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. Corpse Commander, your comment in #97 makes sense if and only if “Indian” is understood to mean exclusively “a national of India.” This is not its only or only standard meaning, as I suspect you know. See, for example, #’s 3, 4, 8 & 11 in the following mainstream English definition, if you wish to be difficult on the topic. So, I’m not sure why you’re putting such a narrow interpretation on what I’ve meant by “Indian”–it’s simply inaccurate in a plain-language sense. Also, on a more subtle level, note that NRIs in the USA can, for example, donate to US political campaigns, count for allocation of legislative districts, pay taxes, etc. So you are being weird if you think that NRI’s are wholly separable from ABD’s in terms of involvement/engagement/relevance to North American culture, politics, and economics. Uncle, please!

  2. As a North Indian fan of bharatnatyam (and classical Indian dance in general) I’m surprised to hear some of Tamilian’s comments. Sure, bhangra has begun to represent south asia’s contribution to global pop culture, but South Indian traditions, for various historical regions, have come to represent CLASSIC Indian culture in its unadulterated form. North and west India has no classical dance tradition to speak of besides Kathak, which has a great deal of Turkish and Persian influence. Why should one feel threatened by bhangra and bollywood becoming part of pan-south asian popular culture, if South Indian classical dances are already part of pan-south asian HIGH culture? Chola bronzes (the nataraja that’s in every hindu household), carnatic music, etc. are authentically Indian in a very real way (not to take away from the achievements of Indo-Islamic culture…its awesome as well).

    As for Hindi, its a vernacular descendant of Sanskrit-which is nearly if not equally important in South Indian culture as Tamil-that a lot of south asians happen to know. That some south indians would adopt it seems like an acceptable notion…nothing marginalizing about that. Even genetically, most South Asian groups cluster along a north-south axis, but cluster nevertheless. As Razib previously stated, we are more similar than different. Watching a Tamil movie may be a bizarre experience to a northie, but IMO its the similarity despite the differences that accounts for the “alienness” of it, kind of like a cultural Uncanny Valley.

  3. I’m surprised to hear some of Tamilian’s comments.

    as a sane person, i am surprised to hear so many people engaging tamilian’s asinine comments and indulging in exegesis of its silly statements.

  4. as a sane person, i am surprised to hear so many people engaging tamilian’s asinine comments and indulging in exegesis of its silly statements.

    I think the point being missed here one that tamilian has repeated over and over again. Lets take one single issue and go from there : Bollywood. Why is bollywood somehow the only definition of Indian cinema accepted as desi by america? I would argue that the problem for indians in america has more to do with non-indians and how many of them view indians as a monolithic entity. Its therefore a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy that south asians are a victim of when raised in a country where they are expected to define desi-ness through culturally alien things such as bollywood. Also noteworthy is that there is also a very real version of the north south cultural divide that plays out in India, but that is not the point of debate here. Tamilians comments are not asinine, your’s are simply anti-intellectual.

  5. Tamilians comments are not asinine, your’s are simply anti-intellectual.

    a. it’s yours. b. there is no need to masquerade as a second commenter to support yourself. c. i guess any tripe can be passed off as intellectual these days….

    Why is bollywood somehow the only definition of Indian cinema accepted as desi by america?

    what the hell does this mean? who is “america” and who is doing the “accepting”?

  6. a. it’s yours. b. there is no need to masquerade as a second commenter to support yourself. c. i guess any tripe can be passed off as intellectual these days….

    Why is bollywood somehow the only definition of Indian cinema accepted as desi by america? what the hell does this mean? who is “america” and who is doing the “accepting”?

    I assure you friend that I am not the original commentator. The rest of what you said is not worth responding to.

  7. The rest of what you said is not worth responding to.

    oh come on, tamilian. no need to take so much offense. by the way, it would be “i assure you, friend, that…”.

    intellectually yours, another t.

  8. oh come on, tamilian. no need to take so much offense. by the way, it would be “i assure you, friend, that…”.

    intellectually yours, another t.

    Bud, quit while your’re just a little behind.

  9. Who said Bollywood is the only definition of Indian film accepted as Desi? What about Buffalaxed? Little Superstar?

    Hindi will always be a controversial topic, but IMO its not that great of a hurdle.

