Bhangra in England.

Bhangra is an icon of Punjabi culture in the UK. With the emergence of so many talented Bhangra artists, integrating Bhangra folk songs and musical instruments with Western music, enthusiasm for Bhangra has developed to become an important part of mainstream music and the UK’s arts industry.

London and Birmingham are the hubs of UK Bhangra and home to some of the best bands.

Bhangra was introduced to the UK in the early 1970s with the migration of many Punjabi singers. It created an entirely new stage for the performance of Bhangra music but it was only when bands such as Heera and Alapp fused Bhangra beats with Western music in the 80s that the music took off and the groups had hits throughout the 80s and 90s.

Heera, Alaap, and DCS were some of the pioneer bands of Bhangra music in the UK, successfully combining Western drums and synthesisers with traditional Punjabi instruments.

In 1990's Golden Star Malkit Singh took the Bhangra world by storm early on in its career, with music, lyrics and singing that added a unique element to Punjabi music and ushered in a new era for Bhangra sounds in the UK. Malkit’s album Tutak Tutak Tutyian made record sales all over the world.

Subsequently, many singers including A.S. Kang and Balwinder Safri produced brilliant Bhangra music in the UK to move the Bhangra industry forward.

The regular visits to the UK from India of Bhangra legends Kuldeep Manak, Evergreen Gurdas Maan, Hans Raj Hans etc. have not only helped to keep the Bhangra tradition alive but have also enabled the music to flourish and make a real impact on the UK charts.

In the UK, there are many Bhangra bands and producers who have succeeded in raising the profile of Bhangra music in the pop industry. Punjabi MC, Sukshinder Shinda, Jazzy B (Canada based), Malkit Singh, B21, are some of the multi-talented music producers and singers, who have electrified the genre by producing new sounds. Others, such as Bally Sagoo, Rishi Rich, DJ Sanj and RDB have fused Bhangra and Western music to make crossover music, which is becoming increasingly popular in the UK charts. Mundeya to Bach ke Rahi (Beware of Boys), by Punjabi MC, stayed in the charts for many weeks, and introduced contemporary and world musicians to Bhangra music.

Some new bands, however, have been criticised for fusing folk tunes with Western beats. Although this trend can be seen as good news for the longevity of folk in the industry, it has led to accusations of plagiarism on the part of the music producers, with musicians remixing old songs rather than producing new sounds. It is precisely this remixing, however, which has caused the astounding rise in popularity of Bhangra music within the UK.

The only worry for Bhangra music as it stands at present is the lack of new song writing in the UK: either old folk songs are being re-mixed, or new songs are being recorded to remixed folk tunes. There are two schools of thought: one believes in keeping Bhangra music in its real and authentic form in order to keep its traditional and folk roots alive; the second supports the influence of Western music and the fusion of the two genres. Both approaches have their advantages, but it is hoped that music appealing to lovers of both styles will continue to be produced.


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