Tuesday, 17 October 2017

ON THE HORIZON: National Honours & Awards recipients look ahead to what’s next

IN GOOD COMPANY: Culture minister Olivia Grange and OD honoree Theodore Whitmore sharing a moment.

On Monday, the grounds of King's House, as is customary, played host to the National Honours & Awards ceremony. TALLAWAH was amidst the elegance and elan, as scores of outstanding and well-deserving Jamaicans were honoured for service to country. We spoke to a few noted names to hear about their new and future endeavours/

Dr. Paul Pennicook, former Director of Tourism 
After serving the Jamaica Tourist Board as Director for the three years (2014-2017), Paul Pennicook demitted office this past summer, but he remains staunchly devoted to the tourism industry. “I’m not leaving hospitality. I’m now working as a consultant in hotel operations and destination marketing,” says Pennicook, whose JTB contract ended in August. For outstanding and dedicated service to the tourism industry, he received the Order of Distinction (Officer Class). He’s optimistic that the staff will continue the work he started. “When I left there, we were on a roll. We had record arrivals, and we left a plan in place,” he shares. “I certainly hope we can maintain that momentum and take the work to another level, and I’m certain they will.” 

Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore, Reggae Boyz head coach 
“We are a work-in-progress but the squad is looking good, so I’m expecting great things going forward,” Whitmore tells TALLAWAH moments after being presented with his Order of Distinction (Officer Class) for contribution to sports nationally and internationally. “Right now I have my concerns; there are certain things that need to be addressed, but let’s wait and see. We have a new president, and I’m confident that he’ll do a great job. We’re looking forward to playing another international friendly to close out the year, and then we’ll begin the real programme in the New Year.” 

Michael ‘Stringbeans’ Nicholson, Actor and JCDC stalwart 
For long and dedicated service to the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (well over two decades and counting), Nicholson received the Badge of Honour for Long and Faithful Service. “It means that somebody has been paying attention to the work I’ve been doing at the JCDC all these years. I’m excited and honoured, and I keep using the word elated, but that’s exactly how I feel,” says Nicholson, now 55 years old. The work continues. He might be heading overseas later this year with his Bad Breed castmates, and there’s some major planning to do for December’s ‘Fireworks on the Waterfront’ to close off the year in spectacular fashion. “It has been an up and down year for me,” Nicholson admits. “I had some health issues to attend to, but I’m feeling much better, much healthier.” 

Rosina Moder, musician and music educator 
Working with her talented students and doing research on Jamaica’s unheralded composers is all in a day’s work for Rosina Christina Moder. Now a member of the Order of Distinction, in the rank of officer (for contribution to the development of Jamaican music and the preservation of its history), she feels newly energized to do the work that she’s so passionate about. “My new passion is doing research on Jamaican composers whose work has never been documented. We are being funded by the Jamaica National Foundation, so we have a website that’s a work-in-progress and we’ll be producing a book at the end,” she says. In addition to lobbying for scholarships and other financial aid for students to study music at the college level locally and abroad, Moder is organizing a couple of free concerts for November, which will feature acclaimed German organist Gabriele Schenkel (currently in the island for workshops) at the Kingston Parish Church and the Spanish Town Cathedral.

2017 REX NETTLEFORD CONFERENCE: Three experts tackle net neutrality, millennial multitasking and the new business model

Wearing multiple hats has long been hallmark of the working world, but for a huge portion of the WhatsApp and Instagram generation, it’s the only way to make ends meet. Making her witty and wonderfully insightful presentation, “Slash/Slash: Millennial Multitasking in Today’s Creative Economy,” Rachael Barrett (at left) put forward the argument that doing more than one thing has not only become the status quo; it’s an essential method of working and networking and engagement in modern/contemporary society. So get with the programme. She puts the spotlight on a few multidisciplinary artists as sterling examples of millennial multitasking at its finest, particularly in the all-important realm of branding: musician/activist./businessman/band frontman Will.I.Am; entrepreneur/tastemaker/designer Vashtie Kola; creative whiz/fashion savant/Team Kanye director Virgil Abloh and reggae singer-songwriter/producer/In.Digg.Nation Collective mastermind Protoje. “We live in an age of constant distraction where multi-focus can be problematic. But it’s the reality of how human beings function now,” says Barrett, editor/college lecturer/real estate agent/art consultant/aspiring DJ. “We are products of our environment and [millennials] are simply responding to the environment they are in.”

