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”).
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.
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)