Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hot and Spicy Chutney: Music of the Indian Diaspora in the West Indies

To bring this mini series on Indian popular music to a close the Washerman’s Dog jumps with great zest across the oceans to the Indian diaspora communities of the West Indies. 

Chutney, the name of this intriguing popular music genre is evocative of a delectable Indian spice and indeed, this is music whose lyrical themes and dance style are generally described as ‘spicy’ or ‘hot’. Chutney’s fieriness lies in the clever double entendres of the lyrics and in the fast repetitive rhythms played on tassa and dholak drums and the dhantal (an iron-rod percussion instrument beaten with a horseshoe shaped striker). Audiences dance to this music in carnival fashion.

There was no music known as chutney as we know it today before approximately 1970. There was simply “local music”. Like the name salsa, which emerged as an umbrella marketing term in New York to cover a range of Puerto Rican and Cuban music, chutney was initially used to describe Indian-Caribbean traditions which were just beginning to be performed publicly. Just as Tito Puente once declared “The only salsa I know comes in the bottle. I play Cuban music,” so, too, did James Ramsawak, one of the oldest singers in Trinidad, who taught many of today’s chutney singers, say, “Chutney is not a music. Chutney is spice.”
Sundar Popo, chutney superstar

Because of the carnival connection, chutney is sometimes described as the Indian soca, a reference to the lively Caribbean form rooted in soul and calypso traditions. But it is more than that. Chutney has developed mainly in Trinidad, Guyana and Suriname and has widespread popularity in those places in addition to contributing to the general music scene in the Caribbean. The instruments used and the places where these sounds are prominent give some clues as to the origins of chutney.  Basically, its music from the Caribbean with roots in Indian musical traditions.  You can still hear the influence of Indian folk and devotional songs in contemporary chutney and today’s chutney singers are influenced by the sounds produced by the Indian film industry.

The story of chutney’s  development begins with the arrival of Indians in the Caribbean in 1838, recruited there, like in Fiji, to maintain the colonial plantation system of sugar production. So there is an Indian connection that goes far beyond the name of this music. Since chutney has developed in the pluracultural contexts of the Caribbean, it displays a mixture of other influences including calypso, soca, reggae and rap. (extracted from Liner Notes)

If you know and like the bawdy music of the Mighty Sparrow and other Caribbean calypso artists, then you’ll love chutney. This is indeed a hot and spicy collection that will make you get up and dance. The lyrics sung in a creole of Hindi (mainly of the Bhojpuri variety) and English are funny and light hearted and came out of the tradition of women singing racy songs to the bride and groom at Indian weddings.

For more information on this amazing but little known genre of Indo-pop, check out the Blog: .

         Track Listing:
        01 Fan Meh Paolourine (Homefront)
02 Dottish Boy (Sundar Popo)
03 Lotayla (Sally Edwards)
04 Butterfly (Boyie Basdeo)
05 Ragga Dulahin (Double D)
06 Dum Maaro Dum (Celia Samaroo)
07 Scorpion Gyal (Sundar Popo)
08 Chutney Rampage (Ajala)
09 Chutney Genie (Madian Ramdas)
10 Doo Doo Darling Dhulanie (Ramdeen Maraj)
11 Ta Ra Ra (Ian Singh)
12 Khirk Na Din (Cecil Fonrose)
13 Caura River (Anand Yankaran)
14 Trinidad Ka Bapujee (Jairam Dindial)

Listen here.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi, this looks like its going to be a treat! Thank you!