According to Bianca Welds, to fully benefit from the economic advantages of their creative outputs, artists must seek to turn their art into a business, and determining the right business model is a first step to entering the entrepreneurial world. Presenting “Business Models for the Arts: A Creative Canvas,” Welds noted that a new approach to the business model canvas, designed specifically for creative arts enterprises, places the artist’s vision at the centre of the process. She offers these 7 elements for one to consider as you design your ‘canvas’: the desired experience; your audience and customers; ways to reach your customers; key activities; key resources; partnerships and collaborations; costs and revenue streams. “This approach enables customers to take a strategic big-picture view of their potential business and evaluate it for its feasibility,” Welds says. “Once you’ve assessed the business idea you can start the planning process to bring it to life.”

Spotify is still not available in Jamaica. So much for net neutrality, the concept championed by Tim Wu and like-minded advocates that states that the internet should be open to all and available to all at the same time. In other words, net neutrality promotes an open internet free of restrictions to access. Dennis Howard (“Net Neutrality and the Threat to Millennial Artist Engagement”) says it has benefits for countries like Jamaica “because it levels the playing field.” Still, hindrances remain like licensing restrictions, IP restrictions, monetizing restrictions, geographical boundaries and the list goes on. How many times have you encountered the viral message, “This video is not available in your country?” (Personally, too many times.) Still, here in the “Third World”, we have a lot to be grateful for. “If Trump and the Republicans have their way, there will be reversal of net neutrality that will have far-reaching implications for the Caribbean,” Howard says. “We need to enact net neutrality laws in Jamaica to make people aware of it because they are not aware of it.”

Saturday, 14 October 2017

LIFE + STYLE: Damion Crawford, Dahlia Harris among RW ambassadors + Support C’bean Love hurricane relief campaign + Mouth-watering events for Jamaica Food & Drink Fest

A TASTE OF JAMAICA: Jamaican foodies will be happy to hear that the Jamaica Food & Drink Festival (set for October 21-29) is pulling out all the steps to deliver a superlative feast for the ages that people will be talking about long after the last forkful has been eaten. Some 13 ‘pork masters’ will be on show for 'Pork Palooza', which kicks things off on the 21st at Hope Gardens; you’ll enjoy Asian cuisine with a twist at 'Chop Stix' on the 25th; eight of Jamaica’s best chefs will showcase their skills at 'Crisp' at the Gardens at the Gardens of the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on the 26th; for those who like it hot and spicy, 'Picante' (on the 27th at Mona Visitor’s Lodge) is right up your alley. Meanwhile, a grand food fair is set for the 28th at Marketplace, a day before the Rousseau girls (Two Sisters & a Meal) curate what promises to be a tantalizing brunch at the National Gallery on Sunday, the 29th. Among the international chefs who will be in attendance are Lij Heron, Cindy Huston and Andrew Fowles, star of Chopped on TV’s The Food Network. For all the details, including specific venues and ticket information, visit jafoodanddrink.com

THEY KNOW GOOD FOOD: Each year, Stephanie Scott and the hardworking team behind Restaurant Week select a bunch of immensely likeable personalities (stars in their own right in their respective fields) to serve as ambassadors. Ahead of this year’s week-long festivities, November 10-18, the organizers have tapped Floyd Green, Dahlia Harris, Romain Virgo, Sakina Deer, Matthew Robinson, Carolyn Yapp, Kandi King and Damion Crawford and a few others for the enviable task of representing the RW brand and visiting participating restaurants and eateries to sample the fare. “Eat Your Heart Out” is the witty theme for Restaurant Week 2017. 

MUSIC FOR LIFE: Thanks to an initiative sparked by Joe Bogdanovich and a few of his friends, the Caribbean Love hurricane relief campaign is set to raise much-needed funds that will go a long way in repairing damaged infrastructure in storm-ravaged islands across the region and help displaced residents get their lives back on track. Come November 10, the relief efforts will be turned up a notch with Reggae Sumfest Reloaded: The Benefit, a concert and telethon taking place in Kingston on a date and at a venue to be announced. “We have plans and we are hoping we can get united. I’m really about unity through music, and it’s a hard thing to do,” says Bogdanovich, head of DownSound Entertainment and Chair of Summerfest Productions. “This is a great example of how you can turn a negative into a positive by uniting everyone through the common good.”

