Chutney soca is the Hindi-nuanced modern calypso dance music of Trinidad, a unique blend of the Indian and Afro-Caribbean cultures of the island. Popular Bollywood film songs are souped up with reggae beats and sung by local artists. It's both strange and refreshing to hear chutney soca for the first time. I was in a taxi, coming from the airport to Port of Spain with an Indian driver and the radio blaring. I recognized some of the Bollywood songs, but the Hindi sounded different, not as clipped or clear as you hear it on the subcontinent. The heavy downbeat announced that we were in the Caribbean, despite the dhols and the droning strings. The language was Indian, but the accent was Trini.
In photographing among the Indian diaspora, I have been more interested in things that seem local than in replications of Indian culture in a new country. Indians have been in Trinidad since 1845, tracing their roots to the men who were brought by the British as indentured laborers to work on sugar plantations after the abolition of slavery in the colonies. In their isolation and struggle to survive, Indians forged a unique culture in the Caribbean soil.
Classically trained sitarist Mungal Patasar fronts a jazz-fusion band called Pantar, which combines traditional Indian and Trini instruments -- the sitar and the steel pan.
Trinidad's central plains are its agricultural heartland.
The Waterloo Temple, the Caribbean's most famous Hindu structure. The jhandi prayer flags on the right are unique to the Hinduism of the Caribbean.
Sugar cane cutters sip white rum in Felicity, one of Trinidad's oldest Indian settlements.
Jhandi prayer flags, each containing the image of a deity, are dedicated in a puja ceremony and then planted in the yard of the house. After a year, when they are weathered and worn, they are planted in the ocean, which connects them to the Ganges and India.