    Bollywood has primacy because is the only pan-Indian film industry around. The native language in Maharashtra is MARATHI. Why is bollywood making movies in Hindi? Because Bollywood makes movies for ALL Indians, and the fact is most Indians speak Hindi. Even in a so-called Southern state like Andrah Pradesh loads of people speak hindi/urdu (Hyderabad).

    Have you seen a lot of Marathi movies? Gujarati ones? How about Bhojpuri?

    Loads of South Indian talent goes into Bollywood. A. R. Rahman? Shankar Mahadevan? And of course, many gorgeous Bollywood actresses. Several high-profile Tamil directors have made Bollywood movies. Mani Ratnam?

    The question I would ask is, why NOT Bollywood?

  10. I’d add that South Indian cinema (Tamil and Telegu) doesn’t seem appreciably different from Bollywood (could be wrong, so feel free to enlighten me). And what about dubs? Roja? Humseh he Muqabula? Bombay? All popular Tamil movies dubbed in Hindi that have been very successful with North Indians.

  11. Even in a so-called Southern state like Andrah Pradesh loads of people speak hindi/urdu (Hyderabad).

    “So-called Southern”? What? And if you continue to refer to Hyderabad as being in Andhra Pradesh instead of Telengana, I shall go on a fast.

    Actually I need to lose about 10 pounds, so if you can mix AP and Telengana for a little while it’ll give me some incentive.

  12. ak, have to disagree on the puli-interpretation, his use of “as alien to me as any other culture” suggests no particular appeal.

    This is the correct interpretation. a lot of those guys think that i should somehow be north indian for reasons i never understood. north indian culture is as alien to me as any other culture. i dont mind learning about bhangra for the same reason i dont mind leaning about roman culture or chinese opera. but, the assumption is somehow i dont know “my” culture because im not into hindi and bhangra. but im just not a north indian. somehow this fact just bounces off north indian americans heads… also, my upbringing by my parents seems to make ppl think im white washed. they act like i need to be lying to my parents have have parents that are completely clueless or i am somehow not plugged into the desi experience….its just not how my community works.

  13. I think the point being missed here is that these things are not mutually exclusive. I like Bollywood films, but I have also watched and enjoyed Tamil films, Bangla films, etc. Liking Bollywood does not preclude me from liking or exploring films from other regions of India.

    If we want to talk about Indians in the U.S.– most Indians in the U.S. (born or moved from India) that I have interacted with are much more likely to mix between regional/culturalinguistic groups than I see in India. My north Indian friend in grad school had a Tamil speaking roommate, a Telugu speaking roommate, and another guy who I think was from north India. When I hung out at their house I could be offered sambhar one day and some north dish the next. Those guys (all from India, not born in the U.S.) watched Bollywood in addition to their regional films, and didn’t all all seem to be convinced that north Indian cultural was taking over everything else. Another grad school friend from Rajastan lived with a Malayali and we would all eat idli together there at their house, yum!

    Of course there will be a more pan-indian thing going on the U.S. simply because there are less Indians and not all of them are from the same place– where I live, pretty much every Indian I run into is a Patel, (and there are not too many Indians at all, anyways) so I’m sure if one of said Patel’s ran into a Nair they would find some common pan-Indian thing to share.

    I work in a place where I deal with a lot of immigrant related tasks, and when I do said tasks for Indians, I notice most of the Indians immigrating currently are from the Punjab and Gujarat. Since Bhangra is from the Punjab, then doesn’t it really make sense that it is on the forefront, seeing as how a larger population is coming from that area?

    And Bollywood is the biggest film industry in the world, many people all over the world watch it, not just North Indians (it is very popular in Nepal (my Nepali friend learned Hindi from Bollywood) Afghanistan, and I even read how it is actually very popular in certain countries in Africa as well. (I think one of the articles I read was about Ghana, but it has been awhile, so I could be mistaken)

    One of my good college friends family was from Kerala, and while he had a strong Syrian Orthodox Mayali community that he grew up with, he also grew up watching Bollywood movies with his family. In fact, he is the one who first bought me a Hindi book and encouraged me to learn Hindi.

    I think the issue here for you, Tamilian, is more internal for you. I think you are probably kind of searching for your identity and trying to define yourself and your place in the world. Being Tamil is very important and meaningful for you, which is totally fine, and should be something you can take pride in.

