Remembering Indian Cultural Icons

Full Article: Trinidad Express

Published on May 29th 2017


MUSICAL ICON: Sundar Popo. —Photo: YouTube

Here are a few of our local East Indian icons who have contributed to the diverse culture of Trinidad and Tobago.


The late Sundarlal Popo Bahora, better known as Sundar Popo, was considered a pioneer of chutney music. Born on November 4, 1943 at Monkey Town, near Barrackpore, and died at the age of 57 on May 2, 2000.

Coming from a musical family background, Popo devoted his time to music, making significant contributions to the music industry and uplifting the image of Trinidad and Tobago.

He recorded more than 15 albums and infused his lyrics with Hindi and English.

Chutney music draws from east Indian classical music, folk music, bhajans and ghazals. Typically the musical instruments which accompany the songs are: dholak, tabla, harmonium, dhantal, manjira and sometimes tassa.

It also blends the Western, Indian and African cultures into the rhythmic beats.

Popo produced many musical hits and some of the more popular ones include: “Nana and Nani”, “Scorpion Guyl”, “Oh My Lover”, “Don't Fall in Love”, “Pholourie Bina Chutney” and “Saas More Lage”.

Popo performed in many countries worldwide through the production and promotion of the late Mohan Jaikaran.

The country paid tribute to Popo through the naming of the Sundarlal Popo Bahora Auditorium, at the Academy for the Performing Arts, South Campus in San Fernando, after him.

There is a play entitled Sundar, produced by Iere Theatre Productions Ltd, which is about Popo's life and legacy to the music industry.

A memorial to the cultural icon, a statue of Popo, was erected in Debe as well as an image of him placed on the welcome arch when entering into the community, located near the Parvati Girls' Hindu College.

Popo was awarded the Hummingbird Medal (Silver) in 1993, Caribbean Bacchanal trophy in 1996, Caribbean Music Award in 1994 and many other musical awards for his contributions to the chutney genre.

One of Popo's songs, “Pholourie Bina Chutney” was re-sung and used in the Bollywood movie, Dabangg 2, with Bollywood actor Salman Khan dancing to the new rhythmic beat of the song.

There has also been a consideration to rename his home town of Monkey Town to Sundar Popo Village.


Queen of Chutney Soca

Drupatee Ramgoonai is regarded as the Queen of Chutney Soca music, and for coining the term chutney soca with a song titled “Chutney Soca” in 1987.

Born in Charlo Village, Penal, Ramgoonai started her musical journey singing bhajans in the temple with her mother before she began training in classical music with Ustad James Ramsewak.

In 1988, her song “Mr Bissessar” was a mega-hit as she infused East Indian styles with soca. The song made her a Road March contender.

She is the first female East Indian singer to have made such an incredible contribution to the music industry.

Ramgoonai was credited with bringing tassa and chutney soca into Carnival, which eventually led to her efforts being recognised with the Chutney Soca Monarch competition.

She has had many successful musical collaboration with local and regional artistes.

Such songs included “Indian Gyal” with Machel Montano, “Nani Wine remix” with Crazy, “Curry Tabanca” with the Mighty Trini, “Roll up de tassa” featuring Alison Hinds and “Jeb Sting Naina” which featured several local singers, Lalchan Babwa (Hunter), Neeshan Prabhoo, Ravi Bissambhar, Anil Bheem and Andy Singh.

In 2016, Fox Fuse, a digital music label for the Caribbean and largely recognised for being the largest label for soca and chutney music, signed an agreement to have her entire music catalogued and made available worldwide.