Nearshore Americas

Chutney Soca: Get Dem Feets Movin’

A musical stew made up of the deeply flavorful ingredients of the wildly different styles of Soca and Chutney music, which incorporates Hindi lyrics and Indian instruments most typically the dholak, tabla and dhantal, creates a highly infectious, danceable, if sometimes unintelligible, genre.

Chutney music actually has its origins in 1940s when it was popular in the Caribbean wedding halls, the cane fields and temples. Recordings were not that common, with Ramdew Chaitoe from Suriname recording King of Suriname, a religious themed album that became popular amongst East Indians across the Caribbean. But ten years would pass until another East Indian artist, Dropati, released her recording of popular Chutney wedding songs titled Lets Sing & Dance. The album took the Caribbean by storm and the style took root. Over the decades, Chutney has seen many singers, writers and producers come and go, but there is no sign that the style is fading away. Some of the most popular Chutney musicians include Ramdew Chaitoe, Devanand Gattoo, Heerala Rampartap and Nisha Benjamin.

Coming out of the Anglophone Caribbean nations of Trinidad, Guyana, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Grenada and others, Soca, or as its creator Lord Shorty spelled it Sokah, is a blend of US Soul and Calypso, the origins of which can be clearly heard on his hit from the 1970s “Sweet Music.”  Ever the innovator, Lord Shorty incorporated the Indian instruments, and adopted them to this new, exciting sound. Also in the 1970s King Shorty collaborated with Lord Tokyo (Dominica’s Calypso King) and calypso lyricists Chris Seraphine and Pat Aaron to create an entirely new genre that incorporated creole lyrics, and instrumental combinations of cadence, calypso and kwéyòl. His albums Endless Vibrations and Soul of Calypso from 1974 catapulted  Soca to international fame.

An Explosive Blend

A relatively new musical genre, Chutney Soca came together under the influence of Indo-Trinidadian musicians who were getting into Soca in the 1980s. Drupatee Ramgoonaim, who has been crowned the Queen of Chutney, actually created the term “Chutney Soca” for the title of her first album, recorded in 1987, on which she recorded all the songs in English and Hindi. In 1988 the artist released “(Roll Up the Tassa) Mr. Bissessar,”) her greatest hit, which has been credited with really igniting the Chutney Soca craze.

The style gained popularity in the 1990s as it became a fixture during Trinidad’s Carnival, which culminated in the Chutney Soca Monarch Competition. In 1994 Sonny Mann released Soca Chutney which became the bestselling Indo-Caribbean album after the title track gained enormous popularity in the US, Canada and Europe.

Much like Hip Hop in the US and reggaeton in Latin America, the level of talent is sometimes questionable and most of today’s Chutney Soca songs deal with drinkin’, druggin’ and sex.  Like Ravi B’s “Ah Drinka” and the chorus of “Funk When Me Drunk” by Benjai:

‘Funk when me drunk
Funk when me drunk
Funk when me drunk
Me like to funk when me drunk
Funk when me drunk
Funk when me drunk
Funk when me drunk
Me like to funk when me drunk’


But that wasn’t always the case, in the early days of the genre, some of the artists like Jahaji Bha and Brother Marvin in their 1995 song “Brotherhood of the Boat” wrote and sang about their heritage:

‘I am the seed of meh father
He is the seed of meh grandfather
Who is the seed of Bahut Ajah [great grandfather] He came from Calcutta
Ah stick and ah bag on he shoulder
He turban and he kapra
So I am part seed of India’

Other artists like Chris Garcia really catch the Chutney fever with infectious songs like the classic “Chutney Bacchanal:”

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Body start tuh shiver

Meh body start tuh quiver

Just vibing on this new wave chutney
They woman gone in ah frenzy
Wailing up she body
and I and all this sweet ecstasy
This is what it sound like
Jamming on meh all night
This is what it sound like to mee

 Dance Dance Dance

Similar to other chutney subgenres, today’s Chutney Soca incorporates more keyboards, drum machines, and other electronic instruments. Chutney Soca will bring you immediately into the Caribbean party mood and will definitely get ‘dem feets movin’ and the rest of you jigglin’.

Denise Belfon – Wining Queen

Machal Montano & Kerwin Du Bois, featuring Lady Smith Black Mombazo – Possessed

Destra – Call My Name

Nutron – Bubblin

Harder – Bunji Garlin – Defferentology

Patrick Haller

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