I attended the launch of an exhibit titled, Five Rivers to Five Boroughs—Soho Road to the USA, and a panel discussion about bhangra music at 92y in Tribeca, New York, tonight. It charts the rise of the drum-driven music and dance from the Punjab, now heard on streets and dance floors throughout the US, UK & beyond.
The panel discussion touched upon not just bhangra’s popularity as a music form but how it linked to issues within the South Asian diaspora.
Some American-born South Asians in the audience bemoaned the lack of a platform for bhangra music in the USA, saying it had more of a solid base in the UK and there was more performance of it there, too. Shin from live music group, DCS, said the live music scene was waning because of the popularity of DJ culture. Ethnographer, Nina Chanpreet Singh, also on the panel, said bhangra had become a way through which young South Asian men asserted their identity, after 9/11 had made them more vulnerable targets of hate crime.
These are just snippets of some of the interesting discussions.
The exhibit itself features photography, album sleeves, promotional art and rare examples of print media that helped spread the bhangra sound across the world. It’s contributors, such as journalist and DJ Boy Chana, Alaap stalwart Kalyan and DJ favorites San-j Sanj, & DJ Rekha, have allowed unique access to their personal collections of never-before-seen photographs and archives. The exhibition has toured to over 70 venues already in the UK and Europe. Click here for details.