Hurricane Hemlatha Dindial has been a vocal and cultural powerhouse in the chutney community for the past 16 years and has performed at hundreds of events – from weddings to birthday celebrations and maticoor nights (the first of three nights of celebration for a Hindu wedding). She’s bringing East Indian culture forward to new generations of chutney lovers in her own unique style and voice. This year, she has teamed up with soca powerhouse Machel Montano on a new chutney soca collaboration, Nice Man, and will have the chance to reach new listeners and fans when she performs at the final Machel Monday on February 17.
She comes from a family of musicians and entertainers, and Dindial’s soaring vocals are innate to who she is as a person and woman. She has never been formally trained in either her craft or in Hindi, but she wants TT to put greater effort into preserving its own fusion music – chutney.
“My father was a classical and chutney singer himself, and my brother Jairam Dindial was the host of the TV show Indian Cultural Vibrations and an entertainer himself.”
Her sister Rasika Dindial is also well known in the craft and Linda, another sister who recently died was well-known for her participation in Ramayan and Satsang.
“Linda was my backbone. She supported us everywhere we went on our entertainment circuit, even though she was not directly involved in that side of the business,” she recalled. “I started off in religious singing too before I recorded my first track, Bina Daykee, 16 years ago at FM Studios, owned by Fareed Mohammed of Mohammedville. That’s when I started singing traditional chutney music.”
Last year, Dindial was on record as saying that there needs to be greater support for the development of the chutney genre and was keen to point out the differences and why.
“Chutney soca, which is the main form that it has evolved into, has a different beat, and the lyrics are in English. More recently, the lyrics have also been simplified, so that the good lyrics you would hear in the pure chutney is getting lost.
"My style is traditional chutney, and while I am willing to mix it, I am not willing to leave it outright.
"Since I raised this issue last year, I have seen a lot more youth getting involved and participating in the original and traditional chutney music, so I am proud to see that. But we have this artform that we do not really recognise, and we must. And I don’t want us to kill that side of our culture just for the competition sake of it.”
Having participated in several Chutney Soca Monarch competitions, she has opted out this year.
“Over how many chutney soca competitions have passed and when we look at the number of women that have won, or even placed in the top five, far less for the top three, I realised it’s not worth the time or effort,” she explained.
She is, however, no stranger to winning or recognition. She’s previously swept the Radio 103FM awards and also collaborated with several other well-known chutney and crossover artistes such as Ravi Bissambhar (Ravi B).
“I always welcome the idea of doing a collaboration, especially with young people in the industry. But I can’t sing with any and everyone. My lowest note is often the highest note that others can sing. That’s how I picked up my higher range of singing from my father and my brother, who also learned from him. But it is hard for people to fall in alongside and sing sometimes, so we have to find ways to make it work.”
She has also recently teamed up with Rishi Gayadeen of RG the Band (previously part of the Gayatones Band).
“Rishi is like a brother to me. We have an understanding and work well together as a team.”
The discussion about collaborating with Machel Montano started well over a year ago.
“We have the traditional version of the song Nice Man, but there is also a Hindi version of it to follow. You can hear a part of it in the current advertisement in radio and social media ads for The Wedding, the final Machel Monday concert.”
It’s an exciting moment for Dindial, the last of the five children in the entertainment family, who has the opportunity again to raise the profile of the chutney artform at the concert with the soca superstar.
“I want people to see that there is more to chutney music than we currently hear in the mainstream. There are so many different ways to sing a song and it doesn’t have to just be vulgar or focus on drinking. My songs have positive messages in them, like telling the story of how a woman should look for a man that would treat her like a queen and she can treat him like a king.”
She burst into song: “When I with you, you make me happy, I don’t want nobody else but you,” to point out to WMN that there are positive ways to engage in chutney music.
Aside from her career in this field, Dindial is always keen to put her husband and two children first. Recently, she’s fallen in love with another pastime.
“All these years that my husband would go fishing and I would wonder, 'What is it that so enjoyable about doing this?' So one day I went with them down the islands and when I caught my first fish I realised what it was. It’s so relaxing, being out there in a different atmosphere. It’s so peaceful on the sea.
"So now I am always the one asking him to go fishing with them, rather than the other way around.
“My two children also like it. It can be very addictive so whenever I am not performing somewhere or travelling, that’s definitely what I want to be doing.”
The next few weeks will be particularly busy for her, with band practice occupying most of her time.
With a range of hits and original tracks to her name, Jattana Bina Mirigaa, Sassu, Kaan Pera, Ho Gaya, Baanara Daykee, Ku Ku Kara Kai Kai, Badaalaa and more, she continues to honour her father’s legacy and sister’s memory while highlighting an important aspect of TT culture.