Food for thought: BlackMahal

Waleed

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A few days ago I got an invite to First Class Bhangra's opening performance for BlackMahal's concert in Pittsburgh. Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/249685128468378/ (good luck guys!)

Who/what is BlackMahal you ask? Their website says "Part P-Funk, part Punjabi-Funk, BlackMahal is a San Francisco-based live music experience complete with drums, DJs, horns, hip-hop MCs, and the godfather of Punjabi-American music – Ustad Lal Singh Bhatti."

Yes, you read that right - Ustad Lal Singh Bhatti. One look at their website and you'll be able to see that they are far from what we would consider a conventional band. Without writing a paragraph, I would like to pose the question: if someone as knowledgeable and respected as Ustad Lal Singh Bhatti can embrace such creative projects why are we so scared to step outside the box?
 

Ashveer

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Waleed said:
why are we so scared to step outside the box?
What do you mean by "step outside the box"?
I know that a couple years ago I asked one of LSB's long-time students if he would judge a local bhangra comp, and the response was that he doesn't specifically because of the liberties that the youth take with the folk form. Plenty of people who know him better than I can probably give insight on his personal feelings, but I think that this is something acceptable for him because it is not being done under the rubric or headline of any particular folk tradition, whereas under the term "Bhangra" we have magic tricks etc.
 

Waleed

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Ashveer, you're right. This project isn't being masqueraded as a traditional or folk art form - that wasn't my point.

My issue is with those who want to crucify people like Sarina Jain for experimenting with something different. Sarina never claimed to be teaching "authentic Bhangra", she just developed a fitness routine that was inspired by Bhangra moves. To be honest, I was one of those people but my outlook has evolved over time.

I, personally, don't have a particular issue with the liberties that today's choreographers are taking. I think the routines are becoming increasingly innovative and creative, however, does this dance still qualify as "Bhangra"? Maybe not authentic/folk Bhangra but the roots of this dance are definitely in Punjabi folk dances (Bhangra being the most dominant).

I have met elder folk who hold the opinion that even these live 8 man sets are a modern product of the last 25 years. From my very limited knowledge, I know that Bhangra was the name given to a set of moves performed to dhol and boliyan. Choreographed routines with formations was part of the evolution of the dance. And similarly the dance is evolving once again (music, co-ed, choreo) but compromising some very basic elements (live element, boliyan).

I don't have a staunch opinion on this, but curious to hear what others may think.
 

siddyp

Tough times never last, but tough people do.
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The concert was amazing. Perhaps the most fun performance we've ever done. Ustad ji is amazingly humble and the way he engages with the audience while BlackMahal is performing is awesome. We'll ask the group if we can post a video that we took. If you have the chance to see them live, you should go. BUT: if you are expecting something traditional or folk or whatever you may call it, you will be disappointed. They are very different with their music but it is amazing to hear and watch live.

I agree Waleed: I don't get why people freak out when others are trying to innovate or do something different. If the art does not get better and more fun to watch, it'll be the same thing over and over forever. No one, i dont care who it is, wants to watch the SAME thing over and over forever. You will get bored.
 
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