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. PÄÄLLIKÖT ON VOITTAMATTOMII Google translates this to “The master shall Unbeatable”

    PÄÄLLIKÖT ~ Captain VOITTAMATTOMII ~ Unbeatable

    Can anyone translate this song ?

  2. Sulabh, I believe it translates to ‘the masters are unbeatable…the bhangra masters are unbeatable’. Of course, I’m no expert in Finnish, but that’s what I remember seeing somewhere. :)

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

    Johnny, that Rahman and MIA are the two examples you can come up with of “South Indian culture” is the problem.

  4. Johnny, that Rahman and MIA are the two examples you can come up with of “South Indian culture” is the problem

    That all you can come up with to raise the chip on your shoulder about north Indian culture is the innocuousness of bhangra music and jalebis is the problem.

    (I love masala dosa as well – oh no wow that is symbolic of your marginalisation too whoops)

  5. Thanks Mr. Wise…

    Here’s what I found.

    The title “Päälliköt on voittamattomii” ~ “The Chieftains Are Invincible”.

    The chorus goes like this:

    Päälliköt on voittamattomii, bhangrapäälliköt on voittamattomii The chieftains are invincible, the bhangra chieftains are invincible

    Täytyykö se jengin päähän takoo et päälliköt on voittamattomii, Shavan päälliköt on voittamattomii Do I have to beat it into peoples’ heads that the chieftains are invincible, Shava’s chieftains are invincible

    Toiset bändit menkää maanrakoon ku päälliköt on… Other bands, sink into a hole in the ground coz the chieftains are… etc.

    Itämafiosot lähtee pakoon ku päälliköt on… The Russian Mafia runs away scared coz the chieftains are… etc.

    Jumalauta koko jengi lakoo ku päälliköt on voittamattomii! For God’s sake, the whole of the crowd gets knocked down coz the chieftains are invincible!

  6. I love this – although the dancing definitely left something to be desired, at least they are trying. and the singing was brilliant.

    as for tamilian – i’m surprised this whole conversation has went on for so long, because i don’t understand how what tamilian thinks is relevant here. she can tell me that i’m “as fake as a $3 bill” but it won’t make me give up my bhangra, or hindi/urdu, or definitive preference for jalebis over jaangiris (it’s all about the crispy texture, OK?).

  7. i don’t understand how what tamilian thinks is relevant here.

    I’m sure you don’t mean it that way, but that speech act is extremely marginalizing/silencing.

  8. thanks for the benefit of doubt, since i did not mean it in that way, so apologies if it had that effect. what i meant was, it’s your opinion, and that’s fine. my comment was more towards why people were reacting to it in a certain way, since while discussion is all fine and good, it prob. won’t change anybody’s way of doing what they do.

  9. or definitive preference for jalebis over jaangiris (it’s all about the crispy texture, OK?).

    I like jaangiris better, but that might be because usually I eat homemade jaangiris and store-bought jalebis.

  10. “I’m sure you don’t mean it that way, but that speech act is extremely marginalizing/silencing.”

    I think you need to reflect a little on your own ‘speech acts’ and how they can [attempt to] marginalize/silence others.

  11. i spent my entire college life listening to north indian americans telling me that i should know hindi bollywood and bhangra or im whitewashed… these things had very little to do with the culture i grew up around. they are as alien to me as any other culture that is not mine, but somehow ppl expect them not to be for reasons that arent very well thought out.

  12. thanks for the benefit of doubt, since i did not mean it in that way, so apologies if it had that effect.

    dont bother responding, based on behvior on other blogs, i dont think tamilian is acting in good faith and is only interested in plugging its blog under various guises.

  13. I like jaangiris better, but that might be because usually I eat homemade jaangiris and store-bought jalebis. i can’t get over the sogginess of a fried food – jalebis retain their crunchiness, whereas jaangiri just taste sweet and oily to me. i have issues with adhirasam, too, for similar reasons.

    i spent my entire college life listening to north indian americans telling me that i should know hindi bollywood and bhangra or im whitewashed… these things had very little to do with the culture i grew up around. i’ve had dbd north indians tell me the sam – that just because i don’t speak hindi, i am whitewashed or too americanized. annoying, but ultimately irrelevant to how i approach desi culture.

  14. FeministX.blogspot.com

    . . . clever girl.

    But you know the admins can see your IP address right?

  15. I’m usually very interested in fusion music, so this is interesting to me on that level. But unfortunately, the dancing is rather bad. Like other commenters have mentioned, the dancers are off-beat, and the dancing just seems very off. Like someone who is mimicking moves but doesn’t have the grace or training to execute them properly. Like badly performed ballet. Which makes the video seem tacky and amateurish.

    Which is too bad. If they had managed to do it right, a fusion of bhangra and Finnish would seem cool.

