When indentured labour began entering Trinidad from India in 1845, the overwhelming majority of these people were Hindus with a small number of Muslims.
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Exploring Sundar’s intoxicating music
The intoxicating music of the late icon Sundar Popo and the impact his genre of music would have had on the social and cultural landscape, will be explored in a dramatisation titled, Sundar.
Sundar is a kind of biographical dramatisation of the life of the Indian folk singer from Barrackpore, concentrating between the period 1970, when he first rose to fame, and 2000, when he died.
The play, written and produced by Victor Edwards, is set to take place from tonight to June 1, at the Sundarlal Popo Bahora Auditorium, named after the legend, at the Southern Academy of the Performing Arts (SAPA), Todd Street and Rienzi-Kirton Highway, San Fernando.
Calypsonian Black Stalin who has immortalised Sundar in calypso, as well as Rikki Jai and Drupatee, two of the artiste Sundar Popo would have paved the way for them to follow, will all be cast in various parts of this production, which conceptualised some 17 years ago.
They will be backed up by two live bands, which will be performing both in the background and foreground, in a blend of local music relevant to the period.
Edwards recalled the idea came to him while teaching at the Cowen Hamilton secondary school, when he began to research and collate information, but the impetus to pay homage to Sundar, really materialised with the naming of the Sundarlal Popo Bahora auditorium by the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism.
While Sundar Popo was a simple man, entertaining with simple lyrics and melodies, the play explores the impact this genre of music has had on the entire musical and cultural landscape and the industry that it has spawned.
Chutney, Edwards recalled, was a traditional form of music sung by women, but Sundar in 1969 took a chance by becoming the first man to take it to the mainstream. He suffered the butt of jokes and ridicule until his mega hit, Nanny and Nana, changed the course of history.
“We are trying to iconise, in a way, the work he has done. Iere Theatre Productions Ltd, is really creating art, creating meaning from what Sundar Popo has offered to the society in terms of song, by contextualising a lot of his songs in situation and in terms of social events that happened during the period 1970 to 2000.”
The period will encapsulate the Black Power Movement, the sugar workers march as well as the pelting of chutney singer Sonny Man at the Soca Monarch competition, the immortalisation of Indian women in calypso, the integration of calypso, soca and chutney, Edwards explained.
“The play deals with those historical and cultural issues that tend to resolve themselves to the end of the play.”
Speaking about his decision to launch the play to commemorate the 169th anniversary of the arrival of East Indian, Edwards suggested it is time members of the diaspora celebrate their achievements, instead of dwelling on the past.
In reference to journey on the Fatel Rozack from India to Trinidad, Edwards said, “It is time to stop dragging the boat through the streets to celebrate Indian Arrival Day. The fact is that we have been here for 169 years and it is time we look forward and try to celebrate the things we have contributed to the society, rather than celebrating a moment when we came here.
“And I think, what we are doing by celebrating Sundar Popo is very important, in that we are creating meaning and creating art. No one, so far has thought about writing a dramatic piece dealing with the Muharram Massacre (better known as the Hosay Riots in 1884 in San Fernando).
Many of our schoolchildren don’t know about this moment in our history or about the Black Power Movement and these are my concerns.
“I don’t want to pigeonhole myself as a writer of Indian history, but I think it is important that someone who has the ability to write, produce and direct, I have that obligation to do as much as I can do to promote that kind of history.
“There is so much out there that we could go and look for and write about and produce to help develop our own consciousness our own society and educate people about ourselves.” Iere Productions, in the past four years has produced several new plays, Eric The Musical, written by Zeno Constance, the re-enactment of Indian Arrival at Nelson Island, the Adventures of Gurudeva (co-written with Professor Ken Ramchand) and now Sundar.
Intrigued while working with Ramchand on the Adventures of Gurudeva, Edwards revealed that his next two projects will be on, one, the works of father and son writers, Seepersad and VS Naipaul and the 160th anniversary of the Merikins in Trinidad.
Sundar show time....
May 29 - School shows, 9.30 am
May 30 - Gala celebration, 7 pm
May 31 - 8 pm
June 1 - 6.30 pm.
Tickets are available at Chavals, High Street and Chaguanas; Keith Khan’s Book Store, Navet Road; Crosby’s St James; Elle Fashion Gulf City; MS Food City, Debe; and at Sapa’s Box office.
Photos courtesy Iere Productions