What the Caribbean is talking about this month

Soulful princess: She’s the latest singing sensation out of Cuba. Find out about her and her first album, Yusa • Buzzworthy • and much more...

Soulful princess

“She’s young, Cuban, black, and gay,” quips Tumi record label boss Mo Fini, who we can thank for launching yet another Cuban musical prodigy on the global airwaves.

Mo could have added that, besides her distinctive smoky, soulful voice, Yusa is a conservatory-trained multi-instrumentalist (proficient on piano, guitar, Cuban tres, and bass), who pens her own poetic lyrics. So forget Nora Jones; if you’re listening out for an authentic new voice, rooted in Cuban rumba, trova, and bolero, whose music bears traces of influences as varied as Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Stevie Wonder, Sting, and new- wave Brazilians like Lenine — meet Yusa.

Yusimil López Bridón was born in east Havana’s Buena Vista district, but while the Buena Vista Social Club has been the world’s introduction to traditional Cuban music, Yusa is very much a contemporary voice. The inevitable comparison with Tracey Chapman falls a long way short. Better to see her in the tradition of great Cuban vocal divas like Celia Cruz, Celina Gonzalez, Merceditas Valdes, or Omara Portuondo.

Enrolled aged nine at Havana’s Amadeo Roldán Conservatory to study classical guitar, in the early 1990s Yusa graduated to form a guitar vocal duo with compatriot singer-songwriter Domingo Candelario, before joining the all-female Quasi Jazz quintet. Her first eponymous album was arranged by conservatory colleague Roberto Carcasses, son of Cuba’s legendary scat singer and jazz trumpeter Bobby Carcasses.

A challenging joy to listen to at home, her live performances are pure electricity, as audiences from Rio to Paris to London have been discovering. Catch her any way you can.

For more information on Yusa, her album, and her recently released DVD of a live performance at Ronnie Scott’s, check out www.tumimusic.com

Simon Lee


Not pretending
Guyana-born Sean Brijbasi sends critics in search of superlatives with the release of his second novel, Still Life in Motion, published by Pretend Genius Press. The follow-up to his equally acclaimed One Note Symphonies, Still Life is an assemblage of vignettes as capricious as a dream, and is earning Brijbasi comparisons to James Joyce and Woody Allen (what a combination!). Readers who prefer their literature as predictable as afternoon tea may disapprove of Brijbasi’s literary machinations. But for the adventurous, Still Life will prove a compelling work of art. KM

Just weeks before Brian Lara became the first man to score a quadruple century in first-class cricket, it was thrilling to see St Lucian batswoman Nadine George score 118 in a Test match against Pakistan in Karachi, and become the first women in West Indies cricket history to notch a century, beating the previous highest Windies score of 72, made by Beverly Browne back in 1979. George, a soft-spoken left-hander, and a police corporal in her day job, was naturally pleased with her performance. “It feels great,” she said. “I am very happy to have achieved that milestone.” DK

Lyrical hitman
He’s the latest in VP Records’ arsenal, but 21-year-old DJ Assassin is gunning at more than fame. “I write songs that deal with societal issues that plague families and communities across Jamaica,” he says. Besides his lyrical stockpile (he’s written for artists like Spragga Benz), the Kingston native counts education among his weapons of mass destruction. He bucked trends by finishing sixth form at school before embarking on his music career, and is contemplating higher education. “I really want to make a meaningful contribution to music. That’s the reason I strive so hard.” KM

Safety warrior
Dawn Stewart is passionate about sex — safe sex. The 50-year-old sexpert fearlessly promotes sexual health and condom usage throughout the Caribbean and the diaspora. “We’re teaching young people how to integrate condoms into foreplay — in a romantic, sharing, loving way.” The tutorials include demonstrations with model body parts and frank discussions on sexually transmitted diseases. “I’ve seen too many people die of HIV,” says the Guyanese mother of four. “This is about saving lives.” For info on Caribbean People’s International Collective, visit www.aidswalkcaribbean.com.  KM

Return of the king
With the best-produced shows on Trinidad’s chutney scene, and a repertoire ranging from traditional ghazals to soca, the hugely talented Rooplal Girdharrie was a big hit. His sudden disappearance from competition in 2002 left many fans puzzled. Turns out the former Chutney Soca Monarch was performing in the US, Canada, and as far afield as the Bollywood music awards in India, all to great acclaim. In 2003 he made a triumphant return to the Trini chutney circuit, and in February 2004 he confirmed his “people’s King” title by winning the Chutney Soca Monarch again, beating favourite Adesh Samaroo (of Rum Till I Die fame). DK

