Friday, 23 June 2017

CHAT ’BOUT: Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange on plans for a National Sport Museum and what Jamaica 55 really means

UP FRONT: Minister Grange and colleagues enjoying the recent launch of the J'ca 55 celebrations in Kingston.

MINISTER of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, had all ears in Gordon House last week as she made her sectoral presentation, addressing the importance of investing in our athletes and sports’ continued and evolving role in national development. Below are five points from what Minister Grange had to say: 

“It’s a very competitive marketplace, but we truly believe that our athletes, and the impact of our cultural ambassadors on the world, primarily through music, have given us a tremendous comparative advantage. It is for us to convert that into measurable economic returns. One of the ways in which we will be seeking to do this is to go after major international sporting and cultural activities, to stage them right here in Jamaica.” 

“The group life and health insurance plan paid for by the Government as part of a commitment to secure the development and well-being of our national representatives benefitted 1,285 athletes as at the end of last financial year. It is imperative that we are able to continue the programme, and as such, the Government has developed a sustainability plan for the Athletes’ Insurance Scheme. This will be submitted to the Cabinet once the review has been completed.” 

“As a country, we continue to grapple with our seeming inability to convert the notoriety of our athletic prowess on the track into tangible economic benefits for our people, and the country at large. The debate rages on. Sports tourism is the buzzword these days.” 

“Other related activities scheduled for this fiscal year include workshops and training seminars on fabric restoration as well as digitization of artefacts. We are also focused on the establishment of a virtual museum as an initial stage of a museum establishment. Other related activities planned are the establishment of a museum foundation, among other critical strategies to ensure the vibrancy and sustainability of the museum project.” 

“As we prepare to celebrate 55 years as an independent nation, we are aware that we are still a young nation. But we have understood not to assess the power of our country by its chronological age or by its geopolitical size. Rather, we judge this country by the capacity of the dynamic forces that propel it onward, by the mystique that remains incomprehensible to so many, by the unwavering resilience of its people, by the national pride and recommitment to stand up for our rightful place in this new thrust towards national prosperity.”

LAND OF MY BIRTH: University Singers’ delightful 2017 season celebrates Jamaica’s rich musical heritage

FEELIN' IRIE: The choir's latest season overflows with songs jammin' to the reggae beat.

THE second half of a University Singers concert season performance is when they really get into their groove, unleashing a torrent of magic and melody (spanning reggae, folk, showtunes) that culminates in a delightful curtain-closer.

We got all that and more taking in their 2017 concert season (currently thrilling audiences at Mona’s Philip Sherlock Centre), an endlessly entertaining show that climaxes with a jubilant and fitting Jamaica 55 tribute.

Among local performing arts troupes who’ve stood the test of time, you can’t find a more patriotic group than the Singers who consistently explore our deep cultural forces in their repertoire with outstanding results. This year, the show overflows with tunes jammin’ to the reggae beat, while reminding us that, when all is said and done, Jamrock is truly a cut above the rest.

While the “Rocksteady Suite” (creatively arranged by Djenne Greaves) tackled romance, loneliness and island fervour via songs from era icons John Holt, Phyllis Dillon and Marcia Griffiths (among others), it was the “Sweet Jamaica Medley” that proved most unforgettable, fusing hits from Tony Rebel, Buju Banton, Popcaan and Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley.

Innovative choreography from Kevin Moore and regal dashikis contributed to the appeal of the folk segment, which included, as is customary, notable selections from the Noel Dexter songbook (“Fan Mi Solja Man,” “Dis Long Tim Gyal,” “Tief Tek Over Town”). The men took centrestage for “Half Way Tree” and “Daphne Walking” while the sopranos and altos stole the spotlight with their irie interpretations of “Good Advice (Treat Yuh Woman Right)” and “Lioness on the Rise.” 

As far as soloists go, Franklin Halliburton (doubling as musical director/conductor) was in splendid form, giving a rendition of Oscar Rasbach’s “Trees”, one of the bonafide highlights of the first half, which served up classical numbers, sacreds and some Negro spirituals. Dynamic divas Carolyn Reid Cameron and Althea McKenzie took us to church with their glorious duet “Ride the Chariot”, while Christina Walters shone as she led the powerful “Honour Honour.” 

