More travels, with photographic and musical accompaniment

by Yule Heibel on January 29, 2006

More travels in “Canadian Style” (see previous post): listen to this MP3 for a dose of Canadian music with a beat all its own. This is Bhangra Beat, a form of traditional Punjabi tribal music fused with North American hip-hop and disco. Listen to more on Signia’s media page. Signia is a group that formed in 2001 (read more on their homepage). From the Canadian National Geographic‘s Bhangra Beat article:

How young women [the UBC Girlz] attending the University of British Columbia (UBC) decide to dance and the necessarily raucous music they choose are both indicators of the vitality of the culture — not of the Punjab, transposed 11,500 kilometres away, but of the new Canada, in one of its many singular and evolving manifestations.

With its large East and South Asian populations, Vancouver is the natural setting for cultural evolution from within these groups. More than half of Canada’s 285,000 Punjabis call the Lower Mainland home, making the region the logical epicentre. More exactly, it is to the sprawling satellite city of Surrey that the majority of young Punjabi Canadians return after rehearsal at UBC or Simon Fraser University. In the suburban basements and community halls of Surrey, a new sound is coming together. And although the official cross is of traditional bhangra and various Western beats, the real encounter is between inherited markers of creative identity — those grounded, so to speak, in that fertile Punjabi soil — and notions that belong to the cultural soil directly beneath our feet. If that makes bhangra hip hop at once a product of tradition and innovation, past and future, East and West, so much the better. Complex identities make for complex and interesting art. The challenge, as it often is, is to reshape the tradition — labour done most easily and naturally in those basements and community halls — and then somehow bring it out to the wider world, fresh and smart and ready to command any dance floor in any Canadian town. (links added) […More…]

If you’re in the Lower Mainland vicinity, you still have time to check out the 3rd annual Punjabi Showdown on March 4, 2006. Punjabi online has lots more info on Bhangra, too.

I found these links through, run by
Christopher De Wolf, who writes The Urban Eye column for Maisonneuve magazine.

It was also that linked to a feature photo-essay by Colin Kent called Urban China. Really fascinating stuff, all in black and white: even the shot called Neon Infested Kowloon is b/w.

How’d I come to visit Through Streets and Soul, a wonderful site maintained by “tha krazy g,” whose hand is also visible in Chicago Above the Rails. If you love Chicago, check this out.

To continue with my travel theme (as I sit here with laptop and sinusitis, moored to the house), check out New York City Subway dot org, which has pages and pages of photos showcasing transit systems around the world.

(All this by way of saying that I didn’t get around to re-viewing the Robert Linsley file I mentioned last time, or writing something more about it. But if you’re interested, here’s the link [opens a RAM file].)

In closing, another Signia tune to listen to… Check out their video, too (Quicktime; for Windows format, go to their media page).

…And yet, grouchy-puss that I am, I have to add that, groovy music and multi-culti vibrancy aside, what bugs me about the images in the video is their emphasis on fast cars. The video is shot in an underground parking lot, so the cars are mostly stationary (or pulling into parking position), but they’re all “fast” and high-end expensive luxury models. The emphasis bugs me because it glamourises the culture of “street racing”: the girls had better be “hot” and the cars had better be “fast.” Is that what multi-cultural fusion boils down to: full-scale adoption of and adaptation to the reigning western ethos of sexualised (and “aggressivised”) competitive consumerism? What do I mean by “aggressive”? Last week in Toronto two street-racing 18-year olds killed a taxi driver (a Pakistani immigrant who was supposed to become a Canadian citizen on Monday; see here), and last night in Vancouver three men were killed in a street racing incident when their BMW spun out of control and was sheared in half. (See here.)

I’ll take the punjabilicious bhangra beat, but guys?, leave the fancy cars and Janet Jackson knock-off babes at home…. You are hot enough without all those extras.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: