My editor knows that I put Soca and Dancehall in front of every genre of music man can think of, everything else is too profane, too stupid or too annoying. Chutney fitted in the ‘too annoying’ category.
I would rather put red ants in my ears than to listen to 15 minutes of Chutney music, so when she asked me to go to this year’s Chutney finals I felt as though she was throwing me to the lions. I sat in her office expressing my grief with a raised eyebrow, while something yelled in my head: “Quick! Run out! Run out before she demands it!”
We have the freedom to say no and my Editor really does not demand anything. But I reminded myself that my New Year’s resolution was to strive for national change somehow. So I self-declared this year to be ‘The Year of the Jaguar’ – where through every means I would be an ambassador of Guyana.
I smiled, which was my way of saying, ‘Sure thing boss! I will go’, when I didn’t want to say it verbally. Still, somehow, I felt as though I would be sitting at the National Cultural Centre with four hours of a massive headache.
The night came. As I approached the Cultural Centre I thought this was suicide, really! I hated Chutney that much! But once the music really hit me, I was like: Chutney! Is like Soca! But more… Indian!
I got comfortable. I was surprised that my foot was thumping; my head was nodding and I genuinely had an epiphany. It was in its own sense beautiful, cultural, artistic and presentable. I really tasted something from the Caribbean, something that made the case that we Caribbean people can dash a little bit of everything in a pot and end up with the best stew.
Nights later, I was talking to a friend and I explained to him my revelation, starting with my whole dilemma of screaming in my head to doing a miniature dance when the performances started. I began singing the only lyrics I had picked up from the evening: “You love Chutney? I give you the Chutney… You want Chutney? Hot, Hot Chutney!”
He laughed and laughed and laughed. I laughed at how close minded and dull I was when it came to the genre. I love my Soca, I love my dancehall and now I love my Chutney.
It really was an eye opener. It was not just about the Indian beats and the melody, it was not about the dramatic performances or the dance moves, but the way people expressed their lives; their culture in a melodic story.
Now thinking about it, Soca is more beats than lyrics. Dancehall (the classic, simpler one by the way) is more about gyrating than music. Chutney is a story.
First lesson for the year: Don’t shut off your mind to something just because you heard it was awful, you think of it negatively or you are just too lazy to try it. Get up and experience it for yourself and you may just be surprised. What’s the harm?
I honestly thought I would have walked out of the Cultural centre just as I had walked in, but now I am thirsty for more! You want Chutney? Hot Hot Chutney! (Jairo Rodrigues)