Bhangra music has become a worldwide phenomenon, sweeping dance floors across the world wherever you find Indian and Pakistani communities. Steeped in traditional instruments and dance forms, it's become a way for Indian and Pakistani immigrants to both stay rooted in their culture and to reach out to their new homelands. Although primarily focused in the Indian and Pakistani diaspora, bhangra music attracts many other people who just love good dance music.
Bhangra's roots come from a single folk dance in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan that was performed solely by men during the harvest festival known as Baisakhi. Eventually, as more and more people from Pakistan and from India's northwestern region emigrated to the United Kingdom, they felt a large sense of cultural disconnection. Bhangra, as the international music genre that has you shaking your moneymaker down at your local club, came from this sense of disconnection, and it was born in Great Britain in the 1970s.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, bhangra became an international phenomenon, spreading quickly wherever larger Indian and Pakistani communities were found. As traditional events such as weddings occurred within these communities, musicians playing bhangra began to adapt some of the instruments of their new homelands, such as brass, synthesizers and guitars. Bhangra truly became an experience where East met West on the dance floor. As time marched on, it began drawing crowds not just of immigrants, but of other people as well.
Rekha Malhotra, a bhangra DJ in New York, advises that bhangra should not be categorised alongside other pop music from India. Since it's Punjabi in origin, it has roots in both India and Pakistan, unlike many other Indian pop music forms. It also stands apart from other music by virtue of its most immediately recognisable characteristic: the 4/4 rhythm played on a double-sided drum called a dhol.
Classical bhangra dance has several types, which are performed by different people during different occasions. Giddha, kikli and saami are traditionally considered women's dances. Julli is performed by a single person, unlike most other bhangra types. Some other types of bhangra dancing call for the addition of props, such as sticks, daggers or swords. See the "Bhangra Information" link in References for more information.
The traditional instruments used in bhangra are percussive in nature. Several types of drums, including the dholak, dhad, dhol and daf are used. Other instruments include the chimpta, sarangi and ektar. When played in conjunction with one another, they create the signature sound of bhangra music.