Here she comes
If there’s one tune that epitomises the success of Jamaica’s latest worldwide musical invasion, it’s the remake of I’m Still in Love by Sean Paul and Sasha. Still on radio rotation two years after its release, the single seems inexhaustible. Sasha, real name Karen Chin, was born in Kingston, but relocated to New York at the age of five. Now a VP Records artiste, with 10 years’ experience in the game, Sasha is getting ready to drop her own album, Come Again. It’s tipped to be one of 2004’s biggest debut offerings. DK

Dylan Kerrigan and Kellie Magnus

Survivor stories

The Dew Breaker  Edwidge Danticat (Knopf, ISBN 1400-041-147)

With the cool, frank prose she has been honing since her debut short story collection Krik? Krak!, Haitian-born Edwidge Danticat continues to paint real faces over the media stereotypes of politically agitated Haiti and its refugee diaspora.

The Dew Breaker is not built like a novel, any more than an apartment building is built like a house. There is certainly an overarching intention to provide shelter for a number of people, but the one encloses a bunch of disparate lives within shared walls, while the other admits to connected, though distinct, experiences. In The Dew Breaker each separate story is a fragment of another; a marginal character or incident in an episode becomes central to a later one. For the most part, this is obvious; occasionally you want to congratulate yourself for spotting the character of one story wafting by in someone else’s.

These nine stories are similar to those in Krik? Krak! and the novels Breath, Eyes, Memory and The Farming of Bones, but in a slightly different incarnation. The earlier works seem immediately involved in their subject matter, whereas The Dew Breaker employs a more reflective lens. The brave, candid voice has gained calm and poise, with a stillness that lets you see far beyond what is in front of you. In “The Funeral Singer” three Haitian women studying for a US high school certificate are asked to calculate the height of the shorter of two trees, given the height of the taller one, the length of their respective shadows, and some information about the angle of the sun. They agree they have too much on their minds to unravel such mysteries; besides: “‘We’re not God,’ [she] says, lowering her head onto the restaurant table . . . ‘Who are we to know how tall a tree should be?’”

Somewhere in each story is the shadow of the tonton macoute or “dew breaker”, the Duvalier henchman who often came for his victim while the dew was still on the leaves. He is a memory, a phantom, and, surprisingly, a real man connecting the lives of the various characters, through terror and anger and, most importantly, blood — both shed and shared. An assassin, a hallucination, a husband and father.

These are survivor stories. The dew breaker is only part of the story. There was life before and there will be life still after loss and fear, for both the tortured and the torturer. Each life is more than the sum of its’ own stories, and it must add to this the stories of others.

Anu Lakhan

An island is a world

Sand for Snow: A Caribbean-Canadian Chronicle
Robert Edison Sandiford (DC Books, ISBN 0-919688-79-9)
In the late 1950s, Robert Edison Sandiford’s parents left their native Barbados for Canada, to make a new life for themselves and the children they were yet to have. Nearly 40 years later, partly for the sake of his new Bajan bride, Sandiford made the reverse journey, moving from his home city, Montreal, to Barbados, to work at the Nation newspaper. From May 1996 to December 1999 he wrote a weekly column called “The Onlooker”, musing over what he describes as “the things that mattered to me most: like my brand of Canadianness, life in Barbados, literature and writing, the spirit of my age, doing the right thing (whatever that was), friends and family.” In Sand for Snow, Sandiford collects many of these columns and other writings from his first five years in Barbados, creating a sort of memoir of his attempt to come to terms with his parents’ homeland.

Migration is one of the great themes of Caribbean writing: the original loss of ancestral certainties during the Middle Passage or the journey across the Kala Pani; the struggle of 20th-century West Indian emigrants to preserve identity in the cold cities of Europe or North America. But few narratives describe attempts by descendents of these 20th-century emigrants to return to the Caribbean of their parents.

