Celebrating our past - preserving our future

Virsa

VIRSA has been a leading force in the North of England delivering high quality, world class Bhangra workshops and seminars over the last two decades. Our specialised team of professional dancers understand the intrinsic link between engagement, education and entertainment and the empowering properties of performing Bhangra

Led by Hardeep Sahota, who has also accomplished a Masters by Research degree on the history of Bhangra, given the name 'Bhangra Renaissance' to this project because of his concerted efforts to explore an array of intellectual inquiries from literature, philosophy, art, music, to oral histories, science, spirituality and faith. Explorations of these foundational elements are key for a new Renaissance in Bhangra.

Hardeep is a secondary school art teacher, choreographer, academic, artist and an avid bastion for the art form of Bhangra. He has always believed in open-access to Bhangra dance and music lessons for all. He is a creative visionary, as he hopes that one day hundreds of thousands of people from around the world will take part in a global 'World Bhangra Day', where participants will celebrate and perform Bhangra, in unison and share this experience through the power of new technologies.

Project Acknowlegdments

Bhangra Renaissance

The Bhangra Renaissance project is kindly supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Short History
The project focuses on the origins of the dance form of bhangra and its impact on the identity and shared heritage of participants in Kirklees and across the region. VIRSA (which means heritage in Panjabi) is a community group made up of young volunteers who conduct research, practice and celebrate the heritage of South Asian Arts in Kirklees. Working with a range of services from the museums, libraries, local schools, colleges and Huddersfield University.

We aim to strengthen the understanding and the preservation of memories based around Bhangra, a folk dance from the Indian sub-continent.

Through community projects and workshops we will be able to give participants a richer sense of identity and a deeper understanding of the cultural heritage of Bhangra. The project will also be an opportunity to develop new bonds, understanding and fellowships with members of the wider community through the dissemination of the project.

Fiona Spiers, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund Yorkshire and the Humber, said "Bhangra music and dance features heavily in the heritage of communities that have migrated from South Asia to Kirklees in the last 50 years. This project will enable volunteers to learn new skills to uncover and celebrate the art of bhangra, bringing together different generations to learn about this unique heritage."

The three primary outcomes for the Bhangra renaissance project are;

These short stories/interviews record first hand true life stories from the 1950's to the present date. They capture the shared heritage of the South Asian Diaspora across the region. Their aim is to share the rich social and cultural heritage of Bhangra with a new audience. These oral history recordings are currently being collated and will be archived and available at the Tolson Museum memory bank.

We are pleased to confirm the leading photographer Tim Smith has collated an art exhibition tracing the origins of Bhangra from the Panjab.

The main exhibition will be supported by work from

Book Cover

Bhangra: Mystics, Music and Migration Bhangra: Mystics, Music and Migration explores the origins of this folk song and dance from the Panjab in South Asia and its development into part of modern British culture in the hybrid soundscape of British Bhangra and beyond.

This book originated in academic research and the Heritage-Lottery funded Bhangra Renaissance project. Through ethnographic research, oral history interviews, performances, photography, story-telling and community activity it celebrates the past contribution of all those involved in Bhangra.

This ground-breaking work provides an in-depth history of the spiritualism of performance and song, and an overview of the artists involved in influencing its development, as well as contemporaries leading the way of Bhangra's renaissance amongst the South Asian diaspora in the UK and around the world.

Purchase from Amazon
or from Huddersfield University

Bibliography

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Electronic Resources

The Bhangra. Clint Kelly and Jasjeet Thind ; Extract from article available from [Accessed 10th September 2009]

Bhangra definition. Available from: [Accessed 16th December 2019]

Article on Bhangra, Punjabi Folk Dance, Available from: [Accessed 18th July 2011]

Article from the Britannica Ecyclopedia, Bhangra. Primary Contributor: Virginia Gorlinski. Available from: [Accessed 18th July 20011]

Article Chronological History – Bhangra and its Origins, from Soho Road to the Punjab website: Available from: [Accessed 6th October 2009]

