For the first time in the history of cricket, the West Indies will not be a part of the Cricket World Cup… and, we’re missing the swagger and the music — the calypso that would magically begin to play in the background as players like Viv Richards, Brian Lara and Chris Gayle took the field. But fret not! We have you covered and bring you the man himself; the epitome of calypso cricket in the recent years; The Universe Boss; The Gaylestorm, Christopher Henry Gayle!
Chris is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most destructive batsmen to have played Twenty20 cricket and by many as the best ever. Playing a crucial role in the West Indies teams that won the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy, 2012 ICC World Twenty20 and 2016 ICC World Twenty20, he also launched his music career in November 2020 with a dancehall music video, We Come Out To Party. In April 2021, Chris also released a music video, Jamaica to India, in collaboration with the Indian rapper Emiway Bantai and more recently announced his latest album Tropical House – Cruises to Jamaica that has been sent to the Grammy Awards 2024 under the world music and reggae categories. Chris features in the song Gimme Your Love with singer Shav A on the album. Produced jointly by Contractor Music Group and Triple Century Records, the idea behind the album is to promote and familiarise India and Asia (at large) about Jamaican culture. We catch up with the formidable cricketer and discover this new side to him, as he, as always, aims big and has his sights set on the Grammys!
You brought calypso to cricket, be it through your bowling or batting. Have you always enjoyed your cricket in this manner? Can you tell us about your early days in cricket?
I love the game of cricket so much that I bring my passion out when I’m on the field. I’ve always had this outlook on the game since I was introduced to the game at the Lucas Cricket Club in Kingston Jamaica. I came from a very poor background — being on the streets — so, cricket for me was an escape and I really enjoyed the game, so, I went from playing for fun to being a student of the game.
How did you come to be known as the biggest six-hitter in the world?
There were several neighborhood teams when I was a teenager and I would play and earn a little money to help my family. I never used to like running at the crease, so, I started to try hitting sixes. I became known as the biggest six hitter in the world when I set the record for most sixes in international cricket.
You have been known to strike fear in the hearts of bowlers when you come in to bat. Was there any point that you changed your game consciously to become this fearsome batsman?
I was born with a god-given attribute and gift for a batsman, which is my height. So, to become a world class fearless batsman, I had to be coached in technique to add the proper stance, footwork, speed and approach amongst other things.
You are known to change the atmosphere in the dressing room and your early days in RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore) was one big party, with you in the centre of it. Can you tell us a bit about those days and who were your buddies who partied the most with you?
The team chemistry and bond I had with my teammates at RCB was exceptional. I had a lot of fun and it was a lot of great memories. Whether we won or lost we were always together and we had tremendous respect for each other. The fans were also amazing with their roars and chants. I enjoyed those days of our after parties but I never neglected my sleep and my training. Virat Kohli and I had some fun moments.
You shared the field a lot with Virat Kohli; can you throw some light on the camaraderie you shared with him?
Virat is so strong mentally and the game of cricket is 90 percent mental. He was very motivational to me and his teammates because he led with his performance. When you get to know Virat as a human being, he is very inspiring.
Work hard, party harder... seems to be your motto; we know how you partied, can you tell us about your workout regimen?
Stamina is very important for a good batsman. So, fitness is very important. I always put on some music and work on strengthening my muscles, legs and abs. I also do a lot of running and cycling.
You also seemed to enjoy your bowling. Did you work at it or did that happen by chance?
Off-spin bowling came naturally to me and I was comfortable with that style of bowling. I was taught to adjust the speed, length and flight of the ball.
Who is your favourite Indian cricketer and why?
There are so many great Indian players I admire. Sachin Tendulkar, of course, is a legend; but, I’ve spent most of my time at the crease with Virat.
What are India’s chances of winning the World Cup?
With India having the home court advantage, strong batting and bowling attack for the upcoming World Cup; I think they will definitely be finalists.
Shifting focus, have you always been into music, how did this album come about?
I was always a big fan of reggae and dance-hall music growing up and it was during the pandemic that I became active as an artiste, recording a song with UK-based artiste Stylo G. Since then, I started my own label Triple Century Records and built a studio in my house. I also released songs with Indian artistes Emiway Bantai and Arko. This album, Tropical House Cruises to Jamaica: The Asian Edition came about when a Jamaican Billboard executive producer Contractor Music approached me to headline an album for the Asian market featuring Grammy winner Lauryn Hill. The album also features reggae giants Morgan Heritage, Capleton and Sizzla.
And how many songs are you a part of in the album?
As the headliner of the album, I have two songs on the album — one called the Choco Loco Remix with Camar Flava and Gimme Your Love with Shav A.
How did your foray into music begin?
I recorded my first song with UK-based artist Stylo G when he approached me to do a verse on a song with him. When I listened to myself on the song later, I was hooked!
We heard that this album might compete at the Grammys 2024, tell us more?
Yes, the album was entered into the Grammy race 2024 in the category of Beat Reggae Album. Soon we will know if we made the list for consideration and then it’s a process of getting enough votes for nomination. In addition to the big names in reggae, the album has some good new artistes such as Kali Ranks, Lady Marga Mc and Inoah, as well as young Jamaican producers like Makonnen Blake Hannah.
Tell us about the song Gimme Your Love, how was it collaborating with Shav A?
The song Gimme Your Love is a love song with a young female singer named Shav A who is based in New York. It was produced by veteran Jamaican producer Gary G.
You’ve been focusing a lot on being a global ambassador for Jamaican culture, how did this journey begin?
Yes, whenever I travel, I always represent Jamaican culture and lifestyle. Now with the popularity of this album and the marketing of it to Asia, I have been approached by the Jamaican Government to take on the role as Cultural Ambassador to India . This effort will be to open up tourism with India and help with the exposure of Jamaican culture to India.
What else are you working on, in terms of music or other non-cricket related passions?
I am interested in pursuing some acting roles in Bollywood and doing more charity work in Jamaica, especially with children. I am also looking to record songs with Sean Paul and Shaggy.
Finally, when will we see you on the field in India again?
I’m now semi-retired, so, it has to be a good offer to get me on the field in India again; but, I love the game and mentoring young players there.
Tropical House – Cruises to Jamaica is now streaming on audio platforms.