Wednesday, 25 May 2016

GOSPEL SPOTLIGHT: Judith Gayle feels like a ‘Winner’ + Jason Mighty finds ‘Favour’ + Kevin Downswell going ‘All the Way’

‘ALL’ NIGHT PRAISE: That Kevin Downswell is an alum of the JCDC’s National Gospel Song Competition, which played a significant role in launching his career, makes it only fitting that the gospel star is partnering with the cultural agency in launching his hotly anticipated new album, All the Way, on June 4 and taking the show on the road via an islandwide tour, coming to a town near you. Going from coast to coast, our January cover star will share the stage with the top ten finalists in this year’s competition, along with other guest artistes, treating gospel lovers to a praise-and-worship ministry that promises to electrify and enlighten. At the June 4 flagship show, taking place at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, guests performers will include Levy’s Heritage and Carlene Davis. The album itself features appearances by Papa San, DJ Nicholas, Jermaine Edwards, Rondell Positive, Perpetual Praise and the On the Shout Band.

WINNING STREAK: Judith Gayle is another superenergetic Christian artiste who stays busy. This summer sees the arrival of her latest disc, The Winner in Me, for which she’s hitting the road to promote it in a major way: with an album launch concert tour! On July 23, Gayle and her band will kick things off at the Grace Baptist Church in May Pen and on August 13, they’ll grace the stage at the Savanna-la-Mar Open Bible. North American-based fans will not be left out of the celebration: On Oct. 1, the tour resumes at the Family of Christ Kingdom in Bronx, New York, and a week later (Oct. 8) they’ll bring the praise to the New Life Community Ministries in Toronto, Canada. “It’s not just a concert,” Gayle assures her fans, “it’s an empowering movement.”

HIGH AND ‘MIGHTY’: Not many people outside local gospel circles know that Prodigal Son (aka Calvin Whilby) has a younger brother who’s been making a name for himself in the gospel game for quite a few years now. The overseas-based Jason Mighty, who has a handful of hit singles, notable collaborations and well-received albums to his credit, is gearing up to celebrate the release of his newest effort, a 17-track album titled Favour, on June 25 with a big-bash launch at the Miracle Arena in his adopted Toronto, Canada. Among those scheduled to share the stage with Mighty are DJ Nicholas, Kevin Smith, Chozenn, Orianna and One Voice and big bro Prodigal Son.

SHOUTS OF PRAISE: Big names and rising stars bring a joyful noise to grand Labour Day gospel concert

HAPPY FEET: Grange and Lubert Levy dancing up a storm front-of-stage.

MINISTER ‘Babsy’ Grange grooved all night. Levy’s Heritage rocked the crowd, Voicemail-style, with their Christian dance moves, and Kevin Downswell brought the night to a triumphant close with a selection of his big hits and crowd-pleasing stagecraft.

Those are just a few of the highlights at Monday’s grand Labour Day gospel concert inside the Emancipation Park that drew a mammoth crowd, a wide cross-section of Jamaicans who jumped and waved and sang to their hearts’ content before returning to work the next day.

The Nadine Blair-led Perpetual Praise ensemble got the show on the road, opening the celebration with the well-known praise-and-worship anthems “I Know Who I Am”, “No Foreign God”, “Reign Jesus Reign” and a bit of Jermaine Edwards’ “Hallelujah to Our King.” Their brief stint made way for Laud Dance Ministry, who gave a powerful performance featuring mauve-clad dancers moving to the captivating strains of Donnie McClurkin’s “I Trust in God.”

Energetic emcee Markland ‘Action’ Edwards (whose GoSplash returns August 1, with Dietrick Haddon), then called on Diamara Neil-Walker, 2015’s National Gospel Song Competition winner, who brought the crowd to its feet with a majestic rendition of “Holy Is Your Name”. Soulful, sublime gospel singing at its absolute best.

Concertgoers who weren’t familiar with the ‘Victory Clap’, ‘Church Rock’, ‘Gospel Slide’ and ‘Altar Call’ got a quick crash course in gospel dance moves from the vibrant young ministers of the award-winning Levy’s Heritage, a trio of siblings who are the hottest rising stars in Jamaican gospel right now.

They have a bright future ahead. They have even begun to outshine their dad Lubert Levy, a veteran praise warrior who commanded attention with tunes like “Roll Jordan Roll”, “Botheration” and “By Force”. He and Minister Grange danced up a storm front-of-stage, with the crowd loving every minute of it. Taking the stage after a short-and-spicy performance from Sister Pat, Kukudoo also gave the Culture minister a twirl during his set, full of revivalist power.

