A vivacious blend of Bhojpuri percussion and Afro-Caribbean beats is Chutney music. Much like its edible counterpart, Chutney music is flavoursome, distinct and radiant. With its origins dating back to the early 70’s, Chutney music serves as a cultural milestone for its diverse fanbase and rich history. To this day, its influence lingers on the contemporary music’s palette.
Born within the temples, wedding houses and cane fields of Indo-Caribbean, this genre owes much of its legacy to the indentured servants of the British empire. Having stripped away of their Indian homeland, these labourers were brought to the field plantations of Trinidad to work along their African counterpart. Soon the Indian musical influences mixed with the local vernacular and culture, and thus pioneered this exotic genre.
Chutney music is characterized by its upbeat pace and simplistic subject matter. Tales of life and love of the Indo-Caribbean life were sung to the sounds of dholak, harmonium, dhantal, tassa and more. Sung mostly in Hindustani Caribbean or English, the delivery had a distinct Creole accent. Having evolved from its early traditions and religious roots, the music now showcases a distinct indo-dancehall flavour.
One of Chutney’s early heroes, Trinidad’s Sundar Popo, made quite the sensation with his breakout hit ‘Nana and Nani’. Known as the ‘King of Chutney’, Popo was honoured with Sunshine Music Award and Caribbean Music award and also sang with the likes of Kishore Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan. Another formidable name in the genre was of Drupatee Ramgoonai who received flak from conservative Indians for her unconventional subject matter. But Ramgoonai continued to create authentic music and break boundaries by doing so.
Contributions of artists over the years culminated in Chutney becoming a truly international genre, moving out of the Caribbean to the world stage. Music being an artistic means of self-expression only solidifies the cultural significance of Chutney in the history and story of immigrants. New age artists like Ravi B are taking the music of Chutney Soca forward with a modern twist and contemporary interpretation.
Chutney’s wild and unexpected mix of genres, culture and traditions showcases the power of music. Its inherent capacity to be a truly universal language is encapsulated in the origins of this genre. It’s a reminder that history and traditions are extremely vital, and also, that there’s never a bad time for good music.
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