-Caribbean Cultural Council Indo-Caribbean Cultural Council Indo-Caribbean Cultural Council Indo-Caribbean Cultural Council


Chutney & Carnival 2005

special edition

ISSN 1683-4143

-Caribbean Cultural Council Indo-Caribbean Cultural Council Indo-Caribbean Cultural Council Indo-Caribbean Cultural Council Indo-Caribbean

Trinidad & Tobago

Carnival 2005


Chutney re-defines Carnival
Chutney allows Indians to actively participate in Carnival without losing their ethnic identity.
Ever since French aristocrats introduced Carnival in the
1780s in Trinidad, the face, form and rhythm of the festival has
been constantly changing. In recent years, people of East Indian
descent have contributed to this change to the extent that Carnival
has now to be re-defined to include Chutney Monarch, Chutney
Brass, Chutney Soca, Chutney Calypso, Chutney Glow, and now
Chutney Mardi Gras. There are also two institutionalized chutney calypso tents: “D” Massive Gosine Roving Calypso/Chutney
Tent and the National Chutney Calypso Touring Tent. In addition, bards like Heeralal Rampartap and Sarika Mahabir now
sing regularly with established calypso tents like Kaiso Showcase.
Music idols like Adesh Samaroo are to be seen and heard at most
soca party concerts.
This new change is being hailed as a welcome addition to the
Carnival potpourri in multi-ethnic Trinidad and Tobago, and a
colourful contribution to what has become a truly national festival. Events largely chutney-oriented in nature have allowed Indians to gain a sense of inclusion in the celebrations. Not only that,
but the phenomenon serves to expose others to Indian culture in
an atmosphere of celebration.
It is without a doubt that Indians who contribute about 40%
of the population have silently influenced and impacted Carnival
ever since their arrival to these shores in 1845. For more than a
century, they have dominated the portrayal of the Jab-Jab (“Coolie Devils”) and Burroquite traditional Carnival characters.
The burroquite, borokeet or Soomarie masque is represented
as a decorated satin- and sequin-covered hobby horse or donkey.
The costume is attached to the waist of a masquerader who does
a morris dance so that he seems to be riding the animal.
Derived from the French “Diable, Diable [Devil],” the JabJab is called “Pretty Devil” because it is unlike the black-faced,
bare-skinned Jumblasi representation. Jab-Jabs wear stockings
and alpagatas, heart-shaped cloth panels, miniature mirrors,
shiny rhinestones and tiny feathers. They engage in “fights” with
other gangs/bands using their long whips of plaited rope which
explode in loud frightening cracks.
In the mid-1900s, tassa was included a complementary percussion instrument in steelbands like ISCOTT’s Casablanca of
Belmont. Today, the tassa ensemble is a common feature in Carnival music. This year Riddem Rama showcased the best 20 of
Trinidad’s rhythm sections which included the tempo of bottleand-spoon, dolak and tassa. This year too, the Tunapuna Carnival
Improvement Committee also continued its tradition of staging
its annual Tassorama Competition.
History was made for Carnival as well as chutney music this
year. The Mas Camp Pub in Woodbrook marked its 23rd anniversary by holding its first-ever Chutney Night. It was the first
time that chutney had gone to the city at such a venue known

for calypso. Club owner Mac-Donald Ward conceded to requests
by excited patrons to stage Chutney Night on Thursdays in the
Mas Camp’s weekly agenda for 2005. The event was significant
because it was able to expose a whole new cross-section of Trinidadians to chutney music for the first time.
Another historic landmark in Carnival 2005 was the launch
of the first-ever Chutney Mardi Gras on Carnival Sunday night
in San Fernando. Organized by non-Indian chutney promoter
Randy Glasglow, the event was intended to be an alternative to
the grand calypso and soca shows in Port of Spain.
Perhaps the greatest victory for the legitimacy of Indian culture was won when TUCO finally accepted chutney as a separate
category in its National Calypso Monarch Competition for Carnival 2005. Trinbago United Calypsonian Organization’s (TUCO’s) President, Michael “Protector” Legerton could no longer
have overlooked the strong and growing chutney’s presence in
Carnival. He said, “TUCO can’t remain immune to sweeping social change.” For the first time Chutney bards like Rikki Jai and
Heeralal Rampartap were able to perform at the Grand Stand in
the Queen’s Park Savannah to national and international audiences.
There are new organizations like Indi Carnival Commission
and party additions like the Chutney West Fete. At one point,
many promoters involved in Carnival were apprehensive to invest in the chutney genre. However, successful chutney songs and
fetes launched by brave pioneers at Carnival time have proven
that a lucrative market interested and ready to embrace Indian
culture is out there to be captured.