Talented tenor Christopher Whyte, who arranged quite a few pieces this year, gave the audience goosebumps as he sang the lead on the moving “I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray,” making way for Ranice Barrett’s laudable take on “Ride on King Jesus.” 

Meanwhile, the choir’s treatment of “Seasons of Love” from Rent doubled as a touching tribute to their forebears (Nettleford, Dexter), which segued into the Kathy Brown-arranged “South African Medley,” a showstopping blend of harmony, movement and live drumming. In other words, a triumph.

> INTERVIEW: Actor-singer Andre Bernard on legacy, linguistics and UWI Singers

Thursday, 22 June 2017

DASHING! TALLAWAH picks the 10 Best Dressed Men in Jamaica

TALK about Jamaica’s finest! The men who make up our Top 10 list of the island’s best dressed men are the living embodiment of taste and confidence, style and substance – and are just as, if not more, accomplished in their respective professional fields. They get it right every time. Here they are, in no particular order, a mix of eligible bachelors and relentlessly achieving go-getters. 

 As the reigning king of Jamaican gospel, he has a knack for lighting up concert stages, sporting ensembles that not only flatter his trim physique but perfectly complement his stagecraft and passionate delivery. Did we mention that the brother can sannngg

With those regal locks cascading down to his slender shoulders, this in-demand barrister and freshman MP can rock a fine suit like the best of ‘em, showing up for his Gordon House (and court) appearances dressed for success. We rest our case. 

Still the girls’ dem sugar after all these years! Moses Davis’ lyrical wizardry and song styling are legendary, but the dancehall kingpin has become synonymous with a blend of inimitable style and substance that befits his rank as the consummate headliner. Long live the king! 

It goes without saying that the World’s Fastest Man’s trophy case is not the only thing dripping with pure gold. Just check out his wardrobe choices, especially when he steps out for those glitzy gala ceremonies and A-list premieres and launches he’s always being invited to. Polished to world-record perfection.

Blessed with a super-stellar physique, the sub-10 king is ever turning heads and scoring high marks from style watchers who’ve long anointed him the sexiest Jamaican man alive. And that’s in large part to a fashion game that reflects impeccable taste and a healthy dose of assuredness. 

Next to the all-important cool factor, subtlety is the key ingredient in Mr. Gordon’s winning style, which he regularly kicks up a notch, whether he’s putting in day-time appearances or on the night shift. Casual or couture, refined sophistication or rude-boy edginess become him. 

You can say this for the iconic menswear designer: he never comes up short in the style department, ever cutting a sleek, GQ-ready figure that’s a welcome presence on our TV screens and at fashion shows and other festive occasions.

The Saint boss is not one to make his models outshine him. As such, he always brings a balance of maturity and playful whimsy to his ensembles, rocking outfits that hit the mark and often epitomize living-out-loud metro-glam. 

Even when he’s dressed down for a night on the town, this long-serving MP oozes an effortless style that’s both dignified and dangerously smooth. No surprise that he’s considered the ideal dance-floor partner and great company to shoot the breeze with. Versatile and charming. 

He might be the new kid on the block in corporate circles, but Reid’s fresh, dapper style easily matches that of the seasoned pro. A fast-rising star on the social scene (and Garth Walker’s Wealth 500 partner) he earns major points for showing the brothers how it’s really done.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

PLAYING HOUSE: Tulloch’s Wine & Roses is as amusing and thought-provoking as ever

ROSES ARE RED: Romance and heartache make strange bedfellows in the must-see dramedy.

DO cougars just wanna have fun? You might be left wondering the same thing after watching this season’s remount of Wine & Roses, the provocative between-the-sheets hit from David Tulloch, the playwright who never fails to leave a lingering impression or raise questions in his work that stay with you.

Last staged at the Pantry Playhouse a few years ago, with Rosie Murray and Fabian Barracks playing the secret cougar/cub lovers, Wine & Roses has lost none of its charm or brow-raising candour. If anything, its acute meditation on complicated adult relationships, pride, secrets and family ties feels more relevant than ever.

True, there are hiccups here and there, and the final moments feel a bit rushed, but it’s a show that entertains your socks off, thanks to a clever, resourceful director and a committed cast that trusts him entirely.

