Khazanchi[citation needed].

Heera, formed by Bhupinder Bhindi and fronted by Kumar and Dhami, was one of the most popular bands of the 1980s[citation needed]. Fans were known to gate-crash weddings where they played[citation needed]. The group established itself with the albums Jag Wala Mela, produced by music maestro of the time Kuljit Bhamra, and Diamonds from Heera, produced by Deepak Khazanchi, the man behind the new sound of UK Bhangra, on Arishma records. These albums are notable for being amongst the first Bhangra albums to mix Punjabi drums and Punjabi synthesizers with traditional British instruments successfully.

Bands like Alaap and Heera incorporated rock-influenced beats into Bhangra, because it enabled "Asian youth to affirm their identities positively" within the broader environment of alternative rock as an alternative way of expression. However, some believe that the progression of Bhangra music created an "intermezzo culture" post-India's partition, within the unitary definitions of Southeast Asians within the diaspora, thus "establishing a brand new community in their home away from home".[12][13]

Several other influential groups appeared around the same time, including The Saathies, Premi Group, Bhujungy Group, and Apna Sangeet. Apna Sangeet, best known for their hit "Mera Yaar Vajavey Dhol", re-formed for charity in May 2009 after a break-up.[14]

When Bhangra and General Indian sounds and lyrics were brought together, British-Asian artists began incorporating them in their music. Certain Asian artists, such as Bally Sagoo, Talvin Singh, Badmarsh, Black Star Liner are creating their own form of British hip-hop.

This era also brought about Bhangra art, which, like the Bhangra music it represented was rebellious and unlike anything that ever came out in the Indian subcontinent. Unlike folk music art, which simply consisted of a picture of the folk singer, Bhangra recordings had distinctive artwork, logos, clever album names, band/musician listings (who played what) and other details that raised the level of professionalism to a level that had never been seen in Bollywood recordings or folk recordings from Punjab.

Folk backlash[edit]

At the mid nineties, however, many artists returned to the original, traditional folk beats away from Bhangra music, often incorporating more dhol drum beats and tumbi. This time also saw the rise of several young Punjabi folk singers as a backlash to Bhangra music. They were aided by DJs who mixed hip hop samples with folk singing to create folk's answer to Bhangra.

Beginning around 1994, there was a trend towards the use of samples (often sampled from mainstream hip hop) mixed with traditional folk rhythm instruments, such as the tumbi and dhol. Using folk instruments, hip-hop samples, along with relatively inexpensive folk vocals imported from Punjab, Punjabi folk music was able to abolish Bhangra music.

Pioneering DJs instrumental in the destruction of Bhangra were Bally Sagoo and Panjabi MC. As DJs who were initially hired by Bhangra labels to remix the original recordings on the label's roster (OSA and Nachural respectively), they along with the record labels quickly found that remixing folk singers from India was much cheaper than working with Bhangra bands (outsourced).

A pioneering folk singer that was instrumental in Bhangra's demise was the "Canadian folkster", Jazzy B, who debuted in 1992. Having sold over 55,000 copies of his third album, Folk and Funky, he is now one of the best-selling Punjabi folk artists in the world, with a vocal style likened to that of Kuldip Manak.

Other influential folk artists include Surinder Shinda - famous for his "Putt Jattan De" - Harbhajan Mann, Manmohan Waris, Meshi Eshara, Sarbjit Cheema, Hans Raj Hans, Sardool Sikander, Anakhi, Sat Rang, XLNC, B21, Shaktee, Sahara, Paaras, PDM, Amar Group, Sangeet Group, and Bombay Talkie. A DJ to rise to stardom with many successful hits was Panjabi MC.

By the end of the 1990s, Bhangra music had been wiped out and replaced with Punjabi folk singers. The same folk singers Bhangra bands had replaced a decade earlier were being utilized by DJs to make relatively inexpensive non live music on laptops. This "Folkhop" genre was short lived as records could not be officially released due to non clearance copyrights on samples used to create the "beat". This "poor man's Bhangra" continued until the end of the century. Folkhop record labels such Hi Tech were investigated by BPI (British Phonographic Industry) for copyright infringement by way of uncleared samples on releases by Folk Djs such as Dj Sanj[15]

Toward the end of the decade, Bhangra continued to slow down, with folkhop artists such as Bally Sagoo and Apache Indian signing with international recording labels Sony and Island. Moreover, Multitone Records, one of the major recording labels associated with Bhangra in Britain in the 1980s and 1990s, was bought by BMG. Finally, a recent Pepsi commercial launched in Britain featured South Asian actors and Punjabi folk music.

2000s remixes[edit]

Punjabi folk remixed with hip hop, known lovingly as Folkhop, is most often produced when folk vocals are purchased online to be remixed in a studio. Folk vocals are usually sung to traditional melodies, that are often repeated with new lyrics.

