Traditionally chutney was religious in nature sung mainly by women in Trinidad & Tobago. Today, Chutney has branched out into Chutney Soca a new genre showcased at the Chutney Soca Monarch, the biggest Chutney Soca event of its kind in the world showcasing talent from North America, the Caribbean and the UK. This event has been going strong for the past 18 years by the Godfather of Entertainment, Mr. George Singh, of Southex Event Management Company Limited.
Chutney Soca Monarch has been a launching pad for many careers in the Chutney Soca industry even if they don't make it to finals. It has triggered an international awareness of Chutney Soca Music overseas, creating events and massive productions. This year the Semi Finals looked like the Finals with all the hype, and the highest quality production with magnificent performances. This year five cultural icons, Sam Boodram, Budram Holass, Rakesh Yankaran, Rasika Dindial, and Ramrajie Prabhoo, will be honored in this special feature which will be part of this year's production called Living Legends.
The Evolution of Chutney has been notorious for controversy from provocative lyrics to the new age digital music. One thing that is agreed upon is that there must be a message, perhaps of love and heartache, or more recently drinking alcoholic beverages and having a good time or there can be a hidden message found in the song if you read between the lines. It deals with the reality and issues of today, but doesn't sit easy with some. Chutney music is typically played with the dholak and dhantal (which provides rhythm) and harmonium (which adds melody).
Today, drum machines playing tassa have been incorporated into chutney to flavor it up. Within the next few pages, you will discover what the opinions of the older heads are on the evolution of Chutney music, and what they intend to do to preserve it. These living legends are a wealth of knowledge and were willing to get a few words of wisdom for their legacy to carry on flying the flag of Trinidad and Tobago high all around the world.
A beautiful girl went by the seaside... she dropped her necklace in the water and a fish came and stole it... some of the most famous lyrics in Chutney History, from the song "Thar Gori Jamuna�' composed and sung by the great Boodram Holass. We are glad that this Living Legend of Chutney, to be honored as part of a special presentation at Chutney Soca Monarch, held by George Singh of Southex Event Management Company Limited is still with us after his accident in 1992.
He was already pronounced and in the morgue, his father held a wake for him. He wasn't ready for the afterlife and woke up, proceeded to walk out the door and scared the daylights out of a nurse who had to bring a towel to cover him up!! His time was not up yet, but he adds, "When I do die", I want to be born back as a singer again." He Reads the Ramayan and writes bhajans, but feels that new classical songs should be created. He adds that Chutney music should be respectable with clean lyrics, and pronunciation is very important as one slip of the tongue could have a totally different meaning!
They must have 4 components; potential, credential, substantial and be essential to the people. He states "If you put your mind to do something and don't be lazy, you will succeed." He has maintained his exemplary reputation by living to a certain standard in life. You will never see him with alcohol or in a rum shop or minding people's business and lives a very healthy lifestyle. He joins his community to do Volcano Puja every year, which is paying respect to Mother nature glorifying Her name in chants and prayers. Boodram Holass believes in the progression and integration of different types of music and has represented Trinidad in over 12 countries.
When meeting melody queen Lata Mangeshkar he serenaded her with one of her hit songs "Sawan Ka Mahina", She told him his voice was so sweet as though Shankar Bhagwan, a God in the Hindu Religion, came down himself from the heavens and sang to her. He believes there is always room for improvement as the world is constantly evolving and the internet is one way to spread Trinidad's magnificence in a positive manner. A Complex and cultural centre will be named in his honor in Granville, so that when the Great Boodram Holass is ready to leave this earth and returns to the heavens above, his name will live on in the land of Trinidad and Tobago.
Since winning the title as the first woman to win a Chutney competition in the Indian Cultural Pageant, Ramrajie Prabhoo, a true queen of Chutney, has taken the art form abroad and showcased the culture of Trinidad and Tobago to the world. Ramrajie is disheartened with the growing trend today in Chutney crossover music's content and lyrics. She says we should take example from the Calypsonians, as they maintain a standard. She continues that we should use forums to enhance and preserve the traditional style of music. Ramrajie adds that Hindi should be a part of the curriculum, to aid in preserving a culture that has come to a demise because it has been abandoned. She suggests the Ministry of Culture should get more serious and add Hindi and African languages to get back to the roots, have cultural officers to monitor programs and instill these values from a young age so that it becomes a way of life. The Indo Caribbean female icon has taken measures into her own hands, and has written to the Government to take a position to preserve the culture. One of her goals includes being a role model and leading the way in uplifting the culture. One of Ramrajie's most memorable moments was seeing the Buckingham Palace, in London. It was surreal to her, but it was Chutney royalty looking on at British royalty. This talented queen is also in the process of writing an educational book for 1st year secondary students to teach them about the importance of values, one rich family and one less fortunate. Her 27 year contribution to Chutney has bridged a gap into the next generation, having all of her sons included on stage from a young age. They are all musicians and three of her four sons were semifinalists in Chutney Soca Monarch, held by George Singh of Southex Event Management Company Limited. As one of her most popular songs go "Maina Bole" the male bird is asking why he came to visit the female bird. It narrates a light hearted story of love, a peaceful message that represents the very essence of Ramrajie Prabhoo, love and peace in blissful harmony.
