Thursday, 8 December 2016

GOING FOR GRAMMY GOLD: Ziggy Marley, Raging Fyah among contenders for Reggae Album; Beyonce leads with 9 nods

STELLAR SIX: This year's reggae field is a mix of veterans and up-and-comers.

ZIGGY Marley continues to show and prove that he's got the Midas touch when it comes to recording and releasing new music for the fans. His latest opus, a self-titled smah released by Tuff Gong Worldwide, has scored a nod for Best Reggae Album for next February's Grammy Awards, set for the Staples Centre in Los Angeles.

The complete list of nominees was revealed Monday night by the Recording Academy, which puts on the annual awards spectacle, honoring the year's top artistes and recordings, in a plethora of genres, with music's highest and most coveted prize - the golden gramophone.

As a solo artist and as frontman of the Melody Makers, Ziggy already has six Grammy wins under his belt, having been toasted for such stellar releases as Love is My Religion, Conscious Reggae Party and Fly Rasta. Morgan Heritage took home the award at the last show, the 58th ceremony, for Strictly Roots.

But as Bob's first-born goes after win number seven, he will have to get past some worthy contenders - five in total. Fast-rising roots-rockin' band Raging Fyah is up for their well-released latest effort, Everlasting (Dub Rockers/VP Records); Soja scored a nod for Soja: Live in Virginia (ATO Records); Rebelution made the cut with Falling Into Place (Easy Star Records); relative newcomer J Boog earned a mention for Rose Petals (Wash House Music Group); talented kids Devin Di Dakta and JL claimed the remaining spot, thanks to Sly & Robbie Presents... Reggae for Her (Tuff Gong International/Taxi Records).

Meanwhile, Beyonce leads the overall pack of nominees, with nine nods, including bids for Album and (Lemonade), Record of the Year ("Formation"), Urban Contemporary Album and Best Music Video, among others. Rap kingpins Kanye West and Drake picked up eight nominations each, with five going to Adele for her chart-topping album, 25.

Winners for the 59th Grammy Awards will be revealed during the Feb. 12 ceremony in Los Angeles. To see the full list of nominees, go to

GENERATION NOW: Stephen Edwards elected new G2K President + Aubrey Stewart named Chairman of first Youth Advisory Council

SHARP FOCUS: Back in late October, state minister Floyd Green announced that among the major initiatives for Youth Month 2016, the establishment of Jamaica's first-ever Youth Advisory Council would be top priority. Recently, in the presence of PM Andrew Holness at Jamaica House, the inaugural council was officially installed, with 16 of the country's sharpest young minds earning places. Of that lot, 23-year-old Aubrey Stewart has been tapped to serve as Chairman, and he says they're ready to make their mark on the society. "It is an inclusive agenda; young people in rural and urban spaces, young people on the street, young people in agriculture," Stewart says of their list of plans. "We have been fighting for years to advance youth interest, and we will not let our young people down. [As Chairman], I have a supportive team and support from communities, organizations and youth parliamentarians. Once we set our minds to it, the work will be done." Michelle Small Bartley participated in the selection process that whittled down the long list of applicants to the final 16. "Gone are the days when the youth have no voice," she says. "This will help us to concretize youth participation and engagement in the national decision-making process."

TAKING CHARGE: Following in the footsteps of such frontrunners as Warren Newby, Matthew Samuda and Floyd Green, Stephen Edwards (above) has been elected president of Generation 2000 (G2K), the youth arm of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party. The G2K had its annual general meeting at the party's Belmont Road headquarters on Saturday, where the young professionals installed its new executive body. Where do things stand in the G2K these days? "G2K has taken on different roles under different presidents, which is understandable because the party has been in different positions at different times," Edwards points out. "Now that the Jamaica Labour Party is in power, our mission will change. And the core of that mission is to provide solutions to the common challenges that the people face. The purpose of G2K is to bring professional politics where it is not just about tribalism; it is about providing solutions, providing what is better for Jamaica."

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

SHOPPER’S DELIGHT: After 12 years and counting, the Liguanea Art Festival inspires and satisfies

PICTURE THIS: Culture minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange inspects a Bob Marley-inspired art piece, with photographer Howard Moo-Young.

