sunday sounds

A quick guide to Sundar Popo, the Don of Trinidadian chutney music

For the descendants of Indian indentured labourers in the West Indies, chutney music heals the traumatic past with hopes for a better future.

The first Indians landed in Trinidad (sold to desperate Bhojpuris as “Chini-dad”) as sugar slaves (euphemistically known as ‘indentured workers) in 1848. In the more than 150 years since, the East Indian community of the West Indies has struggled to forge a distinct and meaningful identity that captures both their roots in (mostly) eastern UP, their present, as a large and powerful group across the Caribbean, and a hopeful, as-yet-in-formation, future.  In recent decades, that search for an identity that connects history with future prospects has been played out in part in popular music.   In particular, the form of diaspora music known as chutney or chutney-soca, has been a mass experiment and experience of communal self-realisation for the Indian populations of the West Indies.

Emerging out of the traditional north Indian female practice of singing wedding songs to brides on the eve of their marriages, chutney music has over the years added Hindi filmi rhythms, modern electronic and western instruments and calypso beats to create a spicy genre of intoxicating dance music.  Men may have now taken centre-stage but not by any means have they displaced the women.  Rather, the music has given women an opportunity to move out of the shadows where they once sang their saucy tunes, to shake and strut their stuff in public.  Naturally, this has freaked-out the bearers of traditional values, but seems to have done nothing to slow the growth or popularity of the music.

Sadly, though the form has received some scholarly attention in recent years, the music itself is grossly underappreciated outside of the Caribbean and West Indian diaspora communities in North America and the UK.

If there is one name that is associated with the development of chutney more than any other it is that of Sundar Popo.  Born Sunilal Popo Bahora in Barrakpore, Trinidad, to musical parents, the young boy became possessed by the music from the day he was born. His parents who sang and performed at weddings and other Indian functions dragged Sundar with them where he absorbed everything.  Before long he was part of the show. “I was the best dancer in the country,” he claimed many years later.  Until his death in 2000 at the age of 57, Sundar Popo, who favoured a red lounge suit with a big “P” on the pockets, was the acknowledged Frank Sinatra-Kishore Kumar of the Caribbean.

 Nana Nani



Popo recorded his original breakthrough hit in 1969 after a meeting with music promoter Moean Mohammad at a matikhor (pre-wedding song fest). The song which tells the quirky story of a wine-loving grandpa and grandma was an instant hit and revolutionised Caribbean music by mixing English and Bhojpuri lyrics (“aage aage Nana chale, Nani goes behind/ Nana drinking white rum/ Nani drinking wine”) and setting the stage for what would eventually be loved as chutney.

I Wish I Was a Virgin



Sadly this clip is ends too abruptly, but is worth listening to. The song captures the upbeat tassa beat that the East Indians introduced into the slower rhythms of calypso. The lyrics are also particularly hot, telling of a rather racy “virgin” while a wonderful wave of brass worthy of the Memphis Horns underpins Popo’s tongue-in-cheek storytelling.

She said she was a virgin/and wanted to get married/she never married a taxi driver
So he got drive/and she got drive/ and drive upon another/so milke/bechurige ankiyaan/ Hai Rama!/milke bechurige ankiyan.

Kaise Bani



Another song that mixes Hindi and English gives Popo a platform to demonstrate his ability to sing in a completely different style than the highly produced, western-instrument-dominated dance numbers. Here Popo delivers what is essentially a novelty number, made famous by the Indian duo of Babla and Kanchan, which moves from funny propositions to kids nursery rhymes but is embedded in a folky environment of dholak, tabla and shehnai-sounding clarinet.

Scorpion Gyal



With a dholak driving the beat and a snake charmer-like clarinet swaying between lyric and beat, Popo expresses the eternal and universal attraction of the temptress whose sexiness includes a painful sting! “Scorpion sting me/darling if you love me /come lie down in my bed.” A huge chutney hit and Popo favorite.

Chaadar Beechawo Balma



A rapid fire Bhojpuri duet calls for the woman to spread out her blanket and get ready for loving while leaving the parents asleep.

Listen to these songs as a single playlist on our YouTube channel.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

What hospitals can do to drive entrepreneurship and enhance patient experience

Hospitals can perform better by partnering with entrepreneurs and encouraging a culture of intrapreneurship focused on customer centricity.

At the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, visitors don’t have to worry about navigating their way across the complex hospital premises. All they need to do is download wayfinding tools from the installed digital signage onto their smartphone and get step by step directions. Other hospitals have digital signage in surgical waiting rooms that share surgery updates with the anxious families waiting outside, or offer general information to visitors in waiting rooms. Many others use digital registration tools to reduce check-in time or have Smart TVs in patient rooms that serve educational and anxiety alleviating content.

Most of these tech enabled solutions have emerged as hospitals look for better ways to enhance patient experience – one of the top criteria in evaluating hospital performance. Patient experience accounts for 25% of a hospital’s Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) score as per the US government’s Centres for Medicare and Mediaid Services (CMS) programme. As a Mckinsey report says, hospitals need to break down a patient’s journey into various aspects, clinical and non-clinical, and seek ways of improving every touch point in the journey. As hospitals also need to focus on delivering quality healthcare, they are increasingly collaborating with entrepreneurs who offer such patient centric solutions or encouraging innovative intrapreneurship within the organization.