Information from 'History of Punjab: gives a more comprehensive look at the turbulent history of the Panjab: Comprehensive text of Punjabi History: Available from: [Accessed 7th July 2010]

Article on Jatt surnames. Available from: [Accessed 25th April 2010]

Article on the Bhakti Kaal movement. Available from: [Accessed 13th October 2011]

Article on Shaster Vidiya. Available from: [Accessed 25th April 2010]

Article on food produce in the Panjab. Available from: [Accessed 8th October 2011]

Article on Suffism. Available from: [Accessed 23rd July 2011]

Article on Baba Farid Ji. Available from: [Accessed 2nd June 2010]

Article on Bhagat Kabir Ji. Available from: [Accessed 2nd June 2010]

Article on Kathak Dance. Available from: [Accessed 13th October 2011]

Article on the Bhakti movement and dance. Available from: [Accessed 13 October 2011]

Article on Sikh Gurus. Available from: [Accessed 24th September 2011]

Article on Sikh Gurus. Available from: [Accessed 24th September 2011]

Article on Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Available from: [Accessed 19th August 2011]

Article on Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Available from: [Accessed 19th August 2011]

Article on Siri Guru Har Gobind Ji. Available from: - [Accessed 19th August 2011]

Article on Boliyan. Available from: [Accessed 8th May 2010]

Article on the Sarangi instrument. Available from : [Accessed 19h July 2011]

Article on Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Available from: [Accessed 25th June 2010]

Article on the Sarbloh Granth. Available from: [Accessed 1st August 2011]

Article on Suriya Partap Granth. Available from: [Accessed 1st August 2011]

Article on Gur Gobind Singh Ji. Available from: [Accessed 1st August 2011]

Article on Aadh Granth Sahib. Available from: [Accessed 1st August 2011]

Article on Bhai Gurdas Diyan Vaaran. Available from: [Accessed 2nd December 2010]

Article on the village of Heer, Jhang. Available from: [Accessed 22nd June 2011]

Article on The British Empire. Available from: [Accessed 13th September 2011]

Forum on Mixing The Sacred & The Profane: Gospel vs Secular Culture...Music. Available from: [Accessed 11th July 2011]

Article on Music in Islam. Available from: [Accessed 11th July 2011]

Quote from; Indian Classical Dances, History of Classical Dances, Performing Classical Dance, India: Available from: [Accessed 10th March 2011]

Quote from; The Neural Basis of Human Dance. England < http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/16/8/1157.full> [Accessed 10th March 2011]

Article on the Dhangari people. Available from: [Accessed 17th June 2011]

Definition of dhol drum. Available from: [Accessed 17th June 2011]

Article on Nihang Singhs. Available from: [Accessed 4th January 2011]

Article on Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s composition Chandi di Var. Available from: < [Accessed 4th January 2011]

Article on the Sutlej River. Available from: [Accessed 4th October 2011]

Article on Partition. Available from: [Accessed 20th September 2011]

Article on the British Empire and the cost of human life. Available from: [Accessed 20th September 2011]

Article on the Singh Sabha Movement. Available from: [Accessed 11th July 2010]

Article on the Sikh Rehat Maryada. Available from: [Accessed 11th July 2010]

Article on Partition. Available from: [Accessed 11th July 2010]

Gurdas Mann's emotional interview about 1984 Operation Bluestar. Available from: [Accessed 5th August 2011]

Bhangra: A Political Economic Breakdown By Krishneil Maharaj: Available from: [Accessed 3rd July 2011]

Singh, S. & Gill, M. S. (2002). Social and Psycological Trauma of the Displaced: A study of Partition of India. Available from: [Accessed 19th August 2011]

The Sacred dance: a study in comparative folklore (1923). Available from: [Accessed 19th August 2011]

Bhangra spreads its empire: Article on Partition. Available from: [Accessed 24th September 2011]

Article on Asian migration to Southall. Available from: [Accessed 24th September 2011]

Article on: History of Bhangra. Article on Available from: [Accessed 21st September 2010]