The authors are responsible for the content of their articles.
The opinions expressed therein are not necessarily those of
the publisher. Copyright © 2005 by ICC.

ICC is an independent non-profit educational organisation recognised by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. It is dedicated
to publishing two magazines a year - a Divali souvenir magazine,
and an Indian Arrival Day commemorative magazine.
Dr Kumar Mahabir, Editor and Chairman
Indo-Caribbean Cultural Council (ICC)
E-mail: mahab@tstt.net.tt, kumarmahab@hotmail.com
Tel: (868) 674-6008. Tel/fax: (868) 675-7707

Cover depicts chutney singer Mohip Poonwasie.
Photos by Kumar Mahabir
Contributing writer Crystal Ramkissoon
Cover and page design by Preddie Partap

Greetings to Readers of the Carnival & Chutney 2005 Souvenir Magazine
There is a term in Carnival today which is used to describe a certain kind of fete or party. That term
is “all inclusive” and it very accurately describes the direction that Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago has
always been taking.
To be sure, various people have always had their particular and special ways of celebrating the festival.
But even in the bad old days of slavery, the Black “Chantwell” was a significant feature of the Carnival of
the plantation house.
Carnival has been strengthened and enriched by the many ethnicities whose arrival has made us a
special and unique people. The cultural mosaic which is Trinidad and Tobago has been expressing itself in
a range of festivals, many of them public affairs which engage increasing numbers of our population.
Some of these festivals are overtly religious; others, like Carnival, may have their roots in religion but
are now secular and all-embracing. The Indo-Caribbean Cultural Council thus accurately reflects the
cultural truth of Trinidad and Tobago in its celebration of “Cultural diversity in the Caribbean”.
I am pleased to send greetings to this Carnival and Chutney Magazine because it represents another
step forward in the development of national solidarity among all the people of this multi-ethnic, multicultural population.
Our national anthem affirms the fact that in our Republic, “every creed and race find an equal place.”
But anthems alone cannot forge a national identity. We also need the kind of activity which the IndoCaribbean Cultural Council seeks to promote.
Our “all-inclusive” Carnival should be celebrated for the unifying force that it is. The educational
potential which a magazine of this kind can have augurs well for the growth of a shared sense of national
The possibilities for the future of Trinidad and Tobago are very considerable, despite the fact that we are
so small in size. We have a message to send to the world that we can live, work and play together, whether
our ancestors originated in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, China or India. Indeed, many Trinbagonians
can hardly identify their ancestral roots any longer because the mosaic has also become a melting pot!
Dr. Kumar Mahabir is to be warmly congratulated for the initiative which the Indo-Caribbean Cultural
Council has taken and I extend every good wish for this edition of the Carnival and Chutney Magazine.

Patrick Manning

Is Carnival a
religious festival?
Carnival has been secularized much like the Christian holiday of Christmas.
Many might scoff at the idea that
Carnival was derived from a religious
celebration. Nowadays, with the indulgent costumes and sensual behaviour,
Carnival has veered far from its more
pious origins.
It is important to understand that
Carnival is not indigenous to Trinidad,
but rather to Europe where Catholics
celebrated Carnival as the period right
after Christmas and just before Ash
During this time, masquerade galas
were held by the elite, particularly in
France. The lavish balls were as much
for merriment as they were to display
social status.
The word carnival literally translates
into “removal of meat.” It is the last horray culminating on Shrove Tuesday, the
day designated for confessions of one’s
sins. The following day known as Ash
Wednesday signifies the Seventh Wednesday before Easter,
which celebrates the rising of Jesus Christ from his tomb.
On Ash Wednesday, Catholics put ash on there forehead
as a form of repentance, and begin the holy fasting period
known as Lent. It is expected that many Catholics who participate in Carnival would go the following day to mass and
begin the fasting period.
One would question the relevance of Carnival’s origins
as proof of its religious nature. However, it is its undeniable
ever-present religious roots, along with equally important social factors that have shaped it into the multi-cultural celebration it has become today.
Migrants from France, Spain, Africa, and later India and
China have all contributed to the diversion from its Catholic
origins of shrovetitude to a celebration of sheer revelry. Indeed, it has been secularized much like the Christian holiday
of Christmas.