Angela Jarrett (very commanding) stars as Carol, a 45-year-old businesswoman who, when it comes to play time, likes her boytoys virile and full of vitality. Eighteen-year-old Jonathan (Ackeem Poyser, terrific) fits the bill, plus he’s attentive, intelligent and eager to please. But after six months, the relationship has hit a lull. Carol wants other things, but Jonathan is in love and desperately clings to her. His God-fearing, single mother Joyce Carter (a fired-up Terri Salmon) would have a fit if she found out about the affair.

And what’s worse, Carol’s temperamental estranged husband Edgar (Michael Nicholson in his most serious role to date) could re-enter the picture at any moment. And so he does, revealing a painful secret that’s been eating away at him for months. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Rodney Campbell, convincingly playing Deeko (a rough-around-the-edges mechanic and Jonathan’s go-to guy for advice), alongside Sabrina Thomas (appearing as Alicia, Jonathan’s boy-crazy schoolmate who wants him all for herself) round out the six-member cast.

The detailed set design (a split between Carol’s digs and the Carter residence), and the apt lighting, make strong contributions to the show’s overall success. 

Wine & Roses is populated by people who make interesting life choices that come back to haunt them and, as testament to Tulloch’s skills, they are well-crafted, believable characters that pull you into the story, taking you on a rollercoaster ride that, in spite of its flaws, amuses and provokes serious thought. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

ON THE SCENE: Ashanti rocks out at CFW, Johnny & Elva bring the funny, ‘Babsy’ gets crowned…

SETTING THE MOOD: June 17, St. Catherine. There’s never a dull moment when it comes to a performance by young veteran Romain Virgo, who headlined the most recent leg of Appleton’s Signature Nights, which took place at the Kaluga Kafe, where he had the patrons, the ladies especially, under his spell. (Photo: Skkan Media)

HAT TRICK: June 14, Kingston. Culture minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange is all smiles as she gets an impromptu ‘crowning’ moment during last week’s ceremony (at the Courtleigh Auditorium) to launch the Jamaica 55 celebartions, which are expected to bring the fireworks when Emancipendence arrives this summer. (Photo: Sleek)

LAUGH IT OFF: June 14, Kingston. Comedy pros (and cultural icons in training) Elva and Chris ‘Johnny’ Daley brought their bag of tricks to centrestage, as they handled emceeing duties at the recent Jamaica 55 launch at the Courtleigh Auditorium. (Photo: Sleek)

GOOD GOOD: June 11, St. Andrew. Grammy winner Ashanti was ready to par-tay, when she touched the Villa Ronai runway last Sunday night, sporting a high-glam fade-to-black look, to perform for the fashion crowd at Caribbean Fashion Week, unleashing the hits from her decade-plus R&B career. (Photo: Skkan Media)

RED CARPET READY: Decked out in their Sunday best, the very close-knit Cooper clan – Donna, Kingsley, Carolyn and Safia – came together for the shutterbugs as CFW 2017’s Gala Night kicked into high gear at Villa Ronai. (Photo: Skkan Media)

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

SHOP LOCAL, LOOK GLOBAL: JIE exhibitors grateful for exposure, applaud JMA’s visionary leadership

FAIR TRADE: A host of uniquely Jamaican products and services brought patrons flocking to the inaugural expo.

WHEN Cheryl Whytehead heard that the Jamaica International Exhibition (JIE) was having its inaugural staging in Montego Bay in June, she immediately recognized an opportunity to get some great exposure for her company, Devine Treasures. She jumped at it. “I’m glad I came. This has been a great opportunity for me to showcase the products to the tourists because my main goal right now is to take [my company] to the next level,” shared the businesswoman whose bespoke leather creations are all done by hand and include everything from sandals, clutches and bags to purses and wallets. 

The quality finish of her work speaks to the decade and counting she’s spent working in leather, honing her craft. What began as a batch of craft-shop items has blossomed into a stock whose pieces can be found in hotel gift shops all over the north coast. “I want to go global, but it’s hard to do it on your own. So events like these help to introduce you to people who are interested in carrying your products and may have connections to the overseas market. For someone like me, it’s also a great way to source raw material.” 

