2. Gendered Space of Punjabi Dance
The dances of Punjab are earthy and robust, just like its people. The land of five rivers… Punjab has given to India a race [sic] that is daring and noble. The Punjabis symbolize freedom of spirit and daredevilry. They regard dancing as their birth right, and their dances reflect this attitude of supreme confidence and conviviality. The people are capable of strenuous work, yet nothing seems to sap them of their infectious zest for life. They do nothing by halves. So they launch into their dances with swaggering gusto and overflowing energy. Bhangra gives this Indian state its very identity. Performed by men, this folk style has jumps, leaps, swirls, skips and hops—just about any physical feat that a virile son-of-the-soil can attempt. It is punctuated by a lot of acrobatics, meant to showcase daredevilry. Clapping, snapping of the fingers, and a recitation of boli [witty couplets] are its specialities. … Gidda [sic] is the feminine riposte to Bhangra, no less colourful or vigorous.
3. Lyrical Machismo
In formulaic folk lyrics, the beloved’s beauty has an intoxicating effect on the Jat as in Asa Singh Mastana’s popular song,Whiskey di botal wargi main ik kudi fasa layi aeMere dil da bojha khali si ohde vich pa layi aeJad jee kardae main datt kholke haarha la lainaI have been able to catch a young woman who is like a bottle of whiskeyI have put her away in my heart that was free of all baggageWhenever I feel like I uncork it and take a swig.(Yamla Jatt 2011, “Whiskey di Botal Wargi”)
Traditional folksong’s gastronomic imagery has been standardized in bhangra songs to describe female beauty as an aphrodisiac that whets the male appetite,Mele nu chal mere naal kurheHo, hoTere nain jo peeti bhang kurheTere nain jo peeti bhang kurheTe waang tamaater rang kurheKoi nazar na tenu laa deveJaadu na akh da paa deveCome along with me to the fair, girlHo ho hoYour dopey eyes, girlYour dopey eyes, girlAnd tomato red complexion, girlHope none casts an evil eye on youAnd cast a spell on you(Mastana 1999b, “Mele nu Chal Mere Naal Kurhe”)
Alternatively, the male Jat fetishizes the beloved through fixing his gaze either on the female body or an object worn by the beloved,Ni mitran di loon di daliNi tun mishri borobar jaani niSajna di gadvi daMitha sarbat warga paani niYou are like my lump of saltbut are known as a cube of candyLike the water as sweet as sherbetin my ewer.(Dhuri 2009, “Mitran di Loon di Dali”)
Paralleling pleasure-seeking as an important rite of passage in the Jat’s journey is the Jat’s recognition that his true calling lies in serving his family, particularly his parents,Kali teri gut te paranda tera laal niKali teri gut te paranda tera laal niRoop deeye raniye paraande nu sambhaal niHo……..Kanna vich bunde tere roop de shingar niMithe tere bol moohon bol ik vaar niPailan paandi e ni teri moran jehi chaal niYour braid is black and the paranda is redOh, Beauty Queen, mind your parandaYour dangling earrings adorn your beautyYour speech is sweet, say somethingYou wear anklets, you have a peacock’s gait(Mastana 1999a, “Kali teri Gut”)
Ma piyo naalon duniya uttena koi hor sakiriAenan di seva te wadinahin koi hor fakiriThere is no one in the worldMore near and dear than one’s parentsNor is there any pious deedGreater than serving them.(Yamla Jatt 2006, “Maa diyan Asisan”)
Ik ran asli te ik ran nakliSolah baat utaraanAsli chundi kakh liyaveNakli kare baharaanAsli suchhe khandan chon neki niyat akhvaveAndar baithi bhuki pyasi apni laaj bachaveNakli ai khudgarj mijajiJide yaar hazaraanThe real wife and the fake oneWhat I am saying is completely trueThe real one picks and fetches the fodderThe fake one whiles away her timeThe real one is known for being good-natured in the entire familyShe remains inside hungry or thirsty shielding her family’s honourThe fake one has a selfish dispositionAnd thousands of male friends.(Yamla Jatt n.d., “Ik Ran Asli”)
4. Bhangra and Sikhism
Additionally, allusions to Sikh religious icons and concepts particularly to the Sikh gurus in bhangra songs reveal the appropriation of bhangra music and dance in the consolidation of Jat Sikh or even Sikh identities. Sartaj’s invocation of the figure of the sant sipahi in “Dastaar” is an unambiguous allusion to the Sikh guru Gobind Singh,Dushman v hove bhave dastaar kade ne lahi deje khud chahiye satkar, ta sabh di ijjat karni chahidiGive respect to one and all, if you wish to be respected!Never take off the turban, even when confronted by an enemy!(Sartaaj 2011, “Dastaar”)