“I can’t leave my tent for a minute,” says Richard Atkinson, giving us a tour of his booth, chock-full of eye-catching artworks – his life-size sculptures and papier-maché creations. Atkinson was among the dozens of artists, artisans and other exhibitors who brought out their finest wares to showcase at Sunday’s 12th renewal of the Liguanea Art Festival at the Lane Plaza in St. Andrew.

As expected, the event drew a throng of patrons who got to interact with the artists, as they made their pre-Christmas purchases, enjoyed live drumming and other family-friendly activities.

For Atkinson, the event represents a boon for him as a struggling artist, putting hundreds of buyers directly within his reach. “I’m definitely impressed by the turnout. They should have it more often at this time of year. An event like this is important because we’re making money. I can’t leave my tent. You’re meeting a lot of customers and networking with other artists in a pleasant atmosphere. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Of course, the Kingston native is not alone in his assessment of the art lovers’ extravaganza, which was last held at the Chinese Benevolent Association in 2014, took a break last year and has now returned to its original stomping grounds. “I missed it last year. Whenever you attend Liguanea Art Festival, there’s always so much to see. The best fine artists in Jamaica are here, but [the organizers] never leave out the children,” observes Carmen Williams, standing by the face-painting tent. “It’s something for the whole family.”

Twelve years ago, the festival first appeared on the scene as a mini art fair. For that initial outing, founders June Wong (right) and her photographer husband, Tony, invited only a handful of photographers and other artist friends to take part. A little over a decade later, it has evolved into the single largest outdoor arts-based event on the island, bringing together established and emerging talents.

Here are veterans Gene Pearson, Howard Moo-Young, Franz Marzouca, Craig Phang Sang and Laura Facey sharing the grounds with up-and-comers like Damian Cunningham and the Element Photography Club, a youthful bunch out of Portmore. If nothing else, it’s a brilliantly diverse marketplace to browse and shop at your leisure.

“It’s good when you take a break,” June Wong tells us, basking in the ambience. “From morning, it’s just been wonderful. People were coming in from 9:30 and we don’t open until 10. And as you can see, we got a good crowd. And the artists are just amazing. Our festival continues to attract the best.” 

This year’s staging also benefitted from contributions by the National Works Agency, the Institute of Jamaica and the Jamaica Tourist Board. “The Tourist Board came on board fully this year,” June Wong notes. “They’ve always endorsed it, but this year they brought in some international journalists to cover it and help us with the publicity.” 

What began as a hobby for Tony and June Wong, has now taken on a life of its own. “It’s now at a standard that we’re very proud of. We try to put a little sophistication to it and fix up the surroundings, so the artists and the patrons are comfortable,” she explains, before hinting that the festival’s next staging could be in May 2018. “It takes a lot of commitment, but the end result is worth it.”

DREAM TEAM: Anya and Barbara Gloudon riff on favourite pantomimes, patron support and their unique bond

LIVING LEGACY: The hardworking mother-daughter pair reflect and look ahead. (Below) Anya at work in the costume department,.

As they gear up for the Boxing Day premiere of their latest musical comedy, The Upses and the Downses, TALLAWAH spends time with playwright-lyricist Barbara Gloudon and costume mistress Anya Gloudon talking about classic pantomimes, handling criticism, and their one-of-a-kind mother-daughter relationship. 

On their personal favourite pantomimes: To say the least, Barbara and Anya Gloudon have fond memories of working on the annual production, including those extra-special shows they’ll never forget. “When we did Pirate Princess, with Leonie [Forbes] and Oliver [Samuels], it was so successful that we toured London’s West End and across the Caribbean. Trinidadians came to see it, the Eastern Caribbean came out to see it, and I think we even hosted a school from Tobago,” recalls Mrs. Gloudon. For Anya, the field trips and depth of research bring out the fun side of the pantomime experience. “For Pirate Jack, we went to Old Harbour Bay,” she remembers, “and I’ll never forget a scene with the pelicans and some dogs, while we were watching the boats come in.” 