He then made way for Kevin Downswell to take over. Stylishly dressed in eye-popping shades of yellow and red, Downswell wasted no time reminding us why he’s gospel’s reigning man of the moment, launching into songs like “He Saved Me (That’s Enough)”, “It’s Already Done” and “Goodbye World”. Sprightly sing-along versions of “One Day” and “Stronger” were ideal selections to bring the curtains down on a wonderful night to remember.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

NUTS & BOLTS: Hilarity, social commentary bubble to the surface in Undercover Craziness

CONCRETE JUNGLE: Wilson, Shepherd and Creary sharing a scene from the play.

Undercover Craziness (RS Productions)
Director: Kevin Sewell
Cast: Kadeem Wilson, Everaldo Creary, Aisha Ritchie and Rashiem Shepherd
Venue: Phoenix Theatre, New Kingston

FROM Anthony Winkler’s The Lunatic to Basil Dawkins’ Guilt Trip, the concept of madness has come in for rigorous exploration in the annals of Jamaican folklore and entertainment. It gets the high-energy comedic treatment in Undercover Craziness, a new theatrical offering from emerging actor-writer-producer Rashiem Shepherd, who crafts a smart and funny story centred on a group of young, mentally disturbed (putting it mildly) rejects whose day-to-day antics at their street-side haunt not only brings the laughs but provokes some serious thought, engaging with the Big Themes of the mental health stigma, behaviour patterns, class and acceptance.

Kadeem Wilson (Charlie) and Everaldo Creary (Jones) lead the cast as a pair of homeless bredrin making life under a shed by a busy street-side. But, by all appearances, everything is not alright upstairs with these two, who bicker like an old married couple but share a strong fraternal bond in spite of their messy surroundings. They do some strange things.

Their regular existence is turned upside down with the arrival of another pair of specimen straight from the loony bin – the busybody Sheba (Jody-Ann Fearon) armed with her trusty notepad and pen, and stone-faced ‘drill sergeant’ Commander Gummy (Shepherd), who was “trained not to feel anything.” Appearing out of the blue to take over Charlie and Jones’ spot, these two may be up to something. Meanwhile,

Aisha Ritchie, as a nurse with serious control issues, and Oraine Meikle as a dream-chaser in suit and tie, round out the cast. As the audience soon comes to realize, everything is not as it seems.

The very small stage inside the Phoenix Theatre’s “second theatre” doesn’t give the actors much room to manoeuvre, but first-time director Kevin Sewell and the cast still manage to use the limited space available to pull us into the story and create the convincing illusion of a street-side spot, complete with bus stop, litter, entrances and exits.

Bringing Shepherd’s commendable script to life, the actors deliver believable performances, especially the experienced Creary and Wilson, whose natural comedic flair and excellent timing is offset by the more dramatic intensity of their supporting players – particularly Ritchie, who reminds us why some nurses are just plain scary.

All in all, Undercover Craziness more than lives up to its title, humorously tackling a taboo subject too often sideswept, while providing viewers with a bag of laughs via story from the pen of a promising Jamaican writer-producer. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

> MORE THEATRE: UWI Players' Catherine Mulgrave reviewed

Saturday, 21 May 2016

STATE OF THE NATION: MP Floyd Green on the youth unemployment agenda, fighting child abuse, and his ‘amazing journey’

ON MESSAGE: The state minister addressing Friday's launch at the UWI Mona Assembly Hall; (below) a photo-op with members of the head table.

As a teenager, Floyd Green worked in a department store selling shoes to earn money for the summer, so he could relate to the dozens of youngsters who flocked to the UWI Mona Assembly Hall on Friday for the launch of “Nestlé Needs YOUth” initiative and career fair, where they participated in workshops, other activities and interview sessions for the chance to intern, complete summer jobs and be selected for monthly career coaching workshops, as of next month. Green, a Munro College alum, delivered an insightful keynote address, citing numerous government projects in the pipeline to address the matter of youth unemployment. Following the launch, TALLAWAH spoke with the 34-year-old state minister (Education, Youth and Information) about Jamaican youth and work experience, his remarkable journey to Gordon House, and what keeps him humble.

TALLAWAH: Your speech said that the Government is partnering with the HEART/Trust NTA to establish a national apprenticeship programme to address the alarming rate of youth unemployment in Jamaica. How has that been going?
Floyd Green: It’s one of the priorities of the Government. We now have an apprenticeship board, and it is one of the reasons why [the] Youth and Education [portfolios] are back together. Part of what we are streamlining now is the placement of our young people and the training of our young people. So we want to expand the HEART programme, especially as it relates to training, because we want to ensure that a lot of our young people, while they’re getting a skill they’re also getting the work experience that is needed. A part of the problem is that when a lot of them leave the education system, they might have the theories but they don’t have the practical experience. And in this day and age, employers are looking for that practical experience. It also helps them in terms of the skills that they need in transitioning between industries. So the Government will have to ensure that the areas in which we have opportunities, we have people who can fill them.