The rise of
in Trinidad

Chutney soca allows the rural Indian community to
participate in urban Carnival culture.
Any visit to Trinidad, especially during Carnival, will
inevitably bring the exotic sounds of chutney music blaring from a maxi taxi, a dance club, or the street.
Most recently, chutney has been influenced by calypso
and soca rhythms to become a vital East Indian contribution to Carnival, the national festival.
Chutney soca has many distinctive characteristics. In
its popular form, extemporaneous composition and accompaniment (especially in the growing number of competitions) may be provided by bands which incorporate
Indian, Western and African acoustic instruments. The accompanying dholak drums and dhantal are now occasionally paired with tassa drums, mostly performed by men.
This is especially notable since many Trinidadian popular
genres are electrified.
During Carnival, chutney soca is a competitive genre,
performed by both male and female singers who compete
for the title of “chutney soca monarch.” This allows a
greater diversity in vocal style. The lyrics, now in English,
contain a more hidden double-entendre (or sexual metaphors) than calypso, which lends its ability to be appreciated by a more family-oriented audience.
Finally, soca-style dance has been integrated into chutney soca. This is somewhat derived from the calypso tent
stage format, which incorporates professional dancers to
interpret lyrics. The trend towards professionalization allows artists such as Rikki Jai, Sundar Popo and Drupatee

to “cross over” into the soca genre.
Chutney soca, a modern reincarnation of traditional
folk culture, has risen from the late 1980s Carnival “into
the 90s with astonishing vigour even delving into the area
of chutney soca parang.” Chutney soca allows the rural East
Indian community, one that maintains a distance from Port
of Spain, to participate on the national stage. Undoubtedly,
chutney soca has become the rising star of Trinidadian carnival.

Extract of a paper presented
at a seminar on North Indian
Music at Wesleyan University,
USA, in the Fall of 1997.

By Amelia Ingram

In the 19th century, calypsos
were sung in French patois
and in the 1900s, men began to
dominate women in singing.
It is the popular belief that calypso grew from strong
West African roots which were spread far ashore to the
Caribbean islands through slavery. Though now calypso is
popularly associated with the ever-indulgent Carnival celebrations, its beginnings are much more humble than one
may imagine.
Calypso is derived from the word kaiso, which is a derivation from African Hussa language meaning “bravo.” In
its earliest stages, it was found in slave communities where
oral traditions were strong. The song was a way of spreading news and providing commentary on current events. It
played a key role in critiquing plantation owners in an environment where open insolence could result in brutal punishment. As a result of strong French influence in Trinidad,
calypsos in the 19th century were sung in French patois.
One of calypso’s early forms took the shape of kalinda,
a type of song performed by female singers (chanterelles),
during interludes at popular stick fighting competitions.
The chanterelles, over time, became chantwels as men began to dominant the braggadocio singing accompaniments.
The men would preface the fighting with songs boasting of
their team’s skill while lewdly insulting their adversaries.
The chantwels took on grandiose monikers, or sobriquets, a
tradition practiced in West African secret societies.
By the 1900s, the middle-class had begun to look favorably upon Carnival, and stick fighting of the lower class
took a back seat to lavish masquerades. The chantwels saw
more performance opportunities as a result of this shift in
focus. People in Port of Spain began to build tents with bamboo poles where their mas camp could practice songs and
dance, create costumes, and listen to the chantwels’ newest songs. By the 1920s, local merchants, liquor companies,
civic committees, and enterprising singers were setting up
tents throughout Trinidad as commercial enterprises.
Researcher Peter Manuel (1995) wrote that in 1977,
“the main calypso-related development has been the advent
of soca (or sokah to reflect the East Indian influence)” pioneered by calypsonian Lord Shorty I. He added that this
“loosely standardized form has been the norm in most calypsos ever since.” However, recent developments in soca
have pitted it against traditional calypso. Many calypsonians have argued that soca’s popularizing of mindless banter
and ad naseum request to “jump up and wine” have overshadowed the more lyrically-potent art form.

of calypso in

goes to the Mas Camp Pub
The Mas Camp Pub’s bold inclusion of chutney in its weekly
line-up for 2005 is a sign of the times to come.

