How two Punjabi brothers are taking Canada by storm, Bhangra style
3 Jan, 2017
Maritime Bhangra Group (MBG) is a dance group that had been performing for the last three years, but rose to fame this fall after a video of them performing on the rocks of Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia (one of eastern Canada's Maritime Provinces on the Atlantic) went viral. The video was viewed not less than 1.2 million times on Facebook and over 226,540 times on YouTube, at the time of publishing.
This dance group was founded by brothers, Hasmeet and Kunwardeep Singh. Originally from Punjab, the brothers came to Canada for higher education. Having completed his Masters in Internetworking from Dalhousie University, Kunwardeep is currently working for a major IT company in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Hasmeet, on the other hand, is pursuing Masters in Computer Science from Dalhousie University.
For the duo, Bhangra is a dance of joy. "I started dancing when I was 17 and Hasmeet, when he was 20. We started the Maritime Bhangra group as a way to connect with our culture, when we began living away from home," Kunwardeep said. They named the group, Maritime Bhangra on account of the place they live in. "The part of Canada we live in (Halifax, Nova Scotia) is called Maritimes and most of the people in the area are loving, caring, giving and passionate. Our dance group has the same mandate, so the name MBG looked very relevant," Hasmeet said.
The group, initially comprising 6-10 members, had been dancing at various events in Dalhousie University and other places for the initial 3-4 years but decided to make it a professional troupe much later which would involve them touring and dancing around the Nova Scotia and Maritimes area. Thus in the month of July 2016, the duo thought of forming a professional dance group, that would dance in and around the Nova Scotia area, shoot it and upload the video online. Little did they know that they would become such a massive internet phenomena. They also began performing more, and focused on performances that helped organizations fundraise or work for mental health and other social causes. "Dancing for us, through this group, also became another way of raising money and doing fundraising for the needy ones (refugees), research and any other type of help for diseases like ALS, Breast Cancer, Prostate cancer etc. The total money raised by all our initiatives is over $300,000 CAD ," Kunwardeep said, adding that MBG also helped them tell people who they were, were they came from and why they looked different.
On becoming an internet sensation, the duo has often found themselves being approached and stopped by people in public places. "Yes, we do get stopped, but we don’t feel that we are celebrities. We are trying to do normal things. Our dance has become visible through the help of internet and media,” Hasmeet said. He further added that the best part of MBG is the impact of the group's videos on mental health patients and others suffering from different physical or social issues. "Everybody in this world is doing or at least trying to do better for others. We get hundreds of messages by people saying our work is helping them in many ways and that makes us happy," he said.
Their recent Christmas eve video featuring the dancers doing Bhangra to the tunes of Jingle Bells has amassed over 5,000 YouTube views and 55,000 views on Facebook. "The immeasurable love and support that we receive from people across the globe, is extremely overwhelming. Our work and interviews have been translated in more than 20 languages. It really feels great but we believe there is yet a lot of work to be done. Our ultimate aim is to spread happiness through our dance, speeches and different school programs," said Kunwardeep.
Their videos have been featured on BBC, NPR, Buzzfeed, Yahoo Canada, Huffington Post Canada and shared by Hollywood artists like Ashton Kutcher and Lil Wayne.