I am delighted to introduce to you; Shelly, Kuljit, and Minnie, three members of the Aberdeen Bhangra Crew! Bhangra is an energetic and traditional dance originating from the region of Punjab, in the North of India and also Pakistan, originally created by farmers who celebrated the arrival of Spring.
The Aberdeen Bhangra Crew (ABC) are not only promoting and developing this art form very successfully in Aberdeen and the North East of Scotland, but they are also an example for ethnic integration and a paradigm of diversity. They have had members from all over Scotland, Kenya, India, Malaysia, Mauritius, Singapore, England and Poland and multiculturalism is a celebration every session.
Shelly, Police Officer
One member, Shelly is a serving Police Officer with Police Scotland, she quickly fell in love with this energetic dance form and started attending the professional rehearsals and performing in public.
“I have a saying, my work brings me purpose and Bhangra brings me joy,” Shelly affirms. “Anyone who has attended one of our classes will tell you, there’s something so infectious about Bhangra. Something wonderful happens when we all dance together, it unites us. You’d struggle to find anyone without a smile on their face.”
Clearly, this positive energy and this embracing of diversity makes this such an interesting group. “We all have one thing in common though, we all love to dance. Regardless of age or ability, faith, or nationality, the one thing that was abundantly clear to me when I first joined was that everyone was welcome. We all bring something unique to the group, and our differences are what make us an interesting and dynamic act,” Shelly explains.
Practising Bhangra is beneficial for her in many ways in her job at Police Scotland. “It certainly helps that I have such a varied group of friends within the ABC, who can offer me an insight into the practices of different cultures so that I might deal with enquiries as sensitively as possible. As a Police Officer with many multicultural friends, I have zero tolerance for prejudice within my community and I am extremely proud to work for an organisation such as Police Scotland, who are one of the largest diverse employers in the country.”
And when we asked her about multiculturalism in Aberdeen, she responds clearly. “Aberdeen is very diverse! Walk down any busy street and you’ll encounter a multitude of nationalities.” However, “I’d like to see more Scottish people attending multicultural events. The Scots have a reputation for being sociable and welcoming people, but can be a little timid when it comes to attending the many events held by wonderful organisations such as the Aberdeen Multicultural Centre and The Indian Association of North East Scotland.”
Kuljit, Bhangra instructor
Kuljit Singh is a member of the Crew and also an instructor. He joined the Aberdeen Bhangra Crew because it was “the golden opportunity” for him to reunite with a part of his culture and his roots. Quickly he found out that Bhangra was also perfect cardio exercise which requires a lot of energy and enthusiasm. “I lost almost a stone in the first few months. High beat music, dancing in full energy with a smile on your face,” Kuljit claims, “Aberdeen Bhangra Crew is all about dancing, enjoying and staying healthy.”
About the diversity in the ABC, he underlines that despite being a traditional Punjabi celebration, “people from different cultures, religions and countries can come and dance because dance and music are not bound by any culture or language. We love to mix Bhangra steps with different dance styles from other cultures to make our dancing more interesting.”
For Kuljit, accepting the difference in our society is fundamental to enjoying a positive coexistence. “Humans are one race with different colour. We should be accepting and embrace diversity so that we live peacefully and do something positive for us and for this planet.”
Minnie, microbiologist at the University of Aberdeen
Finally, Minnie was looking for a dance group and found out about ABC. “I have always had a passion for dance and Bhangra is one of those dance forms that makes me happy. It’s energetic, it’s vibrant and makes everybody smile.”
Thanks to the group, she has been able to meet and dance with people from across the globe. “The list is endless. All of them have been so keen to learn Bhangra even though they didn’t understand the language. It’s true what they say music and dance do bring people together.”
Therefore, getting to know citizens from many different cultural backgrounds gives Minnie “a better understanding about their community, their beliefs and their culture.” “When I do encounter someone from the same community at work it makes it easier to have a conversation with them and make them feel comfortable.”
Because, Minnie adds “at the moment, everywhere you look people are fighting each other and I think a lot has to do with being ignorant about one another. If each of us took a step of just trying to learn a bit more about other cultures, half of the world problems would be solved!”
For this reason, “more multicultural events should be organised in Aberdeen where people will have the opportunity to mingle with each other.”
Aberdeen Mela – One World Day and Aberdeen Bhangra Crew
The Aberdeen Mela – One World Day, we are trying to promote cultural diversity at our event, on 30th of July at Westburn Park, to make a better, more open and more multicultural Aberdeen.
And, if you find interesting what the ABC does for our community, give it a try! Everybody is welcome to join classes every Wednesday at 6 pm at Ruthrieston community centre.