📄 Whitepaper

Pungra's goal is to enhance participation in group exercise to Punjabi music, this explains why and how.

Introduction

Punjabi music has been synonymous with movement for generations. All types of celebrations feature Punjabi music which is known to energise even the typically inactive.

However, the movement has become correlated with unhealthful activities such as alcohol, drugs, last nights, lewdness and vanity. All on the backdrop of an increase in inactivity in the very communities that feel most passionate about the music.

We believe in leading people in a mindful way which brings the benefits of movement to the fore. We also will associate with the fitness industry and work to deliver projects that benefit the community.

Personas

We serve:

  • users are largely new to the physical activities sector. They probably have a connection with Punjabi music either through ethnicity, relationships or personal interest.

  • instructors use various styles of movement and music and would love to use more Punjabi music and movement styles.

  • dancers with a particular talent and interest in Punjabi music and movement, who perhaps took up the hobby of dancing in their childhood, at university or early adulthood. As they develop in their family, and career commitments, they gradually recognise that the dance/performing world requires a greater level of dedication than they can offer. A move towards focusing on the exercise aspects of their dancing talent is an attractive change.

  • funders who have the mandate to support an increase in physical activity, especially with a focus on South Asian females (our most populous demographic).

Problem Statements

There are various problems that Pungra, and all associated with Pungra, can work to resolve. The list is coming up, but let's start by focusing on a problem that Pungra is not interested in solving.

Not a problem

Entertainment isn't a problem that needs solving. Sure people might want to watch shows with Punjabi (bhangra) dancing, or like videos on Instagram or YouTube. But is this really a problem worth our effort? We don't think so. Let others with more time on their hands focus on this "problem".

We understand that in the recent past many Punjabi people felt unrecognised in the world, so to push Punjabi culture to the corners of the world, dancing would be a good way to do this. And some people might still fee this needs to be done, but we don't.

Problem 1: Too few South Asians are physically active

Everything else on our agenda can take a back seat, until such a time that we have an effective strategy to encourage more South Asians to become physically active. Many reports in the UK point out that South Asians are the least physically active ethnic group, and females take part in less formal physical activities than their South Asian male counterparts.

Fewer people overall are physically active, and for various other reasons such as food choices, obesity and diabetes (type 2) is increasing at an alarming rate. Obesity is predicted to cost nations dearly in the decades that follow and we cannot wait until then to do something about it.

The UK's National Health Service estimates that every other person will be obese by 2030. Others suggest that this will bankrupt the NHS. This is far more a pressing matter than "entertain people eating samosa with bhangra". We like to refer to this obesity epidemic as the "big" problem.

"The likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes is reported to be as much as 6 times higher in South Asians than in Europeans, with a number of factors – mostly linked with lifestyle – believed to be behind this increased risk." Diabetes in South Asians, Diabetes UK

Frustratingly South Asians area great burden on this "big" problem around the world.

"Several studies have shown that at a similar level of BMI, body fat level is higher in Asians, particularly South Asians, as compared to white Caucasian" Obesity and Dyslipidemia in South Asians, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

To reduce this problem we need to cooperate, coordinate and collaborate. The solutions Pungra will work on are:

  1. A dedicated instructor training program that is endorsed by fitness and exercise bodies.

  2. Set up and deliver projects in conjunction with funders.

  3. Enhance the Pungra brand to aid the attractiveness to the concept, meaning people will "want" to be involved.

Problem 2: Most "bhangra fitness" isn't about fitness at all

There is a growing misconception, including amongst bhangra performing teams that if you dress up in sports gear and performing your bhangra routines, that somehow makes it bhangra fitness. In British English, we call this "codswallop", in Indian English "what nonsense yaar?", in Hindi "bakwaz" and in Punjabi "are kee gand ya?"

We need better ethics and standards

When a business advertises itself as in the "fitness" industry it is inferring hope and aspiration to onlookers. Those onlookers may have health issues such as being overweight or anxiety at the thought of ending up overweight. To be ethically mindful, shouldn't fitness-based organisations be appropriately accredited or endorsed with fitness qualifications, before being able to offer their fitness-related services?

Pungra is the only genuine fitness program using Punjabi music in the world. We make this claim, and challenge you to check out others and consider this question, "are they exercise that's a bit dancey? or dance, that's a bit exercisey?" We believe the latter is all your will find. We are the only exercise, that's a bit dancey, brand.

With some time, the market will be able to discern the difference between:

  1. Performing to Punjabi music

  2. Exercise to Punjabi music

  3. Performers masquerading as fitness instructors

Problem 3: Authenticity confusion and reduced cultural appropriation

Because most Punjabi music comes from the Indian side of Punjab, Pakistani Punjabi people are ignored from the Punjabi scene. Bhangra is often described as "Indian" or from the "Indian state of Punjab", which is not accurate.

Also there some fitness brands like that demonstratively don't understand Punjabi culture. Understandably because their founders' heritage is not Punjabi.

When Europeans or Americans demonstrate a temporary and false pretence to be South Asian (or any culture) we call it Cultural Appropriation. But what about when one type of brown person puts on an act to show they are from another brown person's culture? For example, would we consider it acceptable for a Japanese person to put on a false pretence as a Chinese person, or vice versa?

I am not saying that other ethnic groups shouldn't move to Punjabi music. In fact, I would love to see a future where any person from any background and ethnic group moves to Punjabi music, in the same way as people no longer feel the need to be Indian to do Yoga. I just think that people passing off "bhangra as part of their culture" when it's not, is misleading. A sure sign is not pronouncing bhangra correctly. This is what inspired the name of our organisation.

Solutions

All our solutions are educational in nature and the key principles are about creating and reinforcing habits through technology and coaching.

Solution 1 - Project delivery

Using technology to survey people potentially benefiting from our projects, and then appropriate project delivery/management techniques to deliver those.

Solution 2 - Endorsed instructor development program

Meet the standards required to be an endorsed organisation or partner with recognised exercise and fitness bodies.

Solution 3 - Continuous education

We will form a community enhanced with technology such as Facebook and YouTube, which gathers input from people enthusiastic about our cause.

The community will press each other positively to continuously improve lifestyle habits such as regular exercise, improved eating habits and all other activities associated with good health.

Barriers

The primary barrier we must overcome is the perceptions that exist, in particular in the South Asian community. For example, either that bhangra is associated with:

  • parties, alcohol and lewdness

  • performing, and it's something to swatch.

We must reinforce a new normal of group exercise to Punjabi music, a "third way" to think about how Punjabi music and movement is enjoyed, in a mindful physical activity approved by the fitness industry, religious institutions and others in the community.

Overcome through reach?

We are skilled in creating videos and leading high-quality classes. But we need the support of organisations that can help us reach the audiences that will adopt our techniques into their communities, and the potential participants that will take up our class design as a regular physical activity.

Conclusion

I don't believe the world needs any more entertainers, so Pungra will never be about shows, performances, routines and anything else in the performing arts space.

Instead, there are real and serious problems we need to focus our collective attention on.

Obesity is the "big" problem, and we need to get more people exercising. We need to create standards so that the world understands that fitness and exercise classes are not the same as doing performances in Nike trainers.

And finally, Pungra needs to stay true to the values of the physical activities industry whilst balancing these with Punjabi cultural values.