Suomi-Bhangra

Sometimes, you really do just have to watch the video.

Mutineers, I now present you… Finnish Bhangra –

My take? I love it. Like Absolut Mulit (full video here), it represents an incredibly perceptive outsider’s take on desi culture. The music, the singing, the imagery, the dancing, and the overall gestalt are both accurate and ironic. When “inside” and “outside” mesh so darn well, it transcends the usual boundaries and we’re forced to take a step back and recognize just how broad & progressively inviting the diaspora truly is.

The group, Shava, describes themselves and their mission well –

Welcome to the home page of Shava, which is guaranteed to be the world’s only Finnish bhangra group. Shava plays music which is meant for fun and dancing, and Shava’s gigs are a proof that their unique blend of Bollywood-bhangra dance beats with Finnish attitude and language works perfectly to free your mind and your pelvis and to make you get up and dance.

…The group’s name bears no complicated philosophical meaning. Shouting shava, shava>> is normal behaviour for Punjabis having a good time, and it is something the band is trying to teach to Finnish audiences.

Bravo.

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133 thoughts on “Suomi-Bhangra

  1. How funny a coincidence to see this today.

    Just this morning one of NDTV Good Times channel’s episodes of “The Big Fat Indian Wedding” featured a couple who were either both ABD, or at least 1/2 of the couple was, and for the sangeet, a group of their non-desi college friends were going to perform a dance number to Mundiyan To Bachke. The girls were very earnest and intent before the camera, the boys looked like they were trying very hard not collapse on the floor in fits of laughter.

  2. It was an interesting video, creative and pretty accurate in parts, though I think that they should change the spelling of their name to ‘Shaava’ so that nobody confuses them with a death metal band. In the first glance, to me ‘shava’ means corpse (as in the aasana).

  3. I’ve known about these guys for a while, they are great. There is a small Punjabi community in Helsinki, a couple of the bhangra acts from the UK go out there once in a while to do shows. That guy in the video is Gurcharan Mall of the bhangra band Apna Sangeet from Birmingham, England, who have been around over 20 years and were part of the bands that kick started the whole desi music scene in the UK. He has a school of dhol and has taught loads of kids from the next generation the music and culture of bhangra. Absolutely love it.

  4. They remind me a bit of the Trinidad Indians with their accent and moves.

    I’m sorry but this was NOTHING like how Trinidadians or other Caribbean Indians, sound or dance with regards to what is a part of our culture that’s been handed down from our parents and grandparents. Our girls actually have rhythm and grace thanks, I’m rather offended by this comment if you can’t tell.

    This, I’m sorry, was kinda lame and painful to watch.

  5. A little something inside me dies every time I see a South-Indian bang on about how cool bhangra is, or exchange gossip about Bollywood. I mean, why not stick to one’s historic culture or get on with being an American? Dropping South-Indian-ness and adopting North-Indian stuff seems vaguely racist and as fake as a $3 bill. But maybe I’m just an ABCD.

  6. I mean, why not stick to one’s historic culture or get on with being an American?

    what one’s “historic culture” is changes. it’s never static. as long as american south asians acknowledge that their own cultural synthesis is not necessarily a perfect reflection of what’s going on in india, or for that matter fiji or trinidad, what’s the problem? some american south asians do stay within their own community. and many are excited about assimilating into the dominant culture. it’s a spectrum, and they’re all “american,” more or less. why diss? live and let live.

  7. Dropping South-Indian-ness and adopting North-Indian stuff seems vaguely racist and as fake as a $3 bill.

    also, 75% of american south asians are punjabi + gujarati last i checked. the numbers dictate the central role of north/west indian cultural traditions.

  8. Sorry, not trying to diss anyone, Razib, I’m just saying it makes me feel sad and feels “fake” to me. Wondering if I’m a freak or what, I guess. . . .

  9. Razib, I’m just saying it makes me feel sad and feels “fake” to me.

    hm. well, as an assimilationist personally i’m not invested in what you’re saying, but i can see where you’re coming from, and would probably agree a bit in circa 2003. but v-man and manish changed my opinion because i could see that their own lifestyle and cultural outlook was a “third way” between assimilation and a crystallized-static identity which is just a fossil of what went down on the homeland. reading this weblog over the years i have had to pick up a lot of hindi-punjabi terms which people assume are known to all, so it’s pretty obvious that that subculture is somewhat “hegemonic” in the synthesis, but it’s a function of numbers i think.

