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National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC) Celebrated 30th Annual Divali Nagar in Trinidad and Tobago

Divali Nagar is the annual exhibition of Hindu and Indo-Trinidadian culture

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Celebration of Divali Nagar. Wikimedia
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October 23, 2016: The National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC) Nagar site has celebrated the 30th annual Divali Nagar in Chaguanas, Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday night. The event began with the lighting of the Nagar’s first ‘Diya’ and performance by Hindu Prachaar Kendra and Munroe Road Hindu School.

According to trinidadexpress.com, Dr. Deokinanan Sharma, president of NCIC, thanked the council’ executive for its support in his opening address. He said, “Divali Nagar celebrations have brought an awareness of the Indo-Trinidadian culture and is an event which is fast growing in popularity. NCIC will partner with other Hindu religious organisations to hold a convention based on the Indian cultural diaspora next year in celebration of Indian Arrival Day (May 30).”

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The opening of Divali Nagar was attended by House Speaker Bridgid Annisette- George, US Ambassador John Estrada, Indian High Commissioner Bishwasdip Dey, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, Members of Parliament Suruj Rambachan, Rudy Indarsingh, Bhoe Tewarie and Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodhan. The president of the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha, Dr. Vindhya Vasini Persuad, delivered the feature address, mentioned trinidadexpress.com.

Dr. Nyan Gadsby, Minister of Community Development, said that the event has preserved and promoted the awareness of Indian culture.

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The event included Bhajans by Terance Taran Sookdeo, dances by the Shiv Shakti Dance Group and Khalnayak Dance Academy and tassa by the Trinidad and Tobago Sweet Tassa Academy.  The celebration will continue for nine nights, ending on Diwali morning.

According to Gadsby,“ Through your various themes, attendees have the chance to learn about essential aspects of our Indian culture. This year’s theme, Ganga Maa (Sacred River), focuses on the goddess and symbolises purity. It speaks of cleansing, health and mercy. It reminds us of new life, rejuvenation and victory. They say that it is here, in Trinidad and Tobago, that the Ganges meets the Nile. And so even as we celebrate the sacred river and the festival of lights, we also celebrate our diversity as a people.”

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She added,“ We acknowledge the attributes of our Aripo River in northeast Trinidad, which is believed to have been connected to the Ganges River over 25,000 years ago. With the upcoming observance of Diwali, the Festival of Lights, let us all be reminded of the strength of communal ties, the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and unity over dissension, and the power of love and hope.”

Prepared by Diksha Arya of NewsGram. Twitter: @diksha_arya53

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Is Chutney out of place in Carnival?

Chutney has been able to resist the domination of calypso as the heartbeat of Carnival music

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Chutney has been able to resist the domination of calypso as the heartbeat of Carnival music. Wikimedia Commons
Chutney has been able to resist the domination of calypso as the heartbeat of Carnival music. Wikimedia Commons
  • Chutney soca music is a crossover style of music incorporating Soca elements
  • The satire on Prime Minister Rowley’s mother has been arguably the most controversial song in the history of calypso, soca and chutney in the country.
  • It is the International Chutney Queen Competition to be held on February 2 at Guaracara Park in San Fernando, the second largest city in the country

By Dr Kumar Mahabir

When people get angry, they tend to speak their mind. Their emotions explode in words that they have been suppressing for some time. Psychologist Dr Jeffrey Huntsinger proved this theory after conducting experiments at Loyala University in Chicago in the USA in 2012.

Chutney Soca promoter George Singh really spoke his mind when he became upset on learning that his 2018 show was not funded by the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB), an agency of the Afro-dominated Government in multi-ethnic Trinidad and Tobago  (T&T).

At a news conference which he convened, Singh said that “the decision by the Government not to support chutney soca was an insult to the art form” (Express 05/02/17).

George Singh is a Chutney Soca promoter. Wikimedia Commons
George Singh is a Chutney Soca promoter. Wikimedia Commons

Singh raged: “The Government, over the last three years, has consistently reduced funding to Chutney Soca Monarch and various members of the present administration have stated directly to me that chutney soca brings no value to Carnival” (emphasis added).

At the same news conference, Singh said that the Government had approved a budget of TT $146 million to the National Carnival Commission (NCC).