Instead of perceiving material success and consumerist ethics as incompatible with deep piety, the Singhs’ success in the material realm reflected in their display of conspicuous consumption is attributed to the blessings of the Waheguru in Jazzy B’s song “Singhan diya Gaddian”.Jihna bacheya izzatan te jo sabh kujh tetho vaar gayeMaaf jamir ne karna nai je oh vi dilon visaar gayeHai mehangi ai kurbani…Mehangi ai kurbani bhul na jaiyo sant sapahiye deThe one who saved your honour and sacrificed his everything for youYour conscience won’t forgive you if you were to forget him too.Priceless is the sacrifice of the Saint Soldier, don’t you forget his sacrifice.(Sartaaj 2011, “Dastaar”)
Satgur diyan mehran neSinghan diyan gadiyan rehn sada ladhiyanChap de note poora kam loot te mouja laggiyanBabbe diyan meheran neSinghan diyan gadiyan rehn sadah ladhiyan.The Almighty’s blessings are with us!Let the trucks of the Singhs always be ladenLet them mint money, bag all the jobs and enjoy lifeBaba Guru Nanak’s blessings!(Jazzy B 2014, “Singhan diya Gaddian”)
5. Dance, Masculinity, Resistance
6. Hard Kaur: The first Asian Female Rapper
I was a ‘soft’ Kaur. I used to obey and follow everything, that people asked me to, which was not of worth I later realized. This world has made me Hard Kaur. And I am thankful to people who are an obstacle for me and created problems for me, which is where I developed my urge to succeed from.(quoted in Walia 2013)
Ek glassy, do glassy teen glassy char (One glass, two glasses, three glasses, four)Put ya hands in da air like u jus dun care, cuz u feelLika supastarIk glassy, do glassy teen glassy charUr drunk as hell, n u dunt feel well, but u still goBak 2 da bar.
Yo I need a drinkYo need a drinkI’ll be working all weekAnd I need a drink (that’s right)Aha ho ja sharabi (Let’s get tipsy)Aha ho ja sharabi (Let’s get tipsy)(Kaur 2012, “Peeney Do”)
Do all da rudeboyz, try n chtU get sum attention n ur try n kissBetta keep ur hands of maa skurtCuz I will turn around and kik ur whr it hurts.
Jo ladka bola gandi baatTod ke rakh du uski laatThe guy who talks dirtyI will break his leg.
O yeah all da sexy gals, all da sexy boys(Got ya move ur - 3 body tonite) - 2 like this…Move ur body baby - 3 jab kudiyeMove ur body baby, move ur body baby (u got to) soni baliye(Got ya move ur - 3 body tonite) - 2 like this like this like thisLike this n that n this n that.(Kaur 2007b, “Move your Body”)
Nachna bada ni tera kaim lagda (Your dancing is very pleasing)Chakhna pauga tera taim lagda (I want to taste it but it will take some time)Hey boy zaalim dilli is gonna beat to the drumHey boy I’m calling youWon’t you come and give me someHey boy won’t you pick me upTu le mera naam (Call out my name)Zaalim Delhi meri jaan (This evil Delhi is going to take my life).(Jazzy B and Kaur 2015, “Dilli Wali Zalim Girlfriend”)
Gimme a desi….a desi guyGimme a desi…who looks so flyI want a man that rocks my world cuz I need a gangstaDon’t know about you girl but I need a gangstaEk sona munda (A good-looking guy)I need a gangsta te thoda sa lafanga (and who’s bit of a cad) cuz I need a gangsta.(Kaur 2007c, “Sexy Boy”)
Aanh.. di.. anything for the boyTu jo bhi bol (whatever you say)This my lover boyI loveem Hard KaurHe see now, __ is clearAa gaya [he’s here], save better,get out hereI’m by your side or dieJatti kabhi nahi dari (The Jat female is never scared)Main tere naal khadi (I’m by your side)Mera ranjha Deep Money (My Ranjha is Deep Money).(Hard Kaur with Deep Money 2015, “Ranjha”)
My name is Hard KaurI’m staying hereYou hear?KIA … KIAI got too much swagger in my DNASherni hai, sherni hai, Sherni hai jatti (The Jat woman is a lioness)Bol diya so bol diya main piche nahi hati (She speaks out when she needs to and does not go back on her word)Aankh mila lo aur tuda lo (If you make eye contact, you are asking for getting broken)Free mein apni haddi (your bone for free)I am a champion.(Kaur 2016, “Sherni”)
“Why (are) you doing all these girly things? Like sedition charge, ‘we’re gonna rape you… we’re gonna kill you…’ Come and fight like a man,” she challenged the two veteran politicians.(quoted in TNN 2019)
Conflicts of Interest
References and Notes
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Among these contemporary rising stars, one may include Mona Singh, Sazia Judge, Seetal Kaur, and Sarika Gill in Britain and Jasmine Sandlas, Kanika Kapoor, Sunanda Sharma, Nimrat Khaira, Neha Kakkar, and Miss Pooja in India. Talented singers like Jaspinder Narula, Satwinder Bitti, and Rani Randeep appear to have been reduced to singing other genres after the token recognition they received in the first decade of the 21st century.
