The South Asian Society’s 13th annual Bhangra Blowout went off without a hitch Saturday night, but the fatal stabbing at last year’s celebration was still on the minds of many at DAR Constitution Hall.
Thirteen teams from across the country competed for prizes of up to $4,000 in the style of dance and music that originates from the Punjab region of India. This year’s program brought in two big-name performers from the Indian community: bhangra star Malkit Singh and emcee Rasika Mathur, a comedian featured on MTV’s “Wild ‘n Out.”
“We haven’t had anyone this big before,” said junior Mala Nangia, Bhangra Blowout co-director. “Malkit Singh is the king of bhangra.”
During Singh’s 45-minute performance, audience members of all ages flooded the aisles of the DAR Constitution Hall to dance. Bhangra has gained popularity in recent years due to its fusion with hip-hop and techno rhythms.
Columbia University took first place in the competition. For the second year in a row, GW did not compete, but performed as an exhibition act.
Teams from schools ranging from Cornell to UCLA entertained with their creative choreography to Indian rhythms. Emory University’s all-male team elicited laughs from the audience with a quick political statement – signs that read “GW Bush” and a thumbs-down, which flipped to read “GW Univ.” and a thumbs-up.
Nangia said that the SAS had been planning the event for six months.
“I don’t think people understand how much effort really goes into this,” said junior Ketan Patel, SAS secretary.
The South Asian Society did not host an official after-party this year due to last year’s fatal stabbing of a Philadelphia man following a celebration at the Old Post Office Building in downtown D.C. But buzz about unofficial after-parties at other locations abounded.
Nangia would not comment about security at the event, saying only that “DAR has excellent security.” However, Patel said that security was “bulked up a lot, compared to last year. I feel really, really safe.”
Rasika Mathur, a rising star on Nick Cannon’s “Wild ‘n Out,” entertained with her jokes about Indian stereotypes. She complained about her parents’ opinion of her non-traditional Indian career as a comedian.
“You’ll always be compared to the ‘normal’ sibling,” she said. “My sister married – on time – to an Indian man who is a software programmer.”
She said her father was a little more accepting of her comedic career now that she was on MTV.
“Now he compares me to other Indians. He says, ‘Why can’t you be like M. Night Shyamalan?” she said, referring to the movie director.
She also referenced last year’s stabbing.
“We’re nonviolent – did you see ‘Ghandi?'” she said. “We’re going to keep it that way.”