Many South Asian DJs, especially in America, have mixed Punjabi folk music with house, reggae, and hip-hop to add a different flavor to Punjabi folk. These remixes continued to gain popularity as the 1990s came to an end. This movement was truly established and proliferated by DJs such as Punjabi MC and DJ Rekha. DJ Rekha, originally from the UK, now reside in New York, New York running a club event series called Basement Bhangra. These monthly events exhibit creative and fun house and hip hop bhangra remixes. In addition you can clearly hear its influence in hip hop songs by famous artists such as Timbaland and Jay Z. This is clearly exemplified in songs such as "Mundian To Bach Ke" remix and Timbaland's "Bombay."

Of particular note among remix artists is Bally Sagoo, a Punjabi-Sikh, Anglo-Indian raised in Birmingham, England. Sagoo described his music as "a bit of tablas, a bit of the Indian sound. But bring on the bass lines, bring on the funky-drummer beat, bring on the James Brown samples", to Time magazine in 1997. He was recently signed by Sony as the flagship artist for a new sound. The most popular of these is Daler Mehndi, a Punjabi singer from India, and his music, known as "folk pop". Mehndi has become a major name not just in Punjab, but also all over India, with tracks such as "Bolo Ta Ra Ra" and "Ho Jayegee Balle Balle". He has made the sound of Bhangra-pop a craze amongst many non-Punjabis in India, selling many millions of albums. Perhaps his most impressive accomplishment is the selling of 250,000 albums in Kerala, a state in the South of India where Punjabi is not spoken. His song "Tunak Tunak Tun" (1998) also became an internet phenomenon across the world.

Post 2010 Anti Folk Sentiment[edit]

Towards the end of the 2000s Punjabi folk cultivated a negative image amongst people in Punjab and especially amongst the diaspora. The videos were considered crude as they were accused of showing imagery contrary to family values. Furthermore the youth in the diaspora felt they could not relate to songs about farming and traditional chores as most of them had never farmed in their lives.

The Sikh sub population of the Punjabi diaspora also accused the folk singers of promoting anti Sikh traditional cultural values such as the caste system and substance abuse while using Sikh religious imagery such as the Sikh 'khanda' logo

Many artists such as Jusreign a Sikh from Canada have expressed these concerns using satire and comic impersonations of Punjabi folk singers from India as well as of the djs and rappers that work with the folk singers

In North America[edit]

Punjabi immigrants have encouraged the growth of Punjabi folk music/rural music in the Western Hemisphere instead of Bhangra music. The Bhangra industry has not grown in North America nearly as much as it has grown in the United Kingdom. Indian Lion, a Canadian folk artist explains why:

The reason there's a lot of bands in England is because there's a lot of work in England. In England the tradition that's been going on for years now is that there's weddings happening up and down the country every weekend, and it's part of the culture that they have Bhangra bands come and play, who get paid 1800 quid a shot, you know. Most of the bands are booked up for the next two years. And England is a country where you can wake up in the morning and by lunchtime you can be at the other end of the country, it helps. In Canada it takes 3 days to get to the other side of the country, so there's no circuit there. And it isn't a tradition [in Canada] to have live music at weddings. There are a few bands here that play a few gigs, but nothing major.

—Indian Lion

However, with the emergence of North American (non Bhangra) folk artists such as Manmohan Waris, Jazzy Bains, Kamal Heer, Harbhajan Mann, Sarabjit Cheema, and Debi Makhsoospuri and the growth of the remix market,[16][17] the future of Punjabi folk music in North America looks good.[citation needed]

In 2001, Punjabi folk, and its hip-hop form, Folkhop, began to exert an influence over US R&B music, when Missy Elliott released the folkhop-influenced song "Get Ur Freak On". In 2003, Punjabi MC's "Mundian To Bach Ke" ("Beware of the Boys") was covered by the U.S. rapper Jay-Z.[18] Additionally, American rapper Pras of The Fugees has recorded tracks with British alternative Bhangra band Swami. Because the original Punjabi folk beat is different from the commercialized version we see today, the use of Bhangra beats shows the complexity and ingenuity of hip-hop in North America and how artists gain inspiration from all different genres of music. The commercialization of Punjabi folk and the way it has traveled around the world speaks to the versatility and longevity of the musical style.[12]

Lyrics[edit]

Bhangra lyrics are sung in Punjabi, which generally cover social issues or love. Bhangra lyrics were generally kept simple on purpose by the creators of the genre because they knew that the youth did not understand complex lyrics. Many feel this has led to the death of the Punjabi language in the western diaspora especially in the third and fourth generation. Traditional Punjabi folk lyrics are generally more complex and often tell the tales of Punjabi history. Additionally, there are countless Bhangra songs devoted to Punjabi pride themes and Punjabi heroes. The lyrics are tributes to the rich cultural traditions of Punjab. In particular, many Bhangra tracks have been written about Udham Singh and Bhagat Singh. Less serious topics include beautiful ladies with their colourful duppattas. It could also be about crops and the coming of a new season, bhangra is sung fiercely with strong lyrics often yelling: "balle balle" or "chakde phate." Which refer to celebration and/or pride.

Famous Bhangra or Punjabi lyricists include Harbans Jandu (Jandu Littranwala) ("Giddhian Di Rani") and Rattan Reehal (Rurki wala rattan).

