Saturday, 4 July 2015

LOOK WHO’S TALKING: Michael Lee Chin + David Butler + Lady Patricia Allen + Dustin Brown + Dr. Fenton Ferguson + PM Portia Simpson-Miller + Asafa Powell

PAIR OF ACES: July 2, United Kingdom. The Dustin Brown story continues to thrill and inspire as it unfolds. Competing for his adopted Germany at Wimbledon this week, the tennis phenom (son of a Jamaican father and German mother) defeated top-ranking Spaniard Rafael Nadal to book a place in the third round. The 30-year-old Brown, ranked at 102, “played the match of his life,” according to the Associated Press, for a victory that’s been dubbed “the biggest surprise of the tournament so far." (Photo:

PHOTO FINISH: July 2, France. Newly crowned national sprint champion Asafa Powell is clearly enjoying the Q-&-A as he participates in a press conference ahead of this Saturday’s Areva Diamond League meeting in Paris. Asked about his ‘underdog’ status heading into the IAAF World Championships in August, Powell told journalists, “Being under the radar, it’s always good, you know? No one knows what to expect. You can just strike at any time.” As for watching his back as the competition heats up on the road to Beijing, he noted, “I just don’t accept anything from anyone anymore. I’m just supercareful. (Photo: Getty Images)

DOCTOR’S ORDERS: Dr. Fenton Ferguson seen here greeting Lady Patricia Allen was on hand to deliver the keynote address at a graduation ceremony for nurses and midwives at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston on Thursday. During his address, the health minister commended the graduates for playing their part in contributing to the advancement of universal access to health and universal health coverage. (Photo: JIS)

FACTS & FIGURES: Who better to address the gathering at the NCB Foundation’s Billion Dollars in Nation building celebrations than the big man Michael Lee Chin? The finance mogul graced the podium at the Terra Nova Hotel-hosted ceremony to endorse the life-changing work of the foundation, which has surpassed the $1 billion mark in offering support to critical areas islandwide such as education, community development and sports, youth leadership and entrepreneurship. “For those of you who are beneficiaries,” Lee Chin told attendees, “we hope you transition to become benefactors.” (Photo: NCB Foundation)

'HOUSE' CALL: June 16, St. Andrew. Among the most recent noted figures to call on PM Portia Simpson-Miller at Jamaica House was newly appointed Digicel CEO, David Butler. Welcoming the news that the company will be investing some $50 million in mobile technology this year to increase capacity and islandwide coverage, the prime minister congratulated Butler on landing a key role and lauded Digicel for their unceasing contributions to nation-building. (Photo: OPM)

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Friday, 3 July 2015

MAN OF THE MOMENT: Living his musical dreams, Omi gives fans something to 'cheer' about

EYES ON THE PRIZE: Is the singing sensation the next big thing from the region?

Burgeoning reggae-pop singer Om probably never expected to hear and see his name mentioned in the same sentence as Taylor Swift and the like so soon in his career, but now that his song “Cheerleader” has metamorphosed into a megahit (thanks to a tuneful new remix), taking on a life of its own internationally, these days life is sweet for the Jamaican rising star.

Though originally recorded and released in 2012, “Cheerleader” is finding new life and racing up the charts, which means that the artiste’s management and marketing people are doing their jobs.

The numbers don’t lie. “Cheerleader” was one of last week’s most downloaded songs (with over 146,000 units sold, according to Billboard, topping Taylor Swift’s five-week run with “Bad Blood”. On USA Today’s current Top 100 list, it has newly cracked the Top 20. And, it has landed at number one on charts across the Caribbean, not to mention Australia and the UK. Bonus: music critics have hailed the jam as a bonafide song-of-the-summer contender in the United States, where it has tallied more half-a-million downloads in total, per Nielsen Soundscan.

Born Omar Samuel Pasley, Omi seems to be taking his newfound success in stride, vowing to stick the game plan that has catapulted him to the here and now, and has him poised to become the Caribbean’s next big thing. To some, Omi oozes that Sean Kingston-meets-Hal Linton vibe, but with an island authenticity that’s all his own. Defining himself as an artiste, he recently told an interviewer, “I try very hard to incorporate music that is indigenous to Jamaican culture, as well as embracing that worldwide appeal.”