  16. i’ve had dbd north indians tell me the sam – that just because i don’t speak hindi, i am whitewashed or too americanized. annoying, but ultimately irrelevant to how i approach desi culture.

    My standard reply was always “nooru musuku penta-munda kodukku.” (Romanized transliteration is problematic, but so it goes.)

  17. Like someone who is mimicking moves but doesn’t have the grace or training to execute them properly. Like badly performed ballet. Which makes the video seem tacky and amateurish.

    You guys expect a lot from your amateur music videos shot in someone’s garage.

  18. It is somewhat amusing to see that anyone would think to raise the issue of “stick[ing] to one’s historic culture” with respect to south indian versus north indian in reference to this particular video. Uh. Hello?

  19. I’m with you up until penta-munda, Yoga Fire. But I’m not sure if kodukku means heart’s desire, son or something else. Darn that Romanized transliteration.

  20. penta = manure munda = whore koduku = son

    I was shocked at how routinely my family used that phrase once I stopped to think about what it actually meant. It turns out the Yoga Fire clan are like a Telugu version of the Osbornes.

  21. Back to “Mulit” for a moment: did anyone save the higher-resolution QuickTime version of that? I missed this when it came out and now it’s no longer on the Absolut web site! :-(

    Surely there is a copy circulating from hand to hand? Please?

  22. Shout-out to Puliogre in #62. Your experience is mine as well. Yoga Fire in #69. What do the first two words mean? 100 something? I speak the Lankan variety of Tamil, sorry. I guess some slang is different.

  23. Tamilian @ 75 – that phrase from Yoga Fire was in Telugu, not Tamil.

    hilarious! tamilian provides evidence of its own trollery and fraud.

  24. Tamilian, I’m with you as far as the “not relating to north Indian culture” thing goes. I’m another Tamilian myself, and Bollywood doesn’t really do anything for me.

    But I also speak Japanese better than I speak Tamil, and I know far more about western classical music than Carnatic music, so that’s where our similarities end. (I also am not big on jalebis, but I love idlis and vathal kuzhambu (separate and together!).) This idea that relating to and embracing other cultures beyond just our own is somehow repugnant (note that I’m saying “beyond” and not “instead of”) is awfully short-sighted. There’s a lot of beauty in the world and a lot of wonderful things to learn and experience that can enrich you. It’s important to know where you come from, obviously, and to have pride in your roots, but to limit yourself to only that means you’ll lead a pretty boring and short-sighted existence. Plus, how do you really know what makes your own culture distinct and unique if you don’t immerse yourself in other ways of thinking and viewing the world? Try it sometime. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  25. Samosamancer, I’m with you, actually–see # 33 above, which meant to say something like you just said (though you are more eloquent).

  26. Really? I mean this in all sincerity, and I don’t mean to dredge this all up now that it’s possibly settled down, but I feel like that is directly contradictory to many of the other views you espoused here, like:

    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.

    I was responding to this mentality, and also speaking up in defense of LinZi (who I agreed with wholeheartedly). In response to the above, I don’t consider myself an American, though I’m not “very” Indian, either (the first time I visited India was when I was 18, so…yeah). But what’s the harm in a person from TN enjoying bhangra and Bollywood? It’s not like a “my part of India or nothing at all” deal, like they’re limited to bharatanatyam and no other options and they’re letting everyone down because they aren’t carrying on their specific cultural traditions. Think about how northerners in the US sometimes poke fun at northern-dwelling people who like country music and line dancing, which are traditionally southern-oriented art forms…that’s just silly, right? People like what they like–it’s as simple as that.

  27. South-Indian bang on about how cool bhangra is

    I am from south & I like Bhangra a lot. oh, I did not realize it is a north thing until you pointed it out. May be i should try Yakshaghana from next time! Also Jalebis are the standard sweet that is prepared in the weddings down south. I bet you are thinking all of the south spells ‘l’ with a ‘z’…zoz

  28. Samosamancer, I partially agree and partially disagree. It’s true that, in the abstract, it’s fine to say “people like what they like, what’s the big deal.” But when those choices are non-random and biased in a way that has serious cumulative effect, it’s worth thinking about whether those aggregate effects are desirable. It’s sort of like saying “people can like who they like.” But, if it turned out that nobody liked girls under 5’5″, that would be a problem, and I doubt you’d be siding with those who were trying to silence those who were attempting to discuss the problem.

  29. But it isn’t a mutually exclusive thing–that’s what you don’t seem to be getting. Just because people like doing bhangra, that doesn’t mean they don’t like doing bharatanatyam (just as one example). And southerners liking bhangra doesn’t mean bharatanatyam is going to die out. It’s impossible to generalize–there are just too many of us, you know?