    At the same time, I see your search as a very American thing– in this country people love to search and try to find “who” they are and often do this by consuming different products– should I buy punk clothes or preppie? Should I listen to rap or classical? Should I drive a Prius or a Jeep? Should I watch Hollywood? Indie Films? Bollywood?

    The thing is, what you CONSUME is not and should not be your identity. No matter what you do, you are still Tamil. You can define what kind of a Tamil you want to be, but if you decide to wear kurtas or jeans really isn’t going to change who you are or your identity, it is just a change of clothes.

  14. We are conflating subjects here.

    The question I would ask is, why NOT Bollywood?

    Thats great but its not what is being discussed. The question is why is it that a south indian growing up in the US is made to feel that his/her authenticity is measured by north indian cultural artifacts. There is no debate regarding bollywoods dominance in indian cinema.

    I work in a place where I deal with a lot of immigrant related tasks, and when I do said tasks for Indians, I notice most of the Indians immigrating currently are from the Punjab and Gujarat. Since Bhangra is from the Punjab, then doesn’t it really make sense that it is on the forefront, seeing as how a larger population is coming from that area?

    Excellent. Thank you for contributing something meaningful to the conversation. Sounds like this would have a lot to do with how indians are percieved in the US. Its probably the closest thing to a ‘why’ we have come up with so far in the american context.

    I’d add that South Indian cinema (Tamil and Telegu) doesn’t seem appreciably different from Bollywood (could be wrong, so feel free to enlighten me). And what about dubs? Roja? Humseh he Muqabula? Bombay? All popular Tamil movies dubbed in Hindi that have been very successful with North Indians.

    They are quite different. I would also add that south indian cinema tends to be far more regional in its audience vs north indian cinema. For example, tamil movies are watched almost exclusively by tamil people whereas bollywood movies tend to cater to gujaratis, punjabis, etc.. The regional nature of the audience in south india also adds to the alienness of bollywood in many places. Those movies you mention are by far the exception vs the norm. North indians are far less likely to watch south indian cinema than vice-versa.

  15. Most indians watch bollywood movies because they can understand the language.Learning Hindi is compulsory in all indian schools whether it is North India or South India.A lot of North indians practise Bharathanatyam,kathakali and other South indian dance forms.

  16. Anon (#114) you are also forgetting that there are many northern regional language film industries too– Bhojpuri, Bengali, etc. All of those are not as talked about as Bollywood either.

  17. Anon (#114) you are also forgetting that there are many northern regional language film industries too– Bhojpuri, Bengali, etc. All of those are not as talked about as Bollywood either

    Correct, but what I am saying is that Bollywood caters more to a north Indian audience. The regional industries certainly exist but that is not particularly of interest to what I’m saying.

  18. I think the issue here for you, Tamilian, is more internal for you. I think you are probably kind of searching for your identity and trying to define yourself and your place in the world.

    This was the impression I received, too. She’s sorting this all out for herself, but in the process, she’s projecting her personal views of how she wants to live onto everyone at large, which really isn’t the best idea, as I think we all know. ;) There are way too many situations and circumstances to consider–no two people define their own cultural identity the same way and you (this is a general “you,” not directed at any one person) really can’t judge someone’s personal cultural definitions by your own personal standards.

  19. Also, this conversation really has nothing to do with bollywood. For the record I do think bollywood is heads and shoulders above other regional industries so my statements should not be taken as a slight against it.

  20. Learning Hindi is compulsory in all indian schools whether it is North India or South India.

    erroneous.

  21. “Anon (#114) you are also forgetting that there are many northern regional language film industries too– Bhojpuri, Bengali, etc. All of those are not as talked about as Bollywood either

    “Correct, but what I am saying is that Bollywood caters more to a north Indian audience. The regional industries certainly exist but that is not particularly of interest to what I’m saying.”

