Calling all bhangra enthusiasts everywhere: Capital Bhangra is back for its 2014 edition! I know what you’re thinking, ‘boy this exuberant young writer is really excited about this competition!’ You thought right! As a bhangra dancer, bhangra teacher, bhangra spectator, bhangra competition committee member and general fan of Punjabi culture, why wouldn’t I be?!
Perhaps after an insight into what Capital Bhangra is and what it represents you too may want to experience a day out at the competition. Capital Bhangra was launched in 2012 to provide an opportunity for the growing number of UK University bhangra teams to share their love of real Punjabi culture on a professional stage. More notably, Capital Bhangra distinguishes itself as the UK’s most welcoming University bhangra competition – allow me to explain. For a dancer at a competition, emotions are high, the body is aching and kundiyaan muchaan just won’t stand up no matter how much Clubman natural moustache wax you use! From my experiences as a dancer, you appreciate and feel loved when you witness a whole organisation putting your feelings first in what could be the most stressful day for a team or dancer in their whole professional bhangra career. Just by relieving some of that pressure and by fostering a positive and motivating environment, Capital Bhangra tries to make a massive difference for the better to a dancers overall experience.
But that bold testimonial doesn’t stop with the teams; the same business culture resides amongst the organising committee for new and experienced members alike. Not one committee member is or should be made to feel as if they have had nothing positive to contribute; in fact it’s the total opposite. The encouragement given to sharing strengths and ideas is what keeps the torch of self-belief burning brightly within Capital Bhangra. In some respects, the free loving culture the committee has adopted won’t be found in many other capacities bound by the restrictive rat race we call life. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Sounds even better when you realise that you can learn a great set of skills from marketing to technical engineering and photography to film making as part of the committee… for free!
I do have one pressing matter that I wish to explore however. As a practicing Sikh, I always evaluate every decision I make in life, with the thought process, ‘What would Guru Nanak do or say in this situation’. Bhangra for many of my Sikh brethren is something special, but for many others it is not. I don’t have to indulge you in the harsh comments some make about those of us involved in bhangra, whether that be on the dancing side of things or the promoting-competitions side of things. The more you watch some contemporary bhangra videos, the more you will be subjected to songs about booze, girls, clubs and more booze and in turn you allow garbage to flow into your mind. Similarly, the more processed and non-organic foods you eat, the more your blood pressure is subjected to limitations and in turn the more greed for garbage flows into your mind. This is why once upon a time I might even have joined in calling bhangra-loving Sikhs a ‘fake Singh’, but now not so much. Why? Because if we strip it back, take away the alcohol, take away the references of sexual desire, what are we left with? Folk Bhangra! Folk songs are about love, pride and passion for liberty and existence. It encourages the learning of musical instruments and exercises to build immense stamina, muscular strength and flexibility; it enhances the desire to push yourself, using discipline and hard work. That is why I advocate and involve myself in bhangra. In all honesty, I see little difference between promoting Bhangra and promoting football, as long as it’s done responsibly and with discipline.
Part of the reason of writing this article was to encourage more practicing Punjabi Sikhs to come down to Capital Bhangra and enjoy a cultural show where the use of alcohol is prohibited. The worry of a drunk uncle coming and touching your turban or getting up in the middle of a team’s routine disregarding everyone around them by showing off their ‘world class’ rubbish dance moves is no more! It’s more than a bhangra competition; it’s a great day out for the whole family, especially your parents or grandparents who have wonderful memories back in Punjab from their youth, but now have accustomed to British lifestyle. I know my close friends and family will be coming down to watch Capital Bhangra at The Great Hall, Queen Mary University of London on Sunday 2 March, 2014… I hope to see you all there too!