The dance originated as an expression of the celebratory mood of the harvest festival called Baisakhi and later graduated to being performed on almost every Punjabi social occasion, such as a wedding etc. The exclusively male dancers dress in bright, colourful attire made up primarily of a white shirt, a cloth wrapped around waist (called lungi) and a turban. A performance is normally accompanied by singing and, most significantly, the beat of the dhol drum and an instrument reminiscent of an enlarged pair of tongs called chimta. The accompanying songs are small couplets written in the Punjabi language called Bolis. They relate to celebration, love, patriotism, or current social issues.
Nowadays the word bhangra is more associated with the independent style of dance pop music derived from the above mentioned musical accompaniment. The dhol's smaller cousin, the dholaki, is sometimes used instead of or in addition to the dhol. Additional percussion, including tabla, is frequently used in bhangra.
Bhangra has always been popular amongst Punjabi people all over the world, but it has enjoyed a resurgence over the last ten years or so. Its raw traditional sound is often supplemented with contemporary musical styles. In its more recent history, bhangra has been fused with disco, reggae, techno, house, rap, ragga and now jungle. In fact these new styles are so successful that modern bhangra is now being re-exported back to India. Most of this tends to come from the UK.