ARTISTIC RICHES: National leaders vow to robustly explore the economic viability of arts and culture

TALENT ON SHOW: The conference also allows young and emerging artists to put their works on display.

THE largely untapped economic potential of the arts and culture in Jamaica is a topic that recurs in the public discourse, especially against the backdrop of widespread unemployment among graduates with arts-based degrees. With the arrival of the 2017 Rex Nettleford Arts Conference (under the theme “Arts and Culture for the 21st Century: Millennial Dis-Engagement, Engagement, Re-Engagement”) it comes sharply into focus.

“As Jamaica faces the challenge of achieving the levels of inclusive economic growth required to raise living standards for all, it is clear that this can only be realized by maximizing to the fullest the economic potential of arts and culture,” says Dr. Peter Phillips in his message welcoming the return of the conference for its fourth staging. “I enthusiastically support the aim of the conference to provide a space where the ideas of our young people can be supported and encouraged within and beyond institutional walls.

This conference is particularly welcome for the fact that it provides a supportive pillar for the Youth Employment, Innovation and the New Economy Commission, which I recently launched to transform global competitive areas of the Jamaican economy, leverage the energy and talents of Jamaica’s youth and contribute to sustained and equitable economic growth.” 

Culture minister Olivia Grange urges local stakeholders to do more to bring about advancement in such a dynamic sector, considered a driver of innovation, creativity, productivity and growth. “It is now an established fact that the creative industries contribute as much as 5% to Jamaica’s GDP. This provides evidence that the cultural and creative industries can become a pillar for diversification and export growth in Jamaica,” Grange notes. “It is through discussions such as yours [at the conference] that we will be able to raise awareness, share experiences and unearth new ways in which we can all benefit from our cultural offerings.” 

According to PM Andrew Holness, the ruling government remains committed to tapping into the income-generating power of the arts. “There is a wealth of expertise and untapped potential in the area of the performing arts and visual arts that must be better leveraged to meet our national goals,” he says. “My administration is committed to engaging Jamaican talent in order to transform Jamaica into the place of choice to live, raise families and do business. My administration shares the vision that Jamaica can achieve social and economic independence through arts and culture.” 

Hosted by the Edna Manley College, the just-concluded conference (this years marked the fourth biennial staging) brought together local and international delegates, arts practitioners, policymakers, researchers, educators and students, for three days of seminars, workshops, performances and insightful presentations.

ON HIS MIND: CEO Delano Forbes assesses the fast-growing video-production world and Phase 3’s role as a leader in the field

MEMORY LANE: "king in the family business has been the single biggest learning experience of my life," says Forbes, who did his Master's at FIU.

THERE’s no field that showcases advancement in technology more profoundly than video production. I learn that every day at Phase 3 Productions. Jamaica is right up there with the top countries using the latest in HD and other modern technology, and locally Phase 3 has always been ahead of the curve. We play a significant role in the local set-up, and we are always seeing out new ways of expanding on that role, in terms of how we cover events and deliver the best package to our customers.

The paradigm has shifted dramatically over the years, and that pushes us to redouble our efforts to stay on top of the competition. We’ve been using HD for over seven years now, long before other local companies caught on, and it gave an early boost to the work we do producing content for export and local consumption. The industry is definitely growing; people are trying different things, and we are glad to be a part of the industry at this time.

I consider it a privilege to be CEO of Phase 3, our family business, at this juncture. I remember when I came back from college (I studied TV & Media Production at New York University and did my MBA at Florida International University), my dad started giving me a lot more responsibility. He was grooming me, getting me ready.
Today, I work alongside my mom, Dr. Marcia Forbes, who is the Executive Chairman. Whose idea always wins out? Like any family, we disagree on a lot of things, so it’s usually a split decision. 

Working in the family business has been the single biggest learning experience of my life. We’ve had to get through some really tough times. My dad went blind in 1998, and when the business was destroyed by fire, we practically lost everything. As a 17-year-old kid that’s hard on you. As an adult, you remember those times and they motivate you.

As far as the industry goes, the times have changed tremendously. Video and film production is a totally different ball game from 10, 15 years ago. Social media has taken over, and everybody is stepping up their game. As a result, the dependency on certain types of coverage is far less than it used to be, so you just have to stay dynamic and try different things. And there are a few new things we are considering for the future because when it comes to doing business we can’t be solely dependent on the local blue-chip companies. We’ve been working with a few more international clients. 

