Chowtal, aside from being the name of a "taal" or meter in Hindustani classical music, is a form of folksong of North India's Bhojpuri region, sung by amateurs during the vernal Phagwa or Holi festival.
In chowtal, two rows of singers face each other (semi-circle), with a "dholak" drummer at one end, and sing lines of Hindi text antiphonally. While the melodies are relatively simple, the song undergoes various modulations of rhythm and tempo, alternating between subdued passages and exciting climaxes. Chowtal is generally sung by enthusiasts for their own pleasure, rather than for an audience. "Chowtal" is in fact an umbrella term for the format, which comprises various subgenres including chowtal proper, jhumar, ulara, lej, baiswara, dhamar, rasiya, kabir, jogira, and others. Chowtal is performed today in various parts of the Bhojpuri region, but is in decline.
During 1838-1917, chowtal was one of the Bhojpuri folk music genres transmitted by indentured workers to the Caribbean (primarily Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica and Suriname), and also the Fiji Islands. In these sites it has flourished vigorously--in spite of the decline of the Bhojpuri language in Trinidad and Guyana. It also flourished in secondary diaspora communities of Indo-Caribbeans in New York, Holland, and elsewhere, and of Indo-Fijians in Australia, the west coast of North America, and elsewhere.
- Manuel, Peter (2009). “Transnational Chowtal: Bhojpuri Folksong from North India to the Caribbean, Fiji, and Beyond.” Asian Music 40/2: 1-32
- Manuel, Peter (2010). "Tassa Thunder: Folk Music from India to the Caribbean." Documentary video.
- Sasenarine, Rudy, compiler (2009). "Chowtal Rang Bahar: A Treasury of Chowtal Songs from India and the Caribbean." Queens, New York: The Rajkumari Centre.