Home / Volley / Cricket / BC Lara’s Great GOAT Debate: Everyone loves a winner; why calypso shunned the Prince

BC Lara’s Great GOAT Debate: Everyone loves a winner; why calypso shunned the Prince

On his first overseas tour as West Indies captain in 1998-99, Brian Lara took action on behalf of the players and forced the now late Pat Rousseau’s and the WICBC’s hand.

Where, pray, were the calypsonians? Beginner and Maestro had already passed on but Sparrow and Kitchie were still with us. Where was Super Blue? Where was Relator? Where was Chalkdust, now a nine-time Calypso Monarch?

Where was Machel Montano who, years later, would lead a select group of T&T singers, including 1911 Monarch and perennial Calypso Monarch finalist Karene Asche, in a remake of ‘Gold’ to mark Keshorn Walcott’s victory in the javelin at the 2012 London Olympics?

Photo: Soca star Machel Montano (centre) performs during 2018 CPL Eliminator action between TKR and SKNP at the Brian Lara Academy in Tarouba on 14 September 2018.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Some 20 years earlier, the authoritative voice of the Calypso King of the World rang out loud and clear when Clive Lloyd and his men had signed lucrative contracts with World Series Cricket. In ‘Kerry Packer,’ the Birdie didn’t take ‘we’ side because, in this kaiso classic, the real ‘we’ is disguised as ‘dem,’ ‘they’ and ‘deh:’

Ah ent negotiating ah told dem;

If deh get money, we cyar control dem.

A West Indian cricketer must always be broke;

Is then he does bowl fast and make pretty stroke.

They have fame but they want 

Money like me and Gerry

So deh won’t play against in dis country.

Why did no one come to the Prince’s defence in song? What special quality did the bards of the day lack that none felt the need to mark so auspicious an occasion? Or one as historic as claiming a world record? Twice! Or winning the Champions Trophy? Or any of the other signal moments of Lara’s career, including the staging of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean?

Was the fault perhaps not in our star performers on the calypso stage but in our star performer on the cricketing stage? Might it simply be that whereas the stellar batsman succeeded in capturing the popular imagination, the captain failed to ignite the creative genius because his team just did not win consistently?

Photo: Iconic former West Indies cricketer Brian Lara.

Relator’s 1972 classic, ‘Gavaskar’, provides a fascinating study. It is worth noting that the chorus’ closing ‘We couldn’t out Gavaskar at all’ noticeably becomes ‘The West Indies couldn’t out Gavaskar at all.’

And asking why the 1980 Monarch deemed it fit to celebrate an Indian—not West Indian!—batsman who was ‘just like a wall’ and whom ‘we couldn’t out […] at all.’

Why does the bard so frequently, in referring to the West Indies, oscillate between the first and third persons?

There are those who maintain that the calypsonian’s original intent was not to make a hero of the Mumbai Master but merely to exploit the comedic potential of the tourists’ polysyllabic names.

Erapalli Prasanna, Jeejeebhoy and Wadekar, 

Krishnamurthy and Vishnu Mankad,

(…)

Venkataraghavan, Bedi in a turban

Vijay, Jaisimha, Jayantilal,

(…)

Govindraj and Durani, Solkar, Abid Ali

Dilip Sardesai and Vishwanath

But why does he shower undiluted praise on the Indian hero while being less than complimentary about the West Indian captain? Sobers, be it noted, took 12 wickets in the series and made 597 runs, including two centuries.

Photo: Legendary India batsman Sunil Gavaskar on the attack.

Bedi hear that he became a father

So he ketch out Holford in the cover

But when Sobers hear he too had a son,

He make duck and went back in the pavilion

And

Little Desmond Lewis

Also Charlie Davis, deh

Take a little shame from out we face

But Sobers as a captain, 

He want plenty coaching

Before we cricket end up in a disgrace.

As a West Indian supporter, you’re amused, you laugh, but you feel a certain degree of discomfiture. And you are more than surprised to discover that Relator is a staunch West Indies diehard who is rarely if ever absent when the regional team is engaged at the Queen’s Park Oval. So was he perhaps unwittingly putting some psychological distance between himself and the losers?

We will attack, we will defend/We go pressure dem to the very end/(…) Anytime you see we in the uniform/to get the victory is the norm,” sang Maximus Dan during the successful 2006 World Cup campaign.

