Uplifting and upbeat: Rooplal Girdharie

Rooplal Girdharie wins Trinidad & Tobago's 2006 Chutney Soca Monarch title by keeping it positive

Rooplal Girdharie. Photograph by Sookdeo Baney

Life only seems to get better for Rooplal Girdharie — reigning champion of Trinidad and Tobago’s 2006 Chutney Soca Monarch competition. This year’s winning compositions — “Dholak Bhajayai” (sung in Hindi) and “The Last Jump Up” — catapulted him to three-time fame, and earned him the handsome reward of TT$100,000. Girdharie also copped the title in 2000 and 2004.

Add the giddying antics of professional “wining girls” on stage to a legion of rapidly gyrating bodies in the audience, compelled by colourful lyrics. That’s the essence of chutney soca. But this year’s winner brings a more sober head to the chutney arena. “People are starting to understand the importance of getting it right,” says Girdharie, referring to the risqué lyrics often identified with chutney.

He believes he owes his success, in part, to the fact that the competition organiser, George Singh of Southex Promotions, has done much to change the raunchy nature of the artform and restore value to the performances. “There has been a genuine attempt to improve the level of the lyrics,” Girdharie says. He is happy to belong to a line of chutney traditionalists, and focuses on delivering positive and uplifting content to his ardent fans. Ironically, this might even be the key to his longevity in a do-as-you-please culture.

“Nothing happens overnight. It has been a lot of perseverance; there has been frustration and hard work.” Girdharie finds performing “quite rewarding” despite the unpredictable nature of show business. “It’s all about going out there and putting on a good show. You could make all the preparations — something could go wrong and you might have a bad night. Saturday [competition night] was a good night.” But less so for a dozen other hopefuls for the crown. Girdharie edged out legendary bards Heeralal Rampartap (last year’s winner), who came in a close second, and Rasika Dindial, who placed eighth.

Girdharie intends to close the first decade of his musical career touring Europe, North America, and the Caribbean, “spreading the gospel of music.”