Riffing on his daily routine, however, he admits to spending countless hours holed up in the studio, writing and laying down vocals. He cites Grammy nominee Meghan Trainor (“All About That Bass”) among his dream collaborators. But does he feel any pressure to evade the one-hit-wonder jinx? “There is no pressure to write. There is pressure to release, but you have to know the timing,” the 29-year-old singer points out. “So the pressure is not on me; it’s mostly on management and my label.”

>THIS IS THE REMIX: Take a listen to “Cheerleader”

> WATCH THIS: Check out the “Cheerleader” video clip

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QUOTES OF THE WEEK: Sound bytes from Usain Bolt, Jacqueline Sharpe, Christopher Tufton, Patria-Kaye Aarons, and the UWI

“I am ready and willing to serve the people of West Central St. Catherine and Jamaica on a JLP ticket, but it is important that the process that allows one that opportunity be fair and transparent and free from fear, otherwise, all of us, including the JLP, will suffer reputational damage….. And we should not have to go to courthouse to get transparency and accountability because that would suggest that we can’t manage our own affairs.”  Former government minister Christopher Tufton addressing JLP supporters at Point Hill All Age in West Central, St. Catherine, a constituency he is vying to represent 

“Quality is crucial. Jamaican manufacturers need to realize it’s them against the world. Not only are our products competing with similar ones from Caricom, but there is also competition from the Commonwealth and the rest of the world. Whatever you hope to export has to stand up to those competitors.”  Sweetie Confectionary proprietor-turned-exporter Patria-Kaye Aarons, imparting sage advice to emerging Jamaican business owners 

“Where we can do more is have greater focus on our customers, helping them be financially better off; getting better at the advice that we give them. Ad we can do a lot better in telling customers how to reduce fees because there are ways and means of doing [that]. The quality of advice that we want to give and the way we deliver advice and solutions, making it more convenient for the customer, is something that we want to try to instil and add even greater focus within our culture.”  Scotiabank Group President & CEO Jacqueline Sharp outlining ongoing efforts to make the organization more customer-related 

“I’m disappointed not to be able to compete in Paris and Lausanne. I love running at those meets, but at the moment I am unable to compete at 100%. I look forward to getting back into full training as soon as possible.”  Jamaican Olympic champ Usain Bolt explaining his withdrawal from upcoming Diamond League meets, due to a blocked joint diagnosed by his Munich-based doctor 

“Rita Marley continues to make invaluable contributions to the Jamaican music industry as singer, producer, performer and entrepreneur. She has built a globally recognized empire with members of the Marley family and, by extension, the spread and reach of Brand Jamaica as a related and intertwined category.”  The University of the West Indies announcing Rita Marley’s inclusion in the list of 21 Caribbean nationals who will receive honorary doctorates from the university at this year’s graduation exercise

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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Chart-toppers and up-and-comers anchor star-studded Reggae Gold 2015

FEELING 'GOLDEN': Top musical acts, like Ding Dong, spice up VP Records' latest.

One of the assets music lovers usually find appealing about Various Artist compilation CDs is the diversity of the talents brought together, combined with the mix of sounds and moods that they capture.

When it comes to chart-topping R&B and hip-pop jams, you can’t do much better than the long-running Now! That’s What I Call Music series. In the sphere of dancehall and reggae’s finest, VP Records’’ enduring Reggae Gold series remains the benchmark. As it happens, their 2015 edition is set to drop July 17, coinciding with the record label’s 35th anniversary.

Packing 20 of the most memorable reggae and dancehall singles of the past 12 months, Reggae Gold 2015 is a feast of feel-good island vibes – a well-balanced soundtrack that finds fast-rising young acts sharing space with some acclaimed veterans. So while the disc features standout releases from Yahsha (“Karma”), Jah 9 (“Avocado”), Romain Virgo (‘Stars Across the Sky”) and Ikaya (“My Man”), you also discover icons still at the top of their game, namely Beres Hammond (“Jamaican International Dance”), Jah Cure (“Made in California”) and Inner Circle with Jacob Miller and Chronixx (“Tenement Yard”).