Edward Ramdass
Hands were up and hips were swaying as smooth chutney rhythms blasted from the speakers. The club was hardly filled to capacity, but the night was momentous nonetheless.
In a week-long celebration which began November
28th and ran until December 4th 2004, the Mas Camp Pub
in Woodbrook historically marked its 23rd anniversary by
holding its first-ever Chutney Night. It was the first time
that chutney had gone to the city at such a venue known for
calypso. In the past, patrons from Port of Spain had to trek
to central and south Trinidad just to take in a good chutney
Journalist Peter Ray Blood wrote in the Guardian that
some people “were overheard saying that it was the most
entertaining show they’d ever attended at the Mas Camp,
while others deemed it the best of the week’s nightly events
to mark the establishment’s 23rd anniversary.” Blood added
that the audience proved to be a curious mix which represented the broad spectrum of Trinidad society.
Five-time national calypso monarch Black Stalin described the chutney debut in Woodbrook as a “revelation
for the capital city,” sensing the mood of most patrons seeing the live performance of the Indian musical genre for the
first time.
Headliners included Edward Ramdass, chutney soca
superstar Adesh Samaroo, Heeralal Rampartap, and former
Chutney Monarch Boodram Holass. The MC was radio
personality Ken Lallee
The event was put together by renowned calypso and
chutney producer Moonsar Chankar. Club owner MacDonald Ward was besieged by excited patrons to stage a
repeat show. Within minutes, he agreed.

Chankar was pleased to find out that Chutney Night
would be added to the Mas Camp’s weekly agenda for 2005
on Thursdays.
The event was significant because it was able to expose a whole new cross-section of Trinidadians to chutney
music for the first time, many of whom thought it was the
best of the Mas Camp’s week-long festivities. The followup performance which took place on the first Thursday of
the New Year - as promised - was equally as successful.
Among the notable acts was Lady Gypsy’s “Lagoon Indian” which brazenly praises the benefits of marrying an Indian. Edward Ramdass was well received with his comical
recount of the alleged “tea cup” brawl between Ministers
Keith Rowley and Chandresh Sharma. Many more popular
artistes entertained the crowd, and successfully served the
hungry fans. The future looks promising for chutney nights
at Mas Camp Pub.
Though chutney music’s popularity rapidly continues
to grow, there is not a big market for it in entertainment
hubs of Port of Spain. Promoters in uncharted territory are
fearful that an unenthusiastic reception could result in damaging lackluster sales.
Chutney music has mass appeal, and like soca and calypso, it is pivotal in reflecting the multiculturalism of Trinidad and Tobago. Many chutney artistes have successfully
collaborated with soca and calypso artistes in the past.
Perhaps the Mas Camp Pub’s bold inclusion of Chutney
in its weekly line up for 2005 is a sign of the times to come.
Chutney artistes now have more opportunities to perform
for all Trinbagonians. They now have more venues to express their identity to a multi-ethnic audience.

Indi Carnival Commission

Within the recent years, there has been a notable increase in the visibility of East Indian influence in Carnival
celebrations. As a result, a slew of chutney fetes has been
successfully organized. Among the organizers is the Indi
Carnival Commission (ICC).
Being only two years old, the organization is making
big waves. According to promotions manager Ricky Ragoonanan, the purpose of the organization is to give coverage to Indian artistes who would otherwise not get the
exposure on the grand Soca Chutney stage.
The Chutney Soca Band Festival, Chutney Soca Youth Festival, Trailer Mela and Indi Comical Youth Festival are four
of the events ICC organizes. These fall under the Chutney
Soca Village every Sunday in the season until the Sunday
after Carnival at Himalaya club on Third Avenue, Barataria.
With the ICC making chutney performances so readily
available in the north, it makes the long daunting journey
to south Trinidad outdated. The Village also gives veteran
performers a venue, especially those who are reluctant to