Instruments[edit]

Many different Punjabi instruments contribute to the sound of Bhangra. These include tumbi, dhol, sarangi, keyboard, and a variety of other string and percussion instruments. The primary and most important instrument that defines Bhangra is the drumset.[citation needed]

The string instruments include the guitar (both acoustic and electrical), bass, sitar, tumbi, violin and sarangi. The snare, toms, dhad, dafli, dholki, and damru are the other drums. The tumbi, originally played by folk artists such as Lalchand Yamla Jatt and Kuldip Manak in true folk recordings and then famously mastered by Chamkila, a famous Punjabi folk singer (not Bhangra singer), is a high-tone, single-string instrument. The sarangi is a multi-stringed instrument, somewhat similar to the violin and is played using meends,

Percussion[edit]

Bhangra today has evolved into a largely beat-based music genre, unlike before 1994, when it was slightly more mellow and classical. Pandit Dinesh and Kuljit Bhamra were trained exponents of Indian percussion and helped create the current UK sound, albeit mainly with tabla and dholki for bands like Alaap and Heera. The generation that followed became overly dependent on folk music.[citation needed]

15-year-old percussionist Bhupinder Singh Kullar, aka Tubsy, of Handsworth, Birmingham, created a more contemporary style and groove that seemed to fuse more naturally with Western music. Songs such as "Dhola veh Dhola" (Satrang) and albums such as Bomb the Tumbi (Safri Boyz) contained this new style and were very successful.[citation needed]

Then came Sunil Kalyan of Southall, London, who was also a session musician on many songs and albums. He added a smoothness and sweetness never heard before[citation needed] on the tabla, hailing him as one of the best tabla players in UK.[citation needed]

Sukhshinder Shinda later introduced his unique[citation needed] style of dhol playing with the album Dhol Beat. He added a very clean style of dhol playing and helped create the sound for artists such as Jaswinder Singh Bains and Bhinda Jatt. He was regarded at the time as the best dhol player in the UK.[citation needed]

Another influential[citation needed] percussionist was Parvinder Bharat (Parv) of Wolverhampton, who for many years had been percussionist for DCS. His style, speed and improvisational skills were second to none.[citation needed] Parv also introduced playing the dholak and tabla top end (dhayan) with great effect into the live Bhangra scene, a style that has been adopted by most Bhangra percussionists ever since.[citation needed]

Cultural impact and resurgence of Punjabi folk music in the West[edit]

The true cultural impact of Bhangra is that where the first and second generation found it solved their identity crisis. The third and fourth generation are generally unable to speak Punjabi if their parents could hardly speak it. There is a move towards Punjabi folk music which is the purest form of Punjabi music. Much of the youth struggle to understand the lyrics, although, there are some children and young adults who have maintained their folk roots. Another reason why some "bhangra heads" express an anti-folk sentiment is because many folk songs were written about Jatts where as some of the "bhangra heads" were Sikh so want Punjabi folk music to be forgotten. However, today with artists like Tru-Skool, Jazzy B, PMC, Sukhshinder Shinda, Surinder Shinda, Pappi Gill, Nachattar Gill, Pammi Bai and Diljit Dosanjh, Punjabi folk has made a comeback even if it is fused in some cases. iTunes has made a big impact with back catalogs of many Punjabi folk singers available.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.bhangra.org/about/bhangra-history/ Bhangra History
  2. ^ Social control and deviance: a South Asian community in Scotland. Ashgate. Retrieved 2007-11-03. "The whole institution of the Bhangra and its related processes are clearly an expression of Indian culture in a Western setting." 
  3. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/birmingham/content/articles/2006/08/14/birmingham_bhangra_capital_feature.shtml
  4. ^ Folkard, Claire, ed. (2004). Guinness World Records 2005. Enfield: Guinness World Records. p. 199. ISBN 0851121926. 
  5. ^ "Osa History". Oriental Star Agencies. Retrieved 2013-09-09. 
  6. ^ Sharma, Sanjay. "Noisy Asians or 'Asian Noise'?" In Disorienting Rhythms: The Politics of the New Asian Dance Music
  7. ^ Apache Indian
  8. ^ Sehyon.com, a composer of Bhangra music
  9. ^ Moodle.brandeis.edu
  10. ^ FT.com / Arts & Weekend - What's right with Asian boys
  11. ^ DholClips.com - Bhangra Videos, Punjabi Songs, Punjabi MP3s
  12. ^ a b Sharma, Sanjay. "Noisy Asians or 'Asian Noise'?" In Disorienting Rhythms: The Politics of the New Asian Dance Music, ed. Sanjay Sharma, John Hutnyk, and Ashwani Sharma, 32-57. London: Zed Books, 1996.
  13. ^ The Discontents of the Hyphenated Identity: Second Generation British Asian Youth Culture and Fusion Music
  14. ^ Sonaweb.co.uk, Bhangra superstars choose Sona Web
  15. ^ http://www.musicweek.com/story.asp?storyCode=13294&sectioncode=1
  16. ^ iLounge.com (2006) Study: Digital music market sees 'remarkable growth
  17. ^ Katz, Michael (2008) Recycling Copyright: Survival & Growth in the Remix Age (pdf-format)
  18. ^ American Bhangra - History of American Bhangra

External links[edit]