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Bhajan out Chutney Soca

By NALINEE SEELAL Tuesday, February 11 2014

SATNARAYAN Maharaj, secretary general of the country’s largest Hindu organisation, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), has intervened in a growing controversy surrounding a an artiste who sang a bhajan (a religious Hindi song) chutney-style, which earned her a place in the finals of the Chutney Soca Monarch set for this Saturday.

Hemlata “Hurricane” Dindial, daughter of well-known deceased classical singer Basdeo “Lappo” Dindial, had fans at Rienzi Complex in Couva wining to the song titled “Hogaya”.

This earned her a place in the finals but two persons assigned by the SDMS to monitor songs performed at the Chutney Soca semis raised concerns over Dindial’s song to Maharaj last Friday, telling him the song is Dindial’s version of one sung by Indian playback singer Anup Jalota, who is famous for his rendition of bhajans. In fact, the two officials claimed the original song sang by Jalota is “Chadar Hogayee”.

Contacted yesterday, Maharaj told Newsday he was given an opportunity to listen to both Dindial’s version and Jalota’s original and immediately recognised the similarities. Maharaj also confirmed Jalota’s song is a bhajan.

“I had a delegation of two people who are involved in the chutney business and they complained that it was contrary to a decision taken that no lyrics from bhajans be used in the performance of chutney songs,” Maharaj said. He added bhajans have no place in the Chutney Soca competition, even if a person decides to modify the original bhajan. “I tried to contact George Singh, promoter of this competition. He contacted me on Friday and said he will be guided by what the Maha Sabha says about the non-use of bhajans in chutney and Chutney Soca,” Maharaj said.

“I told him I heard both versions and this is an Anup Jalota bhajan that was presented many years ago and is now being palmed off as a chutney song,” the Maha Sabha head said. Maharaj added Singh then told him once the Maha Sabha objects to a specific song, the artiste would not be allowed to perform it. Maharaj said Singh later telephoned and asked if the Maha Sabha had any objection to Dindial performing another song. “My response was that the Maha Sabha’s objection is to the singing of a bhajan and not the singer. If they accept another song we have no problem with that. I thought the performer ought to have known better,” he said.

“I knew her father Basdeo and he would have copied Anum Jalota’s lyrics which Hemlata is now claiming that the song belongs to her father. She should have done some checks to ascertain if it was an original song from her father or if it was a bhajan. Chutney singers must have a sense of responsibility and respect for people’s religion and not denigrate the Holy Scriptures in song,” Maharaj said.

For his part, Singh confirmed having discussions with Maharaj on the issue. “I spoke with Mr Maharaj and assured him that in no way did we mean any disrespect to the Hindu community. We were not aware the song was a bhajan. I have asked Hemlata Dindial to sing another song at the finals and she has agreed. I have informed Mr Maharaj of this,” Singh said. He said Dindial will now sing a song called “Boat Ride” at this Saturday’s final as she was told that either she sings another song or she would be disqualified. Singh said he has the utmost respect for Maharaj as a person and the Maha Sabha as an organisation. Saying he is a Roman Catholic, his wife is Muslim and his grandparents came from Hindu ancestry, George said he is well acquainted with various religions and in no way will condone disrespect to any. When Newsday sought a comment from Dindial, she terminated the call on being told a Newsday reporter was speaking to her. A total of 20 contestants will vie for the $2 million first prize in the final.

Public Relations Officer of the National Council for Indian Culture Surujdeo Mangroo said he agreed with the decision taken by the Maha Sabha to intervene in this matter “You cannot take a religious song, a bhajan and prostitute it and palm it off as a chutney song. This is a disgrace and most unacceptable,” Mangroo said.

“While I like chutney music, people need to have good lyrical content and I want to appeal to singers to be more mindful of people’s religion and not denigrate any religion and they must respect the Holy Scriptures,” he said.

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