Bhangra originated in the Punjab region of India. Traditionally a good harvest was celebrated by dancing and singing songs to the sound of the dhol drum.

In Bhangra music:

  • the dhol provides a bass part with tabla or dholak adding a decorative part above
  • lyrics are sung in the Punjabi language and are often from poems called 'boli'
  • lyrics are about love, relationships, money, dancing, drinking and being merry
Indian youth perform a traditional Bhangra dance
Indian youth perform a traditional Bhangra dance

The dhol is a large traditional North Indian drum played with cane sticks. The tension is adjusted to produce a bass and treble sound. It is extremely loud.

Tabla are a pair of small drums placed side by side on the floor in front of the player. The dholak is a double-headed hand-drum often slung from the shoulder.

Bhangra is now used to describe a high-energy style of dance music developed by young Asians and performed at weddings, parties and clubs.

Bhangra fuses Western pop music, Hindi film music and folk music from the Punjabi region. Traditional Punjab drums and string instruments are fused with Western instruments such as electric guitars. The harmony is usually simple, with one or two repeated chords.

Mundian To Bach Ke by Panjabi MC uses a combination of electronic instruments and traditional Punjab instruments including the tumbi, a one-string fiddle which plays a three note riff. The song features a sampled bass line taken from the 1980s television series Knight Rider.

Mundian to Bach Ke

Bhangra dance steps

Bhangra is danced at weddings, parties and family celebrations. The dance rhythm is set by the dhols.

There are many types of dance, some are especially for men or women. Bhangra is often danced in circles and uses a lot of arm and shoulder movement.

Some dances use sticks and swords. Other dances use stunts such as a dancer sitting on someone's shoulders, while another person hangs from his torso by his legs.

The evolution of a Bhangra dancefloor