1991-2004
The MIT Bhangra Club (originally the MIT Punjab Club) is group at MIT
dedicated to sharing the vibrant traditional folk dances of Punjab.
Club History   Classes   Performances   Photos   In the News   Contact Us  
Teaching Bhangra   Punjabi Lyrics   Videos   Dhol   Costumes  


This webpage is a copy of the old MIT Bhangra Club website, created mostly by myself (Radhika Nagpal), Sunil Vemuri and Sumer Johal, with content from the many generations of wonderful people who danced and taught in this club. Much of the content on this site (translated lyrics, a "bhangra" dictionary, info on costumes etc) was the work of many dedicated people who cared about sharing the culture of Punjab with everyone. Our hope is that this website will continue to play this role, even as many of us have moved on to other things. If you are looking for the current MIT Bhangra Website, click on the link -- they continue to do great things!

Bhangra is a folk dance of Punjab and an integral part of Punjabi culture. It is a vibrant dance with dhol (drums), boliyan (lyrical couplets), and it is typically performed during the harvest season and festive occasions. On Baisakhi, the harvest festival, entire villages fire up in the spirit of Bhangra. Bhangra is often used to describe many different and distinct folk dances - bhangra, giddha, jhummer, etc. Bhangra is typically performed by men and is centered on the dhol. It often includes props (sticks, chimtas, etc.) and acrobatics. Jhummer is a particular style of bhangra. Giddha is performed by women and is centered around boliyan. Whether performed by men or women, Punjabi folk dances incorporate all the teasing, fun and exuberance of Punjabi life.

Bhangra is also part of the urban culture and danced and sung at wedding parties. Recently bhangra has invaded the popular scene and a new breed of bhangra-pop-reggae can often be heard at dance parties. The lively sound of punjabi music is impossible to ignore. Authentic bhangra though still has its own charm, and our club focuses on the traditional style. But bhangra is also a living folk art, and evolves as its dancers lives change. The ultimate goal is to be able to create our own bhangras, that mix expressions of our life with those of our heritage.

There are many sites where one can learn more about bhangra or Punjabi culture. www.punjabonline.com has articles on Punjabi culture, Punjabi lessons as well as album ratings. www.bhangra.org has its own Punjabi radio station and has very nice biographies of popular bhangra artists around the world. www.jatt.com has information on the history of bhangra, especially in the context of sikhism.

For more about the MIT Bhangra club, read on!


History of the MIT Bhangra Club

The Punjab Club was started by Radhika Nagpal, Sumer Johal and Sumeet Sandhu in 1991. The original team consisted of six people - four Punjabis (three Indian, one Pakistani), one from Karnataka, and one Gujarati-American. Since then the club has grown enormously with an even more diverse composition, but still retains much of the original philosophy of Sumer Johal. Today the open classes regularly have more than 50 people and we perform many times a year. Every year the composition of the team, and the instructors, changes as new people come to MIT. But many alumni stick around to help as instructors, advisors, or friends. They are the key to keeping the spirit of the club alive.

In 1998 the team took the name Noor-e-Punjab (Light of Punjab) and went to our first competition. We won second place and since then have participated in many different competitions. After Sumer left in 1999, Sunil Vemuri and Radhika led the club for several years. During this time the popular India Independence day summer performance at Hatchshell started and the voluntary bhangra executive committee was born. In 2001, the club was run by the group efforts and collaboration of the Bhangra Executive Committee. The result has been many wonderful experiments in new ideas for bhangras, giddas, fusions and teaching and strong collaborations with other Boston college teams and the Boston Punjabi community. An example is the 2002 Noor-e-Punjab team, which won third place at the Michigan Boston Fusion competition. The team was composed of ex-leaders from MIT, Harvard, Tufts and BU who collectively created a beautiful and narrative bhangra. Also in 2002, thanks to the untiring efforts of Arundhati Singh, we became an official ASA recognised group at MIT and Rasika Kumar became the first president to lead the club. In May 2003 we won the Laya and Jerome B. Wiesner Student Art Award for the many years of contribution that the members of this club have, and continue to make, to the community (award certificate). Many people share the credit for this award, past and present.

