As most bhangra fans know, The Elite 8 Bhangra Invitational is taking place this weekend in Washington, D.C. Since, I had written an earlier post on my thoughts and predictions for the lineup (Elite 8 2012 Predictions and Thoughts) I figured, now that the lineup was finalized, I’d share a few pre-competition thoughts. Just to give a bit of background, Bhangra Empire has performed at the past 2 Elite 8’s (2010 and 2011) but will not be performing this year. Elite 8 burst onto the scene in 2010 and, for the past two years, has been one of the most anticipated competitions of the year. Normally, the competition includes 2 teams from each region (US-West, US-East, Canada-West, Canada-East). This year was marketed as the ‘year of the wildcard’. My assumption was that a 9th team would be chosen and added to the mix, but I believe Elite 8 initially planned on taking a bid away from one region and giving it to another. So, instead of having 2 teams from each region, one region would have only one team, while another would have 3 teams. This really didn’t make too much sense to me because instead of bringing something new to the show, it just seemed to me as a way for them to choose their 8 teams in a different way and go away from the regions theme they have used in the past. Anyways, to recap, my Elite 8 predictions for the lineup were as follows: Apna Bhangra Crew (Seattle), Da Real Punjabiz (San Diego), PCBCA (Vancouver), Shan-E-Punjab (Vancouver), Anakh-E-Gabroo (New York), VCU Bhangra (Virginia), Nachdi Jawani (Toronto), SGPD (Toronto), and SMD (New York) as the wildcard.
How did I do with my predictions? Well it depends on if you are looking at the original lineup or the final lineup. For one reason or another, Elite 8 had multiple big name teams drop from their competition this year after the lineup had been released. The original lineup consisted of 8 all guy teams (APD, BK, AEG, JJ, SGPD, NJ, NYPD, PCBCA). I’m all about variety, so I really didn’t understand the direction that the lineup went. I’m not saying certain teams didn’t deserve to go, but I just didn’t get why a competition would choose to put 8 all guy teams in a lineup. My early prediction was that over half the teams would either, go co-ed as a surprise, or bring in girls as a gimmick. But that is a moot point now, because the line up changed. The first to drop was Nachdi Jawani from Canada East. Then PCBCA from Canada West dropped. And then to round it out, the defending champions, SGPD from Canada East, dropped. It will be interesting to see what Elite 8 will do in the future. Both years we competed, we were told that if we dropped, our team would be banned from Elite 8 for the next 2 years. And Elite 8 usually confirms its teams in the September time frame, so for teams to drop that close to the competition was a bit confusing. EMDO Entertainment (the organization behind Elite 8 ) branched out this year to the bollywood/fusion circuit and will be throwing its first Elite 8 Naach Invitational in April (go Wanted Ashiqz!) I wonder if that might have caused them to lose focus from the bhangra competition, but that’s just speculation. In the end, only the committee and the individual teams know the reasoning as to why there were so many drops.
Moving on, when teams drop, there are replacements of course. So SMD jumped in as the wild card team. UNC Bhangra Elite was the next team announced. And VCU Bhangra was the last of the replacement teams. My first thought was this added a whole lot of variety to the competition which is definitely a good thing. UNC and VCU are both coed teams and SMD is an all-girl team. But this completely threw the regional aspect of Elite 8 out the window. Now there were 5 teams from US East, 2 teams from US West, and 1 team from Canada West. The whole differentiating factor that allowed Elite 8 to distinguish itself from other competitions was lost. The question that is on everybody’s mind is whether this is still considered an Elite competition? Especially with last years champions not returning to defend their crown? I guess we will have the answer to that in a couple of days.
Judging wise, Elite 8 has rewarded 2 types of styles in the past. One is the high paced, almost chaotic, Toronto style which stresses entertainment (patented by SGPD and NJ who ironically will not be there this year). And the other is the more folk-based, clean, smooth, simple style (exemplified by VCU in 2010 and 2011). If your team does not fall in either of these categories, judging has not been kind to you. If the judging is consistent from previous years, my prediction is that a team with the more simple style will come out on top. UNC Bhangra Elite comes to mind which, in my opinion, reminds me of VCU from 2009 with a little less emphasis on entertainment value. If the Toronto style is rewarded, then I see AEG and NYPD battling it out for the top spot. My dark horse pick is APD, whose modern style will really set them apart in the competition (okay that might be my modern bias talking).
To finish it off, I still believe Elite 8 will be a great event. They have a sell out crowd that goes crazy every year, and I predict this year will be the same (this was one of the main reasons we decided to do Elite 8 in 2010 and 2011). They have GTV back in the house this year, which means there will be great videos coming our way via YouTube. And there are some first time teams in the lineup which, I’m sure, feel they have something to prove. I believe you can still get tickets online via the Elite 8 Official Website and in case I didn’t mention it earlier, the event is taking place at Warner Theater, so if you are in the DC area, be sure to check it out. Good luck to all the teams and the competition organizers.
Below is a video introducing the final lineup: