The Booming Bhangra Music and Dance Scene in Surrey

The increasingly popular genre has strong roots in the lower mainland’s Punjabi community

KPU bhangra instructors Gurpreet Sian (left) and Rayman Bhuller (right). (flickr/ Kwantlen Polytechnic University)

Bhangra is in the blood of every Punjabi. For those who are not familiar with this term, bhangra is the vivacious folk dance and music of Punjabi culture. Surrey is home to a vast number of Punjabi people, and even non-Punjabi residents celebrate Punjabi culture to an extent by appreciating the food, festivals, and of course, the bhangra.

Surrey did not always have such an influential bhangra scene, but as Punjabi people arrived here for education or for work, they brought their culture and their language with them.

Music is one way of connecting people with their culture. It’s not only immigrants who brought punjabi music here, but also people born in Canada, the U.S., or the U.K.

G. Sidhu, born in Punjab and raised in New York, is America’s rising bhangra star who has been making hit after hit. Another famous face in the industry is Sukhshinder Shinda, born in Birmingham, U.K. He is a British-Indian playback singer and songwriter as well as a bhangra record producer.

Surrey is home to many Punjabi singers, and global punjabi artists are sure to make tour stops here to promote their songs, albums, and movies. Many of them even shoot their music videos around Surrey and Vancouver.

Jazzy B is an Canadian Punjabi singer-songwriter. (flickr/ Melafestivalen – Oslo)

When it comes to bhangra, Jazzy B is also a prominent voice in the scene. Born in Punjab, India and raised in Surrey, he is considered by some the “crown prince of bhangra.” Jazzy B was even inducted into B.C.’s Hall of Fame, earning a star on Vancouver’s Granville Street in 2016.

Female artists are also influential in Punjabi music culture. For example, Jasmine Sandlas, born in Punjab and raised in California, is famous for the bold image and voice behind her Punjabi pop music. Some other women include the Nooran Sisters, a Sufi singing duo, and Nimrat Khaira, who has a great fan following because of both her traditional and modern sense of style.

No matter how great Punjabi music can be, Punjabi music stars often find themselves in controversies. In some ways, it is an industry driven by controversy.

Sidhu Moose Wala, known as “Drake of Surrey”, is one of the important and big personalities today.

Moose Wala is loved and admired by youth as they feel that he raps about the real stuff happening around them. He is popular for his unique hip-hop and style, but he has often been surrounded by controversy.

One great example is when one of his shows was cancelled for the Surrey Music Festival because of the RCMP’s policy of public safety concern. This concern arose because of a stabbing incident, which happened at one of Moosewal’s concerts at Bollywood Banquet Hall in Surrey last summer.

Many KPU international students identify with Punjabi culture, so in support of the language and culture, the university offers an “Introduction to Bhangra” course to students. Any student can register for the course and receive credit on completion for taking it.

Gurpreet Sian, one of the Bhangra instructors at KPU, says that the majority of people in the Bhangra classes are Indian international students.

“Being in a Bhangra class for them is like a connection back to home and is very important and it’s a good escape for them in busy and difficult student life,” he says. “I’ve two Caucasian girls in Bhangra class this semester, which is great, so it’s nice to see a little bit of diversity.”

Anyone interested in joining a bhangra team at KPU can send their contact information to kwantlenpss@gmail.com.

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