For three days, June 1-3, the exhibition hall at the Montego Bay Convention Centre was teeming with sellers and buyers making the most of these kinds of business opportunities, networking and forging connections to take their businesses up a notch. “I actually don’t have any complaints,” Selena Dyke dished to TALLAWAH, standing next to her father, Bruce, with whom she runs the Kingston-based Cool Roofs and Waterproofing Systems Limited. “We’re proud of what the JMA is doing for Jamaican businesses. It’s a fantastic experience. We were hoping to network some more, but there’s always next time.” [The JIE will next be staged in 2019.] 

The first-time event also drew gargantuan praise from large-scale entities like Rainforest Seafoods, whose team was kept busy sharing delectable samples (fish sticks, soup) to the swelling crowd when we passed by on the Saturday afternoon. “It’s the first year, and it’s definitely off to a great start. We are members of the JMA, and it’s a huge honour to be participating. I know it will get even bigger for [2019],” offered marketing manager Bethany Young, who was hoping to swap contact details with a few more buyers visiting from the States and Europe. “The international buyers would really help to boost our sales. That’s what Rainforest Seafoods would really like.” 

> MORE: Treasures aplenty, business opp’s anchor first-ever J’ca Int’l Exhibition

ON THE RECORD: Magnum queenpin Suspense riffs on ambition, independent women, and confidence over hype

THAT GIRL: "I want to use my music to encourage the ladies to be independent and look out for themselves," offers the 25-year-old new artiste.

TO earn a living and pay her bills, Shanekia Morrison works as a compliance officer at the Kingston & St. Andrew Municipal Council, but Jamaica knows her as Suspense, the lightning-rod deejay who emerged winner of the recently concluded season of Magnum Kings & Queens of Dancehall, the televised talent show and ratings powerhouse that’s given her the launching-pad she’s always dreamed of. 

On stage, the 25-year-old St. Mary’s College graduate (and doting single mom) combines the feisty energy of Tifa with the lyrical edginess of the original Lady Saw. But in person? She’s way more sugar than spice. TALLAWAH caught up with the chameleonic entertainer in Montego Bay recently to hear about her continuing rise to stardom, bouncing back from a near-fatal car accident, and her plans for the future. 

TALLAWAH: You seem to have a certain respect for independent women, which has won you a lot of female fans over the course of the past few months. 
Suspense: It’s never good when a woman can’t fend for herself and has to depend on a man and tolerate all kinds of disrespect. As a female, I want to use my music to encourage the ladies to be independent and look out for themselves as much as possible. I’ve been working since I was 16, and I still strive to be independent. 

TALLAWAH: Amen. Being a new artiste in the dancehall will send numerous challenges your way. What’s the craziest rumour you’ve heard about yourself so far? 
Suspense: Well, I haven’t heard anything seriously negative, but during the competition, they were saying that Rankin’ Pumpkin and I don’t get along, which is not true. We were competing to win. And people like to say I’m hype and arrogant, but it’s not hype; it’s confidence. There is a big difference. 

TALLAWAH: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome since embarking on a music career? 
Suspense: The biggest challenge so far was campaigning for support [during the competition] while working. And I had to be writing new songs every week and taking care of my five-year-old son [Tijaun Tobias]. And then I had an accident [a vehicular crash a month ago]. I was badly bruised and in a lot of pain, and I was worried if they were going to accept me when I [returned to the competition]. It was a very challenging time for me. 

TALLAWAH: You’ve certainly bounced back in fine style, earning respect from some of the veterans in the industry. Who are you dying to collaborate with in the studio? 
Suspense: I really want to work with Aidonia, as a male, and Spice, as a female. 

TALLAWAH: Speaking of dancehall vixens, Ishawna’s “Equal Rights” is still a hot topic in the court of public opinion. What’s your take on the hullabaloo? 
Suspense: I haven’t listened to the song in full, but from what I’ve heard she is extremely right. And I don’t think they should bash her because you have male artistes like Vybz Kartel and Alkaline who are singing about similar topics. I think people are taking it too seriously. She was having fun with it. 

TALLAWAH: So looking ahead, what do you ultimately want to achieve career-wise? 
Suspense: I want to keep writing my own songs. I also design my own clothes, and I’m hoping to launch Suspense Designs in the near future. I want to give back. I love kids, so I’ll be doing a lot of charity shows. But the main thing I want to do is get out there and build my brand.