Morning photo: Bhangra Bridge

South-Asian culture in Brooklyn

The crowd begins to disperse at 10, but people linger to stare at the immensity of the Financial District’s skyline across the East River.
The morning photoblog is sponsored by Petal and Bean in Breckenridge. Click on the logo to see their latest selection.

Story and photos by Garrett Palm

All throughout India you can hear the beats and high-energy sing-chanting of Bhangra, and for one night in May, the Punjabi music could be heard blasting from the pier underneath the Brooklyn Bridge.

While in India, I danced to Bhangra outside in city squares perched atop mountains, picnic grounds under the shadow of Buddhist Temples, and in deep Himalayan valleys between the Ladakh and Karakoram mountain ranges, so it seemed natural to me to dance to the music in a beautiful location. Celebrate Brooklyn, put on by BRIC Arts Media, is there to put on such events in some of the most beautiful spaces in Brooklyn.

Red Baraat plays one last song before DJ Rekha retakes the stage. Mixing funk, Bhangra, and rap (by the tuba player), Red Baraat is an exciting newcomer on the South Asian dance scene.

Bhangra originated as a style of dancing to folk music in the Western Indian state of Punjab during the harvest season. It became its own style of music with the traditional heavy percussion instruments the dhol and dholak combining with more modern instruments such as the synthesizer in the UK in the 1970s. In my mind it is the ultimate dance music.

The stage was shared with DJ Rekha, esteemed for spreading Bhangra through New York and across America, and Brooklyn’s own South Asian brass funk band, Red Baraat. Once the beats started and the dancing took off, the crowd lost itself under the few visible stars and the Manhattan skyline. In India a dance party goes all night, the percussion doesn’t stop and it is easy to lose track of the hours. In New York the parks close early, and we were all out by 10 p.m..

“Hands in the air! Hands in the air!” yelled the lead singer. The crowd responded by “changing the light bulb,” a classic Bhangra dance move.
Dancing with a view.
DJ Rekha, looking small set against the Financial District, starting things off with some Bhangra dance lessons.
Gobind Singh teaching the non-South Asians how to dance to the music.
The crowd congregates before the party. The Financial District, Governor’s Island, and the Statue of Liberty set the backdrop for Pier 1, the first pier to open (March 2010) at the new Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The Brooklyn Bridge from Pier 1. After 20 years of advocacy, the Brooklyn Bridge Park began opening in early 2010 and will eventually cover 1.3 miles of Brooklyn waterfront.

One thought on “Morning photo: Bhangra Bridge

  1. Hi Bob – We’d love to get your pictures so that we can add them to a gallery on the official website of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Please let me know if we might obtain for this purpose only, properly credited of course.
    Best, Ellen Ryan

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