The influence of alcohol in soca & chutney music

Dear Editor,
Credence should be given to all those who are concerned about the impact the usage of “alcohol” in the world of chutney and soca music is having on our family lives and our cultures. But while these discourses continue unabated and with much fervour, we should also look at the impact most of the new Bollywood movies are having on our family lives and culture.
Music is the embodiment of life and death. It is the lifeblood of society. Its presence can be felt in temples, churches, during religious occasions and a myriad of occasions in society. But what makes music so conjuring; it arouses interest and is pleasurable.
For the Hindus and the Hindu community in addition to music being interesting and pleasurable; music is unique. We have inherited our music from our past generations using traditional instruments, but with the advent of technology and the emergence of the new generation, the traditional instruments are gradually being phased out and the approach to music has taken a detour.
Today, with the advent of chutney and soca music and the incorporation of modern lyrics to include popular dance beats appear to be more palatable to the younger generation. But the references of rum to the lyrics of these songs have been met with apprehension. It is indicated that these songs propagate rum drinking, and are said to be influencing youths into criminal and other forms of behaviours.
Today, we live in a materialistic society, where money is first and foremost in the minds of everyone, let alone the very big corporations that prey on the public to buy their products. In the alcohol industry, alcohol advertising and marketing have a significant impact on our lives, especially the youths of today. In the United States, of which the Caribbean Hindu community is part of this demographic society, a national study published in January 2006 concluded that greater exposure to alcohol advertising contributes to an increase in criminal behaviours and crimes among underage youths.
Though the reference of “rum” in the chutney and soca songs can be construed as advertisement, it is dwarfed by the $2 billion spent on alcohol advertising on television, radio, billboards and the major newspapers yearly in the United States; not forgetting the Caribbean.
But while rum drinking should not be condoned, prior to the introduction of “rum” in lyrics to chutney and soca music, rum drinking was prevalent in the West Indies, especially in the sugar plantation.
I can vividly remember many of the sugar workers, after receiving their weekly salaries on Friday evenings, migrated to their favourite rum shops, inserted their quarters in the nearby music system and played their favourite Rafi, Lata and Asha songs. And before the night came to an end, they would be fully inebriated and sauntered home only to unleash their wrath towards their wives and children. This undoubtedly had a negative impact on the family down the road.
But while much emphasis is also placed on alcohol, soca and chutney music, we should also pay attention to the Bollywood film industry. From the very inception, Bollywood has been the entertaining capital for most of the countries in Asia with special reference to the Caribbean Hindu community. But today, the quest for such a status is slowly going into oblivion.
Today, these new Hindi movies are plagued with violence that are negatively impacting the Caribbean Hindu community, in particular the younger generation. Studies have shown that violence in movies can instil fear in young children, which can lead to repeated nightmares. Violence in movies can also lead to an increase in aggressive behaviours in children. In addition, there is always the possibility that children will try to mimic the aggressive and violent behaviours they have seen in movies. It is for these reasons families in the Caribbean Hindu community are exercising caution in choosing what new Hindi movies the children are allowed to watch.
There is also a deep sense of disgust in the Caribbean Hindu community as to where these new Hindi movies are heading. They are plagued with scantily clad women and vulgar dancing, gruesome promiscuity, extreme vulgarity and high sexual innuendoes that permeate the Bollywood film industry. Today, to sit in a family group and enjoy a Hindi movie is a thing of the past. Most of the new releases can now be only seen in closed doors in the absence of children and grandchildren. Very sad indeed!
In retrospect, it is pathetic to know that Draupadi, despite her questionable character in Hindu mythology, has fought against being disrobed in the great epic “The Mahabharata” to preserve the chastity of women. But today, in most of the new Hindi movies, what Draupadi had fought for is greatly compromised.
The negative impact of rum in the various cultures is very apparent. Most religions discourage the use of alcohol, let alone the Hindu culture, which is the basis of this article. Thus, it is vividly stated in the Bhagavad Gita, and I quote “If you drink, you may do wrong things out of your consciousness”.
In addition, the present-day violence and promiscuity in Bollywood films are not only against the long Indian traditions; they are also degrading and diminishing our true cultural identity. They are also affecting our young generation adversely. To save our young generation from these deprivations and degenerations, some suitable result actions are required to be initiated urgently. Let us not stand and watch, but instead, voice our opinions in what ways we can.

Mani Jadunauth