At the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott, some of the speakers from diverse industry backgrounds brought up the role of entrepreneurship in order to deliver on patient experience.

Getting the best from collaborations

Speakers such as Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director - Medanta Hospitals, and Meena Ganesh, CEO and MD - Portea Medical, who spoke at the panel discussion on “Are we fit for the world of new consumers?”, highlighted the importance of collaborating with entrepreneurs to fill the gaps in the patient experience eco system. As Dr Trehan says, “As healthcare service providers we are too steeped in our own work. So even though we may realize there are gaps in customer experience delivery, we don’t want to get distracted from our core job, which is healthcare delivery. We would rather leave the job of filling those gaps to an outsider who can do it well.”

Meena Ganesh shares a similar view when she says that entrepreneurs offer an outsider’s fresh perspective on the existing gaps in healthcare. They are therefore better equipped to offer disruptive technology solutions that put the customer right at the center. Her own venture, Portea Medical, was born out of a need in the hitherto unaddressed area of patient experience – quality home care.

There are enough examples of hospitals that have gained significantly by partnering with or investing in such ventures. For example, the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas actively invests in tech startups to offer better care to its patients. One such startup produces sensors smaller than a grain of sand, that can be embedded in pills to alert caregivers if a medication has been taken or not. Another app delivers care givers at customers’ door step for check-ups. Providence St Joseph’s Health, that has medical centres across the U.S., has invested in a range of startups that address different patient needs – from patient feedback and wearable monitoring devices to remote video interpretation and surgical blood loss monitoring. UNC Hospital in North Carolina uses a change management platform developed by a startup in order to improve patient experience at its Emergency and Dermatology departments. The platform essentially comes with a friendly and non-intrusive way to gather patient feedback.

When intrapreneurship can lead to patient centric innovation

Hospitals can also encourage a culture of intrapreneurship within the organization. According to Meena Ganesh, this would mean building a ‘listening organization’ because as she says, listening and being open to new ideas leads to innovation. Santosh Desai, MD& CEO - Future Brands Ltd, who was also part of the panel discussion, feels that most innovations are a result of looking at “large cultural shifts, outside the frame of narrow business”. So hospitals will need to encourage enterprising professionals in the organization to observe behavior trends as part of the ideation process. Also, as Dr Ram Narain, Executive Director, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, points out, they will need to tell the employees who have the potential to drive innovative initiatives, “Do not fail, but if you fail, we still back you.” Innovative companies such as Google actively follow this practice, allowing employees to pick projects they are passionate about and work on them to deliver fresh solutions.

Realizing the need to encourage new ideas among employees to enhance patient experience, many healthcare enterprises are instituting innovative strategies. Henry Ford System, for example, began a system of rewarding great employee ideas. One internal contest was around clinical applications for wearable technology. The incentive was particularly attractive – a cash prize of $ 10,000 to the winners. Not surprisingly, the employees came up with some very innovative ideas that included: a system to record mobility of acute care patients through wearable trackers, health reminder system for elderly patients and mobile game interface with activity trackers to encourage children towards exercising. The employees admitted later that the exercise was so interesting that they would have participated in it even without a cash prize incentive.

Another example is Penn Medicine in Philadelphia which launched an ‘innovation tournament’ across the organization as part of its efforts to improve patient care. Participants worked with professors from Wharton Business School to prepare for the ideas challenge. More than 1,750 ideas were submitted by 1,400 participants, out of which 10 were selected. The focus was on getting ideas around the front end and some of the submitted ideas included:

  • Check-out management: Exclusive waiting rooms with TV, Internet and other facilities for patients waiting to be discharged so as to reduce space congestion and make their waiting time more comfortable.
  • Space for emotional privacy: An exclusive and friendly space for individuals and families to mourn the loss of dear ones in private.
  • Online patient organizer: A web based app that helps first time patients prepare better for their appointment by providing check lists for documents, medicines, etc to be carried and giving information regarding the hospital navigation, the consulting doctor etc.
  • Help for non-English speakers: Iconography cards to help non-English speaking patients express themselves and seek help in case of emergencies or other situations.

As Arlen Meyers, MD, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, says in a report, although many good ideas come from the front line, physicians must also be encouraged to think innovatively about patient experience. An academic study also builds a strong case to encourage intrapreneurship among nurses. Given they comprise a large part of the front-line staff for healthcare delivery, nurses should also be given the freedom to create and design innovative systems for improving patient experience.

According to a Harvard Business Review article quoted in a university study, employees who have the potential to be intrapreneurs, show some marked characteristics. These include a sense of ownership, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to look at the big picture along with the desire, and ideas, to improve it. But trust and support of the management is essential to bringing out and taking the ideas forward.

Creating an environment conducive to innovation is the first step to bringing about innovation-driven outcomes. These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott, which is among the top 100 global innovator companies, is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.