Sand for Snow is a thoughtful, modest, and quietly moving exploration of that reverse voyage. “A lifetime later, I have returned in my parents’ place,” writes Sandiford. “‘Home’ has become ‘Back Home’, that phrase often used to describe Barbados from a distance. ‘Here’ is now what ‘there’ used to be for me, but not quite.” Through all these degrees of separation and closeness, belonging and not belonging, Sandiford charts a journey of gradual understanding, of himself and of the island he knows will never quite be his. “We are never fully there, because we are never where we expected to be. Wherever we find ourselves, we must be.”

Philip Sander

Hip hop Heru

It’s the stuff that hip hop dreams are made of: a new artist hits the street and builds a buzz that lands him a big-time record deal. Swap the disc for a book, and you’ve got the story of Heru Ptah, the 23-year-old Jamaican writer whose self-published novel A Hip Hop Story has set the hip hop and publishing worlds afire, and scored him a five-figure deal with MTV/Pocket Books.

That the man being called the architect of a new genre of hip hop fiction hails from Jamaica should come as no surprise to true hip hop fans familiar with the Caribbean influence in the musical form’s origins.

Inspired by artists like KRS-One, Ptah set out to create the literary equivalent to the music he enjoys: a tale that teaches without preaching. The result is an ambitious debut novel chronicling the highs and lows of hip hop life. Ptah’s characters may be hip hop archetypes — rival rappers, music moguls, and fashion-focused females — but he crafts their lives and loves with a dexterity that will appeal to readers beyond the hip hop community. Though the novel has its fair share of freshman foibles, it’s an engaging tale of star-crossed lovers and diehard rivals almost as compelling as Ptah’s own story.

Ptah moved to the States at age seven. In junior high school, he developed a love for the visual arts that was dashed when he began to lose his eyesight to a still undiagnosed illness. His vision gradually returned, but in its temporary absence “the words had started coming”. He built a name for himself as a spoken-word artist, and self-published a book of poetry while in college, taking to the streets and subways with a bag strapped to his slight frame, and a bravura that’s hard to reconcile with his bespectacled, soft-spoken demeanour. He used the same, “slightly illegal” strategy to move 10,000 copies of A Hip Hop Story. Then one night he sold his last copy to a passenger who turned out to be the president of MTV Publishing.

The rest is hip hop history.

His MTV deal allows Ptah the financial comfort of writing full time, and movie deals and future book offers are pouring in. But Ptah’s not done riding the train to take his message to the public.

“I won’t stop till I’m number one on the New York Times Bestseller List,” he says. “I don’t know how to dream small.”

Kellie Magnus

Heru Ptah speaks

Memories of Jamaica “I remember Christmas used to mean a lot more. I remember Devotion [morning prayers] in primary school. I used to hate Devotion. We had to stand out there in the sun for two hours. It probably wasn’t that long, but when you’re that young it seems like torture. I remember jerk chicken. And football — how much of a religion it was. Back then Pélé was the biggest thing. Pélé was like Jordan. Bigger. I remember getting hit by the teacher with the big fat ruler! For playing too much at lunch time, or coming to school late.”

The myth of America
“[To] youth in Jamaica . . . ‘Foreign’ is the goal. Everybody makes it seem like everybody here rich and everybody a live good an’ ting. But that’s not really the case. It’s the most amazing thing. We owned our own house in Jamaica. We came here and had to rent a little apartment.”

Yankie or yardie?
“I adapted really quickly. It got to the point where I could hide the accent and nobody would know I was Jamaican.  It wasn’t until I went to college — I went to a mostly white college [SUNY, Oswego], and I went there thinking I would lose myself, but there was a good contingent of Jamaicans there, and I really found myself there. And the accent just started coming back.”

Can you say that on TV?
“When I first came here . . . the first thing I did was turn on the TV . . . it was Johnny Carson . . . making fun of Ronald Reagan like crazy. You don’t do that in Jamaica. So whatever you were, you shut up. So that was a big thing to see . . . people lampooning the president and public officials, how open that was.”

On hip hop
“[Jamaican rapper] KRS One really got me into hip hop. Then later on the Fugees did a lot for me, because there was so much Caribbean influence in [their music]. [I love] people like Nas, Rakim, Jay Z. I admire Eminem. If you study Tupac you realise how great he was.

“I’d like to see more [hip hop artists] take on more issues . . . get more socially aware. There are lots of artists who are talking about issues and doing positive things. People like Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, Common, underground cats like Immortal Technique. There are probably as many people doing socially conscious stuff as there are doing commercial stuff. But commercial [music] is what gets the attention.”

