Review: Britain’s got Bhangra at Hackney Empire
The 1980s were a golden age for Bhangra in the UK, with artists selling an average 30,000 cassettes a week. Yet despite often pipping popular British musicians, not once did a Bhangra artist make the Top 40 Chart.
Now a new musical is set to put Bhangra on the map once and for all, charting its vibrant evolution in Britain from the 1970s to today.
Britain’s got Bhangra, at the Hackney Empire from Wednesday October 12 to Sunday October 16 is a joyful, heartfelt and colourful journey through Punjabi-inspired music’s development in the UK.
The story follows Twinkle, played by real life Bhangra star Shin, a farmer’s son from Punjab in India who comes to England to make a better life for himself and wife Jussi, played by Sohm Kapila.
Twinkle arrives in late-1970s Britain, a drab world of high unemployment and constant rain – a vivid contrast to the vibrant Punjab fields of his youth.
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Gifted singer Twinkle gets a job as a van driver, but his talents quickly propel him to a leading star in the emerging Bhangra music scene of the 1980s.
Along the way he must tackle megalomaniac producer Shinde, played by Natasha Jayetileke, the temptations of groupies and a constantly evolving music scene in a foreign country.
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Directed and written by Pravesh Kumar, this is a joyous and fascinating homage to Bhangra in Britain, featuring catchy original songs, tight choreography, a slick set design and dazzling costumes.
Shin, Sohm Kapila and Jason Denton, who plays a young visitor from Twinkle’s past, display their exceptional voices along with the fantastic onstage band.
The show is at its energetic best with full cast song and dance routines in traditional Bhangra style. Where it falls a little flat is in the contemporary club scenes.
And while the story line is fairly predictable and Panto-esque, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to be testing out your own Bhangra dance moves on the walk home…I know I was.
Britain’s got Bhangra is touring the UK. For details, visit www.rifcoarts.com