Article on, Dance and Human Rights: An interview with Christopher Bruce, Artistic Director, Rambert Dance Company July,1999: Available from: [Accessed 12th August 2011]

Article on, A Demographic Case Study of Forced Migration: The 1947 Partition of India. Available from: [Accessed 6th September 2011]

Article on, Ethnographic Mapping and the Construction of the British Census in India: Kevin Hobson. Available from: [Accessed 10th September 2009]

Information on Britains Got Bhangra – Rifco Arts. Available from: [Accessed 13th June 2010]

Online documentary based on alcoholism and drug addiction in the Panjab. Available from: [Accessed 17th August 2011]

Article on Gramophone recordings. Available from: [Accessed 14th July 2011]

Article on Uhdam Singh in Popular Memory. Vinay Lal. Available from: [Accessed 21st August 2011]

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Article on Sufism Available from: [Acessed on the 12th March 2011.]

World Bhangra Day

The World Bhangra Day celebrations took place in Huddersfield, and were held on the 13th April 2013 to coincide with the cultural festival of Vaisakhi. It was the first ever grassroots celebration of Bhangra on a global scale. There were three main parts of the day. The first was a venue wide art exhibition held at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, which traced the shared heritage and origins of Bhangra. The panels that chart a historical time-line through photography, art and archive material were further enhanced by artwork contributed from local, national and international photographers and artists.

Event 1

Art Exhibition Lawrence Batley Museum 18th March to 13th April 2013.
An art exhibition tracing the shared heritage and origins of Bhangra.

Art Exhibition Lawrence Batley Museum Bhangra Renaissance - View on YouTube

Event 2

The second event was a symposium based on Bhangra held at the University of Huddersfield's Researches Hub and co-ordinated by esteemed academic Dr. Rajinder Dudrah, author of the Soho Road to the Punjab - Bhangra book......more   

World Bhangra Day Symposium Photo Gallery World Bhangra Day Symposium - View on YouTube

Event 3

The World Bhangra Day concert took place at the Huddersfield Town Hall as a grand finale in the evening. It was an international celebration of the Art form of Bhangra through music and dance......more   

World Bhangra Day Photo Gallery World Bhangra Day 2013 Live Concert Pt. 1 - View on YouTube World Bhangra Day 2013 Live Concert Pt. 2 - View on YouTube

Educational Resources

Panjab offers the richest and probably the most lavish spread as far as its musical traditions go; from Bhakti at one end, to Sufi mysticism at the other, and from the high portals of the classical genre to robust folk traditions.

These varied forms have flourished side by side here for centuries.

Panjab is a multi-layered cultural region and its music tradition stretches back thousands of years to the Vedic period.

Lying between the Gangeatic plain with its agricultural riches and the steppes of central Asia, this region has been exposed to many cultures, each with its own musical mode.

It is this unrelenting exposure to the new that has given Panjab's folk music a remarkable sophistication.

- Dr Alka Pande - From mustard fields to Disco lights

Explore the Soundscape of the Panjab through this interactive timeline.

Learn the Basics of Bhangra and dhol drumming

Contact Us.

Hardeep Sahota, a secondary school art teacher with over 15 years of experience, holds a Masters degree in the History of Bhangra and is an expert in teaching and delivering professional Bhangra and Dhol workshops. For more information or to book please contact us on

T: (UK) 07944536835
E: djdeepsta@hotmail.com

lottery funded
contact Lion Mascot

The VIRSA team would like to gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which made this project possible. We would also like to offer our sincere appreciation to all the artists, photographers, volunteers, researchers and interviewees for their valuable contributions to the creation of this exhibition and book. Our grateful thanks go to everyone who has contributed to the project. Many people were extremely generous with their time, sharing their memories and experiences.

