A&E » Arts

Bringing up Bhangra in Squamish

Indo-Canadian, First Nations communities celebrate with dance, music, fashion and food



What: Bhangra and Bangles

Where: Totem Hall, Squamish

When: Saturday, June 24

Tickets: $10/$5

In a bizarre twist, it wasn’t until Nina Biln moved to Canada from her native home in New Delhi, India that she began to truly appreciate and learn about her culture.

Each year she returns home to learn more about her ever-changing India and every year the stamp of westernization becomes more and more evident.

"Kids are losing their culture," Biln says. "We need to teach the kids their tradition. I know I missed so much of it because I never learned (it in the) village. I learned about it when I came here. There is lots of good stuff that I want to pass on."

In an effort to both celebrate and educate, Biln, along with other Squamish community members, is hosting a multi-cultural celebration called Bhangra and Bangles, Culture and Curry, Saris and Samosas, Mendhi and Masala on Saturday, June 24 at Totem Hall in Squamish.

The evening is hosted in partnership with Squamish members of the Sikh community, the Squamish First Nation and the Squamish Arts Council.

The Squamish Nation will offer welcome and traditional dances to open the event.

"Every culture has richness and value: It’s nice to be able to share it with each other," Biln says. "We are reaching out, respecting and honouring each other."

First Nations drumming will make way for a taste of India. Sikh women of the Howe Sound Women’s Centre Multicultural Outreach Program will perform traditional Punjabi dances, including the Gidda. The traditional dance includes question and answer calling from the dancers along with complex clapping rhythms they will teach audiences.

Live Indian music will fill the hall with traditional instruments such as the dohl and harmonium. The Lower Mainland’s Jagpreet Bajwa, 11, returns for a special-guest performance on the harmonium.

"The dohl is a big drum; it doesn’t need a mic," Biln said. "The beat is so heavy and sweet. You hear that beat and you want to dance."

A performance from the Duniya Allstars Bhangra Team will be the highlight of the evening. The dance team, who has competed all over North America, brings to life the lively dance born out of Punjab. The dance is accompanied by live music, a raw traditional sound executed by dohl player Raju Johal – don’t worry, songs will be translated for non-Punjabi speakers.

"It’s going to be very colourful," Biln says. "They use the bright traditional costumes from old times."

Saris and suits are not mandatory for the celebration although welcomed. The evening also includes an introduction to the intricate art of mendhi (henna hand painting), eyebrow shaping using threading and a fashion show courtesy of Hi-Class Fashions.

"We will explain the different names for the outfits and which part of India belongs to which dress," Biln says.

The evening will wrap up with dance instruction from The Duniya Allstars. If you’ve seen Bend it Like Beckham or Bride and Prejudice , you’ll know what you are in for.

Threading and mendhi are by donation. Tickets for the celebration are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at Billie’s Bouquet, Hi-Class Fashions, Mostly Books, The Squamish Adventure Centre and Totem Hall.