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It is evident that from the lukewarm turnout of Chowtaal Groups at various Phgawa venues across the country this year, that this festival needs an infusion of direction and incentives so as to attract greater participation. East Indians brought with them chowtaal songs and even composed some here, which are sung in four beats. The music is infectious and requires only a drum and jhaal. The major instrument is however the Voice and is sometimes dominated by all women Groups. The songs are always in praise of dieties like Shree Krishna, Shree Ram. Shiva Bhagwan and others.
While children's phagwa has been a resounding sucess as a showpiece, pioneered by the late Sat Maharaj. These children have not gone on to form themselves into adult groups, thus not adding to the growth of Chowtaal Groups nationwide. What is now required is leadership to preserve and advance this art form even as we see orchestras now making their way on to traditional Chowtaal venues. While I am the first to welcome these upbeat and new trends I am concerned that what is now a festival of clean fun may decend into a drunken fete.
It is not a far reach to assume as much. While traditional songs praise God the newer local compositions in English may not. We see the obsession of Chutney Soca with Rum, horn or and the objectifying of women! Sadly with the death of leaders of Chowtaal Groups the groups themselves have died out. To combat this atrophy established Chowtaal groups must form themselves into an association and this will serve as the incubator for new groups through workshops and competitions etc.
May I also suggest that we take our rightful place by hosting Phagwa in the Capital city Port of Spain, after all Hindus have no problem playing mas, pushing pan and jumping J’ouvert. The Ministry of Culture must also do its part to preserve and propagate this ancient art form that kept Indian firmly anchored in culture and family life. Even as they contributed to nation building. I would ask for nothing less than that which is given to the dying art of Calypso in equal funding.
With proper leadership we can create new Chowtaal groups by enabling leaders to emerge. There is no lack of talent only a lack of empowerment. I am convinced that if we build it they will come and sing Chowtaal. - Pundit Satyanand Maharaj Spiritual Leader Satya Anand Ashram, Trinidad.