If you’ve ever been to an American club with a bunch of Desi guys, you won’t have to ask whether it’s Panjabi MC‘s “Mundian Tu Bach Ke” thundering through the speakers. Immediately, a circle forms. Everyone sends one arm up, finger pointing at the ceiling, one leg pointed toward the center—like children doing the hokey-pokey. Then everyone circles around hopping on one leg. This is the bhangra dance. It may seem like an act of cultural peacocking in the context of a Western pub scene, but it’s actually a propos, considering the British-Indian MC’s influences. Né Rajinder Singh Rai, he adopted his stage name after fans started calling him “the Indian emcee.” There’s no such language as “Indian,” he told them.
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