“If we could have devised an arrangement for providing everybody with music in their homes, perfect in quality, unlimited in quantity, suited to every mood, and beginning and ceasing at will, we should have considered the limit of human felicity already attained, and ceased to strive for further improvements.” So wrote Edward Bellamy in his 1888 utopian novel “Looking Backwards : 2000 - 1987”.


“What do they know of cricket who only cricket know? West Indians crowding to Tests bring with them the whole past history and future hopes of the islands.” CLR James. Beyond A Boundary

What happens to a culture when its strongest unifying force dies? The English speaking Caribbean may be about to find out. After the recent string of humiliating defeats we have to face the reality that West Indian cricket may be dying. All the excuses in the world cannot hide the basic reality - the West Indies no longer contains enough good cricketers to field a competitive test side. If things continue as they have the Australian tour might have to be called off for lack of competition. Sponsors are already preparing to desert the sinking ship.


World book day is April 23, the birthday of William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes. And yet we bibliophiles find the need for a day encouraging people to read almost incomprehensible. For what greater conceivable pleasure is known to man? To read is to soar through time and space, and to survey at will a limitless expanse of peoples and ideas. Books always respect the reader's own pace. Affordable and accessible to all, they offer an almost infinite variety of proven riches.


Manchester is widely regarded as the most orderly parish in the nation and its people are considered the most disciplined in Jamaica. As journalist Barbara Ellington, who grew up there, says “You can drive north, south, and west and you will see no slums or depressed areas or zinc fence type living. “


The originating impulse of the Rastafari millenarian vision is often said to be Marcus Garvey's directive 'Look to Africa where a divine black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is near' - a prophecy supposedly fulfilled by Haile Selassie's coronation as emperor of Ethiopia in 1930. Yet Garvey never uttered such words.


Rastafarianism was strongly influenced by Kumina-Revivalism. But Revivalists’ main concerns remained personal salvation and ritual observance. In contrast Rastafarians protested loudly about economic hardships and racial discrimination. Rastafarianism was not a movement isolated from place, time and history. Rather it was an integral aspect of a continuous matrix of black nationalism, folk religion and peasant resistance to the Jamaican plantation economy.


Books are the carriers of civilization. “Scripta manet, verba volat” – what is written remains, what is spoken vanishes. To posterity, a people without a documented history might as well have never existed. And a 100 years hence those wishing to know about the Caribbean will be heavily indebted to Ian Randle Publishers. In the past few years they have virtually created a library of the region, including “The Story of the Caribbean People”, “The Story of The Jamaican People”, “Reggae Routes : The Story of Jamaican Music”, “Bacchanal : The Carnival Culture of Trinidad”, “A History of Caribbean Architecture” and “Contending With Destiny : The Caribbean in the Twenty First Century”.


“Kung Hee Fatt Chow” say the Chinese on February 5 - “Happy New Year”. Which is a good time to note how well the Chinese in Jamaica have integrated. Nothing gives a better indication of this than their influence on reggae. No other ethnic minority has played a greater role in the development of Jamaican music. Indeed, with the possible exception of American Jews and rhythm and blues, the role of Chinese Jamaicans in reggae has few parallels anywhere. The first real sound system, the first live ska band, the first Jamaican produced international reggae hit, the first reggae station, and the first locally written history of reggae were all the products of Jamaicans of Chinese descent. As some wag half joked “We can’t sing, so we had to contribute to the music in other ways!”


Before man could paint, write, or make music, he could speak. Thus poetry is the oldest art, and the most enduring. In Nathaniel Hawthorne words "It is not the statesman, the warrior, or the monarch that survives, but the despised poet, whom they may have fed with their crumbs, and to whom they owe that they are now or have – name." “I have built a monument more lasting than bronze or stone” boasted Horace, and time proved him right.


In 1999 BBC website readers voted for the millennium’s greatest figures. They picked Gutenberg as inventor, Shakespeare as writer, Leonardo Da Vinci as artist, Paul McCartney as Composer, Mahatma Gandhi as world leader and Karl Marx as thinker. The ten greatest men were Mahatma Gandhi, Leonardo Da Vinci, Nelson Mandela, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jesus Christ, Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx.