Regrettable Regrello’s remarks on Sundar Popo

Regrettable Regrello’s remarks on Sundar Popo
Photo : Dool Hanomansingh

September 28, 21018

Dear Editor,

Regrettable Regrello’s remarks on Sundar Popo

 I write in response to the absurd and insensitive remarks by San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello on singer Sundar Popo at an event in San Fernando to mark the 42nd anniversary of our nation becoming a Republic.

Regrello said if he had his way, the auditorium of the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA) would not have been named in honour of the late chutney legend Sundar, but rather, calypso veteran Leroy “Black Stalin” Calliste.

Ironically, Regrello made the statement during a steelband concert titled “Hello, This is the Year For Love.”

Sundar Popo is a cultural icon as much as Black Stalin. Should Regrello wish to honour Stalin, he should have attempted to do so by not pulling Sudar Popo to the ground. I am certain that the spirit of Stalin must have felt hurt and insulted by these remarks.

Sundar Popo pioneered the genre of chutney music and created a bridge to unite people of various ethnicities in our republic. His singing career began with his 1969 hit, “Nana and Nani”.

Sundar’s song "Chadar Bichawo Balma" was incorporated by mega movie actor Amitabh Bachchan into his medleys during his live stage performances in 1982/83. Sundar performed with international Indian stars like Babla and Kanchan, Anup Jalota, Kishore Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan.  Sundar’'s song “Pholourie Bina Chutney” was redone and used in the popular Bollywood movie, Dabangg 2.

I served as Secretary of the Sundar Monument Committee and visited Regrello’s office when he was a Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Culture. Our Committee was referred to him by Hazel Manning whom we had approached for a location in Debe to erect the Sundar Monument.

The statue of Popo was already finished, and after more than four months we had failed to get any positive response from these Regrello. It was when the People’s Partnership (PP) came to power that Dr Roodal Moonilal, the MP for Oropouche East, agreed to locate the Sundar Monument opposite the MP’s office where it is today.

Photo : Mayor Junia Regrello

I must confess that Black Stalin was among the artistes that performed at a fund-raising show at Central Bank Auditorium to meet the cost of the project. Another prominent person who embraced the project was Professor Kennth Ramchand. The NLCB donated $10,000 after the intervention of a Member of Parliament of the ruling PNM.

I am not surprised by the remarks by Regrello. This is consistent with PNM’s policies vis-a-vis Indian culture. It is a cheap shot from Regrello to confine SAPA to San Fernandians and identify it with a San Fernandian in the person of Black Stalin. The question must be asked: Is Regrello going to raise similar concerns about the naming of the Tarouba Stadium after Brian Lara, who is not from South Trinidad?

I must confess that Regrello and Hazel Manning appeared very gracious and accommodating during our meetings with them. Nevertheless, I think that these individuals certainly have good intentions but they have allowed themselves to become tarnished by ethnic and political biases.

It was heartening that First Citizens’ Bank offered a cheque to Black Stalin. Such gesture must be congratulated. But I must ask: Has Regrello seen it proper to include other cultural art forms other that pan and kaiso in the Republic Day Concert?  Why were tassa and chutney not included?


Dool Hanomansingh, Chaguanas

Former Secretary of the Sundar Monument Committee