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Bollyney or Chutwood? Chutney, Bollywood and the ‘Indo Soundscape’ of Travel in Trinidad

Baksh, Darrell. (2011). ‘Bollyney’ or ‘Chutwood’? Chutney, Bollywood and the ‘Indo Soundscape’ of Travel in Trinidad. The power of musical practice lies in its ability to serve as a compelling agent for socio-cultural transformation within particular spaces, yet specific places can also greatly impact cultural meanings of music through social and musical fusions influenced, in particular, by travel. This paper sets out to explore the interrelationship between music and place by examining chutney, traditionally considered the South Asian folk music of Trinidad, which has developed into a commercially disseminated form of popular music in the island. Though a fairly protected and private genre among the exclusive, clannish enclaves of Indian communities in Trinidad, chutney has begun to traverse and transform cultural spaces in recent times, as a result of new musical trends in sound and in style. Among them is the preference for and prevalence of melodies inspired by songs of the Hindi film industry, familiarly known as Bollywood.

As such, this paper seeks to situate this increasingly dominant development within the contexts of Trinidadian culture, by exploring how it marks a significant shift, not only in the evolution of the chutney genre, but in understandings of ‘Indoness’, the ‘Indo’ aesthetic, and the ‘Indo’ space in Trinidad, and its role in reinscribing those definitions. It also seeks to consider the way in which place, in this case India, influences the construction of Indo identity and notions of representation in Trinidad, and how it operates within the global dynamics of travelling culture to generate what I term an ‘Indo soundscape’ fraught with inter-cultural and cross-cultural transactions.

Written by @drchatakmatak

About Darrell Baksh

I’m a Toronto-born PhD candidate in the Cultural Studies program at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago. I hold a BA from the University of Toronto where I majored in Caribbean Studies with a double-minor in South Asian Studies and Music History and Culture. My doctoral dissertation examines the movement and popular reinvention of indentured bodies, sounds, and cultures in relation to the identity navigations of being Indo-Caribbean in Trinidad. My research interests include Indo-Caribbean popular music culture, Caribbean Carnival culture, the legacies of the indentured Caribbean experience, and transnational feminist thought. An avid collector of music, I am also an amateur deejay and my postdoctoral project-in-progress involves compiling a digital archive of Caribbean Carnival sound.