provide provocative dance moves and vulgar lyrics so popular with today’s more popular artistes.
The Chutney Soca Band Festival calls for the performances of all chutney bands. This event is similar to the
Chutney Brass Festival, but without the brass.
The Chutney Soca Youth festival gives an opportunity
to younger artistes who usually do not get contracts because
they lack a big following like Adesh Samaroo. Ragoonanan
stresses the fact that this event is not meant to encourage illicit youth revelry. Instead, it aims to give a chance to eager
young performers who lack funds and exposure.
The Trailer Mela event is a big show put together by the
biggest chutney bands in the land along with a few surprise
performances. It is meant to lead up to Jouvert morning celebrations, but due to conflict of interest Ragoonanan doubts
he will hold this event next year.
Finally, the Indi Comical Youth Festival provides comedic performances, including funny chutney songs, without the vulgarities found at some comedy shows.
Indi Carnival is hoping to get some state funding for its

BRAZILIAN DANCER portrayed by Bloria Dailsingh
BEHOLD portrayed by Wade Madray

portrayed by Pamela Gordon

THE INVOKEMENT OF CARNIVAL portrayed by Errol Phillip

LADY OF THE NIGHT portrayed by Susan Low

portrayed by Deborah Nandah

an exclusive interview

Adesh Samaroo

chutney singer

“In Guyana during my visit, they had to close the airport down because of all the fans.”

Why do you think you’ve
had so much success in
the crossover market?
I think I’ve played a big
part in chutney’s crossover success, mostly because other chutney artistes never wanted to
do anything with a big
bang. They wanted to
perform only for the Indian market. When I am
in the studio, I am thinking about the crossover market and
the Indian market. If it’s not big in both areas, then it means
I’ve failed.
What’s the craziest fan moment?
In Guyana during my visit - after winning the competition
- they had to close the airport down because of all the fans.
It was a real nice setup; they had a trailer with music; and a
BMW to pick me up. Girls were screaming and getting on
just to touch my feet. It was real nice. When I was on stage,
I touched a girl’s face and she fainted. One woman threw a
big hammock at me, and when I picked it up and realized it
was her underware. (Laughs)
Who do you admire and why?
I look up to Eminem, not because I want to be like him
but, because he raps about reality and he doesn’t care what
people say about him. In this business, your fans can love
you one minute and hate you the next. People like to spread
rumors about me all the time. I could do 100 charity shows.
But if I miss one because of scheduling conflicts, then I’m
a bad person.

you must come back down; so be good to people on your
way up, so they can be good to you on your way down.
How do you feel about all the attention you receive from
It feels good. I love them all.
If you could be anyone/thing in this world what would it be
and why?
An eagle, because they get to fly free and go wherever they
want. It’s a new experience to actually be in the sky, it’s not
like being in a plane. But I sure eagles have complications
What do you do in your spare time?
I don’t have spare time, but when I do, I sleep.
Describe yourself in three words?
Best thing ever. (Laughs)
Do you ever have stage fright?
I never have stage fright. Whenever I see a big crowd, I am
anxious to perform the people. I want to put on a good show
and be the people’s choice. When there is a small gathering,
I get shy but when there is a large crowd I get excited.
Where do you see Chutney music in five years?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In that world
Where would you be if it wasn’t for chutney?
Still working for Associated Brands driving trucks and doing sales at Devon’s Biscuits.
I love trucks. I still have a dream of owning a truck.

How do you deal with fame?
Well it’s hard because I have no personal life. But I accept it What’s the best part about Carnival Season?
because this is what I chose to do. I love my fans and every- It’s a time of excitement. Even before “Rum till I die” I was
one who gives me support.
involved in music, so there was always a lot of jobs around
this time. It’s very hectic around this time, and it’s a lot of
How do you stay grounded?
hard work. But on Ash Wednesday, we go by the beach and
I keep a close circle of friends, and try to stay away from laugh about it; look back at what went wrong and what went
fake people. I was once told that to get where you’re going right.
in life you must climb a series of steps. Just as you go up,

Chutney has become a national
fad and an Indian cultural form
that is being widely enjoyed and
even cultivated by Creoles

By Dr Peter Manuel

Dr Peter Manuel is Associate
Professor in the Department of
Art, Music and Philosophy at
John Jay College in the USA.
He is the author of East Indian
Music in the West Indies
(Temple University Press, 2000)