A few surprises are always thrown into the mix, and in this case Hollywood heavyweight-turned-rootsy hitmaker Eddie Murphy (the bouncy “Oh Jah Jah”) and Canadian supergroup Magic (the radio and Billboard smash “Rude”) get in where they fit in. As for ‘body specialist’ Gully Bop, one of the most talked-about acts in recent memory, he holds the distinction of having two of his popular songs being featured, back-to-back.

Torch-bearing gents Ding Dong (“Syvah”), Dexta Daps (“Morning Love”) and Busy Signal (“Text Message”) – and trendsetting first ladies Spice (“Conjugal Visit,” with Vybz Kartel), Etana (“I Rise”) and Queen Ifrica (“I Can’t Breathe”) are all here, too, making it clear that when it comes to blazing a trail and ruling the charts, they still rank among the cream of the crop. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

> DOWNLOAD THIS: Gyptian – “All One Me”; Chris Martin – “I’m A Big Deal”

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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

CATCH THE BUZZ: Talia Soares, Krystal Tomlinson secure places among Miss Ja World top 20

SHINING TIME: Here at TALLAWAH we can’t help but be huge admirers of young women who pride themselves on being multifaceted all-rounders and seize opportunities as they come. That said, we are sending out massive kudos to Talia Soares, co-host of TV-J’s entertainment show Intense, and Krystal Tomlinson, co-host of FAME FM’s long-running gabfest Uncensored – two media darlings who have secured places among the Top 20 finalists for Miss Jamaica World 2015! While Tomlinson, who first appeared on our radar as a festival queen a few years ago, wears the sash Miss Spa Aesthetique, Soares is Miss Monfose Hair Care Series. The gorgeous gals clearly impressed the judges at last Sunday’s first-round eliminations at the Jamaica Pegasus, where 39 hopefuls were whittled down to the top 20. It’s anyone’s guess who will walk away with the crown at the grand coronation on August 15, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, but judging by the early buzz Soares and Tomlinson have been generating they currently rank among the strongest candidates for the 2015 title. “Talia stands a very good chance of going all the way, and Krystal has experience to her advantage. But we’ll just have to wait and see,” an inside source tells TALLAWAH.

RUNS IN THE FAMILY: Who knew? National sprint champion Asafa Powell, whose superimpressive form is the talk of the own, is being coached by none other than his big brother Donovan Powell, a former top sprinter at the high-school level, who says the former MVP athlete’s much-publicized positive test for a banned substance served to bring the family closer together to weather the crisis. “It hit us very hard as a family because my father always says if a leaf falls off a tree, it should fall on the next son’s shoulders,” Powell recently told an interviewer. “So it hit me as hard as it hit him….. I was as depressed as he was, but our family is very religious and God saw us through.”

STAYING POWER: Where did the original vision for Reggae Sumfest spring from? How do the conceptualizers feel now looking back? “We all had a dream 23 years ago and decided to take a risk. When we look at it now, it did not seem to be a lot of money, but it was a lot of money,” Summerfest Productions’ Johnny Gourzong dished to reporters last Tuesday night as the 2015 iteration of the internationally acclaimed music festival was being launched at the Iberostar Suites in Montego Bay. “We have had our challenges, but we have survived.”

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ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Why Colin Channer’s Providential is our most anticipated book of the year

MAN OF HIS WORD: Honest reflection and humour course throughout Channer's poetry debut.

Talk about a long wait. It’s been well over a decade since Colin Channer graced bookstore shelves with a new release to join the ranks of his fictional bestsellers Waiting in Vain, Satisfy My Soul and The Girl with the Golden Shoes.

Now, the Jamaican-American scribe, chief founder of the Calabash International Literary Festival, is getting set to break his lengthy self-imposed hiatus with the publication of his debut collection of poems, Providential (Akashic), an anthology centred on an unlikely hero: the Jamaican policeman.

