Long ago, in traditional India society, women groups sang erotic songs at wedding and “sohars,” special songs at childbirth. These bhojpuri folk songs were lewd and suggestive and provided a way to hand down traditions and customs to later generations.
Chutney music is a bhojpuri offspring. It was brought from the bhojpuri region in North India to Trinidad by indentured labourers. Arguably, chutney music’s origin dates back to1845 when the first batch of indentured labourers, east Indians, from various regions of India landed on Trinidad soil. Their lives were centered around the sugar cane field. And many evenings were filled with drinking rum and singing nostalgic bhojpuri songs, folk songs indeginous to India, late into the night. As time went by the lyrics gradually changed to reflect the development of their new lifestyle.
As history dictates, chutney songs, were sang by women, and only at childbirth and traditional Hindu weddings for “maticoor,” Friday night, and the “cooking” also known as the “farewell,” Saturday night, before the wedding. Because of the erotic nature of the lyrics, which centered around what the married couple would do on the wedding night, men were not allowed. The women gathered with the dholak, dhantal and harmonium and performed raunchy songs about the couple. Sometimes they enacted skits and dressed up in costumes and stuffed cloth under their dresses as if pregnant.
The song and the music continued to evolve; rhythm and melody changed and by the late 1960s the traditional song had undergone a complete change, a new genre was taking shape. A blend of Hindi and English with a new melody, chutney music was cooking. It took on greater influence when the late Sundar Popo released his Nana and Nani local composition. From then it became revolutionary. Song after song was released by local artistes and by the mid 1970s chutney music was widely accepted as a new form of Indian music in Trinidad. Following in its wake was a new breed of dancers, chutney dancers.
Songs were laced with eroticism and dances were equally as wild. Chutney culture was firmly entrenched in society. No longer a wedding and childbirth act, chutney music was on the airwaves and artistes were competing on stage for large sums of money in annual competitions.