Downtown Bhangra Drives the Beat


Downtown Bhangra has been the Festival’s finale for a number of years now, and it’s a feast of all that’s best about bhangra! For a day and half, local, national, and international talent take to the big stage outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. Like the Pied Piper, the beat of the dhol attracts downtown shoppers, teens, seniors, and bhangra fans from across Metro Vancouver. And it’s absolutely free!

Friday night, June 6, the entertainment gets underway at 5 pm with Surrey-based PANJ Girls Bhangra team, Northern California’s Ankiley Gabroo, and Detroit’s Furteelay Shokeen. After singer Luv Randhawa—who recalls performing at our first City of Bhangra Festival ten years ago—you get a chance to work on your bhangra moves. Don’t know any? You’re in very good hands with Deep Sahota of Royal Academy of Bhangra, who will make you look like a star!

A little later we present the exuberant Karima Essa, who excels at all kinds of Indian dance, showing you some more great moves. Friday evening also features some of our best up-and-coming recording artists: Amy D, Hans Mann, and Inder Kooner.

From 8 pm, we’re live on Shaw TV! Feel the rumble of Vancouver’s very own DNA Dholis, led by Rayman Bhuller. Since 2003, this exceptional group has been thrilling audiences around the world, including opening for bhangra superstars Sukshinder Shinda and Jazzy B, performing at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, and sharing the stage with Abhishek Bachchan at The Times of India Film Awards in Vancouver in 2013.

Our Friday headliners include Surrey’s naQsh—who were also featured at the Winter Olympics, opening for Blue Rodeo—appearing this night with guest Pakistani pop artist, Qurat-ul-Ain Balouch (aka, “QB”). The night wraps up with Balkan Bhangra: Orkestar Slivovica represents the Balkan Roma tradition of Southern Serbia and Macedonia, while Vijay Indian Brass Band demonstrates India’s version. Adding visual excitement are Luciterra Bellydance and the Vancity Bhangra Dancers.

In case you missed it, Balkan Bhangra also opens Saturday’s program at noon, followed by a number of energetic bhangra teams, and an interactive bhangra session. The day is packed with bhangra teams of all age groups from Metro Vancouver, plus local headlines, like vocalist Hans Mann, who was born in India, but lived in Canada, and has a background in both Western and Indian classical music. He’ll play mid-afternoon, followed by more bhangra teams, including a delightful trio of pint-sized dance groups. DJ A-Slam takes the stage just before 5 pm, followed by Raju Johal and band, more bhangra teams—including Anakh E Gabroo from the NY Tri-cities area—and the Now or Never hip hop crew, who were part of our opening TransFusion show.

Local artist DJ A-Slam has been involved in the Vancouver South Asian fusion scene for the last three years. On Saturday, he’ll be featured on our Downtown Bhangra stage launching his newest song live! “Gaddi” is written in honour of this year’s #BhangraLove theme. The track features DJ Reminisce on vocals, and music by DJ EQZT.

Lapis is a distinctive collaboration between Rup Sidhu—a DJ who uses arts as a way to support social justice—and sitar player Mohamed Assani. They’re followed by an Inder Kooner set, and more of our guest bhangra teams.

Our Saturday night finale features UK Punjabi music rising star, Jay Status, with a live band, followed by his colleague and producer DJ SANJ, whose career started while living in Toronto. He produced several hit Desi mix tapes in the late 90′s, and in the past decade he’s escalated from local DJ to international superstar. In early 2000, DJ SANJ moved to the UK to produce full time for Envy Entertainment, an established UK label producing Desi and Asian flavours. After 200-plus songs and over 18 albums to his credit, DJ SANJ shifted his sights to Bollywood. Since his move to Mumbai in 2007, DJ SANJ has racked up a heap of collaborations and hits in the Bollywood film industry. He worked on “Love Aaj Kal,” one of the highest grossing Bollywood films of the last decade, and is currently the most sought-after Desi producer and DJ in the world.
Find new rhythm in your step at Downtown Bhangra! See you outside the VAG on June 6 and 7! (full Festival details at

Photo courtesy Karima Essa

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