Travel Blog

31 Aug

Vancouver’s Secret Bollywood Connection: The bhangra dancing story

desiFEST: UBC Girlz Bhangra Team

If you’re a fan of Bollywood films or have seen the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, you know bhangra dancing.  The lively Indian music and dance form originated in the 11th century in the northwestern Punjab region.  Local farmers would celebrate each harvest with elaborate, jubilant steps.  Over the centuries, bhangra grew to be a pivotal piece of national culture – celebrated in pop music and film soundtracks and exported around the world by Indian expats.

And among the more unlikely places where bhangra took root was on the extreme west coast of Canada in Vancouver.

The city’s enormously diverse population includes some 200,000 people of Indian and Pakistani descent, many of whom hail from the very Punjab region where bhangra was born.  They introduced bhangra to the city and passed on a love for traditional music and dance to their children.  Today, Vancouver boasts one of North America’s most vibrant bhangra scenes, with thousands of dedicated musicians and dancers participating in community groups, collegiate clubs and competitive dancing teams.

desiFEST: UBC Girlz Bhangra Team

Visitors can get a taste for this rich and unique chapter of Vancouver’s history at, an exhibit at the Museum of Vancouver.  Public dance and music workshops give guests a chance to experience bhangra for themselves and learn moves from the latest Bollywood hits.  The exhibit also shows off elaborately decorated costumes, artifacts, exotic instruments and stories from 60 years of bhangra in Vancouver. campaign for the Museum of Vancouver runs through October 23.  Check out the Museum of Vancouver website for more details.

Any bhangra fans out there?  Can you suggest any places in the city to see live bhangra dancing?

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