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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Bhangra Dance Classes Become Popular / Brian Wilson's 'Smile' / Chicago's O'Hare International Airport - 2004-11-05

Broadcast: November 5, 2004


DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.

This is Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

A new album by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys ...

A listener question about one of the busiest airports in the world ...

And a class that teaches a dance from India.

Bhangra Dance Classes

The music and dance of India are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. There is an Indian musical play on Broadway in New York City called “Bombay Dreams.” So-called “Bollywood” movies made in India are often shown in America as well. And many classes around the country teach Indian dances. Shep O’Neal tells us more about one of these dances.

SHEP O'NEAL: Bhangra is a lively folk dance from the northern Indian state of Punjab. Dancers move their arms and legs to the strong beat of the music. Kumud Mathur teaches Bhangra and other Indian dances in the Washington, D.C., area. She has been performing and teaching dance in the area for more than fifteen years.

Mizz Mathur is a mathematician by profession. She works for the United States Army. She developed the Dance to Health Society in nineteen ninety.

She wanted to develop a fitness program that combines aerobic exercise, Indian culture and music. So she studied exercise techniques and developed a class for the Montgomery County Department of Recreation. She teaches Bhangra dance to a group of about thirty people on Tuesday nights at the community center in Potomac, Maryland. The group includes young people and older people. The majority of them have family members from India.

Several young Indian-Americans in the class are learning Bhangra so they can perform the dance with other young people at dance clubs in Washington. Several older people are learning the dance because it is part of their Indian culture. Other people in the class are not of Indian ancestry. But they say the class is good exercise. It is also great fun. And they like the music.

You can also find Bhangra dance classes in other areas, including New York City, New Jersey and California. Bhangra dance competitions are held at colleges and universities in many areas.

Here is a Bhangra dance song called "Naal Naal."


O’Hare International Airport

DOUG JOHNSON: Our listener question this week comes from Nigeria. Abdulkadir Usman asks about O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois.

O’Hare Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia each claim to be the world’s busiest airport. O’Hare may be the world’s busiest airport. Or it may be only the second busiest. But everything about it is big.

The Federal Aviation Administration says more than nine hundred thirty thousand flights traveled through O’Hare last year. During that time, more than sixty-nine million passengers passed through O’Hare.

Most of these people were waiting for connecting flights. As they waited, they could shop at many airport stores. They could eat at airport cafes. They could exercise at a health club or do office work in a business-support center. They could take their children to a flight museum or visit the airport’s religious center.

The huge O’Hare Airport of today is very different from its beginning. It started as a military air base and factory in the nineteen forties. The center produced planes for World War Two. Later, the airport was named for Navy pilot Edward O’Hare. He was killed in action during the war after being honored with medals for bravery.

As big as O’Hare airport is today, however, it is not big enough. Too many airplanes crowd the runways where they take off and land. Delays and cancellations interfere with air traffic across the country. Officials say sixty-five percent of the flights at O’Hare were delayed during the first seven months of this year. This was the worst record among the nation’s major airports.

To improve the situation, the governor of Illinois signed the O’Hare Modernization Act last year. The Act calls for building another runway. Existing runways would be moved and extended. More buildings are planned. The project will cost more than six-and-one-half-thousand-million dollars. When all that is completed in the next eight years, busy O’Hare Airport can get even busier.

Brian Wilson’s Album “Smile”

The former leader of the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, is making waves again by finally releasing his old, yet new, album, “Smile.” Faith Lapidus tells us about it.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Brian Wilson wrote and produced most of the songs for the nineteen sixties hit group, the Beach Boys. In nineteen sixty-seven, Wilson started to work on the album “Smile.” But he did not complete it until thirty-seven years later.

Wilson had a vision of creating a special album that was American in sound. He wanted to include all kinds of American music -- doo-wop, pop, jazz and gospel.

But recording for the album stopped. Wilson suffered from mental illness. Other members of the Beach Boys felt that the music did not go along with their image. They felt that the music was too complex. However, some songs recorded for the “Smile” album were released. “Heroes and Villains” and “Surf’s Up” became popular songs on other albums.

Brian Wilson began working on “Smile” again last year at the age of sixty-one. The album is a rock opera with seventeen songs. Wilson described it as a “teenage symphony to God.” Here he sings “Song for Children.”


Wilson uses drums and piano in “Roll Plymouth Rock.” The song expresses a powerful message with the easy Beach Boys sound.


The Beach Boys created fun songs throughout the years. We leave you now with “Good Vibrations,” one of their most popular hits. Wilson adds his own personal touches to the song.


DOUG JOHNSON: This is Doug Johnson.

I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC. Join us again next week for VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

This program was written by Shelley Gollust, Jerilyn Watson and Brian Kim. Paul Thompson was our producer. And our engineer was Efrem Drucker.