    Maybe part of the problem is that the regional language film industries, northern and southern, sometimes do get labeled as “Bollywood” by non-desis? Like if a movie in Malayalam with English subtitles is playing at an art-house cinema in an American city, a whole bunch of Americans who notice and who aren’t desi would think “oh yeah, that’s a Bollywood movie.” I can see how American adults claiming that if it’s an Indian film it’s Bollywood could give American youngsters (including Desi-American kids who overhear this stuff) the impression that if it’s not Bollywood it’s not an Indian film…

  22. Maybe part of the problem is that the regional language film industries, northern and southern, sometimes do get labeled as “Bollywood” by non-desis? Like if a movie in Malayalam with English subtitles is playing at an art-house cinema in an American city, a whole bunch of Americans who notice and who aren’t desi would think “oh yeah, that’s a Bollywood movie.” I can see how American adults claiming that if it’s an Indian film it’s Bollywood could give American youngsters (including Desi-American kids who overhear this stuff) the impression that if it’s not Bollywood it’s not an Indian film…

    The truth is that most Indian cinema that gets to the US or has significant international buzz tends — and let me repeat, tends, to be from mainstream Bollywood. This is simply due to bollywoods place in the industry. While it is entirely plausible that there is someone walking around thinking that a malayalam movie he/she just watched is bollywood, its not significant to what i am saying.

  23. No matter what you do, you are still Tamil.

    why? because i was born into it?

    wasn’t the entire alienation angst and emo stuff done with in the 90s? is it still so fashionable that we need to find excuses to wallow in it?

  24. well, yeah actually you are born a Tamil. Just like I was born a Croatian/German/etc/whatever.

    I eat palachinke and povitica and enjoy Spingerle at Christmas because it was passed down in my family from my Croatian/German sides respectively.

    But if I stop eating them and only eat “Bouche de Noel” it won’t make my ancestry suddenly disappear.

    And no, unfortunately, I don’t think the alienation/emo angst will ever be done with. Someone always has something to feel alienated or angsty about. And before emo there were plenty of other especially angsty people. Maybe America should be known for it’s angst and inner turmoil. ;)

  25. Thank you puli, for #112; a thousand-times thank you–you validate my view against the critics, who go way too far in my point of view in exaggerating my claim. I won’t repeat my point because I think I’ve been clear enough.

  26. well, yeah actually you are born a Tamil. Just like I was born a Croatian/German/etc/whatever.

    but that wasnt the point, was it? you said “No matter what you do, you are still Tamil. “. whcih reads to me as a statement about my identity, not my ancestry. and identities are as much created and molded, probably more so, than inherited.

  27. well, I don’t think it’s that simple.

    Being Tamil has to do with ethnicity, culture AND linguistic identity. Growing up in America, you might take different parts of the last two (or not have any of those) but you would still, technically be Tamil regardless.

    My point is more about what you consume– if you get hung up on what you should consume “as a Tamil” it becomes a little silly, doesn’t it?

    And if people would like to think that all Tamilians in India/Sri Lanka express themselves in one singular way, than of course we would be doing a great disservice to people.

    My point was that it is not something clear cut, such as “Tamils should eat this, Croatians should listen to that music, Germans should wear these clothes.” I think the ethnic-cultural-linguistic connections come more from your ties to people– family, friends, community, and your knowledge and interest to be informed and appreciate various things about the culture.

    I am probably not speaking very clearly, as I am sort of just running with my thoughts (it is late, isn’t it?) but I just think Americans have this tragic ability to equate everything with ‘what kind of consumer are you?”. being part of ANY group becoming purchasing ‘the right’ items for the identity at hand. Get your special moisture wicking sun-proof mosquito repellent shirt and BAM you are an expert hiker. Buy some black clothes and spiky jewelery and you can now officially express your angst with the ‘preppie’ norm. Coming out? Cut your hair and buy some men’s clothes to properly express your lesbian-hood.

    My argument is that what you consume does not make or change who you are (unless it is some crazy freakish thing– like “I buy corpses”, then of course that has some sort of moral implication attached to it.) But something like enjoying Bhangra or Bollywood? What does it really mean? Not too much. It’s pretty simple and straight forward. Maybe I sound all “Mr, Rogers” or whatnot, but isn’t is really more important to feel secure and happy with ourselves as a human being, or Tamil, or Croat or whatnot, rather than trying to ‘find’ some sort of identity outside of ourselves (i.e. in consumer goods/actions)?

    Don’t get me wrong, I definitely went through that stage as well– I was miss “punk rock” in high school and had all the outfits etc to properly display my leftie political anger and rebellion against the mainstream.. ;) I think most Americans go through that process with the current consumer climate. But I think it is good to learn and grow and at some point I realized that conforming to rebellion is kind of the same as conforming to the norm.

