Chutney music


Chutney music is a form indigenous to the southern Caribbean, popular in Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname. It derives elements from traditional Indian music and popular Trinidadian Soca music.


This contemporary fusion of genres was created by Indo-Caribbean people whose ancestors were from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal and the South Indian area around Madras. They were taken as indentured servants by the British to replace laborers on sugar plantations after emancipation. Chutney music was established in the 1940s within temples, wedding houses, and cane fields of the Indo-Caribbean. There were no recordings until 1958, when Ramdew Chaitoe of Suriname, a small country in South America, recorded an early rendition of chutney music. The album was entitled King of Suriname and all of the songs were religious in nature. However, Chaitoe soon became a household name with East Indians not just in Suriname but throughout the Caribbean. Although the songs were religious, they had a dance vibe throughout each track. For the first time Indo-Caribbeans had music that spoke to them and was not Indian, or European/American in style. This was a breakthrough for East Indian Caribbean music but the fame was short lived.

Chutney music exploded again in 1968 with the female singer Dropati, who released an album entitled Let's Sing & Dance, made up of traditional wedding songs. These songs became huge hits within the East Indian Caribbean community. The album gained recognition for chutney music as a legitimate form and united East Indians, regardless of their birthplace.

1970 was a huge turning point for chutney music when record producer Moean Mohammed recorded Sundar Popo with Harry Mahabir's BWIA Orchestra. Sundar Popo modernized the music by including western guitars and early electronics into his music. Although Popo became known as the "King of Chutney," the art of singing songs in "Chutney" style was introduced by a singer named Lakhan Kariya, from the town of Felicity, who preceded Sundar Popo. Other artists, such as Sam Boodram, followed in his footsteps by adding new modern instrumentation into their music. Chutney music until then remained a local music in Trinidad, Guyana & Suriname. However, this was all about to change and Chutney music was about to become an Industry.

This change came about in 1979 when the manner in which chutney music was produced, marketed and distributed fell into the hands of a 17 year old record producer and distributor name Rohit Jagessar.

Jagessar set a higher standard for chutney music and took it world wide by expanding the "old markets" and opening up newer international markets for this most beloved musical genre. Jagessar's production, marketing and distribution network handled albums of such greats as Abel Peters, Sundar Popo (produced by Moean Mohammed of Winsor Records), the 1980's Mastana Bahar Album Series (produced by Kamal, Sham & Moean Mohammed), BWIA Orchestra and Kanchan and Babla among many great chutney stars of the era. During the early part of the decade, Jagessar, Kanchan & Babla would fuse other world beat music to create Kuchh Gadbad Hai, the biggest selling album of the genre in the 1980's (highest chart position achieved: #1 on over 50 radio and print music charts in over 15 countries including the US, UK and Africa). Jagessar followed this with Babla & Kanchan Live in 1985 and numerous other hits during the decade. He would also go on to release the first ever chutney music CD.

As the 1990's turned, Jagessar went on to produce ten of the most memorable chutney hits with Kanchan in the classic album "Leggo Me Na Raja, the biggest selling album in the history of the chutney music genre. Jagessar recorded the album in the summer of 1991 at Weston Outdoor Studios in Mumbai, India on 8mm film, making this the first chutney album recorded digitally.

Chutney Music also got its first big impact commercially in live concert performances during the 1980's when Jagessar took the music into large stadiums and cricket fields in select countries around the world. In 1985, revenue from these concerts surpassed US$1 million for the first time in the history of the genre and Jagessar signed Kanchan to a contract with Johnson & Johnson to produce and promote the popular brand in a most memorable television commercial that very same year.

Although chutney lyrics can be very suggestive, Jagessar was always careful to keep the lyrical content of all his Chutney music productions respectful and clean. Jagessar's commercial success with Chutney music inspired many other producers and artists to come on to the chutney scene.

In year 2007, 28 years after he pioneered and commercialized chutney music onto the world stage, Jagessar was awarded the Life Time Achievement Award for his creative and pioneering work in advancing and bringing Chutney Music internationally.