Chutney became a colourful part of the calypso/soca
competition itself, as the 1995-96 crop of socas included
several self-described “chutney-soca” by the Creoles, including Marcia Miranda, Tony Ricardo, Brother Marvin,
Luta, and other, along with a “bhangramuffin-chutney”
dub song by General Grant.
Some of these singers even competed alongside Indians in the new chutney competition. As with Stalin’s
“Sundar Popo,” several of their songs were devoid of
chutney stylistic features but earned the named through
their Indian themes.
Indian soca-rock singer Rikki Jai also returned to the
fold with a chutney cassette, whose most popular song
instructed neophyte audience to dance chutney-style by
gracefully curling their hands in the air as if “screw[ing]
the bulb.”
Chutney, indeed, had become a national fad, and for
the first time, an Indian cultural form was being widely
enjoyed and even cultivated by Creoles. [Former] Prime
Minister Panday was moved to hail chutney-soca publicly as “a symbol of the type of complete hormanization that must characterize our society in years to come.”
The season concluded with Brother Marvin’s “Jahaaji
bhai’(Shipmate), a thoughtful and melodious hymn to racial unity, winning second prize in the Calypso Monarch
Competition. (To the dismay of many, the first prize went
to a mean-spirited and clannish song by Cro-Cro castigating blacks for letting Panday win 1995 elections.)
The exhilaration heights - and sober limits - of chutney’s popularity, and of Indian acceptance in the Creole
mainstream, were illustrated most dramatically by the
fate of the Sonny Mann in the Carnival season. Mann, a
humble 64-year-old East Indian, had been a second-rank
chutney and classical singer for several years. In the early
1990s, he recorded a catchy but fairly typical chutney,
“Lotay La.” In the fickle chutney market, “Lotay La” at
first enjoyed only moderate success, but in mid 1995 it
became a smash hit, breaking records for cassette sales
and propelling the homely Mann to mini-stardom.
During Carnival season, the song’s popularity was at
its peak. A few steel bands adopted it as their “road march”
tune; several Creole and Indian singers recorded renditions of it; and Mann won a car first prize in the Chutney
Monarch Competition. Buoyed by such pan-ethnic success, Mann entered the Soca Monarch Competition.

The Chutney
Soca Monarch
Much to the surprise of its main promoter, George
Singh, the Chutney Soca Monarch Competition has been
going ten years strong. It was a concept that he initially
felt was “destined to die.”
Recently held at the largest stage ever constructed in
Skinner Park, the show sparkled with special effects - the
likes of which had never been seen before in San Fernando, or even in the whole of Trinidad.
Not to be confused with the National Chutney Foundation’s Chutney Monarch Competition which revolves
around more traditional chutney music, this show caters
for the more party songs and for the lighted-hearted. With
around 0.3 million dollars in cash prizes up for grabs, the
competition was stiff.
The much-anticipated show kicked off with guest
performers throughout the night including the Laventille
Rhythm Section, the Nirvana School of Dance, St. John’s
Tassa Group, and the SSL Melobugs which entertained
the crowds for thirty minutes before the competition ensued.
In the end, reigning monarch Rooplal Girdharie who
performed “Lawah” and “Hands in the Air” placed second, taking home $60,000. Heeralal “Hero” Rampartap
took home $100,000 for his performance of “Run for My
Life.” The song was penned by his 17-year-old daughter,
The crowd receptively cheered their king as thousands
of flags bearing his name waved in the air during his performance. Adesh Samaroo placed fourth overall, and was
the People’s Choice Award winner with his performances
of “Live Life” and “Not Marryin’ Again.” He took home
$10,000. Famed Soca sensation Denise Belfon, who has
promised to brush up on her Hindi pronunciation, came in
15th place with her song “Juma Juma.”
Among the celebrities in attendance was former Miss
Universe, Wendy Fitzwilliams, and famed designer Peter
Elias. Ministers from the Ministries of Works and Transport, Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs, and Trade and Industry were all in attendance.
Despite the bad weather, the show was a huge success.
The impressive turnout proved once again that Chutney in
Carnival - come rain or shine - is here to stay.

Stage performers at the Chutney Brass Festival

The Soomarie donkey dance
Raja, Raja Hindako
Dhal bhat dhal bhat Hindako
Sooo Mary, soooo Danka
King, King of India
Peas and rice of India
(boy calms horse named Mary)
This is the traditional chant of the masquerader as he
rides the beautiful satin- and sequin-covered donkey, known
as burroquite or borokeet masque.