And, during the 1989 national football team’s ultimately unsuccessful campaign to qualify for the 1990 World Cup Finals, the now late Lancelot Layne recorded “Strike Squad,” leaving no doubt about whom he was supporting.

We go gie yuh pressure day or night

In hot sun or floodlight

In T&T…

We go sting him between the uprights

under the crossbar and up in the vee.

We have a good ting going 

With football in T&T 

Photo: The Port of Spain National Stadium on 19 November 1989 during World Cup qualifying action between Trinidad and Tobago and the United States.

Not great stuff, not even a calypso, but it marked the spot. And worthy of note is the complete absence in both songs of Relatoresque ambivalence. The songs produced to celebrate both the Strike Squad and the later Soca Warriors testify to nothing but unshakeable confidence in the team’s eventual qualification.

In football, unshakeable confidence. Not so in cricket, not once the cracks began to appear in Clive Lloyd’s team. So was it the changing West Indian cricketing fortunes that staunched the flow of the creative juices?

By the late 80s, David Rudder was already appealing to the flagging WI fandom to rally round. The runs—277, 167, 375, 213, 153—did indeed pretty soon begin to “flow again like water/bringing so much joy to each and every son and daughter…”

By the mid-90s, Rudder returned with a warning about the coming of the West Indies, “the bad boys who go bring yuh to yuh knees.” But ‘bad’ assumed its original sense and the team often brought ‘we’ to we knees. In prayer.

Almost 20% of all the runs flowed essentially off one bat, BC Lara’s. And largely in vain as far as the eventual results were concerned. So that, following Relator’s unwitting 1972 lead, perhaps the big-name bards of the era consciously opted not to identify too closely with losers.

Because, as Wired868 warned readers during the CPL in 2017, in sport, we does win and dem does lose.

Perhaps, therefore, that is why there are not many—not any?—memorable tributes to the cricketing superstar, Lara, Lara, Lara, Lara ad infinitum, who entertained us so royally over two decades and gave us so many magical moments.

After all, his pithy summary of his tenure was: “Moderate success, devastating failures.”

Photo: West Indies batsman Brian Lara (left) rehearses his next stroke at the WACA ground in Perth while Australia bowler Glenn McGrath watches on.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Greg Wood)

All the world—including, one supposes, calypsonians!—loves a winner.

And even the Lara magic couldn’t change that reality.

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

Check Also

Agent: Lara is okay; West Indies legend hospitalised for chest pain in India

West Indies cricket legend Brian Lara was admitted to the Global Hospital in Parel, Mumbai …

37 comments

  1. Very timely mr Best the silence on Lara’s contribution is also reflected in the treatment of shiv…west Indians laud the foreigners their own pales in comparisons to what the foreigners achieve…I always remember your own passion for teaching French! I remember you shouting from the tip floor a correction to a student…your logic was that he will.always remember that point you made if you made it very graphically…did you threaten to throw him outside? Lol I can’t remember!

  2. Earl Best

    “But even this report reinforces the lack of celebration of Dwight Yorke.”

    The “report” is part of a longer series celebrating the April 12 and 18 anniversaries of BC Lara’s capture and recapture of the world record. I merely made a zigwah to mention football so as to reinforce a particular point I wanted to make.

    Making a serious case for calypso and calypsonians to celebrate Dwight Yorke and still staying on track would have required a skill I simply do not possess.

    But I feel sure Dwight will one day get what he deserves right here on Wired868.

    Right, Lasana?

  3. Earl Best

    Okay, Devon, take win.

    Actually, you quote the wrong bit to support your point but I concede that you do have a point. None of the songs you have shared or whose existence you have attested to is a defence of Lara when he told the WICB to pay up or find other players to go to S/Africa (“On his first overseas tour as West Indies captain in 1998-99, Brian Lara took action on behalf of the players and forced the now late Pat Rousseau’s and the WICBC’s hand” is what precedes the bit you cite.)

    But then it goes on thus: “Or one as historic as claiming a world record? Twice! (…) Or any of the other signal moments of Lara’s career (…)”, And that is where you got me dead to rights. Celebratory calypsoes do exist, albeit not by too many high-profile calypsonians and without really emerging from the general ordinariness that has characterised the post-Sparrow, post-Rudder era..