We would like to thank the following: Project Support - Tim Smith | Ranjit Uppal | Rajinder Dudrah | Parmjit Singh Editorial Support - Elizabeth Smith | Angie de Courcy Bower | Elizabeth Pente | Pat Hill Guidance - Ashok Bansal Mansa | Ruby Singh | Champak Kumar | Irna Quresi | Sarbjit Kaur Bhullar | Karamjit Kaur Samra | Mandy Samra | Palvinder Singh Volunteers, Musicians and Performers - Gupsy Aujla | Dhruv Jogia | Amraj Randhawa | Mandy Dosanjh | Sukhi Sahota | Gobinda Singh | Danarjan Singh | Prabhjot Singh | Aman Sangha | Swarnjit Kaur | Jasbir Sahota | Pamalpreet Kaur | Gurpreet Kaur | Jaspal kaur | Ravi Kaur | Raman Kaur | Harjinder Kaur | Gurdeep Kaur | Simran Sahota Support for World Bhangra Day Concert - Aruna Swallow & the team at Huddersfield Town Hall| Roz Garthwaite & Kirklees Council | Murray Forrest | Kirklees TV | Aurangzeb Khan | Emma Wheelan | Errol Barrows | Kirsti Larder | Nusrat Bibi Asha | Shaveta Sharma | Sarinder Singh | Roni Atwal | Amritpal Singh Atwal | Rani Aujla | Arun Uppal | Nihaal Singh | Jagjeet Singh | Harpreet Kaur | Genma Wilson | Florence Wilson | Fez Cultural Ambassadors - Amardeep Sirha, Mexico | Jasvinder Singh, Madrid | Manpreet Dhillon, Vancouver | Vicky Virk, San Francisco | Harry Anand, Mumbai | Jeets Academy Team, Mumbai Dholies - Dilraj Randhawa | Aman Sangha | Sunny Sangha | Pups | Rav | Gary | Manni | Jaspreet Singh| Lovepreet | Rossie | Sukhi | Kiran All Schools, Colleges and Universities that participated Guest performers - Sukhi Bart | Malkit Singh Shin DCS Contributing Artists - Sara Rizvi | Zara Hussain | Vimal Verma | Ollie Smith Fresh Kids | Kierandip Sahota | Jemimah Canegrati | Thomas (Zwei) Shepard Photography Tim Smith | Ammy Phull | Gursh Channa | Jason Schmidt | Ian Kennedy | Darshan Singh | Professor Surinder Singh, Raj Academy | Image Permissions - Burhan Farooqui, Clarient | Paramjit Singh, Kashi House | Kimberley Albento, The Custom Family Interviewees - Pammi Bhai | Dr Alka Pande | Kuldeep Manak | AS Kang | Amritpal (aka Pops – Tigerstyle) | Karm Singh Aujla | Dhesi Singh | Harnam Singh |Swaranjit Kaur | Mohinder Singh, San Fracisco | Deepak Sunami | Dilbadshah Singh

Web Support – Arun Thapar

Book - Elements of chapter five have been taken from Punch Records' 2004 - 2010 touring exhibition 'Soho Road to Punjab' and also from Rajinder Dudrah (2011) 'British Bhangra Music as Soundscapes of the Midlands', Midland History. Volume 36, no. 2, pp.278-291.

The Soho Road to Punjab exhibition was the first popular exploration of Bhangra in the UK and was conceived by Punch's CEO Ammo Talwar with DJ and journalist Boy Chana. It was written, researched and curated by Simon Redgrave, with support from Boy Chana, Xzecutive Productionz' San-J Sanj, Kalyan from Alaap, journalist and radio presenter Kash Sahota and Manchester creative consultant Sheni Ravji- Smith. Further information can be found at: www.punch-records.co.uk and www.sohoroadtothepunjab.org.uk.

Information has also been contributed in kind by Kuljit Bhamra MBE from - The 'Decades of Bhangra' CD booklet entitled 'The Birth of Southall Bhangra' published in 2010. Further information can be found at: www.thesouthallstory.com.

Photographs and images have been submitted by a huge range of contributors and we have carried out research to identify rights holders of those reproduced in the book and website. When possible all identified artists, photographers and rights holders are credited.