After the success of Kuchh Gadbad Hai, other Chutney artists began to fuse calypso, soca and American rhythm & blues, naming their music Indian soca. A young female artist named Drupatee Ramgoonai from Trinidad emerged on this new scene. At first she was criticized for being "dutty" (rude or crude in creole), because she wrote about sex and alcohol. This was nothing new, as she was following in the footsteps of other calypsonians who they sing about issues in their life or what is happening within the community. Drupatee was later given the title "Queen of Chutney." By the end of the 1980s chutney music went global and was introduced in Indian films. Even in Holland, a new artist named Atiya emerged on the chutney scene.

During the 1990's many mom and pop recording companies mushroomed and set out to cash in on the Chutney craze. Companies in The United States and Canada began to pick up chutney artists for their recording companies. These included the hugely successful Jamaican Me Crazy (JMC) Records, Spice Island Records, Mohabir Records and JTS Productions. The establishment of nightclubs such as Soca Paradise and Calypso City in New York and Connections and Calypso Hut in Toronto, coupled with these new recording companies were all factors instrumental in promoting Indo-Caribbean music overseas and in the West Indies.

The modern chutney artist writes lyrics in either Hindi, Bhojpuri or English and then lays them over beats derived from Indian dholak beats mixed with the soca beat.

Chutney is an uptempo song, accompanied by electric guitar, synthesizer, dholak, harmonium, and dhantal, tassa drums played in rhythms imported from filmi, calypso or soca. Early chutney was religious in nature sung by mainly women in Trinidad & Tobago. Chutney is unusual in the predominance of female musicians in its early years, although it has since become more gender-mixed.

Chutney artists include Sam Boodram, Rikki Jai, Rakesh Yankaran, Devanand Gattoo, Nisha Benjamin, Heeralal Rampartap and the late Ramdew Chaitoe, who composed the Surinamese-based "Baithak Gana" in his album The Star Melodies of Ramdew Chaitoe. Among the best known examples of chutney music are Sundar Popo's "Pholourie Bein Chutney" or Sundar Popo's first recorded song "Nani And Nana", Sam Boodram's " Lalana Khoose" Sonny Mann's "Lotalal", Vedesh Sookoo's "Dhal Belly Indian", Anand Yankaran's "Jo Jo", Neeshan "D Hitman" Prabhoo's "Mr. Shankar", Ravi B's "Rum Is Meh Lova" and Rikki Jai's "Mor Tor". Additionaly, K I's "Single Forever".

The nature of current chutney songs are simple. They speak about life and love for many things, whether for a significant other or for an object of possession. Some chutney songs favor the topic of food or drink; however, like most West Indian music, there can be a hidden message found in the song if you read between the lines.


Chutney music is typically played with the dholak, dhantal and harmonium. The melody of the music is provided by the harmonium, and the dholak and dhantal for the rhythm. More modernly, drum machines playing tassa have been incorporated into chutney as well. Tassa is drumming used in the Muslim Hosay festival, and is also played during Hindu weddings and other celebrations.


Chutney music is sung in English, Hindi and Bhojpuri. As chutney music comes from the Indian culture, it is only natural some of the languages are from India. Traditionally speaking, the lyrics of chutney are religious, but that has changed over the years. In modern chutney music, including the newer subgenres, the lyrics have evolved to be more contemporary.


The origin of chutney being in the Caribbean has meant that it's been in close contact with different peoples, traditions, and other musical styles since its inception. According to the government of Trinidad and Tobago, roughly 35% of the country's population is of Indian descent, another 34% of African descent, and the remaining 31% composed of a mix of European, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and other ancestry. This has allowed chutney to fuse with other genres and/or implement new instruments into its own style, creating an array of syncretic subgenres including ragga chutney, chutney-bhangra, chutney hip-hop, soca-bhangra, and chutney soca.

Chutney soca is the most notable of these, as it has become virtually indistinguishable from what is considered normal chutney in recent years. Drupatee Ramgoonai coined the term with the release of her album, "Chatnee Soca," in 1987. The style had an emphasis on Hindi lyrics and the beats of the dholak and dhantal. It was further popularized by the 1994 album, "Soca Chutney," by Sonny Mann. It was credited as the best selling Indo-Caribbean album ever, with its title track hitting the top of charts not only in the Caribbean, but in the United States, Canada, and England.

Modern chutney soca, like many chutney subgenres, has incorporated more use of keyboards, drum machines, and other electronic instruments.

(from the article Chutney music of Wikipedia)

Selected examples

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Video D


List of chutney musicians

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