Children from more than 50 Hindu schools across Trinidad flocked to the Maha Sabha Headquarters in St Augustine for the 24th Annual Primary School’s Chowtal Sammelan.
Chowtal is a special type of folk song which is sung during the course of the Phagwa festival, and the accompanying music is usually played using only two instruments: The dholak, a hand drum, and the majeera, cymbals or percussion instrument. The music is fast paced, accompanying the chowtal songs which are sung rather loudly and are high pitched. Together, they produce a rich cultural blend of talents and skills.
When the Indians first came to Trinidad, they brought Chowtal with them. They would sing in secluded places because they didn’t have the liberty then, to do it in public. The Indians improvised and used pieces of metal to make music and thus, the dhantal (a long steel rod based percussion instrument) was born. When they were finally granted liberty, they would go house to house and sing these folk songs.
The primary school has kept it alive with their annual Chowtal Sammelan competition. See photographer Edison Boodoosingh’s images in the gallery above.