Kingston confidential

Benjamin, My Son Geoffrey Philp (Peepal Tree Press, ISBN 1-900715-78-3)

Geoffrey Philp’s thriller is set mainly in the ugly underworld of Kingston. Jason, a Jamaican working in Miami as a telemarketer (i.e. scam artist), returns to Kingston after the murder of his stepfather, a prominent politician. As he tries to find out what happened, he is sucked into a world of gunmen and no-go garrisons, brutalities and betrayals.

He comes out of it all just about alive, thanks mostly to his one-time mentor, seer, and truthsayer Papa Legba, an old Rasta man who turns up mysteriously at every crisis. By the last page, Jason is learning to leave his own lies and betrayals behind, to stop running and see who his real friends are.

Like his hero, Geoffrey Philp is a Miami-based Jamaican. He has already published poetry and short stories; this is his first novel, and it is a good chilling read. The chill comes not only from Jason’s mythic quest, but from the way the ghetto reaches out to strangle barricaded wealth, crumbling urban institutions, and the fantasies of politicians who “want to run the country [while] them cyaan run them own car”.

Jeremy Taylor

Somebody Walking Over My Grave

They could bring you messages
in the quiet hours of the night
but they know you are suspi-

cious of superstition, so
sometimes they wait for your day
dreams and lie down across

them. That’s when you shiver and
say, hmmm, I could feel somebo-
dy walking over my grave.

In her new collection Lady in a Boat (Peepal Tree Press, ISBN 1-900715-85-6), Grenadian poet Merle Collins weaves family history and memories of the Grenada revolution into haunting meditations on hope and disappointment, love and loneliness, beginning and ending.

Isle full of noises

Night Calypso Lawrence Scott (Allison and Busby, ISBN 0-7490-0663-3)

In Night Calypso, Lawrence Scott writes history and imagination as one. His third novel is set in 1938 in El Caracol, a fictionalised version of a real island off Trinidad’s north-west peninsula, where a leprosarium threatens to erupt with riots that parallel Trinidad’s actual Labour Riots of 1937. The book is deeply researched — in his acknowledgements, Scott says he read books on leprosy, the German U-boats that cruised the Caribbean during the Second World War, the historical Chacachacare leper colony, and the labour unrest. He also read about calypso, and he throws in a liberal dash of vintage topical lyrics to advance the plot and add colour to the dialogue.

The plot revolves around a love affair between a doctor and a nursing nun on the island. The title refers to the midnight ramblings of a troubled boy, Theo, whom the doctor adopts and brings to live with him in the colony. Theo’s “night calypso” is the tortured tale he tells of his family history, a history that could well be a warped mirror image of the doctor’s own story.

Night Calypso is perhaps Scott’s best novel so far — it’s certainly easier to read than his first, Witchbroom, which is written in the convoluted style perfected by Gabriel García Márquez. Scott won a Commonwealth Writers Prize for his second novel, the widely praised Aelred’s Sin. He brings the same mix of magic and craft to Night Calypso, creating solid characters, a vivid place, and a compelling, moving story.

Scott has earned a reputation not only for his gossamer prose and use of magical realism, but also for writing religious characters who have hot sex lives. This new novel doesn’t disappoint in that either. Scott excels at writing about sex and sexuality, which he describes with a graceful wonder that encompasses love’s frailty and its brutality at once.

Lisa Allen-Agostini

Calypso classics

Naughty Zandolie

Greatest Hits The Mighty Zandolie (Straker GS-2443)

In most parts of the world, “smut” refers to pornography, but in Trinidad the phrase denotes songs of artful, extended double entendre — a high literary genre indeed. And if you ask experts like Sparrow, David Rudder, or comedian Sprangalang, they are likely to tell you that the shamelessly phallic Sylvester Anthony, better known as the Mighty Zandolie, may well be the foremost composer of “smut” in the history of calypso. Nonetheless, Zando is not well known outside Trinidad, and for many years his records have been totally unavailable. Even so, every living Trinidadian knows his songs, especially the beloved Man Family. Now, at last, this collection of original recordings brings Zandolie’s entire oeuvre back into circulation. And what a treat it is! For instance, there’s Iron Man, a high-spirited smut that shares story elements with any number of folk songs about women police, women magistrates, and women commissioners who are prepared to offer unique sentencing options for certain malefactors. The CD also includes the sly (and melodic) Merchant of Venice — only Zandolie would have the audacity to base a smut on a play by Shakespeare.