The last line of the chant, gives the Soomarie
masquerader his name, and is interpreted to mean either “so
merry,” or to St. Mary’s Junction in Carapichaima where
the masque held significant popularity many years ago.
The object of his attention is the burroquite, the Spanish
term meaning “little donkey”. This mas is played mainly
by East Indians and Venezuelan Spaniards in Trinidad.
The masquerade appears to be a lyrical simulation of a
This part-human part-horse is frequently seen in Spain
during Carnival. The Spanish burroquita (“little donkey
or jenny”) wears a short velvet jacket, a large straw or
matador’s hat, and plays guitars, cuatros and chac chac.
Its simultaneous and unrelated development as a masque
in both cultures lends to its utilization in divergent ways.
Indians derived the masque from the worship of Durga, the
Hindu goddess who rides a lion. The horse is her emblem
in Shastric literature.
The hobby horse or donkey is a decorated figure that is
attached to the waist of the person doing the morris dance

so that he seems to be riding the animal. The masquerader
dances in a way that the horse or donkey seem to caper and
The intricately-adorned horses’ head is attached to a
bamboo and wire framework that rests on pads attached to
the masker’s waist. The body is covered in a satin material
colorfully decorated with an array of sequenced patterns
and fringed at the botttom to hide the masker’s feet.
The masker wears the costume by entering a hole at the
nape of the horse’s neck, and holds the reins in his hands.
The dance of the burroquite is dainty and dignified as the
masker sways side to side to the rhythm of the music.
In the past in Trinidad, music exuded from the
traditional Indian drums, flutes and cymbals which were
complemented by the chanting of traditional Hindi songs
and Sanskrit verses.
The King of this mas is distinguished by his wooden
sword. His princes - usually four or five - are adorned with
metallic paper crowns above faces whitened with powder.
Their satin costumes are covered with soft swan feathers
and rhinestones. In processions of long ago, another man
dressed in a sari as a queen carried a brass plate [thariya] to
collect money from the enthralled onlookers.

This hobby horse/donkey is a decorated figure
that is attached to the waist of a person doing a
morris dance so that he seems to be
riding the animal.


Carnival Caharacters

Jab-Jab is called “Pretty Devil” because
it is unlike the black-faced, bare-skinned
Jumblasi representation.
Jab-Jab is one of the many incarnations of the Devil
masque played in Trinidad Carnival. Derived from the
French “Diable, Diable [Devil],” the Jab-Jab is called
“Pretty Devil” because it is unlike the black-faced, bareskinned Jumblasi representation.
The costume is very similar to a medieval court jester
whose appearance can be traced to the European carnival
character Peirrot. Very popular among the propertied
classes of the French, Peirrot later evolved in Trinidad

Carnival as a descendant of a battoneir who wielded
sticks and whips which were as sharp as his wit.
One of the oldest types of costumes dating back to
medieval Europe, Jab-jabs are still bedecked in kandal
or satin knickers. They also wear satin shirts with points
of cloth of alternating colour around their waist. From
these points “willows” or tiny silver and gold bells are
suspended. These jingle and jangle with every move.
Fol or heart-shaped cloth panels decorate their chest,
stockings and alpagats.
Complete with stockings and alpagatas, their
costumes are whimsically decorated with heart-shaped
cloth panels, miniature mirrors, shiny rhinestones and
swans’ down. A hood with stuffed cloth horns is worn.
They engage in “fights” with other gangs/bands using

their long whips of plaited rope which explode in loud
frightening cracks. Originally, leather carriage whips
were used to cut and tear the costumes of contending
The whips are also used to taunt fellow Jab-Jabs
and threaten bystanders.
This mas has also been referred to as the “Coolie
Devils” because it is predominantly played by revelers
of East Indian descent. There is no known reason for
their association with this mas.
However, perhaps the continued devotion to it
could be attributed to Winston Alfred of Perseverance
Village, Couva and his two sons Rodney and Ronald.
As devout Hindus, they lead the most prominent band
in an effort to preserve a family tradition, pioneered by
Alfred’s father, Alfred Bachu.

