The new year opened with sad news with the death of iconic chutney performer Anand Yankarran. Having survived a stroke in 2008, Yankarran, 51, eventually succumbed to a stroke at Couva District Health Facility. He was cremated on January 5 at the Waterloo Cremation Site following a funeral service at Anand Yankarran Drive Extension, Exchange Housing Development, Couva.
Yankarran will be remembered for a long time, especially for many of his hits, including Nanda Baba, Malineya, Humsa Bolaway, Laylo Laylo, Zindabad Trinbago, Gunguroo Bajay, Indra Puri Say, Soch Samajh Abhiman, Ranga Dall, Bola Baba, Kya Kar Mai and Janay Maha. Nanda Baba is the hit Yankarran will be best remembered for, a ditty he performed in 1989. He also gained national prominence when television viewers warmed to his rendition of Zindabad Trinidad on a Stag commercial.
On Thursday, on his way to Yankarran's funeral, Akash Vani presenter and Chutney Soca Monarch Rikki Jai said: "Anand Yankarran was to me a friend, a brother, and a mentor in music and life. There were many champions in chutney but there was only one chutney king and that king was Anand Yankarran."
Ravi ji, former head of the Hindu Prachar Kendra, was high in praise of Yankarran and said: "Anand came from this illustrious Yankarran family. This does not just mean a family that knows classical Indian singing but they each possessed great voices. Voice hallmarked the Yankarran family.
"Anand was one of the youngest ones so he entered the scene pretty late and did so in an era when there were changes taking place in Indo-Caribbean music. One of the signal aspects to be remembered is the song Kanhaiya. It became a very popular advertisement. His song and type of singing became mainstream and he dragged with him the wider appeal of the music.
"Anand also came at a time when our local Indo-Caribbean music began getting opportunities outside of Trinidad. This is the era of Indo Caribbean music that made it international, competing in the Carnival space, and creating a wider acceptance across all ethnic lines.
"Anand Yankarran was a trailblazer and to him all credit is due. He wasn't a trailblazer because he was singing something new, but, it was his own particular brand and voice that helped internationalise and broaden the music."
Southex CEO George Singh was effusive in his praise of Yankarran. He said: "I was 25 when Anand Yankarran sang Nanda Baba. Then I had not even thought of the idea of the Chutney Soca Monarch competition; that was still six years away from coming to the forefront. When one considers that 28 years later how much of Yankarran's music has shaped the landscape of what chutney and chutney soca music is today, he can only be described as 'phenomenal'.
"Anand Yankarran is the son of Isaac Yankarran and I don't hesitate to refer to his family as 'the first family of chutney music'. You have their father Isaac, his brother Rakesh, referred to as 'the Raja of chutney', his sister Sureka, and Surindra, another brother. That family has given birth to a third generation of Yankarrans and today you have young singers like Ambika Yankarran, his neice, and Ruben, Sureka's son, who has entered this year's Chutney Soca Monarch competition for the first time at the age of 23."
Singh continued: "When Anand performed on the Chutney Soca Monarch stage in 2014, doing Pak Pak, a duet with Rikki Jai, it was one of the highlights of the production. He is also someone who has been guided in life by musicologist Mungal Patasar and the late Mohan Jaikaran who produced a lot of his music; two men I have very great respect for.
"His passing is a great loss to Trinidad and Tobago. However today, our culture is richer because of men like Anand Yankarran. He and his music will live on forever in our hearts and on the airwaves."
Veerandra Persad, leader of 3Veni and manager of KI and The Band, said: "Anand Yankarran was a legend and was responsible for the collaborations with 3Veni, now KI and The Band and JMC Ent In New York, with Mohan Jaikaran in 1992, I had the opportunity to produce an album for Anand named Soca Beta which was financed by JMC. And after that, it was history touring North America, Europe and Guyana with Anand. We have had a great journey together with lots of great moments. At that time KI was a kid on stage with me most times."
Other glowing tributes came for Yankarran from several politicians, prominent citizens and distinguished organisations like the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC) and the Rajkumari Centre for Indo-Caribbean Culture (RCC) in New York City.
The son of famous local Indian musician Isaac Yankarran and brother of Rakesh, Yankarran was somewhat of a child prodigy as at the age of ten he was already leader of the Waterloo Hindu School choir, which won a Divali singing competition. He studied music theory with musicians Bansraj Ramkissoon, Mungal Patasar, Pradip Shankar, Sunil Verma and Kavita Verma and was taught the harmonium by Rakesh Yankarran. He also played the dholak, tabla, and sitar.
The last time Yankarran performed was at the finals of the 2014 National Chutney Soca Monarch competition.