Then there’s Man Family, Zando’s greatest hit, and a beloved national favourite. Like Iron Man, it’s a variation on a popular folk theme, in this case, tricks played by cheating wives on their not-so-trusting husbands. Finally, there’s Stickman, arguably the greatest smut ever written. Built on a set of seemingly inexhaustible metaphors drawn from Trinidad’s stickfighting tradition, most of its jokes are easy for non-Trinis to understand, but its central double entendre is not: in Trinidad, “break” is the slang term for “ejaculate.”

This fabulous compilation is a must for collectors of serious calypso, but I don’t need to tell Trinis about it; they’ve probably already been to the shop to get their copies.

True, true kaiso

Calypso Antiques Brother Valentino (Electrosounds ES 0082)

Valentino would be recognised as a distinguished kaisonian if he had written only one song — his solipsistic masterwork Life Is a Stage. And yet, since the days of the Black Power movement in the early 1970s, he has raised his voice in support of justice — and continues, to this day, to write and perform songs of great melodic beauty and lyrical power. On several occasions — in 1998, for instance, when he performed Radio — his exclusion from the Calypso Monarch finals was as unforgivable as those occasions when Shadow would come with songs like Pak Pak and Poverty Is Hell only to be rejected by the judges before he could reach the Savannah.

But don’t get me started on calypso judging. The great news is that finally you can buy a definitive collection of Valentino’s greatest hits — all original recordings — and it’s an absolute joy. The only thing wrong with it is the title. These songs aren’t antiques; they are timeless, vibrant, dangerous, hilarious, brilliant, radical, true true calypsos!

Bombs away

His Early Years  The Mighty Bomber (Bangaseed BS130CD)
His Golden Years  The Mighty Bomber (Bangaseed BS131CD)

When Spoiler died in 1960, every calypsonian in Trinidad took a body blow. Spoiler was a brilliant composer, and — along with Sparrow — was building a bridge from the classic style to what we now recognise as modern calypso.

Clifton Ryan, the Mighty Bomber, was one of Spoiler’s closest pals. He won his first calypso contest in 1957, but it wasn’t until 1964 that he won the Calypso King title with two awesome songs: a sweet, sexy tune called Joan and James, and Bomber’s Dream, a composition of breathtaking audacity, both of which you can hear on this new two-CD Bomber collection, along with 23 other great, original calypsos.

In the 40 years since (Bomber is now in his late 70s), he has given us a series of marvellous songs. Bomber’s songs are true classics, with great lyrics, excellent phrasing, and a delightful sense of humour, and it’s great to have so many of them available again.

Michael Goodwin

Just one river to cross

Every August, thousands of reggae devotees make a pilgrimage to an unlikely place at the heart of California’s redwood forests, 200 miles north of San Francisco. Since 1983 the Reggae on the River (ROTR) festival has mingled crusty hippies and spiky punks with black b-boys and white Rastas for three days of muddy counter-cultural bliss on the banks of the Eel River, near the small town of Piercy.

Each year’s programme includes some of the world’s top live reggae acts, but it’s almost as entertaining just observing the audience: a motley crew featuring everything from partying frat rats and large Caribbean families lounging in deck chairs to scantily clad stilt-walkers and heavily tattooed “neo-primitives”, all carousing at the feet of giant trees over a thousand years old.

At the 20th anniversary festival in 2003, after an opening blessing by Native American elder Charlie Red Hawk, day one saw an uplifting set from reggae veterans Culture, a politically relevant “jive” spot from Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi, and a rousing performance by local favourites Spearhead (whose lead singer was rushed to hospital with kidney stones shortly after leaving the stage). After a Niyabinghi blessing kicked off day two, the vibrant horns of Bembeya Jazz from Guinea got the people moving, and Israel Vibration kept them skanking with fine vocal harmony. Though the hippies couldn’t really figure out how to boogie to hardcore dancehall kid Baby Cham, the few young “rude boys” in the crowd did their best to look cool. And despite high expectations for dancehall sensation Wayne Wonder and headliners Ghetto Youth Crew, the strongest sets of the day were definitely provided by conscious dancehall artist Anthony B and the tight soca circus of Trinidad’s Machel Montano & Xtatik. The final day saw Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt get the crowd in a spiritual mood, and Beres Hammond raise things to a higher level, before Toots and the Maytals had everyone singing along in unison, and Jimmy Cliff thrilled the crowd by doing the splits, despite having just passed his 70th birthday.