Chutney Mardi Gras
Promoter Randy Glasgow talks
about the significance of Trinidad’s
first-ever Chutney Mardi Gras.
Chutney Mardi Gras took place on Carnival Sunday at
Guaracara Park, Point-a-Pierre. The show was a monumental success
In an interview on 103 FM radio, renowned promoter Randy Glasgow discussed the importance of Trinidad’s
first-ever Chutney Mardi Gras.
Glasgow contended that Chutney Mardi Gras was not
a fete, but instead a sit-down show formulated in the same
manner as the traditional Dimanche Gras except that it has
an East Indian flavour.
Traditionally, Dimanche Gras served as a prelude to
Carnival Monday. During the event, performers compete
for the coveted title of Calypso Monarch, and the winners
for Carnival King and Queen are announced. The festivities
culminate at the break of Jouvert morning.
Some critics argued that scheduling Chutney Mardi
Gras and Dimanche Gras on the same day was forcing them
to compete with each other and, therefore, deepen the racial divide in Trinidad and Tobago.
However, Glasgow maintained that there was no competition among the two show. From his observation, Indians
never really participated in Dimanche Gras because of the
tendency of claypsonians to belittle them in their songs.
He noticed that around Carnival time, many Indians
would pack up and take a vacation because they felt alienated by Carnival. Indians needed something of their own
cultural space.
The Mardi Gras gave Indians a platform on which to
thoroughly express themselves. It was unlike the Chutney
Soca Monarch competition because it did not limit the content of the songs to soca, which are generally more partyoriented.
The show did not try to take away Dimanche Gras patrons which number about 7,000 out of a population of 1.3
million. The show instead tried to engage people who usually do not participate in Carnival at all.
This new event also promised a Miss Trinidad and Tobago Chutney Beauty Pageant in order to “highlight the
beauty of the Indian Community,” according to Glasgow.

Chutney singer Roy Rampersad
The competition for Chutney monarch was open to all
Trinidadian nationals, but songs were to be in the chutney
TUCO’s (Trinidad Unified Calypso Organization) sponsorship of the event recognizes the fact that there is a need
for Indian cultural inclusion in Carnival.
That same semtiment led Glasgow and associates to organize Chutney Brass just four years ago. It has also led him
to devise this Mardi Gras.
He hopes this event’s success will exceed that of its predecessor, and spread Indo-Trinidadian culture beyond the
shores of the island.

Music of
Like many other small towns in Trinidad, Felicity is
populated almost entirely by East Indians. In their Caribbean exile, the residents of Felicity have created and recreated the music of their Hindu ancestors. Music of Hindu
Trinidad is a fascinating account of the history and cultural
significance of Hindu music that explores its symbolic, aesthetic, and psychological aspects while asking the larger
question of how this music has contributed to the formation
of identity in the midst of their great diaspora.
Myers details the musical repertory of Felicity, which
is based largely on north Indian genres including the traditional Bhojpuri folk songs and drumming styles brought
by the first indentured laborers in 1845. In her engaging
exploration of the fate of Indian classical music and new
popular styles such as Hindi calypso, soca, and chutney,
she even finds herself at the ancestral home of Trinidadian
V. S. Naipaul in India. Copiously illustrated and accompanied by a compact disk, Music of Hindu Trinidad is a model
ethnographic study.
Myers, Helen Music of Hindu Trinidad: Songs from the India Diaspora. 542 p., 15 halftones, 3 maps, 6 line drawings, 9 tables, 33 musical examples. Also contains a CD
of 32 tracks. 6 x 9 1998 Series: (CSE) Chicago Studies in
Cloth $85.00sc 0-226-55451-1 Fall 1997
Paper $39.00sp 0-226-55453-8 Fall 1997

Music of Hindu Trinidad:
Songs from the India Diaspora

By Helen Myers

The Canboulay Riots of 1881 were
again re-enacted at 5 a.m. near Hell Yard
in Duke Street, Port of Spain.
Canboulay [patois for cannes brulees, or burnt cane] was a celebration of
freedom from slavery. It was observed at
midnight during Carnival in the form of
a procession with lighted torches [flambeaux], singing, drumming and stickfighting.
On Carnival Sunday February 27,
1881, Captain Bobby Baker was determined to put a stop to the masquerade
celebration. The police attacked the celebrants who retaliated by striking with
sticks and pelting bottles and stones.
The police retreated in defeat with
thirty eight of them wounded.