No one before him had dared to mix the racy rhythms of Indian folk singing with the pulsating vibrations of soca, the beat of
calypso and the strains of the dholak. Chutney pioneer, Sundar Popo, has successfully
taken his music to the world proving that Indian music is not for Indian people alone.
This remarkable accomplishment is no accident. He comes from a rich musical background. As
an unborn baby in his mother's womb he felt the powerful stirrings of the religious Hindu songs that she sang. His father, a tassa drummer, was also an accomplished musician.
Both mother and father took their act to the
road performing in the quiet rural villages of Trinidad. They often supplied
the only music at farewell nights, weddings and prayers. However, he did not
being singing with the band until he was 15 and did so for 35 cents and 50 cents per show.
He began his career as a singer with film songs
and as a young man he made the long journey from his home in Monkey Town, Barrackpore to Chaguanas where like many his age
he sat before the big screen at Jubilee Cinema and dreamed of being a star.
Today he can boast that he is a star having made
a tremendous impact on the international music scene.
He was a 27-year-old who simply loved to sing
when he made his debut with "Nanie and Nana" in 1971.
Back then he had neither a record nor public
recognition. Now with more than 50 records to his credit and many hits such as
"Oh My Lover", "Don't Fall in Love" and "Scorpion Girl" Sundar Popo is a household name.
No one before him had dared to mix rhythms of
Indian folk with soca. He was aided in his progress by Moean Mohammed, musicologist
Harry Mahabir and Ed Watson. The result was a musical mixture that was so spicy
and rich that it left all who heard it spellbound. It was quite fittingly dubbed
chutney. The crossover bet made him a star by the age of 30. Since then he has proven that Indian music can gain wide acceptance by the population regardless of race.
Even in the early days of his pioneering work
he chose to sing his songs as a mixture of standard English and the local dialect so that they could be appreciated by all
who heard them.
He has won the Indian Cultural Pageant four times
and this led organisers to create a special category for his original compositions.
He has performed with international Indian stars
Kanchan and Babla, Anup Jalotha, Amitab Bachan and Keshor Kumar and with popular local calypsonians such as Black Stalin whose
"Sundar Where the Song" helped him cop the monarchy.
He was awarded a Sunshine Music Award in 1993
for the role that he has played in the development of world music and received a Caribbean Music Award the following year.
He has also performed before huge crowds all
over the world. Thousands of music lovers have enjoyed his chutney music in Holland,
Suriname, Canada, Jamaica, England, Guyana and the USA.
Arguably one of his best albums is "Come and
Sing and Dance With the Champ." It contains some of his most popular hits such
as "Polourie Beena Chutney", "Tears in My Eyes", "A Mother's Love" and "O My Lover You Leave Me and Gone."