First Serenade band of old
First Serenade band of old

Many would like to make us feel that there is a difference between development and culture but no, one actually hinges on the other and because we have not drawn the parallel, Dominica as a nation continues to suffer.

Over the past two decades this country has plummeted from middle to top class in sports and culture to the bottom of the pit and with it our development as a people. This is no coincidence or accident.

The confidence of a nation is intrinsically linked to its prowess in sports and artistic development.

In cricket, the swagger of a Viv Richards or the defiant stare of a Curtly Ambrose at an opposing batsman brought the Antiguan people to a new high in development and confidence. This was already propelled by De Monarch Short Shirt whom they already touted as the Calypso King of the World, much to the consternation of Trinidadians who were quick to claim that the Mighty Sparrow was the undisputed Calypso King of the World.

Compare this to Dominica who has the most-crown Calypso king ever in the history of National calypso monarchs (only to be rivaled by TNT's Chalkdust) but no one out of the island, in any significance ways, know this, except islanders and the people of the Dominica diaspora.

While I have already sought to address this irony in one or two previous articles in which I prescribed some level of blame to Dice's team, the artiste himself, the Dominica Calypso Association (DCA) and the Dominica Festivals Commission (DFC). I surmise that from a national perspective, the Dominican pride which we once knew of in the 70s and 80s has taken a serious beating.

The pride we once held as a nation which translated to us being Windward Islands cricket champs for decades having produced Irvin Shillingford, arguably the best batsman ever who never got a chance to make the West Indies team in his hey-day. We also produced some of the best spinners ever in West Indies cricket; there were cricketers like Jervan Etienne, Thomas Kentish, Kaleb Laurent, Jno –Lewis and batmen such as Clem John, Lockhart Sebastien; pacers like Grayson Shillingford, Norbert Phillip, Adam Sanford, and the inexhaustible list goes on.

The same can be said of football where we held our own against any in the region including Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados and South American nations. Never had we gotten a three-nil drubbing at the Windsor Park from anyone one regardless of their rating. Today it is common for Dominica to lose by 4, 5, and even 10 goals. We had our own and waved our magic with Cocoa-shoe, Sprags, Mikes, Roho, and a plethora of solid world-class goal keeping- the list is too long but we will mention George Carrington, Bogo Roy Williams, Chinee & Brian Charles.

This is not just cricket or culture this is about the very heart, the soul of the nation as David Rudder reminds us in song. Music and sports is what inspires a nation's youth to work, strive for excellence in entrepreneurship, in life, in nation building.

For over a decade sportsmen became frustrated in Roseau. When Windsor Park became Jurassic Park- Kensborough's football team died and so too a generation of sportsmen. Our last sporting applause was Jerome Romain's third place in the World Games in Triple jump and Shane Shillingford making the West Indies side as a spinner. About the same time we lost the netball facility at Stock Farm; another major national disaster, side by side with the Portersville Savannah and the Dominica Grammar School (DGS) Technical Wing Grounds. Cries for rubberize tracks, swimming pool facilities have been satisfied by lip service, ground breaking ceremonies and signing of contracts.

The same can be said of our basketballers having won the Windward Islands championship on several occasions in that era together with our ladies, who were a potent force in netball.

Still even more dominant than our sports was music. Clearly only Trinidad and Jamaica could compete with us and this was just because of larger populations. Per capita we were on top of our game. I recall a survey being conducted on music in the region and to every other household a musician was to be found in Dominica- someone played the drum or guitar with some level of proficiency. These were the days when Dominica boasted of some 40 bands- every community had a group. Name them: B-Blood, Black Machine, Black Affairs, African Stalwarts, Belles, Naked Feet, Stars, Boys and Dem, Gaylords, Emphasis, Vibrators, Ignations, Wax Power Vibrations ,Wee Dees, Wooden Stool, Smoke, Mammoth, RSB, B-plus, Wafriki, Serenade, Jerry and the Jays ,Milestones, Willy and the Willy Cats, Explosions. Should I stop? But I have only just begun.