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Durham University



Publication details for Dr Laura Leante

Image: Leante, Laura (2009). 'Urban Myth: bhangra and the dhol craze in the UK'. In Music in Motion. Diversity and Dialogue in Europe. Bernd Clausen, Ursula Hemetek & Eva Saether Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag. 191-207.

Author(s) from Durham


Bhangra is believed to have originated in Western Punjab (in today’s
Pakistan) as a rural male dance performed to the rhythm of the dhol, a
large double-headed barrel drum, to celebrate the spring harvest. Soon after
Indian Partition in 1947 and following the social upheaval that accompanied
it, a dance called bhangra became associated with the new Indian Punjab’s
cultural identity. This phenomenon was encouraged and supported from
the outset by the local administration and can be attributed to two main
factors. On the one hand, from the first half of the 1950s, the image of
bhangra as a symbol of Punjabi identity was spread outside Punjab by teams
of bhangra dancers featured in national and international events (such as
the Republic Day Parade in Delhi) and in Bollywood movies.1 On the
other hand, what cemented this association among Punjabis and marked
the institutionalisation of bhangra was the participation of dance teams in
inter-college and inter-university youth festivals and competitions, which
became more and more common from the 1960s, with the foundation of
Punjab’s first higher education institutions. To this day, schools and colleges
are the places where young Punjabis learn to dance bhangra.