So it’s an interesting time. It’s a challenging time. Things are evolving, and we hope to keep in touch with what’s happening. As Wayne Gretzky said, ‘You don’t skate to where the puck is; you skate to where it’s going to be.’ I live by that. – As told to TALLAWAH Magazine

SENSE OF PURPOSE: Ochi-based businesswoman Jodianne Murdoch channels passion and hard-earned wisdom into her blossoming Zedoj empire

TAKING CONTROL: At 32, Murdoch is a business owner, wife and cruise excursions pro who has visited India, Alaska and South Africa.

YOU just never know where life will take you. Literally. Just ask Jodianne Murdoch, a thriving businesswoman who spent over a decade working in the tourism industry. She got to see much of the world working as shore excursion manager who sold cruise tours sailing to all parts of the globe. Lucky girl that she is, she spent six years sailing around the world with passengers, visiting ports of call in South Africa, Alaska and such exotic locales.

A trip to India proved life-changing. On a bus to the Taj Mahal, she met an Indian tour guide who offered to read her up and tell her what her future would be like. As Murdoch recalls, he was right on the money. He told her that by the time she hit 30, she would be a successful businesswoman and happily married.

Today, sitting on the Jamaica Pegasus balcony that overlooks the crystalline swimming pool, the 32-year-old Murdoch is a bonafide success story who looks the part, with the requisite confidence and impressive résumé to match. She is here with her husband Kenito (they tied the knot in 2010), her business partner and biggest supporter. “The Indian man was very accurate about him,” boasts Murdoch, impeccably turned out in a business-chic pink-and-white ensemble, with a cropped platinum hairdo.

“What I admire most about her is her ambition. I’m very proud of her,” Kenito says in return.

He can say that again. After bidding farewell to cruise ships and the high seas, Murdoch decided to go into business for herself, but she had no intention of giving up the north coast. Still living in Ocho Rios, she started a company called Zedoj (her pet name turned backwards), which over the course of seven years has blossomed into an event planning and management enterprise, complete with a restaurant (Zedoj on the Ridge, based at the Mystic Ridge Resort) and an auto arm, which lets her indulge her passion for motor sports and help customers improve the performance of their vehicles.

“I never saw myself as a woman in business growing up, but I knew I had skills to do great things, and one success led to another,” says Murdoch, who attended St. Hilda’s High and Westwood High before moving on to the Brown’s Town Community College, where she won a scholarship to go study Media Production at New College in Nottingham, England.

Boasting a diverse work history, she spent seven months working with Digicel as a business accounts manager. But she couldn’t’ escape her destiny. Zedoj was her calling. “I started out doing baby showers and parties, and things gradually got better to the point where we’ve been hired by Moon Palace Jamaica and the US Embassy for their July 4 celebration,” she reports. “We’ve grown and maximized step by step.”

From as far back as she can remember, Murdoch (whose mom, Norma, is co-owner of the restaurant side of the business and whose father operated an auto parts store) has always been a self-motivated go-getter. “I spent a summer in New York with relatives one year, and I earned about $700 in tips packing bags and carrying groceries. I felt so happy and satisfied doing that,” she recalls. “So it started from there.”

Murdoch knows she still has a long way to go on her personal journey, but with the lessons and experiences, skills and expertise she’s accumulated, she wants to now push other young entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams. Enter the Red Tie & Stiletto initiative, through which she hopes to provide mentorship via workshops, seminars and other events in the hope that young businesspeople will leave feeling empowered to become success stories. She’s already staged a first event, hosted by Moon Palace, which came off satisfactorily well.

Corporate Ocho Rios, she feels, could do with a breath of fresh air, and there are signs that the populace is open to progressive change. “Corporate Ochi is ancient. It’s the usual. But they see what we want to do with this initiative, and the general feedback is that for a first event, it was a strong start, and they will be attending the next event.”
Looking ahead, Murdoch is super-excited about the road not taken. She wants Zedoj to grow into a global events management company known for providing top-quality service “from the simplest event to the biggest function.” 

With her plump physique and five-feet-five-inch frame, Jodianne Murdoch radiates self-assuredness and an overall vibe that’s simply appealing and confirms her status as a woman confident in her abilities and has at last found her niche. “The thing is a lot of people shy away from going after what they want. I was a procrastinator growing up. But from travelling the world I learned and experienced things that changed me,” she admits. “So now I’ve decided to use my experiences to make a difference. Between me and my husband, the plan is always to start in one area, master it and then move on to other areas.” 

