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Chutney Soca

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Title: Chutney Soca  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Soca music, Ravi Bissambhar, Drupatee Ramgoonai, Rikki Jai, Chut-kai-pang
Collection: 20Th-Century Music Genres, 21St-Century Music Genres, Trinidad and Tobago Music
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Chutney Soca

Music of Trinidad and Tobago
General topics
Related articles
Media and performance
Music media

Music television

Nationalistic and patriotic songs
National anthem Forged from the Love of Liberty
Regional music

In Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname, Chutney soca music is a crossover style of music incorporating Soca elements and Hindi-English lyrics, Chutney music, with Indian instruments such as the dholak and dhantal.

The term chutney soca was first coined by Drupatee Ramgoonai of Trinidad & Tobago in 1987 in her first album entitled Chutney Soca, with both English and Hindi versions of the songs. The current style of spelling of the term was not established then and she spelt it as "Chatnee Soca". The following year her mega-hit "Roll up de Tassa" was instrumental in creating a commercial market for this type of music internationally. Drupatee has spoken about the blending of Afro and Indo melodies and rhythms in songs such as "Chatnee Soca" and "Hotter than ah Chulha". Chutney is a melody and soca is a beat. Drupatee used an ancient Indian melody called a lawnee with the soca beat in her rendition of "O Tassawalley" and has released a legacy of Chutney soca music.


Chutney soca is a prime example of how Indo-Trinidadians have established roots in Trinidad also Antigua and have created an original, syncretic art form.[1] Resulting from the intervention of Indo-Trinidadians into Soca music in the 1980s,[2] the addition of chutney soca to the island's musical life signified a consolidation of the East Indian influence on Trinidadian culture and politics, particularly during the 1990s. It was during this time that Trinidadian musicians, performing in the popular style of calypso and its substyle, soca, began to incorporate Indian themes into their lyrics. An early, significant example of this is the song "Sundar Popo", by Black Stalin. This song, whose whimsical lyrics concern a veteran Indian singer, won Black Stalin the coveted Calypso Monarch Prize in February 1995. Although it was neither in chutney style nor in Hindi, "Sundar Popo" was labelled chutney-soca because of its theme.[3] Similar efforts followed in the wake of 30 May 1995, which marked the anniversary of the first arrival of "indenturees" in Trinidad and was designated by the island's government as Indian Arrival Day.

Chutney soca's rise in popularity through the mid- to late 1990s was expedited by its changing role in Trinidad's Carnival celebration.[4] The 1995-96 Carnival season saw the establishment of the Chutney Soca Monarch Competition and the performance of a number of chutney socas during the calypso-soca competition by creole musicians, including Marcia Miranda, Tony Ricardo, Chris Garcia, Brother Marvin, and Luta. Embraced as it was by non-Indian performers, who abandoned formal Indianisms, sang solely in English and emphasized the soca beat, chutney-soca became a national fad.[4] The Chutney Soca Monarch competition has become the largest and most important Indo-Caribbean concert of its kind in the world. Today its production costs more than US$1 million annually. It has crowned many champions from 1996 to 2010 which include Sonny Mann, Rikki Jai, Heeralal Rampartap, Rooplal Girdharrie and most recently in 2010 Ravi Bissambhar. Since the late 1990s, chutney soca has spawned the similar styles of chutney rap, chutney jhumar and chutney lambada, dance music whose Indo-Caribbean themes are mixed with Bombay film music and American popular music.[5]


The godfather of Chutney soca is Garfield Blackman, who rose to fame as Lord Shorty with his 1963 hit "Clock and Dagger" and took on the name "Ras Shorty". He started out writing songs and performing in the calypso genre. In the 1970s, he began experimenting with calypso by blending it with the local chutney. Shorty added Indian instruments, including the dholak, tabla and dhantal. A prolific musician, composer and innovator, Shorty experimented with fusing calypso and the other Indian inspired music including chutney music for nearly a decade before unleashing "the soul of calypso" - soca music.

Shorty had been in Dominica during an Exile One performance of cadence-lypso, and collaborated with Dominica's 1969 Calypso King, Lord Tokyo, and two calypso lyricists, Chris Seraphine and Pat Aaron, in the early 1970s, who wrote him some creole lyrics. Soon after, Shorty released a song, "Ou Petit", with words such as "Ou dee moin ou petit Shorty" (meaning "you told me you are small Shorty"), a combination of calypso, cadence and kwéyòl. Shorty's 1974 Endless Vibrations and Soul of Calypso brought soca to its peak of international fame.

Chutney soca's development includes its fusion of calypso, candence, and Indian musical instruments—particularly the dholak, tabla and dhantal—as demonstrated in Shorty's classic compositions "Ïndrani" and "Shanti Om".


  1. ^ Peter Manuel, "Chutney and Indo-Trinidadian cultural identity," Popular Music 17:1 (1998): 37 JSTOR, Online (4 December 2007).
  2. ^ Lorriane Leu, "'Raise Yuh Head, Jump up and Get on Bad!': New Developments in Soca Music in Trinidad", Latin American Music Review 21:1 (2000): 51 JSTOR, Online (4 December 2007).
  3. ^ Manuel (1998): 37 and 42.
  4. ^ a b Manuel (1998): 38.
  5. ^ Helen Myers, "Trinidad and Tobago", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians Vol. 25, ed. Stanley Sadie (Taunton, Mass.: Macmillan, 2001), p. 742.
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