    In the end, my identity probably hasn’t changed much in my life– still have the same morals and behavior, same way of interacting with the world (and of course, no one can change their upbringing and family)– but my outward appearance has– I don’t really feel the need to display who I am or what I believe through buying certain things. And I don’t try to evaluate whether or not I should or should not like something based on the Identity I wish/hope to have. I just, as I said before, try to be comfortable and secure in liking the things I like. Not everyone likes this, and many people will make assumptions about me and why I live the way I live, but hey, I can’t please everyone, right?

  28. I read Tamilians comments and stopped at around comment 100 because I got lazy. The ensuing comments must be the same, right? People trying to make Tamilian understand that she doesn’t need to be insecure about her culture and one can embrace all kinds cultures and still be who they are on the inside…

    Anyway. I was once like you–annoyed that my fellow South Indians were gravitating towards bhangra and watching hindi movies over ridiculously cheesy tamil movies. And then I realised all of them knew how to speak their languages, and secretly did watch tamil movies with their parents and had this whole South Indian world I wasn’t aware of. I think what Tamilian’s problem is that she’s afraid her culture isnt considered “cool”. Well, if you keep on saying that, it will be! Make it cool, woman!

    I’m a proud, dorky, South Indian gal who loves Bhangra, Bollywood, Kollywood, and Tollywood. And the thing is, most of the South Indian kids I know are the same. We’ve all danced bharatanatyam at some point in our lives, and we’ve all been to our fair share of garbas/dandias.

    Actually, now that I think of it, I don’t have the same problem Tamilian had growing up. It probably helps that I live in a Indian hotspot with a sizable number of North and South Indians–and the fact that I’m still in high school. I’m sorry that Tamilian has to feel that way, but know the tides are turning! Us southies are getting our time in the sun :)

  29. Wow, this thread has drifted soooo far off topic!! Anyhow, without wading into this whole “my culture vs. your culture” debate, may I just say that I find the idea of Finns doing a bhangra video kinda weird, but kinda captivating also. It’s just amazing to see how far Indian culture has spread around the world. And I say this as a south Indian, mind you. :)

  30. People like Tamilian are all too common. You whine over whatever emasculation u felt at some point, and want the world to accept you but all u do is “discuss at a higher level”. fuck that noise.

    Here’s an example that may serve as an analogy. When hiphop was birthed and started getting popular, it was very much a NYC/East Coast thing. Feeling that their “distinct” culture and voices were not heard, the compton folks weren’t whiny ass shits. they started putting their music out there, repping them. Then u had the hotlanters, and other folks from the south. what none of them did was wait around and whine like a pussy.

    Why is it the punjabis problem that they love their bhangra so much to want to throw their hands in the air like they jus don’t care? what’s stopping u and other tamils from joining ur own dappangoothu band and performing? btw, dappangoothu is the correct comparison for a folk dance from the south and not bharatanatyam as the latter is classical, and doesn’t lend itself to party-sharty and as indication of baby-making ability as much as the koothu.

    And, if you go to any idli-dosa place in tamil nadu, they serve puris and “parottas”. And all of it is considered south indian food. things have a way of being co-opted to a point where everything belongs to everyone.

  31. have to agree wtih delirium their

    the reason bhangra has been big is cuz its open to experimenting

    noones having a problem with singing in finnish

    you have had bhangra being mixed with reggae

    you even have heavy metal bhangra with bands like ludhiana

    some smart tamil kid is probably gonna mix bhangra with bharatnatyam someday

  32. ^ Well that’s sort of like mixing hip-hop with ballet…interesting for novelty value, sure, but bharatnatyam is a classical art form and should be treated as such.

  33. People like Tamilian are all too common. You whine over whatever emasculation u felt at some point, and want the world to accept you but all u do is “discuss at a higher level”. fuck that noise. Here’s an example that may serve as an analogy. When hiphop was birthed and started getting popular,

    Yes, but this is exactly the problem. I don’t identify with bhangra or hiphop. Why should I? I’m down with Bharatanatyam and Mozart. So, I’m ok, you’re ok, but–I’ve had far too many desis in the US try to download their bhangra and hip-hop stuff on me like I’m supposed to like it b/c I’m desi. I wouldn’t tell them they’re not desi b/c they don’t like Bharatanatyam and Mozart. So back off.