    Granted, I will say that I really am not in touch with these sorts of trends, and I’m not sure if bharatanatyam and the like are indeed “dying out”. But in general, it seems like having this kind of defensive, alarmist viewpoint aggravates the issue. Shutting everything else out as a sort of defense mechanism for the sake of “purity” isn’t the answer, and it certainly isn’t feasible in this day and age. Be proud of where you come, from but embrace new things enthusiastically. This isn’t some kind of endangered language with fewer than 100 speakers left–South Indian music and dance are still very strong and recognizable traditions, and teachers are traveling all over the world to spread their knowledge to new students (Indian and not), so they’re totally being passed down.

  30. Samosamancer, again I partially agree and partially disagree. My point is not that South Indian culture is going to die out b/c of a wave of bhangra. My point is confined to South Asian-American culture. And, the hegemony of bhangra in that culture is unhealthy. It’s sad to see South Indians, etc. getting all into bhangra and Bollywood in a mono-cultural way once they get to and/or are born and bred in Canada or the U.S.

  31. As a South Indian growing up in the States, I completely understand that sense of feeling left out when it comes to desi culture. But, on the other hand, how is adopting North Indian culture any different (or as it seems here, worse) than adopting American culture? Clearly, if we are talking of growing up as a South Asian-American, American culture is the hegemonic one, no? In some ways, this argument is akin to TN being averse to learning Hindi, but not averse to accepting English.

    And anyway, what is wrong with bhangra? I love Tamil culture in many ways, but I also find it, to some extent, a bit too reserved for my tastes (e.g. if I moved to India, I don’t think I would choose Madras as a place I could live long-term), and that has more to with my personality than anything – just because one grows up in one culture/country does not mean that that is the one most suited to them as an individual. Things like bhangra appeal to people because they’re fun, and a way to let loose, and offer a different form of expression than e.g. bharata natyam.

    I think this dialogue, despite the focus on the diaspora, also ignores what South Indians in India are doing – for one thing, many urban people of our generation are living in South Indian cities that are quite cosmopolitan (both nationally and internationally), and are exposed to various non-South Indian aspects any day. And many South Indians growing up in north Indian cities similarly are familiar with north Indian culture – for them, the issues is less of north-south Indian, and more an issue of being Indian. I don’t understand how the north-south divide becomes so magnified in the context of the diaspora.

  32. As a South Indian growing up in the States, I completely understand that sense of feeling left out when it comes to desi culture. But, on the other hand, how is adopting North Indian culture any different (or as it seems here, worse) than adopting American culture? Clearly, if we are talking of growing up as a South Asian-American, American culture is the hegemonic one, no? In some ways, this argument is akin to TN being averse to learning Hindi, but not averse to accepting English

    .

    ak, I’m not sure I follow you. Someone in TN learning English and not Hindi makes perfect sense. English is currently the leading global language and opens up job opportunities so it makes sense to choose it. As far as my real topic of growing up in America, adopting American culture is different–again, it makes sense–we choose to come to America b/c we like its culture (imperfect though it may be) and more opportunities open up as we assimilate to some degree. If we move to Delhi, ok, fine, adopt some North Indian culture. I’m not objecting to that at all. But for a South Indian to move to America and then to adopt Bhangra/Bollywood/Hindi is, in my opinion, quite odd. Why did the Tamil choose moving to America over moving to Delhi or Calcutta? Because, all things considered, we prefer American culture, taking culture broadly to include economic structure, political system, etc. OK, you can point out that food/music/movies is different than jobs and politics, but if we want to be “traditional” about food and music, as I do, then it makes perfect sense to stick to South Indian food and music. Again, to quote Puliogre from #62, to go for Bhangra/Bollywood/Hindi would seem to be “for reasons that aren’t very well thought out” and, I am arguing, those reasons are problematic, that is, race-based.

  33. My reference to the Hindi vs English in TN was to the initial educational requirement of Hindi in each state after Independence, and the decision then had less to do with global opportunities.

    As far as the situation of a South Asian American, you are referring to ABDs, who did not make the decision to come to the States – by and large, this was the decision of our parents, either before we were born or at an age when we were not capable of making such a decision, so your argument on choosing America over e.g. New Delhi is not applicable. And even if we go that route, you are saying that “we” prefer American culture – but what if people like North Indian culture? To relate it back the real topic of this post, bhangra is fun, and clearly has an appeal. More specifically, I go for bhangra, Hindi/Urdu, and Bollywood – for reasons that, to some extent, have been thought out very well – they may not be your preferences or make sense to you, but don’t insult my intelligence (and free choice) by saying that there is no forethought to these decisions.

    and please don’t misquote the puli: they are as alien to me as any other culture that is not mine, but somehow ppl expect them not to be for reasons that arent very well thought out. his reference to lack of being well thought out has to do with people’s expectations about the familiarity of north indian culture to south indians, not the appeal of north indian culture to south indians.

