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Chutney music: A story of women empowerment

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the symbol of the genre suggests celebration of female body
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BY MEGHA SHARMA

This video is an analysis of the Trinidadian Chutney music by Dr. Kumar Mahabir. He has a YouTube channel with his name, where he focuses on the Indo-Caribbean relations. He is an eminent anthropologist and a professor at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. It was uploaded on 6th of July in 2012. It is interesting to note how this music with its origins in a Hindu wedding ceremony of cooking night. The dance was triggered by the labour class women of the place. Chutney is an Indian delicacy, used-as a side dish in most of the Indian households. it is a mixture of various spices, also known as a pickle. The Music is native to Trinidad and is a hypnotic, explosive, fast-tempo one with simple refrain verse (repeating the signature line) with Hindi lyrics.

It was performed by women mainly, though now it is a male dominant space. The women, who used to perform it, gave it a private space and involved in erotic dances. While the ceremony was going on, no man was allowed to enter the space. Today, the genre has been reinvented and one has different variations in it with Chutney soca (a Trinidadian style music), Chutney parang (Trinidadian folk music performed at Christmas), Chutney gospel (ethics), etc.

a still from the Chutney soca dance
a still from the Chutney soca dance

The researcher has done a study of some chutney songs which here I would discuss. Down the ages, one has seen how women have been looked as a property by women. They are possessions and an entity of the private sphere. Thus a release from the longish submission is always impossible. However, this genre of Music, a dominant working of Trinidadian females, comes across as a crucial step towards self- development.

The Dance and Music performed in it, as Dr Kumar observes, gives them liberty to perform. This liberty is inclusive of a celebration of their body, which is unthinkable within the public space they are devoid of. Today, the performances have increased and found a great excursion of women in the public domain. In 1960’s, when the feminist movement was at its peak, this traditional genre broke out and opened up ways for these women artists. These artists were disdained in the initial years (Alice Jan and Champa Devi being the first of them), and were regarded as immoral.

In the later years, the dancing and singing was made much available to the women of Trinidad. The performances brought profitable amount for them. The lines between the private and the public sphere are now blurred and it is seen how the exposure is given to the women who stand aside with men. They perform, dance, sing and even register their own subjection before the audience. The songs are their verbal accounting of denial of submission and being restricted to a private space.

The research further moves giving details of the outreach of this genre. Not only literature, but media, social media and even renowned music accounts include celebrate their existence. Therefore, one sees how a minor feminine genre has achieved greater names in and about the world.

(Megha is a student at the University of Delhi. She is pursuing her masters and has done her studies in german language.) GMAIL- loveme2010.ms@gmail.com

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A Music Genre To Fit All Your Mood- Jazz

Music, as they say, cannot be contained within walls. It's definition too is broad and different for different people.

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Jazz
From dance music to a vehicle of happiness, different ways to look at jazz . Flickr

Jazz  a genre with the ability to embrace varied cultures — has evolved exponentially in the past century-and-a-half and is today a major form of musical expression. But what is it that exactly gives a “jazzy characteristic” to a musical note?

Some of its foremost practitioners, who assembled at this scenic beach town recently, have different ways of defining it. if it’s “dance music” for one, “broad in its scope” for another, and a “vehicle to make people happy” for yet another, the search for what the musical form means to its practitioners remains elusive — and yet it is so dear to them all.

At the “Koktebel Jazz Party”, organised here last month, jazzy instruments such as the saxophone, trombone, trumpet, and piano were played to the beats of different music styles to create different kinds of fusions as musicians from over 20 countries participated in the annual extravaganza.

Jazz
Goa International Jazz Live Festival 2016. Facebook

Jean-Paul Maunick, 61, a founding member of British acid jazz band “Incognito”, quipped that jazz originated from the blues.

“Blues is the music that people played to express their sadness, to tell stories about dire lives. Then it came along, which was more instrumental, more free, the music created for dancing.

“Jazz is like the first dance music for me. Free dancing, where you show free expression. You throw your body but nobody is doing the same two steps. There is choreography if you want it, but most jazz music is about free dancing. The music, dancing and conversation between musicians is like that,” he shared.

Jazz
Jools Holland performing at the second Gibraltar International Jazz Festival held at the Queen’s Cinema in October 2013. Wikimedia

For Maunick, jazz is not just “an intellectual thing” — while it may be true that jazz is a “thinking man’s thing”, it is also a way “to just express yourselves”.

But is jazz all about dancing? It certainly is not, or at least that is how Rajeev Raja, the founder of Indo-Jazz music band from Mumbai, “Rajeev Raja Combine”, perceives it.

“It is not necessarily about moving. I wish to go back to the era when we used to listen to an entire album and keep listening to it. The genre is very broad in its scope and execution. There certainly are elements like swing, but there is much more to it,” he told IANS.

At the festival, there were a group of American musicians who came together for the second time after performing first in Moscow. They performed under the label, New York All Stars.

Jazz
Jazz is like the first dance music. Free dancing, where you show free expression. You throw your body but nobody is doing the same two steps. Flickr

The drummer of New York All-Stars, Carl Allen, grew up playing all kinds of styles but settled at jazz.

Also Read: Kuala Lumpur To Host The Premiere of ‘Mughal-e-Azam: The Musical’

“That’s the kind of music that excites me. That’s the kind of music that makes me happy. I try to use it as a vehicle to make other people happy. Everything is cyclical. A lot of things we hear now, people call it new but it is not really new It has been done before. It’s just a process. It’s always a cyclical process where people are putting together R&B, soul and jazz. That happened in the 1960s, 70s too,” he told IANS.

Music, as they say, cannot be contained within walls. It’s definition too is broad and different for different people, or so it seemed at the three-day festival that aimed to celebrate all things jazzy. (IANS)