TALLAWAH: The Keep Children Safe campaign has struck a chord with Jamaicans. Are you satisfied with how the public has responded?
Floyd Green: I love the response. [The campaign] came about as a result of a partnership with UNICEF. We have also launched another campaign called Our Children, which we are using to spread a broader message that every child is our child. We want every Jamaican to treat every child as if it’s their own. Every child is a collective responsibility. And we have successfully embarked on that campaign, and we got good support from private partners. We have incorporated [other initiatives] like Keep Children Safe and Break the Silence, which is about speaking up when you know that children are being abused. All of that we’ve incorporated into the overarching message that every child is our child.

TALLAWAH: We’ve watched in awe as you’ve risen from youth leader to G2K President to parliamentarian to Cabinet member. Are you enjoying the ride?
Floyd Green: It’s been an amazing journey. Sometimes you embark on a journey and you may not be so sure. As young people, we sometimes doubt our own potential and possibilities. So this has reaffirmed in my mind that whatever you dream you can achieve, if you work hard and set your mind to it. You may think the system is designed against you, especially in politics, which many people say is designed to keep out the young person, but we can break down those barriers. You just have to work hard at it. So it’s been an amazing journey; I’ve learned a lot and there’s a lot more to learn.
TALLAWAH: Do you get a lot of sleep in your new job?
Floyd Green: (Laughs). I learned from Chancellor Hall that sleep is a concept. So you just have to get to work.

TALLAWAH: Speaking of your Mona Campus days, your old pal Damion Crawford is hosting a new radio show on Nationwide FM, starting this month-end. When was the last time you guys spoke?
Floyd Green: I haven’t spoken to him since, but I look forward to listening to him. I expect him to be balanced and fair. I’m sure he will address the message of prosperity that the Government has embarked upon. And I know he wants Jamaica to prosper and for us to bring prosperity to the people of Jamaica.

TALLAWAH: Mr. Green, you’ve been having a swell career so far, flying up the ladder, so to speak, yet you remain so grounded. What keeps you humble?
Floyd Green: [This job] teaches you responsibility, because a lot of people have left their hopes and dreams in your care. It has taught me great humility, to recognize that there are people greater than you, but that there are also those who think highly of you. And you have to balance that and remember that you’re here to serve them. It’s taught me to remain grounded and to stay humble and to remember that service is the utmost. 

> Launch Report: Over 1,500 youth to benefit from new Nestlé initiative 

WORLD OF WORK: Over 1,500 Jamaican youth to get skilled, get hired through new Nestlé initiative

SIGN ME UP: Members of Team Nestlé were on hand to provide internship applications and career advice to the students and job seekers at the launch.

As youth unemployment statistics rocket to unprecedented heights globally, one local company I stepping up its mission to create opportunities for youngsters who cannot get jobs because they don’t have work experience, and cannot get work experience without a job. On Friday afternoon at the UWI Mona Assembly Hall, Nestlé Jamaica launched its much-welcomed “Nestlé Needs YOUth” initiative and career fair, drawing dozens of students and young job seekers, who were able to participate in a number of career-related activities – from job interview workshops and résumé rehab clinics to dress-for-success rap sessions and one-on-one conversations with career coaches.

“Nestlé Needs YOUth” is a three-year programme (running 2016-2018) through which the company will provide support for a number of selected young people in their transition from education to work, providing them with the tools they need to join the labour market.

At least 10 persons (aged 18-29) will be recruited to join the regular workforce. Fifty (50) internship and trainee/ambassador positions will be offered, while approximately 1500 individuals will benefit from a ‘readiness for work’ programme that includes practical career coaching workshops. “We hope that we can increase the level of employability of the young people here because, as an employer, we see that sometimes when you hire people they don’t know exactly what is required of them. The CV might be wrong, and that sort of thing,” Nestlé Country Manager Jürg Blaser explains to TALLAWAH. “If you want to compete in the international market you have to be at that level, and as a country we have to compete internationally.”

Friday’s career fair was a hit with students and job seekers who kept the Nestlé staffers busy with their sign-up sheets and advice-giving. “I came to apply for the internship, so I just handed in my resume,” shared Oraine Danvers, a second-year UWI undergrad. “You always hear people complaining that they can’t get jobs, so an event like this is important to provide information and opportunities.

Keisha Palmer-Burke, Nestlé’s HR Manager agrees. She hopes the “Nestlé Needs YOUth” programme will serve as a catalyst for even greater positive change. “Through this programme we hope to contribute to the reduction in the youth skills and employability gap,” she says, “in addition to reinforcing young people’s social integration in Jamaica.”

