Bhangra, Bboys and Breakbeats looks to bring together a blend of traditional Punjabi culture and hip hop under one roof.

Bhangra Bboys Breakbeats: Exploring Identities through the Arts

By Ernesto Saavedra

Bhangra, Bboys and Breakbeats looks to bring together a blend of traditional Punjabi culture and hip hop under one roof.
Bhangra, Bboys and Breakbeats looks to bring together a blend of traditional Punjabi culture and hip hop under one roof.

On Oct. 4, beats and cultural barriers will be broken.

Bhangra Bboys Breakbeats (BBB) will make its way to Fresno to showcase the unique and powerful blend of traditional Punjabi culture with hip hop. Punjabi culture, as presented to us in the Western world, is often times limited within the confines of Bollywood, the highly stylized Hindi movies. Sure, the movies are fun to watch and the music sounds cool, not to mention the dances, but we (myself included) have never stopped to really think of the roots of it all or if what we’re watching is really what happens. This is where BBB comes in.

To learn a little bit more about BBB and the overall movement of young South Asian youth to reclaim their identities with a little bit of hip hop, I had the pleasure to ask emcee and filmmaker Mandeep Sethi a few questions about the significance of BBB and why you should check it out. The following is the brief interview.

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got involved.

A: I was born and raised in Los Angeles and grew up in the midst of Los Angeles hip-hop culture. Inspired by the greats of Project Blowed, my freestyles and poetry expanded to full-on hip-hop music as I traveled to San Francisco to go to school at San Francisco State University. I have been working on music for the last 10 years of my life and have begun to use film to document our movements and travels as we continue to spread positive energy and healing through hip-hop music.

My involvement with BBB began when I cofounded the night with Eli Jacobs Fantauzzi (Bay Area filmmaker) and NishaSembi (Bay Area Visual/Street Artist). We came together to host the first BBB at La Pena in Berkeley. The idea behind the night is to bridge the gap between traditional Punjabi culture and hip-hop, and reaffirm our identity as cultural creators who live in between genres and categories, and use our ancestral and historical backgrounds as inspiration and guidance for our contemporary lives.

Q: What is the importance of Bhangra Bboys Breakbeats?

A: BBB provides a safe space for youth to understand, question and explore their identities through the arts. We bring together breakdance crews and bhangra dancers to show the greater vision of dance as a cultural movement and how man-made borders do not regulate or control our understanding and connections with other people, places and cultures.

This event is huge for the Fresno community because all of the artists who are on the program for the night have never performed in Fresno before. Many of these artists are international artists who tour different parts of the world, but are based in California, so for us to be able to connect with our people out in Fresno for the first time is immense. It’s a city we always drive through, but this time it’s the city we are driving to.

We hope to activate and ignite creative energy and passions within the South Asian youth that attend and engage and interact with the artists, as well as broaden the spectrum by working with multi-ethnic communities to bring our message to a broader audience.

Q: Anything else you would like to point out?

A: I would like to make the point that for many of us who are born and raised in America yet have an ancestry from a different land, it is important for us to find spaces of expression and creativity. This space that we will be creating is a direct ancestral resurrection of the cultural movements of the past, especially with the use of hip-hop.

You see, to us, hip-hop is ancient. Ancestral music and culture. The DJ is the village drummer, keeping the heartbeat of the culture steady. The emcee the village griot, communicating between classes and castes, genders and breaking down borders. The graffiti writer, the communicator of our lettering and shapes and symbols, can be compared to hieroglyphs. The break-dancer, the village dancer, expressing our ideas and messages through physical movement. And, of course, the last element of hip-hop, knowledge.

Q: How can people get involved?

A: People can get involved by helping us with spreading the word out and posting/e-mailing the flier out to their communities and networks. They can reach me at info@mandeepsthi.com and look up the BBB Facebook Event Page and invite their family and friends.

Bhangra Bboys Breakbeats will take place on Oct. 4 from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Manchester Experiment (3302 N. Blackstone Ave., Suite G, in Manchester Mall). The event is free for everyone under 18 years of age, $10 for adults, $5 for those 56 or older. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. For more information, contact Mandeep or visit www.dulceupfront.org.

*****

Ernesto Saavedra is the editor of the Community Alliance. Contact him at ernesto.fresnoca@gmail.com.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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