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“I think this administration is hell-bent on seeing that it [chutney soca] has no place in Carnival. It is a slap in the face to Indo-Caribbean entertainment,” he said.

Singh’s outburst was a public exposé of what the Indo-Trinidadian (Indian) community had always known i.e. Indian culture (e.g. chutney, pichakaree ) is given marginal or no space in “national” and regional shows (e.g. CARIFESTA).

Sing’s rant is more revealing since he has admitted that he has “family ties” to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi (Express 27/12/17).

Carnival in Trinidad has long been the cultural preservation of the Afro-Trinidadian (African) community. Wikimedia Commons
Carnival in Trinidad has long been the cultural preservation of the Afro-Trinidadian (African) community. Wikimedia Commons

In all his anger, Singh was careful not to confirm what almost every Trinidadian suspected i.e. that Government initially denied him funding because he was allowing Massive to perform his hot chutney hit “Rowlee Mudda Count.”

The satire on Prime Minister Rowley’s mother has been arguably the most controversial song in the history of calypso, soca and chutney in the country.

I have always contended that chutney concerts, competitions, tents and fêtes must be recognised as part of Carnival and must be a given an equitable share of culture funds, media space and stage presence.

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My argument is contained in detail in a chapter entitled “Chutney Music in Carnival:

Re-defining National Identity in Trinidad and Tobago” in the book Caribbean Dynamics:

Re-configuring Caribbean Culture (2015). The book is edited by Drs Beatrice Boufoy-Bastick Savrina Chinien and published by Ian Randle in Jamaica.

In the chapter, I discussed how Carnival in Trinidad has long been the cultural preservation of the Afro-Trinidadian (African) community. To this day, the major players and champions of calypso, soca, extempo, steelpan and masquerade, whether in Jouvert (“Jour Ouvert”) or Dimanche Gras, remain participants of African descent.

The emergence of chutney music and artists in 1995 – when Basdeo Panday was elected as the first Indian Prime Minister of T&T – was historic. In 1996, the rendition of Sonny Mann’s runaway hit “Lotay La” by DJs in soca parties, and by steel bands as their Road Mach tune during Carnival signalled the advent of chutney into the national urbanized festival/centre.

Chutney is being strongly influenced by calypso and soca rhythms and dance styles. Wikimedia Commons
Chutney is being strongly influenced by calypso and soca rhythms and dance styles. Wikimedia Commons

In the following years, Indians continued to change the ontology of “the national festival” to the extent that Carnival has to be re-defined to include Chutney Monarch, Chutney Brass, Chutney Soca, Chutney Calypso, Chutney Glow and Chutney Mardi Gras.

For the first time this year, a new chutney show is being introduced to the Carnival calendar. It is the International Chutney Queen Competition to be held on February 2 at Guaracara Park in San Fernando, the second largest city in the country. The event is being hosted by Randy Glasgow Productions.

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Chutney is being strongly influenced by calypso and soca rhythms and dance styles, but the genre is also used as an alternative to the Afro-Creole music formats. There have been two institutionalised chutney calypso theatres: “D” Massive Gosine Roving Calypso/Chutney Tent and the National Chutney Calypso Touring Tent.  Now in its eighth year is the National Carnival Schools Intellectual Chutney Soca Monarch Competition held at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain.

These chutney competitions cum fêtes allow Indians to gain a sense of inclusion in this grand “national” festival, although on the periphery of the capital city. These cultural incursions also allow Indians to actively participate in Carnival without losing their (sense of) ethnic identity.

Dr Kumar Mahabir is an anthropologist who has published 11 books
Dr Kumar Mahabir is an anthropologist who has published 11 books

In 1998, cultural critic Burton Sankeralli wrote: “Indians are claiming Carnival space as Indians…. [and] … The flagship of this Indocentric presence and contestation for space is chutney …” With the re-creation of chutney, Indian artists are refusing to be subjected to silence and invisibility on mainstream radio, television, newspaper and the stage.

Chutney has been able to resist the domination of calypso as the heartbeat of Carnival music. The subversive spirit of calypso and Carnival is perhaps being re-incarnated in chutney.

(Dr Kumar Mahabir is an anthropologist who has published 11 books)