The 2004 ROTR lineup includes Bunny Wailer and Barrington Levy, Bounty Killer, Luciano, Capleton, Dominica’s Nasio Fontaine, the Los Angeles-based latin-reggae group Quinto Sol, plus acts from Brazil and Africa.

The 2004 Reggae on the River Festival takes place at French’s Camp, near Piercy, California, from 6 to 8 August. For more information, visit www.reggaeontheriver.com

David Katz

The real thing

The Passage: Music for Steel Orchestra  Andy Narell and Calypsociation (Heads Up 3086)

When steel pan virtuoso Andy Narell arrived in Paris in 2001, the last thing he expected to find was a great steelband — or an opportunity to make the first recording that captures the unique audio experience of standing in the middle of a huge, roaring steel orchestra. Nonetheless, all of Narell’s talents come together in The Passage, a new CD on which he collaborates with the Parisian steelband Calypsociation and three of the greatest soloists in jazz — Michael Brecker, Paquito D’Rivera, and Hugh Masekela.

Capturing the thundering, percussive, polyrhythmic roar of a steelband, with its pounding bass pans and jazzy melodies moving from section to section, is no easy matter. In live performance, your ears can decode the subtleties of the music, thanks to the physical spread and depth of a big steel orchestra, but on CD the spatial quality of the music is often lost.

“Due to technical issues,” Narell explains, “even digital steelband recordings tend to sound small and tinny compared with the massive power of the real thing.” For The Passage, Narell placed microphones all around the band to capture the excitement of 30 people playing together. Then he overdubbed each of the eight sections to get clean stereo pairs to use as presence, balance, and effect-sends. The final mix drops you right into the middle of the band.

This music is a direct continuation of Coffee Street, the amazing Panorama arrangement Narell did for Skiffle Bunch in 1999. Turning his back on the empty symphonic effects that have become clichés, Narell is breaking new musical ground, using a big steelband as an expansion of his jazz combos. Anyone interested in the future of music for pan needs to hear this CD.

Michael Goodwin

Keep it steady

Rocksteady Monty Alexander with special guest Ernest Ranglin (Telarc CD-83851)

There was a time when the gulf that divides jazz from other popular music forms didn’t gape so wide — when, in fact, it wasn’t much of a gulf at all. Musical virtuosity is musical virtuosity, any way you look at it, and those who have a way with an instrument will always find a niche for themselves in the genre of their choice. Two of the young talents hanging around the studios and playing the clubs in Kingston in the 1950s and 60s were future jazz virtuosos Monty Alexander and Ernest Ranglin. Tickling the ivories and plucking the guitar-strings, respectively, Alexander and Ranglin both found their way, inevitably, to places like Harry J’s and Studio One, Jamaican music’s equivalent of Motown, where the legendary Clement “Coxsone” Dodd (who passed away last May) oversaw the development of ska, rocksteady, and early reggae. Rocksteady sees Alexander and Ranglin, both of whom have looked homeward in recent albums, returning once again to their roots, with 12 selections from some of the big names of the era, including the Skatalites, Augustus Pablo, and Desmond Dekker, plus Burning Spear’s Marcus Garvey and a wistful rendition of Redemption Song. Frederick “Toots” Hibbert (of the Maytals fame) contributes his usual formidable vocals on Pressure Drop.

Georgia Popplewell

Fun in the sum

Rumours, rumours, rumours — would the Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest have it any other way? With reggae music’s major annual event fast approaching, the promoters assure us all talk of relocation away from Catherine Hall, its home in Montego Bay (as result of an infamous melée at the Sting concert last December), is incorrect.

The format, too, will be as reggae fans have come to expect. In 2003, this included a “dance class” night, when DJs and dancers “ran the rout”; a dancehall night, when the live performances really kicked off; a reggae night; and an international night, featuring headliners Destiny’s Child and Sean Paul. This year, look out for some of the Jamaica music scene’s best and hottest performers. Confirmed artistes include Beenie Man, Beres Hammond, Bounty Killer, Sizzla, Elephant Man, Wayne Marshall, Ce’Cile, Delly Ranks, Vybz Cartel, Tanto Metro, and Devonte. From conscious vibes to the rough and raunchy, there’ll be something for everyone.