Baazigar is a community of multi-source nomads found in Punjab who were also entertainers and performed acrobatics. Many of them were forced to migrate from west Punjab to east Punjab after the partition of Punjab in 1947.
Bolis are call and response couplets that were traditionally sung by women but also by men in malwai giddha. Bolis have a uniform rhythm and their appeal lies in the inclusion of a meaningless rhyme. In bhangra, they were used to provide a breath pause in the vigorous, high-energy dance with either the dholi [dhol player] or one of the dancers singing a call with a formulaic couplet. The rest of the dancers would respond by naming an object and the lead singer would improvise a couplet to rhyme with the object inviting the rest to join in.
Gabbah Shareef Bhalwan introduces another twist to Vijayantimala’s borrowing from the PEPSU team’s dance by observing that the team, probably inspired by the men’s giddha of the local Malwa area (where they lived) did a set of boliyan that seemed like the malwa styles, which suggests that "bhangra" included some “giddha-like stuff” too (Bhalwan 2002).
Gayatri Gopinath, in her examination of bhangra as a diasporic genre, argues that “bhangra as a multivalenced text resists being read as purely patriarchal or sexist, yet it remains possible to identify certain dominant notions of gender and sexuality that surface in much of the music” (Gopinath 1995, p. 304). Through examining the music video of Bally Sagoo’s ‘Mera laung gawacha’, she shows that the way “bhangra most clearly reconsolidates hegemonic patriarchal constructions is in its deployment of gender and sexuality” (Gopinath 1995, p. 316).
Invisible or marginalized as producers, women are conspicuously visible in the bhangra music videos as the reified objects of the Jat’s desire. The fetishization of the female body in traditional bhangra lyrics is accentuated in the visual genre as the camera’s lascivious gaze lingers on the exposed female body to sate global voyeuristic pleasures (Gera Roy 2010). In particular, the misogynist male gaze of bhangra rap videos fixed on sexualized female bodies represents women as promiscuous temptresses who may be exploited with impunity. As Gera Roy points out, “the Jat space is represented in Bhangra texts as an exclusively male space from which the woman must be banished or controlled and invited to play the role of the machista by admiring their manliness (Gera Roy 2015, p. 178).”
For instance, although her father did not die in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, she did not correct the press when it projected her as a victim of the anti-Sikh violence whose family had sought asylum in UK (Kaur 2006, personal communication).
The young clubgoers in Bakrania’s book, similarly, refuse to fit into the stereotyped representation of the teetotalling, domesticated, reticent good Sikh/Asian girl even as they reject the sexualized position of the bad girl or whore who self-objectifies herself through wearing provocative attire and makes herself easily available to one and all (2013).
Kaur marries the hypermasculinist imagery and language of rap with hypermasculine Sikh symbols in her album to invoke and affirm stereotyped representations of the bold, fearless, just Sikh warrior. Her braggadocio in challenging Hindu leaders, dissing and name-calling, and open contempt for the oppressive regime echoes rather than interrogates the hypermasculine narrative of Khalistan. She places herself in opposition to the emasculated Hindu male through assuming the position of the hypermasculine warrior.
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