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WORD OF MOUTH Ready, aim . . .


In Trinidad, pichakaree is the name for the big syringes that Phagwah celebrants use to squirt each other with brightly coloured water — and also a kind of spicy social commentary through song. Attillah Springer explains


I


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got my first pichakaree from two daughters of the Hindu Prachar Kendra, who happily obliged my


ichakaree is the name for the big syringes that Phagwah celebrants use h other with brightly coloured water — and also a kind of spicy social through song. Attillah Springer explains pichakaree from two daughters of the Hindu Prachar Kendra, who ed my request for the bit of PVC technology that makes it possible to go white to a deep wet purple in a matter of minutes at Phagwah. I’d thrown my fair share of abeer, the coloured powder that Phagwah


request for the bit of PVC technology that makes it possible to go from pristine white to a deep wet purple in a matter of minutes at Phagwah. In past years,


I’d thrown my fair


prinkle and smear on each other, but was been happy to subject myself to of pichakaree shooters. ee — a long syringe, made of bamboo in the old days but PVC plastic key part of the Trinidad’s Phagwah celebration, known in other parts of Holi, the Hindu spring festival (and celebrated this year on 17 March) buckets of purple liquid, the pichakaree makes for mass wetting of ebrants. No one is safe, and at Phagwah, who would want to be? Prachar Kendra, headquartered in Enterprise, central Trinidad, the


aree has another distinct but related meaning. It refers to that device of sation, yes, but it is also the name given to a kind of social commentary x of Standard English, Trinidad Creole, and remnants of Bhojpuri, the north India spoken by many of the Indians who were brought to Trinidad d workers. s an artform challenges a lot of things. It challenges the feeling of


at many Indians feel from mainstream culture in Trinidad, particularly ch at least at a traditional level reflects West African masking traditions


share of gulal, the coloured powder that Phagwah celebrants sprinkle and smear on each other, but was happy to subject myself to the precision of pichakaree shooters. The pichakaree — a long syringe,


way that calypso at its root draws on the griot tradition. It also challenges proaches to the celebration of a Hindu festival. Alongside chowtal nging and the traditional instruments brought from India, pichakaree is a different kind of engagement with Trinidad’s Indian cultural landscape. ory, but like calypso it asks in public the difficult sorts of questions that ve no place in the national conversation. (Chutney, the older hybrid of Bollywood film music, has become as problematic as soca because of alisation, which seems to put limits on the range of topics that people are illing to hear.) enty-third year, the Kendra’s pichakaree competition seeks to publicly also add another voice to the one-sided conversations that take place o tents and competitions during Carnival season. And by choosing a ch year’s celebrations, the Kendra gives their community a chance take serious issues like domestic violence, political representation, and the .


’s bonfire night, the burning of the effigy of Holika recounts the story of oddess who attempted to kill Prahalad, the boy whose devotion to Lord cted him from fire. Another story tells of Lord Krishna’s mother advising ver his lover’s face in the colours of spring, so he is less conscious of e between his darkness and her lightness. Pichakaree is an opportunity nd give contemporary interpretations of these stories. That interplay thology and present-day reality is part of what makes pichakaree such an art of the music being produced in Trinidad right now. eme is focused on the future: Will we rock or ’reck the cradle? It’s a n, and I look forward to hearing the answers from this year’s pichakaree


made of bamboo in the old days but PVC plastic today — is a key part of Trinidad’s Phagwah celebration, known in other parts of the world as Holi, the Hindu spring festival (and celebrated this year on 17 March). Filled from buckets of purple liquid, the pichakaree makes for mass wetting of Phagwah celebrants. No one is safe, and at Phagwah, who would want to be? At


the Hindu Prachar Kendra, headquartered in Enterprise, central


Trinidad, the word pichakaree has another distinct but related meaning. It refers to that device of mass colourisation, yes, but it is also the name given to a kind of social commentary sung in a mix of Standard English, Trinidad Creole, and remnants of Bhojpuri, the language of north India spoken by many of the Indians who were brought to Trinidad as indentured workers. Pichakaree as an artform challenges a lot of things. It challenges the feeling


of exclusion that many Indians feel from mainstream culture in Trinidad, particularly Carnival, which at least at a traditional level reflects West African masking traditions in the same way that calypso at its root draws on the griot tradition. It also challenges orthodox approaches to the celebration of a Hindu festival. Alongside chowtal (folksong) singing and the traditional instruments brought from India, pichakaree is a chance for a different kind of engagement with Trinidad’s Indian cultural landscape. It is celebratory, but like calypso it asks


26 WWW.CARIBBEAN-BEAT.COM


in public the difficult sorts of question that many feel have no place in the national conversation. (Chutney, the older hybrid of calypso with Bollywood film music, has become as problematic as soca because of its commercialisation, which seems to put limits on the range of topics that people are apparently willing to hear.) Now in its twenty-third year, the Kendra’s


pichakaree competition seeks to publicly address and also add another voice to the one-sided conversations that take place in the calypso tents and competitions during Carnival season. And by choosing a theme for each year’s celebrations, the Kendra gives their community a chance to take aim at some serious issues like domestic violence, political representation, and the environment. On Phagwah’s bonfire night, the burning of the effigy of Holika recounts the story of the demon


goddess who attempted to kill Prahalad, the boy whose devotion to Lord Vishnu protected him from fire. Another story tells of Lord Krishna’s mother advising her son to cover his lover’s face in the colours of spring, so he is less conscious of the difference between his darkness and her lightness. Pichakaree is an opportunity to recount and give contemporary interpretations of these stories. That interplay between mythology and present- day reality is part of what makes pichakaree such an interesting part of the music being produced in Trinidad right now. The 2014 theme is focused on the future: Will


we rock or ’reck the cradle? It’s a hard question, and I look forward to hearing the answers from this year’s pichakaree contestants. n


DARREN CHEEWAH


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