Indian Embassy celebrates Punjab region’s rich folk culture [Archives:2008/1180/Last Page]

August 11 2008

Tariq Al-Adil, Bashir Al-Selwi, Iskander Mamari and Ayman Zain
For The Yemen Times

The Indian Embassy celebrated the 61st anniversary of that nation's independence with a bit of local color – the vibrant dancing and music of the Punjab region.

More than 300 people attended last Tuesday's performance, which showcased performers who had journeyed to Sana'a from India's northwestern Punjab region to perform their traditional dances and songs for the crowd of foreigners, Indians and Yemenis alike.

A group of more than 10 dancers, both male and female, wore brightly colored traditional garb from their region while dancing to music performed on a dhol drum and the stringed tumbi, instruments particular to the Indian subcontinent.

Bhangra is lively form of traditional dance usually performed by men, although sometimes with female accompaniment. It first was danced during harvest time, but now has spread to any festive occasions, such as weddings and New Year's celebrations, according to the region's web site, Its popularity has spread worldwide due to Bollywood films featuring this type of music and dance in elaborately choreographed scenes, which are the hallmark of Indian films.

The movements of Bhangra are swift, light-footed and happy, which is appropriate since it is danced at festivals and celebrations. They recount stories, such as ones of love and good harvests. Women's traditional Punjabi dance is called giddha, which uses rhythmic handclapping in its performance.

The male dancers wore salwar kamis, which is a long hemmed shirt worn over pants and topped by elaborate turbans. The women likewise wore bright colors in the form of a tunic and trousers, with a brightly-colored and decorated headscarf draped around them as well.

India's Ambassador to Yemen, Shri Alagapurian Karuppaiyah, expressed his thanks to the Yemeni government on his country's independence day. “On this day, they allowed cultures from all over the world to come here,” he said, “We thank the government for accepting our dancers.”

While the Punjabi dancers were excited to present their culture to a larger audience worldwide, they did not know about Yemen's own traditional dances, such as the baraa, which also may be performed after a harvest.

Dancer Ravinder Singh from Loti Ana in the Punjab region has danced professionally for more than 15 years. “I've represented [my culture] numerous times in about 17 countries,” he said, “Now that I've visited Yemen, I think it's a very old and very good country.”

This was the first time for the group to perform at the embassy in Sana'a, although there were follow-up shows in Aden, Dhamar and Hodeidah, which finished on Friday. There will be another cultural performance at the Indian Embassy in Sana'a this October.