On the continued islandwide support: “Audiences come from as far as Negril and Port Antonio. The St. Thomas buses come every year. The school groups like Munro and St. Hilda’s come every year. What they like is that we provide entertainment for the whole family,” Mrs. Gloudon notes. Adds Anya, “We have this one group that comes in from Westmoreland every year and when they reach you know. They arrive in the morning, eat, freshen up and then watch the show.” 

On handling the criticism: It comes with the territory, Mrs. Gloudon insists, but they’ve learned to take it in stride. “We get criticized all the time, and some of it has been very mean,” she says. “The work that we do doesn’t satisfy everybody, and we don’t expect that it will. But we continue to do the best that we can with the little that we have.” 
On the Pantomime Company’s family atmosphere: The family that plays together stays together. Whether embarking on field trips or prepping for the big opening night, the Panto crew maintains tightly knit bond. Food and fellowship are key ingredients. “If we’re having a long rehearsal or a performance, we make sure that they have a meal, even if its soup and bread. On Pantomime Sunday, everybody gets their Sunday dinner – and the vegetarians are specially taken care of,” shares Mrs. Gloudon, a mother figure for the younger castmates. “We don’t have great sums of money, but we treat each other with respect and dignity.” 

On nurturing talents that have become big names: “A lot of them got their start with us,” says Mrs. Gloudon, referring of courser to the dozens of local actors who have pantomime productions on their résumés. It’s a long list that includes Nadean Rawlins, Terri Salmon, Volier Johnson, Michael Nicholson, Karl Williams and Oliver Samuels, et al. “I have to make special mention of Oliver because no matter where in the world he is interviewed, he always expresses his gratitude to the Pantomime for moulding him.” 

On their mother-daughter dynamic: Barbara and Anya Gloudon bicker, laugh together and regularly bounce ideas off each other. In other words, they’re the quintessential familial pair. What makes their relationship work so well? “Oh, she’s a horrible person,” Mrs. Gloudon jokes, to which Anya responds calmly, “I have to make sure I keep her on track.” Laughter ensues. See, they’re perfectly in sync with each other.

> PART 1: The Gloudons relish their roles as custodians of the Pantomime's history

TO SERVE & PROTECT: Barbara and Anya Gloudon relish their roles as custodians of the National Pantomime’s storied history

ON WITH THE SHOW: Audiences come from as far as Negril and Port Antonio to see the annual production, the Gloudons note.

Surely there’s no creative space in Kingston filled with as many cabinets and cupboards, boxes and closets teeming with costumes, props, knicks and knacks from the world of the performing arts. At the Little Theatre Complex on Tom Redcam Drive in Kingston, Barbara and Anya Gloudon preside over this treasure trove, as guardians of the legacy of the LTM’s National Pantomime.

Sitting across from me on a balmy Wednesday evening, in a room that leads into these massive archives, the Gloudons are more than happy to talk at length about their work as custodians of this 76-year-old national treasure. Essentially, the team, led by the Gloudons, is carrying on the torch passed down from the late Miss Lou and Mass Ran, who played key roles in transforming the annual pantomime into what we’ve come to know as the wholesome, visually appealing song-and-dance show that opens at the Little Theatre on the evening of every Boxing Day, December 26.

With such an increasingly large archive to turn to, Anya and Mrs. G can more readily tun’ dem ham mek fashion. No wonder resourcefulness seems to define the Pantomime Company. “We’ve been lucky to be able to store, recycle and reuse items over the years,” Anya tells us, as she puts the finishing touches to a new metallic prop. “For example, when a pantomime ends, the carpenters break down the set and we store the wood in the she around the back. So for next year, we’ll know how much material we have to work with, and what we’ll need to buy.”

Put another way, hardly anything is wasted around here. That’s why you side with Mrs. Gloudon wholeheartedly when she proclaims that it’s full time for the establishment of a National Pantomime Museum. ‘It’s something I’ve been talking about for a while now. And I’d love to see the day when somebody takes us seriously and offer to sponsor it. It would be nice to have it as something to work towards for the 80th anniversary,” she says.