The goal of this club is really to teach and share bhangra, and to give people a sense of what Punjabi culture is about. Culture is truly something worth sharing, not something to be guarded fiercely against intruders. Although the composition of the MIT Bhangra Club has changed significantly over time, it still has at its core many philosophies and guiding principles that were laid down at the start and have been passed down over the years. Many of the active members can tell you why they love this club. Maybe some time we will get around to documenting those ideas.


Classes

The MIT Bhangra Club holds free classes that are open to EVERYONE. All skill levels and all backgrounds. Non-MIT students, MIT students, or not students at all. Classes are held periodically. Details are announced the our mailing list. Usually classes are held at MIT; however in 1998 we held joint classes with Boston University, which were a great success. In 2000, we held summer classes on a roof deck overlooking the Boston skyline! We teach bhangra, gidda, the history of bhangra, and more.

Recently we have added short Punjabi lessons to our classes and we have put up a small glossary of commonly heard Punjabi words as well as the lyrics to many popular bhangra songs. We even occasionally sing boliyan in class!

Mailing List

The main way the Bhangra Team communicates with interested people is through its mailing list. You can add yourself to the list by sending a blank email to bhangra-mit-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. You can send email to bhangra - request @ mit . edu if you have any other questions or need any information about our group.

Performances and Competitions

Spring time, the time of Baisakhi, is the time for many performances. Traditionally our main performances are at the MIT cultural show, the MIT international fair, and at the IAGB India Independence Day show at the Hatch Shell. Smaller groups of people also perform at Sloan events, Boston events and other Boston area schools' cultural shows. Most performances are open to everyone and anyone who likes to do bhangra. Again information about performances is sent out to the mailing list. We also perform for charity events and at private events to raise funds for our club.

In 1998 we sent our first team to the 5th Annual Bhangra Blowout Competition and won a standing ovation and second place! The competition is sponsored by George Washington University in Washington DC and is attended by 4000 people from all over the east coast. Our team chose the name Noor-e-Punjab, which means the light of Punjab. Noor-e-Punjab competed again in the 1999 blowout.

In January 2002, Noor-e-Punjab competed at the Bhangra Fusion Competition in Detroit, Michigan and we won third place! This time however the team was composed of members from MIT, Harvard, BU and Tufts, who all collaborated to produce a bhangra. The Michigan competition allows teams of any composition, and we believe that that is the right way to foster better and more community-oriented bhangra.

Competition teams are usually selected by auditions. The teams are like extended bhangra families - you will see them everywhere as instructors and generally helping out in running the bhangra club (blowout 98, blowout 99, fusion 2002).

MIT also organizes a bhangra competition called Bhangra Blast, here in Boston and each year Sunil Vemuri, as part of MIT Bhangra, has selected the judging panel. So far MIT Bhangra has not competed in this event, instead we provide an exhibition performance.


In the News and on TV!


Photo Gallery

Photo collection
(2003 all the way to 1991)

Team Pages


[MIT International Fair (Ifair) 1999]


Related Sites

Natya - MIT's Classical Indian Dance Club
Sangam - MIT South Asian Organization
MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology
South Asia Center - Organization creating a unified focal point for the South Asian community of the Greater Boston Area

Acknowledgements

Several different organizations have made it possible for the Bhangra Club to hold classes, acquire music and costumes and lately, compete. We especially thank MIT Council for the Arts, MIT Association of Student Activities, MIT Finboard, NetSAP, Innovative Moves, Boston Business Journal, India Association of Greater Boston, McCormick Hall and residents, BNN TV's "It's All About Arts", Sangam, Sloan, and the MIT Media Lab for their support.
We would also like to thank Varun Puri and his family who helped us acquire our first costumes and props from India. We also rely on many people within the community, such as Jaspal Singh of the South Asian Center, who continually make personal efforts to help our club grow.