Bhangra music and dance has evolved into many forms and guises but still retains its influences from its roots, which is the unique element creating the fusion between young and old generations.
The definition of “Bhangra” is a popular energetic form of 'folk dance' of the people of Punjab, which has developed into a label for a popular style of music combining traditional Bhangra music and songs with modern Western instruments and rhythms.
From originating in Punjab it has been popularised by the Punjabi community in Britain. This popularity has spread to all Punjabi communities worldwide. Bhangra can still be accessed in its traditional form, dancing, music and song, which is performed at weddings, parties and Vaisakhi.
Bhangra has now two forms, the traditional art and the contemporary commercial industry but they are both seamlessly linked.
The Bhangra Industry in Birmingham is renowned around the world in leading the way in the development a Punjabi art form into a global industry. It has the potential to be Birmingham’s next mass export industry, which employs locally.
Birmingham is home to approximately 50 international performing Bhangra acts, which include DJ’s, live acts and dance teams, there are also over 10 international producing record labels.
Birmingham is a centre of ethnic community-based economic networks. Birmingham’s ethnicity-based economic networks are growing through particular commodities that have become associated with (minority) ethnicity. For example, spices and pulses were commodities which were imported into the UK and Birmingham to accommodate the needs of the growing Asian community.
Today it is music whose rich heritage which lies in the sub continent is attracting attention at the moment, British made Bhangra music, is one commodity attracting attention at the moment. This is a product based on the fusion of Punjabi sounds with western and broader styles of music, (such as ragga, reggae, soul, jazz funk, rock, hip-hop, pop), that is making the big producers in the States and Europe listen attentively to catch a new style.
Due to the large concentration of Punjabis in Birmingham, it is also home to many classical Punjabi music forms, which has influenced many a Bhangra musician. Also Birmingham and its suburb of Handsworth has been the training ground for many Bhangra musicians to be born in the area or emigrate from other parts of the UK and the World.
The UK Asian music industry has grew from the basic rule of supply and demand, similar to many other Asian industries such as fashion and food, all of which have been recognized by mainstream UK markets. The UK Asian music industry has become a major Asian market and has continued to evolve outside the mainstream music industry.
The hub of UK Bhangra
Bhangra is an icon of Punjabi culture in the UK to both Punjabi and non Punjabi music fans. With the emergence of so many talented Bhangra artists, integrating Bhangra folk songs and musical instruments with Western music, enthusiasm for Bhangra has developed to become an important part of mainstream music and the UK’s arts industry. Birmingham has been without a doubt the hub of UK Bhangra and home to some of the most influential bands and promoters of the music.
Of recent there have been some major breakthroughs which further solidify Birmingham being the home to Bhangra:
•‘From Soho Road to the Punjab’ is the first exhibition to chart the history of Bhangra music in Birmingham.
•Mundian Toh Bach Ke” became a massive dance floor and chart hit throughout Europe with 450,000 registered sales in Germany alone.
• The Xbox game Project Gotham Racing 3 includes songs from twelve Bhangra tracks, this includes artists from Birmingham.
• Birmingham is also home of International Bhangra champions Nachda Sansaar, who opened the G8 summit, Eurovision Song Contest and the Commonwealth Games.
• The first artist to cross-over from ‘Bhangra ghetto’ to ‘mainstream chart success’ with Island records was Apache Indian who still lives and has his record company based in Birmingham
• Bollywood has also recognised the popularity of Bhangra and the soundtracks of the films have a Bhangra influence if not a song, many of these songs have been produced by UK British Asian artists, many of them from Birmingham.
• The stage of Live8 saw a team of dhol players (Dhol Blasters) represent alongside Birmingham biggest band UB40. An audience of millions.
• Birmingham based producers are now on demand to mix and remix mainstream chart acts from Britney to Jay Z.
• Birmingham has been recognized as a place for potential Bhangra artists to hone their talent, before tackling the larger international market.
• Most fascinating is that Bhangra created in Birmingham is being exported back to its origins in the Punjab, India; supplying the needs of the market place internationally.
• Birmingham based Nachural Records have created live Bhangra which as a product is being exported to China, Hong Kong and Thailand, this is a first.