Music

Is Bhangra music all about girls, cars and booze?

Bhangra music along with the Punjabi pop genre has taken giant strides in India as well as in the UK since its introduction during the 1980’s. Bhangra music originated from the traditional Punjabi folk music from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan.

Today, it is evolving and transforming more than ever, and so are the music videos for this genre. Due to the emergence of social media sites such as YouTube, official videos for a Bhangra track are now just as important as the song itself.

To bring out the rising significance of a music video into context, rapper Imran Khan’s video titled ‘Amplifier’ has more than 56 million views till date. Furthermore, Yo Yo Honey Singh’s track ‘Dope Shope’ from the popular Punjabi pop album International Villager has more than 44 million views.

However, there seems to be an acute shortage of creativity in the industry when it comes to the production of these highly important, and in many cases, indispensable music videos. There’s an emphasis on showing the Lamborghinis and Porsches of the world.

Mr. Yo Yo Honey Singh has this habit of bringing in expensive yachts. Watch the song ‘Alcoholic’ and ‘Dope shope’ on YouTube if you disagree with me. Bhangra music videos, for a considerable amount of time, have been trying to make merry by showcasing and flaunting expensive cars and yachts, sexy half naked girls and not to mention, alcohol consumption as well, but is this all that Bhangra music is all about?

The history, culture and the richness of Punjabi music, in all fairness, goes much deeper than the present trend of ‘Chaar Botal Vodka’. Punjabi music originated as a new genre in the UK in the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s.  Punjabi music, in its infancy, experimented quite extensively by amalgamating and mixing traditional Punjabi folk music with Western styles and instruments. The fusion of Punjabi and Western styles of music came to known as the Bhangra music genre.

Bhangra music allowed Punjabi immigrants in the UK to develop and foster a musical identity of their own as it combined their newly-found western lifestyle with native music from ‘home’. However, this delicate balance has changed recently. Modern Bhangra music is moving closer and closer towards the western style of music, including raps and American/British hip-hop culture.

The new generations are missing out quite badly on the true Bhangra vibe. It is not all about raps, slow jams and hip hop. Bhangra music, in its true form, is purely about the true essence of Punjab reverberating through your heart.

This shift in balance between Punjabi folk music and western styles is perhaps best represented by Jazzy B. The prince of Bhangra had ‘Soorma’ as the headline track of his album ‘Romeo’ (2005).  Furthermore, the title track of his next album titled ‘Rambo’ generated quite a lot of buzz in the US and the UK but not in India. The album’s title track showcased a western skyline before the camera follows Jazzy B driving a luxurious Bugatti Veyron through the streets of London, UK.

Then he’s seen in a private jet and not to mention, with a beautiful woman towards the end, both of them are shown dining in a luxurious restaurant with a couple of glasses of expensive champagne. To be very honest, the video was ridiculous as Jazzy B was trying to act like Snoop Dogg.

The entire theme of songs featuring imported cars and seductive women may be an integral part of Western pop culture, but why on earth are Punjabi rappers trying to copy and imitate the west? The bingy and flashy culture shown in these music videos just does not match the lyrics and as a consequence, the entire sense and essence of the song goes down into the drain.

Punjab is about colourful outfits, the lush green fields, the Saag and the Lassi. Bhangra is certainly losing its unique identity by forgetting its roots. Popular vocalists like Diljit, Ammy Virk and Ranjit Bawa are trying to revive the traditional native style of Bhangra.

The industry has therefore realized its mistake and is trying to revive the essence of Bhangra Music. The question that needs an immediate answer is:

“Can Bhangra music preserve its true essence at a time when it is being strongly influenced by the western styles?”

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Gulraj Bedi

Gulraj Bedi