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A student-led bhangra group is dancing its away across the East Coast – and the internet

The Maritime Bhangra Group’s viral videos are a celebration of Sikh culture and community activism that reach millions of viewers.

By EMILY BARON CADLOFF | APR 03 2017

With big smiles and vividly hued turbans, the dancers in the Maritime Bhangra Group are jumping, twirling and shimmying their way across the Maritimes, from the rocky shoreline along Peggy’s Cove to the picturesque view at Halifax’s Citadel Hill, to the delight of a loyal following.

Overseeing the production is Hasmeet Singh Chandok. A fourth-year master’s student in computer science at Dalhousie University, Mr. Chandok and his brother formed the group in 2013. Back then, he and his friends would dance and teach people about Sikh culture through Atlantic Canada’s first Sikh Student Association (which Mr. Chandok also had a hand in founding). Now, as his dancing reaches viewers around the world, he hopes people are inspired by, and learn from, the videos.

“We are not professional dancers. And when I’m shooting the guys and when I’m writing the concept, I don’t tell them I need something perfect,” Mr. Chandok said. “That’s something that [viewers] like.”

The group began in the hallways at Dalhousie, and they’ve now danced bhangra, a style from the Punjab region, all over that campus. In one recent video, university president Richard Florizone even makes a cameo (see below).

“[W]hile I was game for anything, they made a wise decision in giving me a role with no dancing,” Dr. Florizone said in an email. “The Maritime Bhangra Group has enjoyed incredible success, in large part because of their infectious enthusiasm. We are honoured to have Maritime Bhangra associated with Dalhousie and appreciate their willingness to share their talent, culture and energy with our community and the world.”

Mr. Chandok says the group would not have flourished without the early support from the school for the Sikh Student Association. “For me, this was the definition of Canada when I came here [from India]. This was the place I would wake up and plan my things to come.”

Most important for Mr. Chandok is the group’s dedication to social activism: Maritime Bhangra videos rack up millions of hits and each one is dedicated to a particular charity or organization. That can translate into thousands of dollars in donations from viewers. Now, as he looks toward graduation this summer, Mr. Chandok says the group will keep dancing — they’re just getting started.

See more videos from the Maritime Bhangra Group.

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  1. Pattie Mackenzie / April 5, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Thank you for the great story on the Bhangra dancers and their growing charitable base. I work at Columbia College Chicago in Global Education. Yet I was born in Canada so t’s great to envision this group who don Dal sweatshirts over their Indian garb. My uncle worked at Dal for many years, my parents and sister attended Acadia, so been part of intercultural evolution and expansion contribute to the idea of the Baha’i belief that “The World is but One Country”. Thank you for sharing the joy and philanthropy that the Maritime Bhangra Group is spreading.

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