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New Windies Anthem

Manning among ten prime ministers endorsing...

By Terry Joseph
May 09, 2006

When the Soca Warriors and Peru football team take to the play field tomorrow evening at 6.22 p.m. and President Max Richards and his party subsequently greet them, the crowd will then rise for the playing of not just the usual national songs of the two competing countries but stay on its legs for a third-the world premiere of the West Indies Anthem.

A one-minute song designed for rallying regional self-esteem, The West Indian Anthem has already been endorsed by ten Heads of Governments, including Trinidad and Tobago's Patrick Manning, unanimous approval having come at the end of the plenary session of last February's Caricom Heads meeting.

In fact, the issue was not even on the agenda but at the end of the session on February 10, Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo asked chairman Manning if he could raise a matter and, having gotten the nod, played the basic version for the gathering and got instant approval from all relevant Heads present.

"People look sceptical on first hearing about the West Indian Anthem but there is at least one glaring precedent in the not so distant past," said advertising executive Ernie Ross who, together with Anil Hardithsingh, wrote the lyrics.

"Member countries of the European Union all have their hard-won flags and anthems but still they voted to have a single flag and anthem for the federation and 'Ode to Joy' (from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony) was agreed as the piece.

"We haven't really been defined as West Indians by anything else but cricket, although there is a lot of commonality in the heritage of the various people comprising member territories. The idea was presented to the local organising committee of next year's cricket world cup but, while they loved it, this just was not the forum for approval, so we went the route of the Caricom Heads of Government conference, although countries like Haiti aren't part of the West Indies.

"We needed a way to facilitate exposure on a grand scale and the opportunity for a world premiere came with the Soca Warriors match versus Peru and Mr Jack Warner was very enthusiastic about offering us the facility to bring the West Indies Anthem to the attention of the world. We are now approaching schools in the region with a view to making it part of the education of programme but this is a wonderful showcase at which to launch the piece," Ross said.

Today, for the world premiere of this ground-breaking concept, the anthem will be performed by a combination of steelband music and voices, with Mavis John taking the lead and the 25-member Bishop Anstey High School Choir in supportive role, all accompanied by Pantasy Pan Ensemble, under the musical direction of Duvonne Stewart.

Each island will be allowed to have its own interpretation, according to its heritage but without altering the fundamentals of the work.

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