  34. Hey! Tamilian! Don’t you have some train tracks to sit on, buses to burn, and EVR signs to carry?

  35. his reference to lack of being well thought out has to do with people’s expectations about the familiarity of north indian culture to south indians, not the appeal of north indian culture to south indians.

    ak, have to disagree on the puli-interpretation, his use of “as alien to me as any other culture” suggests no particular appeal. With respect, I think that you are ignoring my point about how individual “choices” when non-random and biased, can have in the aggregate negative effects. And yes, I think that those aggregated negative effects need to be talked about. So, it does trouble me that you hit the Bhangra/Bollywood/Hindi trifecta, even though the vast majority of your individual choices I have no comment on. It’s because the trifecta is so stereotypical, so non-random from among the range of other cultures.

    another Tamilian, I’m not that kind of Tamil.

  36. With respect, I think that you are ignoring my point about how individual “choices” when non-random and biased, can have in the aggregate negative effects. And yes, I think that those aggregated negative effects need to be talked about. nobody forced me into hindi. being surrounded by north indians in college introduced me to a culture i had never been aware of, and as a lover of languages, hindi/urdu appealed to me, and it all started from there. and to no extent has it overshadowed my interest in south indian culture.

    So, it does trouble me that you hit the Bhangra/Bollywood/Hindi trifecta, even though the vast majority of your individual choices I have no comment on. It’s because the trifecta is so stereotypical, so non-random from among the range of other cultures. well, that’s where you assume – i don’t just have an interest in pop north indian culture – i love hindi for the language, and by extension, urdu as well, and this extends, to some degree, to their literary forms. i also think, as with any language, these languages give an insight into a totally different way of thinking. and my interest in north indian/pakistani culture extends beyond – to a better understanding of e.g. north indian cultural traditions and their nuances. qawwali is one of my favourite forms of music, and because i can understand hindi, i am able to appreciate hindustani music and kathak better. so, there’s nothing “stereotypical” about my interest in north indian culture – and i only mentioned that trifecta because you did.

  37. another Tamilian, I’m not that kind of Tamil.

    alright, just hold placards outside clubs on bollywood night then. and maybe picket dj rekha.

  38. Tamilian, You mentioned that you speak the Sri Lankan variety of Tamil.So one assumes that your ancestral roots are in Sri Lanka. You have also mentioned that you are an American citizen (ABCD). Yet you feel that it is totally appropriate for you to subject us to your unsolicited sermons on how South Indians (not just Tamilians, your ethnic kin, but all South Indians, living below an imaginary line on the map that suits your fancy) should relate to their fellow countrymen- With whom they share a constitution, a central government, educational boards, national institutions,a film industry (it may be a Hindi language industry, but it’s certainly not a “North” Indian one), a cricket team- you know, the whole one nation thing. Highly odd, and more than a little annoying, I must say.

  39. Yet you feel that it is totally appropriate for you to subject us to your unsolicited sermons on how South Indians (not just Tamilians, your ethnic kin, but all South Indians, living below an imaginary line on the map that suits your fancy) should relate to their fellow countrymen- With whom they share a constitution, a central government, educational boards, national institutions,a film industry (it may be a Hindi language industry, but it’s certainly not a “North” Indian one), a cricket team- you know, the whole one nation thing.

    much respeck , thalaivar, for dealing with this jujube properly.

  40. Corpse Commander, as I’ve said repeatedly, my point is about South Indians abroad, particularly in America, not South Indians in India. You’re missing that but picking up on my one Lankan reference? My mother was born in SL, yes, and my father in TN, but the main reason I said that is that my Tamil-language tutor as a kid was from Jaffna, so my language which is necessarily a second language and hence a bit formal, lacks good TN slang.

  41. As I’ve said repeatedly, my point is about South Indians abroad, particularly in America, not South Indians in India.

    They may reside anywhere, but as long as they are technically Indians from any geographical location, everything that I pointed out above still holds. As for their progeny, they (you) have essentially been freed from the cultural/political/social baggage that your parents left behind. By your own logic, if your parents wanted you to be South Indian, they would have raised you in South India. So in this context, being so selectively disparaging of North Indian culture against all others smacks of a deep rooted prejudice. I suggest you take a long holiday in India, and please do spend some time to the North of the Vindhyas.

  42. ak:

    Things like bhangra appeal to people because they’re fun, and a way to let loose, and offer a different form of expression than e.g. bharata natyam.

    ak, may I again suggest kuchipudi instead?

  43. pingpong, your cross-referencing is very impressive – i’ve missed your humour. and kuchipudi is indeed the perfect solution to my tamil-telugu identity crisis. but did you instead mean disco kuchipudi? looks a lot more fun ;)