What springs to mind when one thinks of Chutney?
You'd be forgiven for thinking that it is a spicy accompaniment to foods from far flung lands.
But you'd be wrong! In southern Caribbean countries such as Trinidad and Guyana, Chutney Soca music crosses Indian folk tunes, movie tunes - even religious songs - with a lively, uplifting and uptempo Caribbean Soca rhythm; the rich, warm fullness of the Dholak drum sounds accentuate the infectious musical arrangements of a genre of Caribbean music that originated from a marginalised culture in the late 1970s.
Electric guitar and horn section feature alongside traditional folk music instruments. Today, English words are added to the Hindi as the Soca element becomes stronger and the music moves from a melodic Eastern core to a more harmonic Western base. Whilst studio recordings, with an eye on the party scene, have increasingly incorporated the use of keyboards and drum machines, it could also be said that the music ties into other musical genres of the Indian diaspora; Bhangra, for instance.
The term 'Chutney Soca' was coined in the 1980s by producer Rohit Jagessar, eventually given the lifetime achievement award for his creative and pioneering work. It's no surprise, then, that the genre has grown with astonishing vigour; now an international phenomenon due to Jagessar's efforts as a pioneer within the commercial world.
But, a long heritage dates back many decades before it became the 'beat' of the late 80s and recording companies in Canada and the United States began to engage Chutney Soca artists within this increasingly competitive arena.
Today's contemporary fusion of genres was originally created by Indian people whose ancestors from Uttar Pradesh were forced to labour as indentured servants in the Caribbean to replace the freed slaves on sugar plantations. Chutney music was originally composed and sung by Indian women behind closed doors, making reference to sacred deities. Rather than the European or American styles that they had become accustomed to, now, for the first time, Indo-Caribbean people had music that spoke directly to them.
In the past, Chutney music found its home within temples, wedding houses and even in cane fields; in major contrast to the live performances held at large stadia and cricketfields where, internationally, the revenue from these concerts surpassed $1 million.
Chutney music erupted on a grand scale once again during the late 1960s, when female artist, Drupati, became an immediate hit within the Indo-Caribbean community upon releasing her album comprising traditional wedding songs: Let’s Sing and Dance.
Yet further explosions happened in 1979 when Rohit Jagessar who created a higher standard and a strong precedent for Chutney music and eventually took it worldwide by creating new international markets for this beloved genre.
And now, Khyal Arts plans to build on Jagessar's legacy by developing a fitness sensation in the U.K. as in Canada, that uses vibrant music and a harmonious atmosphere to unite and bring together people from all walks of life; each with the common goal of improving one's fitness, one's physiological wellbeing, and therefore one's life.