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Posts Tagged ‘Bhangra’

It’s Bhangra Time

Posted by Yoshita Singh on July 16, 2010

This post is about a traditional Indian dance and music. To enjoy the post, I suggest you follow this pattern – Watch, Listen, Read. In that order.

Watch –

Listen here.

And now, read.


American rapper Jay Z has used it in his song. Television host Howie Mandel became a fan after watching it on America’s Got Talent. It doubles up as a great workout, which is why fitness instructors are incorporating it in their exercise programs.

What am I talking about? Say hello to the ‘Bhangra.’

Bhangra is a cultural dance and form of music that has its roots in the north Indian state of Punjab. Traditionally, farmers in the region performed the Bhangra to celebrate the harvest season. Over the years, popularity of the dance form has grown beyond the shores of India. The high-energy dance and peppy music of Bhangra has caught the fancy of people across the world. What sets Bhangra apart is its distinct dhol (Indian term for the drums) beats, vigorous leg and hand movements, shake of the shoulders and the colorful costumes of the dancers.

And guess what. Bhangra is in Boston too.

You can learn the Bhangra at ‘Boston Bhangra,’ a non-profit organization founded in 2000 by Rohit Bhambi.

Bhambi has been in love with the Bhangra since his childhood. “I have been doing some sort of Bhangra for as long as I can remember. I guess it runs in my blood,” laughs the 33-year old. His brother and sister are also involved in Boston Bhangra, which Bhambi started to “preserve his culture” in a foreign land.

Preserve his culture he did. And more. When Bhambi started out, his students were all Indians. Over time, as popularity of Bollywood, Indian music and Bhangra grew in America, non-Indians enrolled in Bhambi’s classes. Now he has Americans, Chinese, African-Americans enrolling to learn the dance.

They absolutely love the Bhangra, says Bhambi. Lisa Alan sure does. The 50-year old administrative assistant enrolled for the classes after watching Bhangra on TV. “I love Indian movies. There is so much of song and dance in them. When I saw the Bhangra, I decided this is one dance I have to learn,” says Alan.

And she sure is thoroughly enjoying herself. Alan has a fun time matching her steps with Bhambi’s and keeping up with the fast-paced Bhangra music. It doubles up as a great workout, an exhausted Alan says as she sips her energy drink during breaks.  

Bhangra involves a lot of hand and leg movement  and requires stamina. A lot of people are shocked by how exhausting the dance is and how tired they get at the end of a session, Bhambi says. If done correctly, the dance is a great form of workout too. It is no surprise then that fitness instructors are combining Bhangra moves and cardiovascular exercises in their workout programs. One example is the ‘Masala Bhangra Workout’ developed by famous New York-based fitness instructor Sarina Jain. Masala Bhangra was even named one of the top 5 workouts in the US.

Bhambi’s classes are held throughout the year on weekends at the Inner Space Dance Studio in Brookline. Fee for a 10-class session is $120 while for a single class it’s $15. Each class has about 30-40 students. The average age of a class is 30 years. Bhambi has even had a 60-year old student. “And he did pretty well. Bhangra is all about having fun.”

Alan’s partner in the dance class is 30-year old Kit Tempest. He was having more fun than Alan. He had enrolled for the classes in the beginning of summer and as Bhambi put it, was soon becoming a pro. “I love the dance. It is fun and energetic. Bhambi teaches us in small, clear steps, making it easy for us to pick up the dance,” he says, sipping his energy drink. And here’s proof that Bhangra is a great workout. Tempest has lost 10 pounds since he joined Boston Bhangra.

Facing a wall of mirrors, Bhambi counts 1-16 as his class performs a Bhangra sequence. They repeat the sequence 5 times before the class ends. It’s vigorous, even tiring. But the students don’t stop. They are having a fun time. The energetic and peppy music tempts you to get up and join the rest of the class.

Tempest has a family reunion coming up in three months. It’s an annual ritual in which members of his family organize a talent show. Everyone has to participate. Tempest can’t wait to do his act. He will perform the Bhangra.

Video courtesy Indian Bhangra artist Satti Satvinder. Audio – ‘Bhangra’ version of iio’s song ‘Rapture.’


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