The Caribbean is the world’s navel. A feminine navel studded with diamonds. A rosary of islands where, like nowhere else across the planet, all races and all the people who make up humanity come together.
Cuba, Martinique, Santo Domingo, Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad: each island is a cultural melting pot, with its own particular brew of history and religions, of flavors and sounds, of colors and rhythms. Each island has its own mix.
From the sister islands of Trinidad and Tobago, a unique artiste has arrived in our midst. His name is evocative of Esperanto: Mungal Patasar.
As often happens in the tropics, Mungal has taken the time to live his life and his art.
Born in Trinidad in 1946 of parents who had emigrated from India before Independence, Mungal first learnt the intoned singing of ancestral prayers – the ragas which are modulated as the singer improvises around a precise musical grid.
From the time he was eight years old, curious and eager to explore the mysteries of this music, he began to try out the instruments: the harmonium, the centuries-old dolak and dhantal, the clarinet, the mandolin. By instinct. By ear. He finally chose the king of all instruments, the sitar.
At the same time, Mungal took courses in social medicine in order to dedicate part of his time to bettering the living conditions of his community. But this didn’t stop him from keeping an ear tuned to the musical movements developing around him. In 1978, he won the prestigious Indian Cultural of Trinidad competition, attracting the attention of the Calypso-Jazz school in the capital Port Of Spain, and absorbed all its various influences: reggae, calypso, worldbeat, Caribbean fusion.
In search of his roots, Mungal set off on a long yet fruitful journey around India. He went to Calcutta, to Agra and to Benares. This pilgrimage of initiation, that took him to the very places where the most ancient classical music in the world was born, proved to be the decisive for the future: before becoming a master, one must humbly study with those who hold the keys to the kingdom.
“I am a musician of the world. India is my memory, Trinidad the ground under my feet, Europe my door to the world. My music is
a gift that belongs to everyone”.
“During my stay in India, I discovered what the expression ‘to work yourself to the bone’ meant. After eight hours of daily sitar exercises, the toughest skin gives in. I understood that once I returned home I had to regenerate the ancient art of the raga by exposing it to Caribbean rhythms. My music is holistic in its essence, but pluralistic in form.”