  10. A little something inside me dies every time I see a South-Indian bang on about how cool bhangra is, or exchange gossip about Bollywood. I mean, why not stick to one’s historic culture or get on with being an American? Dropping South-Indian-ness and adopting North-Indian stuff seems vaguely racist and as fake as a $3 bill. But maybe I’m just an ABCD.

    eh? the guy is sharing some music he enjoyed and you’re pounding your own mridangam. relax. have some jalebi.

  11. So, “I’m just so 2003, huh?” ;-) But, I’m honored to have you respond to me–now, what we all want to know–is FeministX for real? I’ve seen you comment on her site. She’s Tamil, like me.

  12. Sorry khoofi, but us South-Indian gals, as “bearers of the culture,” have to try to “keep our boys in line” (and, yes, that’s what they’re calling it these days).

  13. is FeministX for real?

    she’s not half sigma. don’t know if she’s for real. i assume “she” is more likely to fake her sex than her ethnicity.

  14. haterz. suomalaiset kant get no love. if these were ruotsalainen you’d be lovin’ it.

    Ehh…Swedish..Finnish…I’m pretty sure they’d both suck the same.

  15. here’s an analogy. afrikaners in south africa have a lot of french huguenot ancestry (names like “de clerk”), and the records seem to suggest that more men from north germany arrived on the cape than from holland or other parts of the netherlands. but the core culture of the afrikaners is dutch-derived.

  16. We don’t eat Jalebi down South

    but it tastes good, right? i mean, years ago someone pointed out that in parts of south india white is not the color of death. i remember being totally shocked by that, as i’d just assumed that like chinese all brownz viewed white as the color of death. it’s a trivial cultural marker, and i can see getting annoyed if american south asians of northern origin impose that as normative in the united states for all south asians, especially when it’s at some variance with the majority culture. OTOH, in moderation jalebis taste good anyway. similarly, a lot of people think bhangra is cool.

  17. Iinteresting analogy, especially so close to the ‘Day of the Vow’. I see your point. I guess one could say similarly of the Italians in Argentina, though they kept the food/wine more?

  18. I guess one could say similarly of the Italians in Argentina, though they kept the food/wine more?

    well, that’s also an interesting case. think about what americans consider “italian” food. obviously it’s really “evolved” a lot. but, it is also rooted in southern and sicilian culture, so that people whose families are from northern italy will sometimes make a big point of that since their cuisine and such is so different (more butter, less olive oil, pesto and not marinara, etc.).

  19. Iinteresting analogy, especially so close to the ‘Day of the Vow’

    let’s hope the ethnogenesis of the americo-brown is a bit less traumatic! :-)

  20. I’ve never had a Jalebi, Razib. Will try one in honor of this conversation (thanks–I am really honored–I will have the courage to post on your gnxp site now). My original thinking was, if I’m going to try “new” (to my family) food, why focus on Jalebis, or new music, focus on Bhangra? Why are Jalebis any more special than eclairs or something Why Bhangra over Mozart? Neither is a part of our pre-USA background, but both are good. Just a weird racial thing to prefer the Jalebi. And the eclairs and Mozart are more widely available in the USA anyways.

  21. Just a weird racial thing to prefer the Jalebi.

    right. exactly. i was there in 2003. i had a hard time understanding how a pan-brown south asian identity was going to emerge without being rooted purely in race. meeting people like anna, v-man, manish, etc. has given me some sense of how it is more than race. v-man would say that there is a “push” (from the mainstream) and a “pull” (common aspects of indian culture). there are probably enough malayali christians, to tam brams, or kashmiri pandits, that you could stay in your own circle. or, you could just immerse yourself in a non-brown social and personal world (i have, and i know general the set of names i’m giving my children and aside from my surname none of them are recognizably brown). but there are also other options between the two extremes, and the punjabi culture is still more like tamil culture than either is like persian culture. even though punjabi culture does have similarities to persian culture which tamil culture is not (i’m actually also extending a relation which i’ve illustrated genetically). so out of the total sample space of cultural traits south asians do tend to cluster together. so yeah, you’ll encounter things foreign to your “natal” culture if you venture out into the pan-brown world, especially if you’re from a smaller group, but they may be less foreign than what you’d get than if you hung out with upper midwest swedes.

