Steve Dublin retired from cricket almost a decade ago. But his love for music and songwriting never took a hiatus. Every cricketer’s career has a shelf life, and those who aren’t fortunate enough to earn riches playing the game must find a second calling. Some have turned to music – including former West Indies players Curtly Ambrose and Omari Banks. Dwayne Bravo enjoyed major success in 2016 with his song Champion while he was still playing.
Dublin grew up in Delvins, Montserrat, but has lived in Manchester, England, since the late 1980s. What started as a hobby has morphed into a treasure trove. Dublin says he has written more than 1,000 songs – “I have about 700 on my phone alone” – of all genres, including reggae (traditional and Dancehall), soca and R&B. He even has a new song called Morals and Respect that will be on an Afrobeats rhythm.
Dublin, who doesn’t sing or play a musical instrument, explained his songwriting formula. “I feel a vibe, tell a story, and the beat comes later.”
One of his latest compositions is Summertime, inspired by the 1991 song of the same title by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (Will Smith). Dublin’s version, with a totally different beat and lyrical content than its predecessor, is focused on summertime in England. It was arranged by fellow Montserratian Trevan “Teddiebeats” Lee, who also lives in Manchester.
“In England, because most of the year is cold and rainy, when summer comes around people [savor] it,” Dublin explained. “They’re barbecuing, having parties, and you see people you don’t normally see because they hibernate during winter. So the song is a celebration of summer in England.”
LISTEN TO A SAMPLE OF “SUMMERTIME”
Dublin attended Cork Hill Primary School and Salem Junior Secondary. His first love was cricket, and he made an impact early while playing for Cork Hill, which in the early 1980s boasted some of the top cricketers in Montserrat, led by all-rounder Austin White.
In 1983, Dublin made his debut for the Montserrat team as a leg-spinner and hard-hitting, low-order batsman. He was an unabashed slogger, and patrons at Sturge Park often relocated their vehicles when Dublin came to bat, fearing that one of his towering sixes would inflict damage.
As for music, Dublin first dabbled in Dancehall in the early 1980s. “We were crazy about Yellowman back then,” he says. While in secondary school he gave himself the nickname “Naza” after Nazareth in the Bible. In December of 1985, the newly christened “General Naza” entered a Dub competition at Sturge Park and finished first runner-up (see Montserrat Mirror preview below).
“It was a good experience even though I didn’t win,” he says. “[Krokuss] from Burning Flames played bass for me that night. We were basically messing around in those days, singing other artists’ songs. Over the years I started reading more, and my writing got better.”
Earlier in 1985, Dublin’s cricket career earned a boost when he attended the Alf Gover Cricket School in south London. He then got a gig with Haringey Cricket College in Tottenham. In his first match, he scored 70 of the 90 runs Haringey chased for victory. That marked the start of a long career in England. In all, Dublin played for 10 English clubs and helped pave the way for future Montserrat cricketers to join UK teams.
Dublin’s signature moment came Sunday, July 23, 1995, while playing for Kearsley of the Bolton League. In a home match against Heaton, Dublin scored an astonishing 48 runs in one over, a feat that attracted the Guinness Book of World Records. He smashed eight sixes off medium-pace bowler Rob Slater during the over, which was extended by three no-balls.
WRITE OF PASSAGE
Dublin played professional cricket until 2016, then put his bat away and picked up a pen. He gets inspiration for his songs from a variety of places.
“If I’m watching a movie, I might hear a line and I write from that. I could be having a conversation and the person says a line I like, and I write from that.”
One Dublin song enjoying current success is Bounce It Baby, an upbeat soca number that was released in December of 2022. Dublin says the song is getting frequent radio play in Barbados, home of the song’s vocalist, Pepperz.
“With Crop Over coming up we hope the song gets even bigger,” says Dublin, who said Bounce It Baby has also gotten airplay on Radio Montserrat to positive feedback.
Dublin’s immediate goal is to take his music to the mainstream. The days when record companies and mega-studios controlled the music industry are now past. Streaming platforms such as Spotify and Pandora have replaced vinyl and compact discs, and software programs such as Pro Tools have enabled any home to double as a recording studio. But with easier access comes competition.
Dublin and Lee have reached out to soca artists such as Patrice Roberts and Lavaman and say they have songs in their archives that are perfect for Kes and Kevin Lyttle. As of early June 2023, Bounce It Baby had almost 6,000 views on YouTube, and Summertime was getting steady clicks on Spotify.
“When I started, all I wanted was to hear my songs on the radio,” Dublin says. “But when I listen to all the music out there, I know I have better material than most of them. Montserrat hasn’t had a big hit song since Hot Hot Hot. My ultimate goal is to get a hit song and put Montserrat on the map. Any monetary reward I get from it would just be a bonus.”
LISTEN TO SAMPLE OF “SEXY BLACK WOMAN”
LISTEN TO “COME 2 GRENADA”
Note: All tracks written by Steve “Naza” Dublin and Teddiebeats.