March 16, 2011 issue

Greater Toronto

Debe-Penal group excels
at Chowtaal Sammelan
The Fourth Indo Caribbean Golden Age Association's Chowtaal Sammelan was held last Saturday at the Vishnu Mandir. Above are leaders of the groups and organizations that took part in this year's Sammelan along with their guests. From left: Danny Persaud of the Prakash Chowtaal Group; Amar Binda, President of Devi Mandir; Joe Jaglall of Toronto Arya Samaj Chowtaal Group; Sattie Sawh, Acting Consul General of Guyana; Seelal Binda of the Devi Mandir Chowtaal Group, Kathy Radoo, Acting Consul General of Trinidad and Tobago; Jai Sookbir of the Debe-Penal Chowtaal Group, Leila Daljeet of the Indo Caribbean Golden Age Association, Dr Budhendra Doobay of the Vishnu Mandir and Amar Umadas of Toronto Arya Samaj. Pix by Andre Binda

By Adit Kumar

The Indo Caribbean Golden Age Association held its 4th Annual Chowtaal Sammelan at the Vishnu Mandir last Saturday with four groups displaying their skills in chowtaal singing.
The Debe-Penal Chowtaal group, made up of Trinidadian immigrants and performing at the event for the second time, carted away the trophy having been adjudged the best performing group. According to Leila Daljeet, chief organizer of the event, the Sammelan is not a competition but rather an attempt to generate and maintain interest in this particular form of the oral tradition brought from India by the foreparents of the Indian immigrants to the West Indies. She told Indo Caribbean World she is pleased with the increased participation each year and the interest shown by the leaders of the community to ensure its continuance.
The group leaders have discussed the prospect of expanding the Sammelan into a full blown celebration of this Hindu Spring Festival on a grander scale in future.

The winning Debe-Penal Chowtal group with their trophy. Pix by AK

A chowtaal group is made up of two opposing teams which challenge each other in executing the art form based on the theme of the song. The themes vary from serious religious themes revolving around the stories of Lord Raam, Krishna or Shiva or may even include jovial themes where the groups taunt each other with light hearted social commentary.
While the winning Debe-Penal group focused more on the Lord Shiva theme, the similarity in the singing styles of the Trinidadian group and the (other) Guyanese groups was evidence of their common ancestry. It is well known that most of the Indian immigrants originated from Uttar Pradesh in India, so this oral tradition has crossed the oceans and survived the passage of time.
Now in its fourth year, the Sammelan has taken roots and has grown in stature attracting more youth and women. This year once again youths made their presence felt in a strong way as they took leading roles in all the groups. They not only sang but played the harmonium, the drums, the ‘jhaal’ (cymbals) and other percussion instruments maintaining the rhythm and adding to the gaiety of the Chowtaal interplay. The women were not to be outdone either as they stamped their authority with the singing too.
The Chowtaal groups that participated this year were the Prakash group, the Devi Mandir group, the Enmore group and the Debe-Penal group. The Vishnu Mandir did not field a chowtaal group but contributed to the program with a medley of Holi songs. All the performing groups were warmly received by the large and very appreciative audience which applauded every item and offered tremendous encouragement to them.
Among those present at the Sammelan were the Acting Consul Generals of both Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, Sattie Sawh and Kathy Radoo respectively, who presented the trophies and plaques to the participating Chowtaal groups.
Plans for next year’s chowtaal Sammelan are already in place and according to Leila Daljeet the event will be held at the Arya Samaj/Vedic Cultural Centre at 4345-14th Avenue, Markham. For further information on the event contact Leila Daljeet at 905-827-0368 or Mac Gurdial at 905-294-3564.


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