By Tara Godvin, Special to The Times The thumping, driving beat of bhangra --a style of folk music from the Indian state of Punjab, the Sikh homeland -- reverberated through the walls of the Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills Saturday as young people from around the continent converged for the SoCal Bhangra Competition (socalbhangra.com
). Bhangra began as a way to celebrate Spring during the festival of Vaisakhi. Today it's inflected with hip hop and other forms of contemporary dance music, and maintains a vital role as one of the soundtracks to life in South Asian diaspora or desi youth culture. Bhangra is viewed by its practitioners as a sport, said audience member Money Gill of Vancouver, Canada. "It's a way of life. When we get up, we practice. Before we go to sleep, we practice," he said. Saturday was the first big competition for Jasmine Bajwa, Jiya Bhullar and Navdeep Cheema, members of the Los Angeles-based group Majajana, comprised of girls ranging in age from 13 to 18. The group dances gidha, a female, more classical but still very energetic version of bhangra. "It's the real traditional Punjabi music," Cheema said.