Bhangra star Dalvinder Singh at Heritage Hall, June 5

The eighth annual City of Bhangra Festival (May 31-June 10) is in full swing across Vancouver this week, celebrating lively bhangra music and dancing from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan.  With high-energy, infectious songs and colourful dance routines, bhangra has caught on across North America and especially in Vancouver.

And one of the biggest stars in contemporary bhangra, the UK’s Dalvinder Singh, is coming to Heritage Hall on Main Street on Tuesday, June 5.  If you’re a bhangrahead – or just a fan of great world music performed at the highest level – this is one show you shouldn’t miss.

Bhangra music has its roots in traditional songs from the Punjab region.  But it actually originated in Britain in the 1980s, when Punjabi immigrants took those folk sounds and incorporated contemporary rock, R&B and – later – hip-hop – instruments and beats.  It is in many ways a music of identity and protest – focused on affirming a positive sense of self and Punjabi culture.

Instruments used vary widely, from contemporary synthesizers and drum machines to traditional string instruments like sitars and sarangis and percussion including the dhad, doki and damru drums.

Singer Dalvinder Singh is one of the most respected traditionalists in the genre.  In his live performances, he emphasizes the original Punjabi roots of bhangra music, with famously smooth vocals.

The concert at Heritage Hall on Main Street should offer a fantastic initiation into bhangra for newcomers.  Singh traces the music from its folk origins to its current-day incarnation as a meld of pop, R&B and Punjabi music.  Tickets are $29 and available from Tickets Tonight.

If you miss Singh at Heritage Hall, you can also see him for free at Downtown Bhangra, the festival’s closing party outside the Vancouver Art Gallery June 9-10.  He performs at 5:50 p.m. on June 9, part of a two-day line-up of performers including bhangra dancers and breakdancers, beat-boxers and drummers and internationally acclaimed singers.

Any other can’t-miss City of Bhangra events?  Let us know!

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