At the same time, Providential heralds a slight creative departure for Channer, whose fans have come to associate him with razor-sharp prose laced with wit, humour and keen observations.

But critics and colleagues of the author say readers needn’t worry, as Providential more than holds its own as a deeply impressive first collection. “Channer has written a fine set of poems that, like classical myth, starts with the search for the lost father and ends with the found son,” reports bestselling author Russell Ebanks, “the poet in the process replacing the lost father with the found self.”

With this anthology, Channer’s writing life makes a quantum leap forward, taking him that much closer to the ranks of Olive Senior, Lorna Goodison, and Kwame Dawes (among others), who are known for bodies of work that move almost seamlessly between the poetic and the prosaic.

And, by all accounts, it’s an achievement for Channer attained through creative risk that pays off. “Not since Claude McKay’s Constab Ballads of 1912 has a writer attempted to tackle the unlikely figure of the Jamaican policeman,” proclaim publishers Akashic Books. “These poems manage to turn intimate relationships between a man and his father, a man and his mothers, a man and his country, and a man and his children into something akin to grace.”

What’s more, the diversity of the collection’s offerings is also bound to delight Channer’s loyalists. “The collection achieves an intimate and lyrical meditation on family, policing, loss and violence,” Akashic further notes. “But the work is enlivened by humour, tenderness and the rich possibilities that come from honest reflection.”

> Channer, whose poems have appeared in Renaissance Noir and Harvard Review, currently resides in New England. Providential goes on sale Septempber 1.

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FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK: Kingston, MoBay, and Jamaica’s festival culture on a high

CAMERA READY: Dahlia Harris, Rodney Campbell and Carole Beckford attending the Jamaica Film Festival launch. (Below) David Marchand and Chloe Walters-Wallace at Devon House for KOTE 2015.

At the height of the just-concluded Kingston on the Edge urban arts festival, one of the key players TALLAWAH interviewed at length was workhorse co-organizer Enola Williams, who revealed that the impetus driving the organizing committee year after year is the desire to highlight to the rest of the world some of the positive things happening in city Kingston – at a time when we are in dire need of a corrective to the doom and gloom of crime and a badly performing economy.

Anyone who stepped out to support KOTE’s 2015 events across city Kingston this past week would agree with our conclusion that, once again, it’s mission accomplished.

From the brilliant showcasing of new art, fresh and revelatory documentaries, exciting new artistic talents on show, and contributions from established master who continue to thrill, provoke and challenge Generation Next (Barrington Watson, David Marchand, take a bow), there was no shortage of highlights. To Enola and the team, a big brava!

Kingston on the Edge 2015 cast a keen, generous eye on the evolution of the arts community – the status quo and where are heading triumphantly. And what was revealed gives us hope. In short, the culture – its rich bounty – is still giving us reason to smile. But it goes without saying that the emerging generation has their work cut out for them in keeping it so.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Jamaican cultural festivals are having a moment, and we are all the better for it. As it turns out, the climaxing of KOTE has made way for the commencement of GATTFest, which is fast establishing a cool reputation of its own. And very, very soon history will be made when the Jamaica Film Festival, at long last, makes its grand debut, running from July 7-11 and giving the film industry a much-needed boon. Yes! We can’t thank Jampro and the Jamaica Film Commission enough for going above and beyond to make the festival a reality. We look forward to its inaugural success.

And because the summer months are upon us, attention naturally turns also to the JCDC’s raft of upcoming activities, leading into the Emancipendence celebrations, under the apt theme, “Proud & Free: Jamaica 53.” 

This year I am giddily happy that returning for its second staging is the Aunty Roachy Film & TV Fest (August 3), where nostalgia, Jamaican classics, and vintage flashback moments will command the spotlight in honour of Miss Lou, at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre. Of course, TALLAWAH will be providing masses of coverage of all the JCDC events.

And last, but by no means least, Reggae Sumfest 2015 promises a blockbuster showcase that should draw record nightly crowds to Catherine Hall over the July 12-18 period – with Montego Bay sending a strong message that Kingston may be the cultural capital of the island and the region, but MoBay is also where it’s at.

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