    So I was wrong and for my misrepresentation of that reality I apologise unreservedly to the calypsonians who did celebrate the Prince as well as to the calypso fraternity as a whole.

    I still say, though, that a prince deserving of the handle should have some monumental tribute that matches his achievement(s). I don’t think even you, Devon, think that we managed to give Lara that.

    • I am at a loss for words… honestly. .. I used to read your articles and commentaries every day when I studying for A level general paper.. I even used a few quotes of yours from time to time back then…
      I honestly thought our discussion would go on for days….
      And i was seriously not expecting you to relent so easily. ..
      None the less this was truly an enjoyable life moment with a true trini icon….

  4. Crab in a barrell. Easy as that. Lara never got the acknowledgements for what he did for West Indies players and the game

    • Christian Pallai-Hernandez Again In The Context Of The Article He Did just not by many well known calypsonian. .. there are many songs out there but you just never heard them…

  5. It would appear that Calypso’s only responsibility now is to continue to exist. Abu Bakr, Sabga, Anil Roberts, Kamla – all ah dem negatives get a bligh.
    But even this report reinforces the lack of celebration of Dwight Yorke.

  6. I think it’s Brian Lara’s 50th Birthday day after tomorrow. May 2nd. Happy Birthday Brian. Brilliant sportsman. Brilliant man.

  7. Earl Best

    So I have now listened to all the songs you have provided here twice and I remain unconvinced that I owe the fraternity any serious apology. Had I heard Watchman’s “Prince of Plunder” and/or remembered Brian London’s “Brian Lara” before I wrote the piece, I would certainly have added them to the Noteworthy column where I put “”Signal to Lara” and “Four Lara Four.”

    But you yourself concede that the songs are “not (…) of high quality,” which is really the point I was trying to make. I was looking for tributes befitting a prince…

    I think, for instance that Denise Plummer’s single line in “Nah Leaving,” where she identifies “The Oval, see Lara bat” as one of Trinidad’s treasures that will keep her at home is in and of and by itself a much better tribute than the whole wishy-washy “Celebration” song that you posted here.

    But I don’t think that all in all we have a real disagreement.

    • “Why did no one come to the Prince’s defence in song? What special quality did the bards of the day lack that none felt the need to mark so auspicious an occasion?”

      Forget not what you write Mr. Best.
      A the aforementioned quote is an excerpt from your article.
      Unless the Oxford dictionary has changed the meanings of “none” and ” no one” to mean “some” or rather ” not enough of high quality” then you sir should definitely issue an apology to the entire calypso fraternity or at the very least a retraction.

      In mideval times, even the court jester , who was of the lowest rungs of society , was more often than not, the highest form of entertainment and comfort to the royal families of the day.
      So to say sir that the calypsoes do not exist is rather eroneous.
      Though not a performer myself, but having been around the artform and industry for the major part of my thirty something odd years alive, I find it rather harsh that you would berate an artiste because he is not well known or of a particular standard.

      There is no denying Mr. Best that these songs and many more do exist but are not readily accessible to public searches. Maybe doing some more research on the particular topic next time!

  8. Earl Best

    Devon, I do not contend that NO calypsoes were written in praise of Brian Lara. I concede that quite a few were. My point is that, nearly 50 years after Relator first sang it, “Gavaskar” remains accessible to people who were not even born when it was first written and sung. Ditto Sparrow’s “Sir Garfield Sobers.”

    This is what I wrote in Part V of the series, where I first discussed Lara calypsoes: “So what does it tell us that ‘Signal’ is virtually the only tribute to him which, it seems, survives in many memories.”

    That not the same as saying what you are trying to make me say, is it? However, in a comment attached to the same Part V, I discovered a very good Watchman piece I had never heard before. And I am just assessing the ones you have shared with us here to see to what extent I need to “apologise to the calypso fraternity.”

    I have absolutely no objection to doing so if I deem it warranted. But for the moment the jury remains out.

  9. Wasn’t he immortalized in song by super blue with signal to Lara ?

  10. Isn’t David Rudder’s “rally round the west indies” the official anthem of the WICB/ CWI and played at every match and stadium that a West Indian team plays in?

  11. The TT road march of 1995 is singularly about the 1994 exploits of BC Lara. Won Super the Soca Monarch as well.