ANAND YANKARRAN By Virmala Balkaran
Anand Yankarran was born on February 9th 1965 in the village of Brickfield in Waterloo, Carapichaima. He is the son of the late iconic local classical musician and singer Isaac Yankarran and the sixth of 7 children. His brothers are Ashok, Suresh, Sharm (deceased), Rakesh, and sisters; Surekha and Devika.
From a tender age, Yankarran, along with his siblings, began singing and playing instruments with their then illustrious father. It is apparent that his father had become a legend, remarkable for someone who passed away because of heart disease at the young age of 37. By that time, he had accomplished more through the quality of his sheer brilliance, than most singers do in extended lifetimes. It was this sheer brilliance which overflowed into his children and blossomed them into legends in the realm of local classical and chutney music, not only in Trinidad & Tobago, but the world at large.
Yankarran continued to master the art of harmonium playing as well as singing. It was at the early age of 19 when he decided to enter his first competition and emerged victorious. He quickly shot up to fame in the years that followed. From competitions to special awards, Yankarran did not hold back and continued to give it his all.
In the year 1989, aged 24, he made his big break and in April, placed first in the classical chutney singing category in the then popular Indian Cultural Pageant at Skinner Park, San Fernando. He became known not just in Trinidad, but also internationally. In July, he hit stages to perform his much requested Stag chutney jingle, for the company. This created quite a stir and accelerated the company’s sales. He then went on to stage his own chutney concert in August for which people traveled from far and wide. After a long year of both hard work and success, in December, Yankarran was the recipient of the award for Bhajan of the Year at the National Awards for Excellence in the Arts after being nominated in five categories (the highest number of nominations). One week later, he performed at the Caroni (1975) Limited’s first annual company talent show in Couva and was proudly highlighted as the “National Chutney Champion”.
The next year proved to be another exciting one for Yankarran, whose hard work was paying off in every endeavor. In a newspaper story on March 18th 1990, he said, “Last year was one of the most wonderful and successful years of my singing career, and I am going to make 1990 even better. The money I won was given as a gift to my mother who was the main person responsible for my success. This year I am going to do it for her again.” The next week, he once again took the first prize home to his mother and 5 year old daughter. In December, he once again appeared in five categories in the National Awards for Excellence in the Arts, making him one of the two persons with the most nominations.
In 1991, Yankarran released a record and cassette entitled “Soca Beta” and “The King of Kings”. In the Indian Cultural Pageant of that year, he placed second. Shortly after, he was presented with a certificate of appreciation by the National Council of Indian Culture for his contribution to the “successful and historic staging of the first Divali Nagar 1991” after a programme titled “Many Moods of Anand Yankarran”, a three-hour programme which showcased his various singing modes at the Naparima Bowl and served to raise funds for the upcoming Divali Nagar convention. Later on in August, he was presented with “The Chaconia Medal – Silver” by the then President of Trinidad & Tobago, Noor Mohamed Hassanali. Added to that, in November, he was once again nominated in five categories in the National Awards for Excellence in the Arts.
The years that followed continued to be successful for Yankarran, who was in high demand by local classical and chutney lovers all over the world. Having toured regionally and internationally, he had left his mark everywhere he visited. The Guyana Chronicle on May 16th 1992 wrote, “Anand Yankarran who is just 27 is a dynamic new singing star of the Caribbean if not further afield… Just prior to coming here the Nanda Babaji composer came out first in the Preliminary Round of the Mastana Bahar singing competition which is held in T&T.” As the years went by, he continued performing on stages with legends such as Sundar Popo and Lily John. In 1994, he once again emerged victorious at the Indian Cultural Pageant as the recipient of the first prize in the local song category of the competition. Later that year, he took over the pre-Carnival stage at the Trinidad Hilton, in a show entitled “Soca Dipped in Chutney”.
From the 1990’s till now, the Chutney king has enjoyed many successes in the industry, both locally and internationally. He has toured the world and taken the music to places where people have eagerly awaited his performances. In 2003, he migrated to the United States of America where he continued to please crowds who traveled from all across the world to attend his concerts. However, unfortunately, Yankarran’s huge wave of performing and traveling came to sudden stop on the morning of Tuesday, May 13th 2008. Upon loss of movement of the right side of his body, he was admitted to the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York where the diagnosis proved that he had suffered a stroke; which on the pre-stroke modified rankin scale was marked at number 4 which meant “moderately sever disability; unable to walk without assistance and unable to attend to own bodily needs without assistance”. Gradually, after months of his family’s care, he began singing once more, not as energetic or as much as before.
Yankarran continued receiving therapy for the 2008 stroke but in 2010, he fell ill once more; this time with complications to his heart. At the Long Island Jewish Medical Center he underwent a quadruple bypass surgery to his heart on July 30th where he awoke 7 days after the operation and began post-surgery treatment.
Yankarran spent the years after the operation trying to regain his strength to be able to once again musically satisfy his fans. In 2012, he returned to his country of birth where he released a few compositions. However, over the years, he developed diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension. He also underwent an operation to his eye, but this did not stop the Chutney king as he entered the Chutney Soca Monarch Competition in at the beginning of 2014. After successfully qualifying for the final round of the competition, Yankarran hit the stage once more and had patrons in awe. He continued to work towards his full recovery while under the guidance of his doctors, care of his loving wife and on medication which had to be imported.
He passed peacefully on Monday morning. 2nd January 2017