Sundar Popo,(Sundar Popo Bahora) was born on 4th November 1943 in the village of Monkey Town,Barrackpore in Trinidad. He was a Trinidadian and Tobagonian musician who was credited as being the father of chutney, which began with the hit “Nana and Nani” in 1969. He came from a family of musicians where his mother was a singer and his father was an accomplished drummer.
When Sundar Popo was only 15 years of age,he began singing bhajans at mandirs and weddings in his hometown for only 15-30 cents a show.
In 1969, at a mattikoor in Princes Town, he met Moean Mohammed, a radio host and promoter. After listening to “Nani and Nana”, a song with lyrics in both Trinidadian Hindustani and Trinidadian English, describing the affairs of an Indian maternal grandmother (Nani) and maternal grandfather (Nana), Mohammed got maestro Harry Mahabir to record the song at Television House, accompanied by the British West Indies Airways (BWIA) National Indian Orchestra. The song revolutionized Indian music in Trinidad and Tobago.
After the success of “Nani and Nana”, Popo devoted more of his time to his singing career. He followed “Nani and Nana” with an album combining Trinidadian songs with traditional Indian folk music. In total, he recorded more than 15 albums. He is best known for his song “Scorpion Gyul”, which spoke about love, death, and happiness. His other hits include “Oh My Lover”, “Don’t Fall in Love”, and “Saas More Lage” (also known as “I Wish I Was A Virgin”).
His songs were covered several times by the Indian duo from Mumbai, Babla & Kanchan, who had a major success with a version of his “Pholourie Bina Chutney”, bringing him to a wider international audience, and leading to tours of India, Europe, the United States, Canada, Africa, Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, Suriname, and other parts of the Caribbean.
It was through the production and promotion of Mohan Jaikaran and his JMC music empire and later with Masala radio that Sundar Popo became recognized as the pioneer and founder of Chutney music. There was not a chutney show in Trinidad and Tobago or New York City promoted by Jaikaran that Sundar Popo was not a part of. Jaikaran’s Mother’s Day concerts were always headlined by Sundar Popo.
Popo won many awards during his career, and in 1995, Black Stalin won the Trinidad & Tobago Calypso Monarch title with his “Tribute to Sundar Popo”. There are also other tributes to Sundar Popo done by Devannand Gatto, Terry Gajraj, Rikki Jai, Superblue, Dave Lall, Drupatee Ramgoonai, and Chris Garcia. In addition to his solo albums, Popo has also released collaborations with Trinidadian performer Anand Yankarran (brother of Rakesh Yankarran), and JMC Triveni.
While Popo had recorded and performed prolifically since the late 1960s, failing health and eyesight forced him to slow down. At the 2000 Chutney Monarch competition, his performance had to be cut short after one song, and he played his final concert on 1 April 2000, in Connecticut. On 2 May 2000, he died at the home he had built on Lal Beharry Trace in Monkey Town from heart and kidney ailments relating to diabetes. His funeral was attended by Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday
He is survived by his three sons Hemant, Harripersad, and Jaiknath Sundar, and his daughter Sundari. Popo’s granddaughter, Chandra Sundar, is now following in her grandfather’s footsteps in singing. There is an auditorium called Sundarlal Popo Bahora Auditorium, named after him at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA) in San Fernando. At that same auditorium there’s a play called “Sundar”, about Popo’s life, produced by Iere Theatre Productions Ltd. Sundar Popo’s song “Chadar Bichawo Balma” was a song that Amitabh Bachchan incorporated into his medleys on his live stage performances in 1982/83. He performed with international Indian stars Babla and Kanchan, Anup Jalota, Amitabh Bachchan, and Kishore Kumar.
He also performed with numerous Chutney artists and other Trinidadian and Caribbean artists. Sonu Nigam has also done a rendition on Popo’s songs. Kalpana Patowaryhas also resung some of Popo’s songs. Popo’s song “Pholourie Bina Chutney” was resung and put into the popular Bollywood movie Dabangg 2. There are negotiations going on to rename Monkey Town, the small village Popo was from, to Sundar Popo Village and to rename the street he lived on, Lal Beharry Trace to Sundar Popo Road. There is a statue of Popo in Debe.
- Four-time winner of the Indian Cultural Pageant
- National Award for Excellence
- Winner of Road March title in St Kitts & Nevis (1971)
- Local Song category Indian Cultural Pageant (1976)
- Top Indian vocalist (1988)
- Sunshine Award for first place in Indian Soca (1993)
- King of Chutney in South Florida, United States (1993)
- The National Hummingbird Medal of Trinidad and Tobago (silver) (1993)
- Caribbean Music Award (1994)
- “Caribbean Bachanal” trophy (1996)
Albums (LPs, EPs and CDs)
- Come Dance With The Champ – 1979
- Hot & Spicy (with Anup Jalota) – 1980
- Hot & Sweet – 1981
- The Nana and Nani Man Sings Again – 1982
- Sundar Fever – 1985
- The Latest, The Greatest – 1986
- Sundar Soca – 1986
- Indian Soca – 1987
- Screwdriver – 1988
- Oh My Lover – 1989
- Nana & Nani Don’t Cry – 1989
- Sundar Popo’s Heartbreak – 1990
- Who We Go Bring Back Again? – 1991
- Is The Spaner She Want – 1992
- Sweet Sweet Guyana (with Anand Yankaran)- 1993
- Children Children Respect Your Mother & Father – 1993
- Dance Party King – 1994
- Classic – 1994
- Cool Yuhself With Cold Water – 1995
- Musical Voyage: East Meets West – 1998
- Unity – 1998
- Friends – 2000
- 7″ and 12″
- Nana & Nani bw Indian Moments of Treasure – 1969
- Play You Mas – 1971
- Scorpion Gyul bw Phuluwrie Bina Chatnee – 1976
- Caroni Gyul bw Ab Na Jaibay – 1978
- Come My Darling bw Sabhagie – 1975
- Hum Najaiba bw Tears in My Eyes – 1978
- Maa Ka Mohabat bw Don’t Fall in Love – 1977
- Naina Bandh/Chal Ka Chal – 1986
- Samdhin Tere/Tere Liye – 1986
- “SUNDAR POPO – PIONEER IN ETHNIC CROSSOVER MUSIC”. Trinidad Guardian. 1 January 2000. Retrieved 23 March 2006.
- Bowman, Wayne (4 May 2000). “SUNDAR POPO”. Trinidad Guardian. Retrieved 23 March 2006.
- Sookram, Caldeo. “Sundar Popo”. Retrieved 23 March 2006.
- “SUNDAR POPO 1943-2000”. Retrieved 23 March 2006.
- “Drupatie Pays Tribute to Sundar Popo”.
As a pioneer of the chutney genre, Sundar Popo enriched the musical landscape. He touched the hearts and souls of music lovers around the world. He will always be remembered.