A report by Miranda La Rose for Newsday.
NOTHING UNITES the Caribbean like cricket and calypsoes and this is aptly documented in the History of West Indies, which traces West Indies cricket from the days of Test cricket and of Learie Constantine in the 1920s to 2016 and the current Twenty 20 format.
First and foremost though, author and freelance journalist Nasseer Khan told Newsday that the book is really “a youth literacy education initiative” that he undertook in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and sponsor NAGICO insurances.
“It is history though poetry and prose in music and song. It is literature.
It is history. It is culture.
Hopefully, students will benefit from it,” Khan said.
The book is easy to read, and to extract data, as it is broken down in categories featuring players, series, and even political commentaries.
Since its launch, copies of the 215-page book – which incidentally features 215 calypsoes – have been handed over to the Ministry of Education to be distributed to the libraries of every secondary school in the country.
Copies have also been given to the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TT CB). Copies are also to be given to tertiary institutions including the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT ).
However, because of limited hard copies published, and because it may be used in schools at one point in time or the other, it is expected Khan said, that online copies will be available to students.
Education Minister Anthony Garcia has recommended the publication to “curriculum officers, to libraries, to families and to schools, not only in Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean but also the Caribbean diaspora and the cricket fraternity globally.” Garcia said that cricket and calypso are inextricably linked to the history of colonial Great Britain, not only in TT but also in all the other islands and Guyana, where cricket is played.
It is not surprising, he said, that the book used the medium of calypso to record 90 years of cricket, with the first documented calypso being done by Atilla the Hun.
In brief comments, President Anthony Carmona said, “Calypso continues to go hand in hand with the successes and failures of our West Indies cricket team but has always been in the vanguard of giving timely support when it was required.” The Cricket World Cups that the West Indies won in 1975 and 1979, he said, are forever etched in our minds.
“Trinidad and Tobago’s very own Brian Lara, the Prince of Port-of-Spain, has had his legacy assured through the power of calypso.” Breaking the world record twice with the most runs by a Test batsman, twice at the same venue and against the same team, Carmona said, “(Lara) has found immortality in the world of calypso through Superblue’s ‘Signal to Lara’.” The global batting legend also weighed in on the book, stating in the introduction, “I hope this book will inspire our young cricketers and our young calypsonians to become the best they can be, producing more wonderful moments on the cricket field and in song for all West Indians to celebrate the only way we know how to.” West Indian cricketer and musician Dwayne Bravo’s hit song “Champion”, recorded and produced before the West Indies Under 19s, Women’s team, and the men’s team won their respective World Cup trophies in 2016, has reached international status with over 40 million hits on YouTube.
And although categorised as international pop music, Lara noted: “For all intents and purpose, we have adopted it as a soca/calypso song.
“Cricket and calypso are our region’s gifts to the world,” Lara said