For the record, the LTM’s 80th anniversary is only four years away. It goes without saying, Mrs. Gloudon further stresses, that such an invaluable aspect of the culture must be properly preserved. “The pantomime is a part of Jamaica’s history, and what we have done over the years is add more of Jamaican life to it. So a lot of the original costumes, the props, music and song lyrics have been catalogued. We have a rich legacy here.”

And it’s one they are determined to protect for future generations. Speaking of the future generations, hardly a week goes by that the LTM doesn’t receive requests from local high schools to meet with students conducting research for their Theatre Arts classes and impending examinations. It’s work that the Gloudons enjoy immensely, in spite of the challenges.

Unsurprisingly, a lack of adequate funding is at the top of the list. Thankfully, entities like the CHASE Fund have been kind. “CHASE helped us to put in some new chairs in the theatre last year,” Mrs. G recalls when the subject of income comes up. “We have friends who make their bookings every year. The church groups have also been supportive. But the cost of living goes up every year, and we have to find money for the electricity, material, travel allowance, and other expenses.”

As Anya points out, the Pantomime Company’s strong family dynamic has been a big plus. “What we benefit from is the team work and the friendship in the cast and crew,” she says. “Some of the workmen and the seamstresses have been with us for 10, 15 years. So the process is a bit easier now.”

The LTM Pantomime has come a long way – from the 1940s, when the Fowlers brought a very British flair to the stage, to the advent of Anancy and his bag of tricks to the heyday of Louise Bennett and Ranny Williams who insisted, Mrs. Gloudon says, on the show being true to the Jamaican experience. 

“A lot has changed with the pantomime over the years. Today it’s a Jamaican musical production, but we’re not averse to trying something new and introducing different elements because we’re global,” she points out. “Throughout the Diaspora, the Caribbean especially, the Jamaican pantomime is known.”

And the accolades have come. In addition to wins at the Actor Boy Awards, their 2000 production Bugsie the Millennium Bug was singled out for special mention in a revised edition of The World Book of Drama and Theatre Arts, for their innovative use of stage props, including an airplane that could pass for the real thing.

Every now and again, Barbara and Anya Gloudon pause to savour these little triumphs, but they are never distracted from the fact that the work continues. Up next is this month’s The Upses and the Downses, another musical comedy sure to deliver visual power, catchy tunes and a plot that holds up a mirror to the Jamaican society. 

The Pantomime Museum aside, Barbara Gloudon has in mind a book project that will elucidate the LTM’s history and legacy, while charting a way forward. “I think what the pantomime has done best is show that you don’t have to be crude and brutish and vulgar to entertain people,” Mrs. Gloudon reflects. 

“The mandate that we’ve been given is that [the show] must be something that the whole family can enjoy – the children, the old people, the church groups. It’s a challenge for us every year but we still make it. We’ve kept to that mission. And we have a team of wonderful musicians and actors who feel honoured to be a part of it.”

Monday, 5 December 2016

CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: Liguanea Art Fest back in 2018 + Symposium tackles Kingston as creative city + J’ca Biennial calls for submissions

ART & LIFE: Returning to the local culture calendar for a mega-successful 12th anniversary staging – (read our reports throughout this week!) – The Liguanea Art Festival drew scores of art lovers and regular patrons to the Lane Plaza all day Sunday. It was sea of shoppers, some making their early Christmas gift purchases, others picking up new pieces to add to their collections. Here’s the catch: After a year-long hiatus, the festival could be taking a break again next year and return in 2018 to its regular month of May. That’s the word from hardworking co-founder and chief organizer June Wong. “It’s not yet confirmed, but we might skip next year, and come back fresh in 2018,” she tells TALLAWAH. “Whenever we have it in May, people [exhibitors] are calling us from as early as February. And that kind of response is encouraging and keeps you going. We chose to do it in December only for this year, to coincide with the opening of our new supermarket around the back, which we will officially launch for Christmas or in early January.”

