"Suku suku what shall I do?" : Hindi cinema and the politics of music in Trinidad

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Abstract

Ever since Bald Joban (Childhood, Youth [dir. Baburao Patel, 1954]). the first Indian film to be shown in Trinidad, arrived in 1935. East Indians have been fascinated by this manifestation of “Indian culture." Calypso and the newer soca are important musical genres in a spectrum that includes chutney and chutney-soca, forming, as the previous chapters show, a crucial arena of cultural-political intervention. This chap¬ter will discuss how all of these genres draw on Hindi film music, marking yet another area in which “Indians" and “Africans” are engaged in craft¬ing Trinidadian cultural forms. As Paul Gilroy and others have suggested, music is arguably the most significant cultural practice in areas of African hegemony in the New World. This is so much the case, I would contend, that even in a country like Trinidad, whose population of “Indians" is more than equal to that of “Africans,” Hindi film as a visual product is down¬played in favor of film music, which for decades seems to have performed a crucial role in the formation of “Indian" identities. The Hindi films them¬selves have aroused a host of ambivalent responses among East Indians while the songs and their many “versions” continue to circulate in diverse spaces, including Creole-dominated ones. One indicator of the popularity of film music is the existence of “camps” dedicated to the 1950s and '6os playback singers K. L. Saigal, Mohammed Rafi, and Mukesh—groups of people in localities and villages who were not formally organized but all the same were “very real.” This phenomenon seems to have been quite preva¬lent in Trinidad in contrast to what would be familiar in India—that is, fan clubs for film stars.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRemembered rhythms
PublisherSeagull
Pages54-80
Number of pages27
ISBN (Print)9781905422494
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes

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