(Last Updated on : 13/02/2010)
Historians speculate that the Bhangra dance may have originated in the time of the wars with Alexander, but no one is sure it existed until about five hundred years ago. Around 14th or 15th Century, Punjabi wheat farmers used to sing and dance about village life while working in the fields. With the passage of time, these became part of harvest celebrations at Baisakh
(April 14) that became popular as the Baisakhi festival, celebrated for the advent of the harvesting season and also to cherish the last season's fruit bearing.
In post independence India the art and culture of the country were brought into focus where numerous dance forms and music gharanas came to the forefront in the process of popularising the art. Bhangra became popular in the 20th century. It was during 60's and 70's that Bhangra became a mass phenomenon as a dance form all over India. The notable singers who made Bhangra popular are Kuldip Manak, Amar Singh Chamkila, and A. S. Kang. Kuldip Manak is known as the Bhangra legend who wrote hundreds of songs, many of which are covered and remixed by contemporary artists. Amar Singh Chamkila was a legend of Punjabi Folk who has a controversial career of writing vulgar and offensive lyrics, was killed at the age of twenty-seven. He wrote almost two hundred songs many of which was not released, and are recorded and released by the contemporary artists.
Bhangra music rise to the international scenario with the advent of the 80's when a man called Malkit Singh entered the tradition of Punjabi Folk Music. He was known as 'the golden voice of the Punjab' with his debut album 'Nach Gidhe Wich', released in 1984. Another singer named Gurdaas Mann popularise Bhangra during the 80's with his debut album Dil Da Mamla. A group named Heera, started by Kumar and Dhami, was one of the popular Bhangra bands of 80's released there debut album 'Diamonds' which is notable for being one of the first Bhangra albums to mix successfully Western drums and synthesizers with traditional Punjabi instruments.
Bhangra dance took a huge step towards mainstream credibility in the 1990s, especially among youths. At the beginning of the nineties, many artists returned to the original, folk beats of Bhangra, often using more Dhol drum beats and Tumbi. This era also saw the rise of several young Punjabi singers. In recent times various forms of Bhangra are coming to the fore with newer scope and possibilities of taking Bhangra to a different high. Film songs are much more influenced by Bhangra music nowadays. The nature of music and dance remains the same but the presentation has gone a sea change that envisages new techniques and experimental music arrangements to capture the mood of the listeners. Whatever may be the change, the main purpose of Bhangra remain the same that of entertainment, joyous mood and celebration of life and that is the reason that nowadays Bhangra is played in almost all kinds of happy occasions.