‘Currently, around 30% of young Jamaicans (ages 18-29) are unemployed, with an even higher percentage being underemployed’ – Nestlé

CHAT ‘BOUT: Quotables from Dr. Warren Blake, Shahine Robinson, Flow’s Garry Sinclair, and more

“We’re now starting to see some of the fruits of our labour in the mobile sector – a journey that has been filled with thrills and spills. We now continue on that one clear and simple mission, to offer Jamaicans the best value for money on the market – bar none. We couldn’t have reached this notable milestone without the tireless efforts of our dedicated staff who were always confident that this mission was achievable. I am in awe of the resilience of my colleagues and cannot overstate the huge debt of appreciation owed to them.” – Flow’s Managing Director Garry Sinclair celebrating the mobile company’s recent achievement of one million mobile subscribers

“Even in the face of challenges, we are seizing the golden opportunity to effect changes that will strengthen the institutional arrangements, modernize the operations and ensure financial sustainability of the scheme. Plans are being executed to improve the quality of service through the development of a new management information technology system, which will create greater efficiency; the review and revision of processes, standards and the implementation of new methods for paying benefits as part of the road map for the Government’s digital payments to foster financial inclusion.” – Labour & Social Security Minister Shahine Robinson on the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) at 50 and plans to enhance the quality of the service

“There is absolutely no place for police corruption in the force. There is no place for situations where we hear of policemen asking motorists ‘left or right’. You hear all types of different stories. The body camera will be an impartial witness between the police and the public. They will improve policing, they will improve professionalism and they will improve public relations.” – National Security Minister Robert ‘Bobby’ Montague on plans to introduce body cameras to boost the work and integrity of the local police force

“I am bewildered that 17 years later we are still having motor vehicle crashes with persons being thrown from vehicles because of non-compliance. No amount of regulation and enforcement can totally eradicate this scourge. It requires a change in our behaviour.” – Permanent Secretary for Transport & Works, Dr. Alwin Hales, urging Jamaican motorists to practise safer driving habits to reduce road fatalities

“We had applications for some athletes to go and represent Bahrain, and we did not raise an objection. Previously, we allowed the athletes, if they wanted to go (to do so). The executive is (now) of the view that we should object in the future and make them wait the mandatory three years and fulfil all the regulations laid down by the IAAF.” – JAAA President Dr. Warren Blake speaking recently about requests made by former Team Jamaica athletes to switch their allegiance to foreign countries

THE BUZZ REPORT: What’s new, what’s next, what’s trending in Jamaican pop culture

MICHAEL Lee Chin is getting into the best shape of his life! Spending more time in Kingston these days, given his recent appointment as Chair of the Economic Growth Council, we spotted Mr. Charismatic putting in some early-morning workout inside the Emancipation Park on Wednesday, sporting a green tee and a pair of flattering black shorts. Not exactly Rio Olympics training, but when you’re tasked with heading up a big part of the government’s prosperity mission, you want to be in the best physical shape possible, and he certainly looked the part. We love our leaders fit and healthy, so keep it up, sir….. Over in Europe, Bolt season has slipped into high gear. The World’s Fastest Man is the toast of the Czech Republic, where he is expected to dazzle spectators at the Ostrava Diamond
League meet this weekend. Ahead of the big race, the Jamaican sprint superstar has been meeting with reporters and fans and training up a storm in Prague, where he is currently based. We see a couple of Olympic gold medals in this young man’s future….. Speaking of ambitious sportsmen, is Damion Johnson a future president of Tennis Jamaica? The perennial national champ and part-time coach is parlaying his on-court success into a bigger venture, with the establishment of the Damion Johnson All-Island Open Junior Tennis Championships, slated for May 28 and 29 at the Eric Bell Centre in Kingston. Given his knack for unearthing and nurturing young tennis talent, the competition will feature contestants ranging in age from 10-18…..
The Damions are clearly having a moment. While Junior Gong continues to work his studio magic on that long-anticipated follow-up album to Welcome to Jamrock, Damion Crawford (right) is adding radio host to his long résumé. According to online sources, the former MP and state minister for tourism/entertainment will host Straight Forward with Damion Crawford on Nationwide FM, three nights per week (at 8:00 pm), starting May 25. No doubt Crawford and his guests will be on their best behaviour, as they dish and discuss the hot topics of the moment….. The Energizer Bunny has got nothing on Ziggy Marley, who just keeps going and going and going. The reggae superstar will release his umpteenth solo album, titled simply Ziggy Marley, on May 20 via Tuff Gong International, we hear. Looking to score yet another Grammy nod, Ziggy says he’s stepping outside his comfort zone this time around, in “exploring new musical ideas.” We can’t wait to hear it….. And kudos to PM Andrew Holness, who just keeps working, working, working. That’s the spirit. But how come we hardly see the missus out and about? We have a simple request: More Juliet Holness, please! Stay tuned.