"D Rani", translated means "The Queen", and that is definitely what Rasika Dindial, is. A queen of chutney. With her un-tainted style and a voice created from the heavens, she has never compromised her standards as a woman in Chutney. D Rani feels appreciated and honored to be chosen as one of the Living Legends of Chutney, part of a special presentation at Chutney Soca Monarch, held by George Singh of Southex Event Management Company Limited.
After many years of flying the flag of Trinidad and Tobago high in countries such as Canada and the United States and as far as representing Trinidad in India, this cultural icon continues to sing Chutney music at a certain standard, preserved since she began to sing. D Rani believes that some Chutney music has hit a wall and crashed; a lot of impostors are creating counterfeit Chutney. You must know how to carry yourself. If you don't understand the true meaning of chutney, leave it alone.
What she suggests is for them to follow the footsteps of traditional Chutney. She continues to define Chutney as all Hindi, with a fast beat, harmonium dhantal and dholak, sending a message to the people. In this modern revolutionized era, D Rani still writes her own songs in Hindi, reads Hindi and speaks Hindi, which is a very rare commodity these days. She strongly supports her sister Hemalata Dindial, who is also in the finals this year and her twin brother Jairam Dindial, as true Chutney singers.
D Rani continues to bring joy to the many brides and grooms at weddings and farewell nights and also welcomes babies at Chathee and Barahee birth celebrations where she still performs with vibrancy and class, leaving her footprint of traditional chutney in the harmonious history of Trinidad and Tobago.
The undisputed "Raja", meaning King, is better known as Rakesh Yankaran, is honored to be chosen as one of the Living Legends of Chutney, part of a special presentation at Chutney Soca Monarch, held by George Singh of Southex Event Management Company Limited. He says it is long overdue, and looks up to George Singh for his contribution to culture and opening many doors and opportunities for many artistes past and present.
Rakesh stems from Chutney royalty, his dad, the late Great Maestro Isaac Yankaran who he never got to sing with, was a pioneer and one of the founding pillars of musical history in Trinidad and Tobago. His message to upcoming chutney artistes is to propagate our culture by singing new original songs, as it doesn't make sense for the Bal Vikas, religious studies for children, to be teaching it in school, and it is not applied into society.
He adds it is important to send a message to the people, the lyrics must make sense and tell a story with substance. D Raja said with great passion in his voice, that once you have God's name in your thoughts, he will always open a door for you. Had this Cultural Icon not been a singer, he would have definitely been playing lovely cricket! If he is not performing, you will find him in the stands at any cricket game, any level, from high school cricket to the West Indies.
As there are overs in cricket, D Raja is far from over. His music is his game and he continues to bat musical centuries that are timeless and can withstand the test of time. As one of his most memorable songs "Janey Chale" explains, we are going in this world and do not know where we will be, sometimes there are good moments and sometimes bad, but we must be sensible about it. A lesson learnt from one of the most remarkable singers in Trinidad history."
"Lalna Coosie" sings the praises of the birth of Lord Krishna, a Hindu God, but the Gods were probably singing praises the day the gifted spirit of Sam Boodram graced the earth when he was born. He would make his mark as one of the Cultural icons of Trinidad and Tobago that will be honored as one of the Living Legends of Chutney, part of a special presentation at Chutney Soca Monarch, held by George Singh of Southex Event Management Company Limited.
He says his happiest moments are when he sings in temple with his harmonium, and feels as though he is talking to the Gods. He says you have to have "Bhakti", or devotion when you sing so you can feel the power or Shakti"of the music. He continues in Hindi "Ek bhajan Bena Ram ke naam Brita hai", meaning a song without the name of the Lord is no use at all. The Cumuto Lion, a name coined by Pat Mathura, has a high respect for women and especially Mothers. He speaks highly of his brilliant wife, the Honorable Mr. Basdeo Panday's sister, who has never left his side, working with him and so he never leaves home without his wife.
He says this is the reason he is so grounded and successful, with the love of one woman by his side all these years and still going strong. In the days of Sugar and dhal, holding his nani's dress to walk to the river, his grandparents only spoke Hindi and came to Trinidad as Orange Estate Bound coolies, but kept their traditions and culture alive by passing it on to their children. As children flying kites in the boundary road cemetery with Sham and Moen Mohammed, they would meet up again years later to coin one of the most famous words that expresses an important part of the Chutney movement in the Caribbean.
The Mohammeds met with the Cumuto Lion buying groceries and asked what do we call tamarind, salt and pepper? Sam replied Chutney, and they decided that the style of music they would sing would be called Chutney and so it began. Just as the kites flew high as a child, the name Sam Boodram, a true living Legend, will soar high in to the heavens and will be remembered as one of the greatest legends of Trinidad and Tobago.