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Black, Gold, & Silver Bhangra Style

Black, Gold, & Silver Bhangra Style

February 05, 2011

Is a Punjabi Steelers' anthem a sign of change for NRIs?

Super Bowl Hopefuls The Pittsburgh Steelers Get A New Anthem

If you’ve rocked out to one football anthem, you’ve rocked out to them all--until now. Combining the regular anthem template of a chant or catchphrase and loud musical styling with a few bhangra beats, Punjabi-American funk band BlackMahal has released the first ever Punjabi Steelers anthem.

BlackMahal, a San Francisco based “10-piece live music experience” is a longtime fixture on the Punjabi music scene. But their sound isn’t just Punjabi--they draw from other American identities, “combining elements of Mexican and African-American [music].” One diaspora, it seems, is not enough.

The track, Black, Gold, and Silver (Lombardi), is, at heart, a traditional anthem, drawing on Steelers’ history. Myron Cope, a Steelers broadcaster and icon, is sampled--it’s his “Yoi, yoi and Double Yoi!” catchphrase that makes up the chorus.

"Steelers Nation is a worldwide community so it's time for the rest of the world, like us, to express our love for the Steelers in local flavors," says BlackMahal MC Vijay Chattha. "The new colors of the Pittsburgh Steelers are black, gold and silver [and] the Lombardi trophy and its silver sheen has become a standard of success in the team's historic franchise, so we wanted to celebrate our colors on the song."

Genre-wise, Black, Gold, and Silver, is hard to pin down--part funk, part old school hip-hop, and all accent, it’s an unsurprising track, not the stuff of musical history. And yet the existence of an American football anthem featuring godfather of Punjabi-American music Lal 'Blitz-Singh' Bhatti is almost surreal.

The American music scene is diverse, but the more popular, fist-thumping styling associated with football has, until now, been mostly starry-eyed apple pie. And that’s a poor reflection of the fan base--or at least, a poor reflection of the fanbase the NFL wants. 2010’s Super Bowl XLIV had a strong uptick in minority viewership, largely due to the NFL’s hispanic outreach efforts.

The 2010 breakdown? 8.3 million viewers in hispanic households (up 9%) and 11.2 million viewers in African-American households (up 4%). Demographic data for NRI viewership isn’t available, but the general idea is clear--the Super Bowl has a broad and ever-growing appeal. And if BlackMahal’s bhangra anthem is a sign of the times, NRI demographics could be available very soon.

What does a surge in minority Super Bowl viewership mean in everyday terms? Probably not much--Punjabi music legends won’t be rocking out on Manhattan street corners any time soon. But football is one of The Great American Past Times, in many ways integral to US culture. Broadening its appeal to the immigrant community, and particularly the children of first generation immigrants, encourages a greater sense of acceptance and ownership. This isn’t to say NRIs and PIOs lose their Indianness by discovering a love of football, but rather that they have an opportunity to appreciate both sides at the same time.

Black, Gold, and Silver, mightn’t be the greatest anthem around, or the greatest Punjabi song. But first attempts are rarely brilliant--and the significance of BlackMahal’s new track is that it paves the way for other groups to get outside the apple pie pan and pen something that will really get NRI NFL fans’ hearts thumping.

1 Comment

  • Priyanka Yadvendu
    Priyanka Yadvendu
    16.02.11 04:04 AM
    This is a very insightful article. Though I'm not much of a football fan (For that matter, a sports fan in general!), I do know many NRIs including my father and brother into football. And an anthem that combines Indian beats and western music for NRIS is more than music, but a way for the NRI community to have a greater voice and ownership in American culture. Way to go!!

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