Alongside the reggae vibes, look out for a series of parties throughout the week, along Montego Bay’s hip strip. And if it gets to be too much for you, retreat to the white sand beaches and blue waters Jamaica’s second city is famous for.

The 2004 Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest takes place from 18 to 24 July in Montego Bay. For further information, check www.reggaesumfest.com

Remembering Lord’s

As the West Indies cricket team tours England in July and August, former Windies player Deryck Murray remembers his introduction to Lord’s cricket ground in London, 40 years ago

Picture a bleak, wintry morning in early April 1963 (I am yet to be convinced this was spring, and the 1962–63 winter is still the worst on record). The day before, I had docked in Southampton following a two-week boat trip from the sunny Caribbean, during which I was seasick for all 14 days. This was the scenario for my first visit to the headquarters of cricket, Lord’s, for the first practice session of the West Indies tour.

The ground is enclosed by a forbidding ten-foot-high stone wall. Walking through the Grace Gates was awe-inspiring then, and even now I experience that tingle of excitement, those goosebumps, whenever I arrive at Lord’s. Once inside, we were faced with dismal, empty grandstands (“grand” was certainly a misnomer). You realise on entering the pavilion and the dressing-room that all the greats have passed this way — I was walking in their footsteps. Up the stairs, and the visitors’ dressing-room is to the left — stark, with a wooden floor that had been scarred and splintered by the studs of hundreds of boots over the years. But none of that could detract from the aura of the place.

My favourite spot in the dressing-room was against the wall directly opposite the door to the players’ viewing balcony. I wondered where Bradman had sat; Lindwall and Miller; Headley, Ramadhin, Stollmeyer, Constantine, Weekes, and Walcott. Worrell’s place was closest to the massage table — he used that a lot for sleeping when he was off the field. Despite this reputation for dressing-room naps, he always knew the state of play, and precisely when he needed to surface with a critical change in the batting order, or some timely words of advice or encouragement. Was he ever really asleep?

The English — Hutton, May, Jardine, Laker, Trueman, Tyson, et al — had the other dressing room. I doubted that Lord’s could ever be as awesome to them as it was to me — familiarity and all that!

I know that all the 1963 West Indies players were inspired by the place. We all wanted to do something special; a century at Lord’s is to be cherished. As reserve wicket-keeper on my first tour of England, I was just praying I would actually get to play.

In those days, the touring team fulfilled a complete schedule of games against all the county teams, interspersed with the five Test matches. The lead up to the first Test included a game at Lord’s vs the MCC. This was generally a dress rehearsal for the Tests — the MCC team was usually a probable England XI — and an opportunity for the visiting team to sample the match-day atmosphere at Lord’s. As for me, I would be a dressing-room spectator.

In the middle of that game, however, our wicket-keeper, David Allan of Barbados, came down with mumps, and the MCC granted permission for me to deputise when the West Indies took the field. Thus it was out of the dressing-room, through the famous Long Room, and onto the hallowed turf: Frank Worrell, the greatest captain ever, in the lead, and I among Garfield Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Conrad Hunte, Lance Gibbs, Wes Hall, and Charlie Griffith. Monday, 20 May, 1963 — my 20th birthday.

One month later, I returned for my first Test match there. This second Test of the series is generally acknowledged as one of the greatest games in the history of Test cricket. At the end of five days of fluctuating fortunes, we were in a situation where, with two balls of the final over to go, all possible results — win, lose, draw, tie — were possible. The West Indies required the last wicket; England needed six runs for victory. Colin Cowdrey, the English captain, came to the wicket with his arm in a cast — broken earlier in the game by a Wes Hall delivery — and was able to watch from the non-striker’s end while these last two deliveries were safely negotiated. A memorable draw!

As a player, I experienced four Test matches there, without ever being on the losing team; scored a first-class century for Nottinghamshire; captained Cambridge in the Varsity match; appeared in the NatWest final for Warwickshire; and was vice-captain when the West Indies won the World Cup in 1975 and 1979. Is Lord’s special for me?

I can hardly wait to see the West Indies play there during the summer of 2004.