South-Asian culture in Brooklyn
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.
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..