Fifty Years of Bhangra Music, Culture and Style
Brunei Gallery, 17th July to 22nd September 2007
Soho Road to the Punjab is a rolling project which collects the memories and memorabilia that tells the story of UK Bhangra. The project team have pro-duced this touring exhibition, a website, an archive and a book. This exhibition explores, explains and celebrates the de-velopment of British Asian Music into a world class export.
The theme behind the show is "Chak de Phattey!" a Punjabi expression meaning "Lift the floor boards" This is a phrase found in every music culture - "Rock the house" or "Kick out the jams". This is an exhibition about fun, dancing and good times, with plenty of floorboards.
Five UK Bhangra Champions, respected and connected individuals - each with their own successful careers in British Asian music - worked as project advocates. They researched and collected stories and artefacts from musicians, promoters, DJs, aficionados and their families. Our Bhangra Champions are: San-J Sanj, Boy Chana, Kally, Kash Sa-hota and Sheni Ravi Smith. Each Champion researched a region of the UK. The Bhangra Champion for London is San-J Sanj, and the Champion for the South East and the Home Counties is Kally. This exhibition is the result of their research, but also includes the work of all of the Champions from across the UK.
Soho Road, Handsworth, Birmingham is the foundry of UK Bhangra, where the nostalgic tunes of homesick Punjabi migrant workers became the confident anthems of the first generation of British Asian youth. Home-grown Bhangra bands became Super groups with rock star-style stage shows. Local promoters and entrepreneurs spread the scene across the country and beyond. Local DJs and Bhangramuffins blended it with Black stylings and urban beats from the Handsworth Sound Systems and Blues Clubs.
London, from the streets of Southall to the world famous clubs in West One is where Bhangra had to come to prove itself on the national stage. Only in London could Bhangra culture make a national identity for itself, instead of a series of local portraits. Here it played a part in the breakthrough years of British Asian media; magazines, radio, television. In East London it became part of a metropolitan, cosmopolitan melting pot of vibrant and innovative sounds.
The renowned Brunei Gallery, with the international perspective of SOAS, is the ideal venue for the first major exhibition of Bhangra music, culture and style. The first International Bhangra Conference will be hosted here in conjunction with the exhibition on Saturday 15th September 2007.