Evidently, Jodianne Murdoch has transitioned from cruise control to passion driven.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

FULL CIRCLE: Prodigal Son turns his toughest challenges into empowering music for his latest album, Pure Gold

ONE & ONLY: "I'm more ministry-driven," reflects the gospel deejay, who is about to release his sixth solo album.

IN the Old Testament book of Daniel, there’s a verse about enduring the refiner’s fire to emerge as pure gold. At this stage of his personal and professional lives, that’s exactly how Prodigal Son feels. To that end, he has titled his latest studio album, Pure Gold, best described as a melodic testament to struggle, endurance and emerging whole on the other side.

For the veteran gospel deejay (né Calvin Whilby), the past few years, fraught with challenges and rife with speculation about his allegiance to the Christian faith, have had him on quite a rollercoaster. Sitting inside the lobby of the Knutsford Court Hotel on this warm and golden Friday morning, he looks and sounds like a changed man. He chooses his words carefully, he’s way more introspective than usual and he’s quite elated to have a hot new CD ready to take the gospel music scene by storm. 

So, in his own words, how does he feel about finally emerging from the refiner’s fire? What makes him justifiably comparable to pure gold? “I am a more mature Prodigal Son. More driven, more focused and committed to the word of God and nation-building. I’m all about empowering youths and just people in general,” he says, with a hint of seriousness in his voice.

The past few years may have seriously tested his mettle, but in retrospect, he considers it all as part of a greater universal plan designed to boost his resolve. “I don’t have regrets because I never lose anything. I win or I learn,” he admits. “But I wish I had the opportunity to win more souls. That would be my only regret.”

Prodigal Son does have a powerful, life-changing testimony, one that spans his transformation from guns and gangs to God and the gospel (he got saved in 1999) to his ascension in the entertainment industry as one of the pioneers of dancehall gospel. He wants to set the record straight that he never changed his stage name to ‘Prodi’, as the gossip mill would have you believe. “Prodi is just a shortened form of Prodigal Son. Most people just call me Prodi, so it wasn’t a name change. I always kept my original stage name,” he explains.

The painful moments have been many, he readily concedes, but his firm belief in a Higher Being empowers him to keep rising above the hurdles and winning against the odds. “There have been disappointments, but at the end of the day, I believe God has ordained my life,” he emphasizes. “What happened had to happen, and I look forward to what God is gonna do. I look through the windscreen and not the rearview.”

So you totally understand why he’s so pumped up about releasing Pure Gold and hosting a big concert and launch party-style celebration on the night of October 21 at Jamaica College, where several of his industry peeps will join him on stage.

Pure Gold is no ordinary album. “This is my praise-and-worship album, giving God thanks for what he has brought me through and celebrating 18 years in gospel,” says the deejay, whose previous full-length releases includes 7699, Songs from My Midnight/Break of Day and Radikal Prodigal. “It’s more of an upbeat album, filled with empowerment. It’s encouraging people to praise.” He singles out tracks like “Public Praise” and “Jesus Bigger” (which features his baby brother Jason Mighty) for special mention. Kevin Downswell and Chevelle Franklin also make guest appearances.

Living legend and veteran collaborator Danny Browne is the producer Prodigal Son trusted to deliver some fiery tracks that would announce that he’s back to reclaim his throne. For his part, Browne believes they’ve accomplished something magnificent. “I think this is his best work to date. The maturity is evident. As gospel ministers we go through stuff, and God has taken him from nothing to something,” Browne tells us from his seat across the table. “As he said, he’s been through the refiner’s fire and has come out as pure gold.”

During Prodigal Son’s absence from the gospel scene, we witnessed the rise of Downswell, Jermaine Edwards, Rondell Positive, and other fired-up Christian soldiers and ministers. Now that he’s back in the mix, Prodigal says it’s all love. “I support all my musical brethren. The baton must be passed on. It is not about who is at the front. We all want to spread the message,” he assures us. “It’s never a competition in the back of my mind.”

Working with a fresh crew dubbed Main Street Production, Prodi is anticipating that this latest chapter of his musical journey will yield his greatest successes yet, commencing with the new album and concert launch. “I’m ministry-driven right now, and I want to put all my energies into ministry in Jamaica and across the world,” he points out. “I personally believe that in 2018 gospel will be at a different level. We all have to just step up and make that change.”