Sundar Popo Bahora exists in the realm of legend as the breakthrough artiste who brought traditional Indo-Trinidadian Chutney music into the mainstream and laid the foundation for the birth of the new indigenous art form of Chutney Soca.
Born to musician parents, singing and performing seemed to come naturally to the young Sundar Popo. By the time he was 15, he was already a sensation within his community of Monkey Town, Barrackpore. With his repertoire of bhajans and popular songs, he was in high demand at mandirs, weddings and other events.
He shot into the national limelight in 1971 when he appeared on the weekly Mastana Bahar competition and performed “Nana and Nani” in the show’s local composition category. With its blend of lyrics in Bhojpuri and Trinidad dialect, set to the folk rhythm of Chutney music, the song revolutionized Indo-Trinidadian music and transported Sundar Popo into stardom. Responding to its popularity, music producer and radio broadcaster Moean Mohammed recorded the song under his label and gave it heavy airplay, launching the singer’s career that would last until his passing in 2000.
High demand for Sundar Popo’s music in the Indo-Caribbean diaspora in Guyana, Suriname, United States, Canada, Europe, Fiji and Mauritius turned him into an international performer with a broad fan base. In 1979, his music broke into the Indian market when Indian performers Babla and Kanchan recorded some of his songs, the most successful of which was “Pholourie Bina Chutney”.
Over a career of three decades, Sundar Popo recorded more than 15 albums, with a succession of hits that made him one of the most sought after performers by concert promoters in Indo-Caribbean diaspora communities. In 1995, calypsonian Black Stalin won the National Monarch title with his “Tribute to Sundar Popo”. For his contribution to music and culture, Sundar Popo was awarded the
Humming Bird Medal (Silver) in 1993, topping off a long list of awards and honours given to him by groups around the world. Despite failing health due to diabetes, he maintained a schedule of engagements, the last of which was at a concert in Connecticut on April 1, 2000. One month later, on May 2, he passed away.