  22. also, there’s a lot of stuff i’ve eaten only at sepia mutiny meet ups. but generally they’re vaguely recognizable to me.

  23. It sounds like this TamBram is headed for a nice Northern Italian boy, who she can commiserate with over the respective hegemony of North (in Indian-American) and South (in Italian-American) cultures. But maybe that’s just because I like pappardelle and haven’t tried jalebi yet! Good thoughts, Razib–I’m glad you can see where I’m coming from. And, I’m glad you’re planning on having lots of kids–good genes and all that!

  24. Tamilist, from my perspective Bhangra is fun to dance to and enjoyable, so why not enjoy it? I don’t want to limit myself with labels about what/who I should or should not be.. I say.. like what you like because you like it… that’s the only really way not to be fake.

  25. LinZi, because some of us have higher expectations/goals than what you are and what you’ve achieved. You’re OK, you’re welcome here, etc., but please don’t try to shut down higher-level discussions with Mr. Rogers talk.

  26. LinZi, because some of us have higher expectations/goals than what you are and what you’ve achieved. You’re OK, you’re welcome here, etc., but please don’t try to shut down higher-level discussions with Mr. Rogers talk.

    What the.. WHAT? Loser.

  27. she’s not half sigma. don’t know if she’s for real. i assume “she” is more likely to fake her sex than her ethnicity.

    tamilian is very clearly feministx, the behavior matches. feministx goes from blog to blog desperately throwing in refs to her its blog so as to increase its hit count. worth hitting the ignore button on tamilian.

  28. oh Tamilian, won’t you be my neighbor?

    Maybe you need a lot more Mr. R in your life. I mean com’on, what’s with the random hostility and lashing out?

  29. We don’t eat Jalebi down South

    Incorrect! Both my Kannada grandmother and my Telugu grandmother made delicious jaangiris, which is nothing but a jalebi with a different type of flour. I would suggest that perhaps your jalebi aversion is some Tamil affectation, but I was born in Madras and the sweet-shops sold them there too!

    How could anyone not like a jalebi? It, like beer, is proof that the God(s) love(s) us and want(s) us to be happy.

  30. Jelebi is of course in the South; It was one of our favorite Indian foods – every sweet store I’ve been to in Kerala sells it and I never thought of it as not part of the south india…that really makes me laugh.

    It, like beer, is proof that the God(s) love(s) us and want(s) us to be happy. – don’t agree about the beer thing.

  31. I don’t want to interrupt the ‘high level’ ;) discussion about jalebi (which are delicious, though I am more partial to gulab jamun personally) but I finally got a chance to watch this Finnish Bhangra video that this post is about,

    I really agree with Vinod that it is very cool how this group has brought together ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. I really like the idea, but I would also agree with others who mentioned the video (especially the woman dancing) leave a bit to be desired. Right now the video seems a bit unpolished to me, and the dancing women just didn’t really seem to go with the gaiety of the music to me.

    I would bet that over time, this group Shava will take their very good idea and continue to polish it. I’m not sure how long the band has been around, or how much of a following they have, but it would be interesting to see how the group evolves.

  32. Our girls actually have rhythm and grace thanks

    Having seen girls dancing in Chutney videos, and the lyrics sung by them, I wouldn’t say they have ‘grace’

  33. A little something inside me dies every time I see a South-Indian bang on about how cool bhangra is, or exchange gossip about Bollywood. I mean, why not stick to one’s historic culture or get on with being an American? Dropping South-Indian-ness and adopting North-Indian stuff seems vaguely racist and as fake as a $3 bill. But maybe I’m just an ABCD.

    Hmmmm….so people of north Indian descent shouldn’t worship AR Rahman or M.I.A?

    Sorry, but your post is absolutely ridiculous.