At the beginning of my love affair with Bollywood films, I made every single person I knew repeatedly watch the “Chaiyya Chaiyya” scene in Dil Se—a dance sequence that takes place on top of a moving train. While friends looked on with amusement, I would jump up and down, squealing and pointing at the screen. Something about the traditional Indian music and dance blended with club beats and ’90s hip-hop moves filled me with glee. “And they’re on top of a moving train!”
Later, in a random museum gift shop, I found Bar Bhangra, a compilation of new and established DJs remixing traditional Indian music. For many weeks after, I drove around in my car bopping my head like a dashboard toy, playing the CD at a ridiculous volume and yelling “Isn’t this so good?!” at all of my annoyed friends. The stuff just makes me wanna dance!
Bhangra refers to an Indian folk dance, music and singing style from the Punjab region. The traditional music is lively and consists of percussion from the dhol hand drum, accompanied by a single-string instrument called the ektara, and the chiming sounds of a chimta, which are metal tongs fit with tiny cymbals. Bhangra dance is actually a collection of several different styles, but the earliest moves are thought to have originated with Sikh farmers celebrating the coming of harvest season. A wave of Punjabi immigration to the U.K. in the ’80s brought Bhangra music into the Western mainstream, where it was mixed with rock, reggae and techno elements. DJs—many first-generation Brits searching for an identity that incorporated their heritage—began to play bhangra in clubs. The high-energy music with prominent beats lent itself to club dancing.
If my nerdy assertions haven’t convinced you that bhangra is awesome, you can get fully immersed in the genre this weekend at ¡Globalquerque! Non Stop Bhangra performs both Friday and Saturday night, and it isn’t just a band. It’s a whole event featuring lessons; dance performances; live music sets; and DJs spinning a mix of bhangra, hip-hop, reggae and electronica. Audiences are promised live painting and projected visuals. Dholrhythms, official Non Stop Bhangra dance troupe, will also give a free dance class on Saturday afternoon. NSB was founded by San Francisco residents DJ Jimmy Love and Vicki Virk (Dholrhythms leader), and also features DJ Rav-E, MCs Mandeep Sethi and Mista Chatman, singer Hina Patel, painter Marcus Murray, and visual operator Amar Sachdev. In the Bay Area, NSB throws at least one big bhangra bash each month, garnering accolades as well as hundreds of sweaty revelers. Online magazine 7x7 listed the event as one of “250 Things to Do in San Francisco Before You Die.” Since most of you aren’t sure how long you’ll live (or when you’ll next visit San Francisco), I recommend you go get your bhangra on while you have the chance.