Today marks 20 years since the death of cultural icon Sundar Popo.
To mark the occasion, some of Popo’s close relatives, childhood friends and supporters have formed a new organisation called the Sundar Popo International Foundation.
During an interview with Guardian Media, the Foundation’s president Arnold Oudit said in honour of Pope, they were planning to set up a Heritage Fund to help aspiring musicians and singers.
Oudit said they will work with existing musical centres and religious organisations and provide assistance and support through scholarship and mentorship programs and financial assistance.
“We will use the media to create and develop opportunities for talented young people to grow and maximise their potential. This will be inclusive of all the areas of our ancestral music, musical instruments and other art forms,” Oudit said.
He added, “We will provide assistance and support small bands and orchestras, musicians and artists inclusive of competitions at both the local and national levels. We will promote the legacies of our forefathers/ancestors and develop the Jahagi Bundle experience from India.
“Through mentorship programmes, Oudit said the Foundation will “identify the tangible and intangible treasures within the Jahaji bundle to auger modern psychological theories to develop and help at-risk kids.” The Heritage Trust Fund will maintain the property of Sundar’s Palace situated at Lal Beharry Trace and preserve his trophies and artefacts for our future sons and daughter to admire and aspire.
“We want to continue to generate interest and support from the ordinary country boys and country girls who are experiencing economic hardships and provide help to those who need our support,” Oudit added.
He noted that the Foundation’s members had been very close to Sundar.
“We grew up with him, played with him, sang with him and shared his struggles. Sundar experienced economic and social struggles but he developed the resilience and foresight to pioneer a genre of music which has been reproduced by other legendary world-class singers. We cannot deny Sundar’s talent nor can we deny his passion for music! Sundar is best remembered for the genre of music which he pioneered and nurtured into a household name, ‘Chutney Soca’,” Oudit said.
He noted that Sundar at one point struggled to make a living to maintain his family.
“His natural and nurtured talents evolved in the 60s and the 70s when musicians from the two ethnic groups in Trinidad were experimenting with new ideas and different genres of music. In the struggle to establish a cultural marker where every creed and race will find an equal place, Sundar proudly represented his roots. He did not leave financial wealth for his family but he gave us music and a reason for us all to be called proud children of our Indian heritage,” Oudit added. He said the Foundation will provide opportunities for young people with talent who wanted to grow as musicians.