At 17, Riaz Bacchus was DJing on pirate radio stations in London when he stumbled on a genre of music that seemed to perfectly express his heritage. “It was Bollywood and soca mashed together – both Indian and Caribbean,” he says, now 39. “My parents are Guyanese, Indo-Caribbeans, so it felt like this was my identity. It sounded natural.”
That music is known as chutney – a polyrhythmic blend of yearning Hindi vocals and clattering calypso beats. It is a cultural legacy that Indian indentured labourers developed in the Caribbean when an estimated 500,000 of them were brought to work on the island plantations in the 19th Century, following the abolition of slavery. Many of the Indian labourers subsequently went on to build their own communities in countries like Guyana and Trinidad.
“It is originally folk music that Indian labourers would sing on the plantations while they worked,” Bacchus explains. “In the generations since, it has evolved to include Caribbean rhythms and sounds, creating the soca/calypso/Hindi mix that’s played today.”
Read the feature in Mixmag.
[This piece was published on 12/07/23]