Chutney Soca Monarch Music Event Battles Controversies in Trinidad and Tobago
The popular Chutney Soca Music event in Trinidad and Tobago is mired in talks of low funds, change of venue and sparring between artistes over political affiliations.
Chutney Soca Monarch, a 23-year-old carnival celebrating the music played by the Indo-Trinidadian community, has been embroiled in controversies recently over its next edition.
Chutney Music incorporates Indian elements such as Bhojpuri, Hindi and English lyrics, and instruments such as dholak, with Caribbean soca music. The Chutney Soca Monarch competition, held every year at San Fernando in Trinidad and Tobago, features a line-up of about 20 artistes in the finals. The competition has grown in popularity over the years, and now carries the first prize of $5 million. In its second year in 1996, it gave a Kia car as the first prize.
This time, however, the event is caught in controversies and it is feared that the carnival may be forced out of its regular venue at Skinner’s Park due to low funds allotted by the state. The grand final is scheduled to happen on Jan. 27, 2018.
Also making news is the ongoing stir over the song Rowlee Mudda Count by singer Nermal “Massive” Gosein. The song became a point of talk when carnival promoter George Singh said on Dec. 27 that the composition would not be allowed entry in the competition as it was distasteful, Trinidad Express News reported. National Chutney Foundation President Dr Vijay Ramlal also said that they will not allow Gosein to compete in events sanctioned by them.
Gosein’s song takes potshots at the current Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, and uses play on words, which have been called offensive to women by the Women’s League of the ruling party People’s National Movement (PNM). The song’s video also features a “black face” character playing Rowley’s mother, which has been called racist.
Gosein, however, registered for the competition on Dec. 28, one day before the deadline. He called the announcements made by Singh and Ramlal an insult to all artistes and a blow on the art form, Newsday reported.
“They are using the Indian community for personal profit while sucking up to the PNM for million-dollar government funding,” Gosein said in a statement. “My song will not be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency to appease PNM promoters and their fat bank accounts. I therefore ask Attorney General Al-Rawi to pass a law forcing promoters to publish financial accounts to show how much profits they make and how much taxes they pay on the millions that they rake in annually.”
He asked Al Rawi to trace the money as it is “certainly not going into artistes’ pockets.”
He responded to complaints by PNM’s Women’s League that the song is offensive to women, saying, the group is “being hypocritical” since they did not express similar sentiments when other Calypsonians attacked the wife of former United National Congress leader and the then Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday, who is of Indian origin.
Singh, however, said on Dec. 28 that he never stated that the song would be banned from Chutney Soca Monarch, Trinidad and Tobago Express reported.
He also said that the carnival was forced out of its usual Skinner’s Park venue in San Fernando because of reduction in state funding, LoopTT reported. “We are searching for a new venue,” he said. “I know it will not be the same; it cannot be the same because Skinner Park is the home for Chutney Soca Monarch.”
Singh added that funding from the Ministry of Culture covers only the prizes, and that funding disbursed by the government through the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) has been significantly reduced. He said event organizers are still trying to raise funds to organize the show.