BOSTON — Bhangra began as a celebratory harvest dance in India, but today it’s popular at South Asian weddings, and even the basis of exercise routines. It was the focus of the 2012 Boston Bhangra Competition, featuring 11 teams from across North America performing before a packed house at the Orpheum Theatre Saturday night.
“I’m of Punjabi descent. That’s where Bhangra originated from,” says Rohit Bhambi, who was born in England and moved to the Boston area when he was 5. “I grew up dancing Bhangra and listening to Bhangra.”
Bhambi says he founded the Bhangra team at Boston University (performing above in 2009), and his brother Amit founded the rival team at Northeastern. Then they founded Boston Bhangra so they could come together.
Saturday, teams from Boston, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Houston, Detroit and elsewhere performed ecstatic synchronized group dances to propulsive drumming, pipes and singing (live and recorded). Bhambi says viewers who aren’t South Asian often describe Bhangra as “a mix of hip hop with cheerleading with a cultural twist.”
‘When people hear this music,” the 35-year-old adds, “it makes them move. Music is something that crosses all cultures. And it helps us get the word out about our culture as well.”