KINGSTON STATE OF MIND: There’s a lively conversation in progress about the role that theatre and the creative industries must play in the development of Kingston as a creative city. The talk rose to a deafening pitch on Sunday afternoon as a handful of presenters, voices plucked from the arts community, took to the stage at an Institute of Jamaica symposium to add their perspective to the discourse. Most memorable and insightful was Michael Holgate, who’s never minced words when it comes to his strong views on the state of the arts in Jamaica. As he made clear, he’s in favour of Downtown Kingston being transformed into an artistic zone that epitomizes our motto, “Out of Many, One People.’ “The redevelopment of Downtown Kingston could come to represent our multicultural society, bringing together the different embassies that are here, to populate the area with culture,” he emphasized. In the same breath, he said it is time for Jamaica to take greater advantage of its appeal in the international community. “Jamaican culture has captured the imagination of the world, and it will not let it go. There’s something very powerful about it, and we have to find a way to capitalize on it.” Meanwhile, the establishment of an iconic music museum, the construction of a concert hall and an expanded role for the Edna Manley College were among the other points raised. Team leader Dr. Clinton Hutton, who reflected on Kingston’s “unique place among urban spaces in the Caribbean,” told the gathering that Sunday’s symposium was a prelude to “something bigger” set for October 2017.

BEST IN SHOW: December 12 has been set aside as the closing date for entries for the 2017 Jamaica Biennial art exhibition at the National Gallery. The blockbuster art show is open to all artists living in Jamaica, as well as Jamaican artists and artists of immediate Jamaican parentage living abroad. Artists can submit two works in total, works which must have been completed since December 2014. The categories for submissions include painting, drawing, original print collage, photography, sculpture (including assemblage), installation, ceramic, fabric and video. Entry forms are available at the National Gallery. The 2017 Jamaica Biennial will be held from February 26 to May 28.

Friday, 2 December 2016

ASIA MAJOR: Indian-Canadian scholar Dr. Nandi Bhatia on stereotypes, power and Slumdog Millionaire

ORIENTAL PEARL: “There has long been a historical connection between the Caribbean and India,” Dr. Bhatia observes.

The 10th Edward Baugh Distinguished Lecture took place inside UWI Mona’s Neville Hall Lecture Theatre on Sunday morning, with Indian-Canadian scholar Dr. Nandi Bhatia, no stranger to the UWI family, giving an informative and transporting presentation centred on the topic “Dramatic Contests and Colonial Contexts on the Indian Stage.”

Dr. Bhatia, a leading scholar of postcolonial theatre who teaches at the Western University in Ontario, later shared with TALLAWAH her views on the perpetuation of unflattering stereotypes (chiefly the poverty) about her native country in the arts, especially in films like Slumdog Millionaire. “I don’t know why that is, but what it does is that it retains the kind of power imbalance that exists, where the West is celebrated as being in a position of superiority; where the systems are not so bad,” she offered.

But, like the rest of us, she fully enjoyed watching Slumdog Millionaire, which went on to won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. “I think it was a really good film. I personally enjoyed it. It was entertaining,” she confessed. “But I’m also aware of the controversy that it created, because some people in India did not have a favourable response because they say it is always the problems and the poverty that are showcased in the West.”

The Indian community in Jamaica may be ‘quiet’ at the moment, but aspects of their culture – the food, the addictive soap operas – are very much alive. “There has long been a historical connection between the Caribbean and India, with migration from the 19th century,” Dr. Bhatia observes. “What I was impressed by when I came on Friday and was surfing television channels in my hotel room, was that there is a full Hindi channel, and it was advertising a soap opera!” She lets out a hearty laugh. “I was very interested in it,” she continued. “So I think there is a presence here, even if it’s not very strong at the moment.”

Recognized for her vast research (exploring theatre in global and transnational contexts) and her feminist studies, Dr. Bhatia’s work has been supported by major grants from the governments of Canada and India, as well as Western University. 

She is the author of 2010’s Performing Woman/Performing Womanhood: Theatre, Politics and Dissent in North India (Oxford University Press) and Acts of Authority/Acts of Resistance: Theatre and Politics in Colonial and Postcolonial India, released by University of Michigan Press in 2004. Her third book – Local Themes, Transnational Concerns: Theatres of the South Asian Diaspora in Canada, is a work in progress.