Saturday, 13 February 2016

ELECTION FEVER: Quotes of the week from on and off the campaign trail

“On a national level, as minister of tourism, the work that I have done at my ministry, which has facilitated Jamaica in achieving unprecedented levels of construction investment in new rooms, and which will provide thousands of jobs for Jamaicans, is something about which I feel particularly proud.” – Outgoing Member of Parliament for Western Westmoreland, Dr. Wykeham McNeill, responding to recent criticism of his tenure as MP and tourism minister 

“We are committed in principle and practice to real reform of the tax system. We will again reduce transfer taxes, stamp duties and estate taxes. To help our economy grow and help you take care of your families, we will get rid of personal income tax for everyone who earns $1.5 million or less….. Jamaica’s infrastructure is inadequate; we will fix it. We will make strategic capital investments in water. Jamaica is not short of water; this government does not know how to manager water.” – Opposition Leader Andrew Holness outlining the raft of promises that comprise his 10-Point Plan for Prosperity 

“At some point, we have to abandon this course, where we believe that it is appropriate to mash up the country that we all want to live in, destroy its political institutions for the political advantage of one person or another. Time come to stop that now.” – Dr. Peter Phillips addressing party concerns on the campaign trail in the run-up to the Feb. 25 General Elections 

“We urge the Jamaica Constabulary Force as well as the Office of the Political Ombudsman to immediately take all steps to intervene, investigate, identify, stop and prevent all acts of violence, intimidation, threats and corruption that could mar the political process. Likewise, political parties must not tolerate brutish and violent conduct by their members and supporters, and should take steps to identify and root out persons who want to see a culture of political violence grow and thrive in our parties.” – The Jamaica Bar Association in response to the shooting incident at the recent JLP mass rally in Montego Bay 

“They were calling for us to call the Election, and now that I call it, they are complaining. What is their problem? Is it because they can’t win why they have a problem? They have been saying we should call the Election. I listened. I called it. I give them what they want. Now what is it now that they want from me? The only thing I am going to do now is give them a good whipping the night of the Election.” – PM Portia Simpson Miller addressing journalists on Nomination Day in her constituency of South West St. Andrew

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

CULTURE VULTURE: School of Drama’s latest + Recalling Don Drummond + GATT Film Festival 2016

THE MAN, THE MUSIC, THE MYSTERY: This month, the Jamaica Music Museum’s Grounation series returns to the Institute of Jamaica to pay tribute to none other than Don Drummond, the groundbreaking composer and trombonist known as much for his exemplary musicianship as for the tragic circumstances that led to his departure from this Earth. Myriad stories exist about what really happened to the Don of Dons, who he really was and the method to his ‘madness.’ To explore these and other issues, the Herbie Miller-led organizing committee has assembled an accomplished cast of thinkers, cultural commentators and fellow musicians to weigh in on the discussions (scheduled for the four Sundays in February, starting at 2pm). The list of presenters includes Kwame Dawes, Earl McKenzie, Clinton Hutton, Freddy Hickling, Big Youth, the Wareika Trombone Quartet and Lorna Goodison, among others. The Jamaica Music Museum/s Grounation 2016, now in its 5th year of observing Reggae and Black History Month, is being sponsored by the CHASE Fund, CPTC, and Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB). 

REEL WORLD: A special award for Best High School short film is just one of the new additions to this year’s GATT Film Festival, organized by the UWI Community Film Project, which is presently accepting entries, until April 3. To learn more about this year’s event, including the range of attractive prizes for budding filmmakers, visit or contact 970-1467 or 551-0083 or email 

PLAY TIME: The student actors at the School of Drama (Edna Manley College) put on the most delightful children’s theatre productions at this time of year, and as we speak they are gearing up to deliver their version of Greg Romero’s Of Plastic Things and Butterfly Wings at the Dennis Scott Studio Theatre. The production, being directed by Pierre LeMaire (One Smart Pig), plays from March 11 through 21. Tickets: 968-0028.

LIFT EVERY VOICE: Powerful singing, feel-good vibes flow at 7th annual Festival of Choirs

WELL TUNED: The Kingston-based Nexus Choir was among the groups making a joyful noise at Sunday's concert.

For Joseph McIntyre, the most glaring indicator of the growth of the annual Festival of Choirs, hosted annually by Kingston’s large-and-in-charge Boulevard Baptist Church, is the size of the audience that seems to hit a new record every year. Now in its seventh year, the show (which took place this past Sunday evening) had its largest turnout yet – a massive standing-room-only throng that swelled as the event progressed.

“It gets better and better every year, but this year surpassed our expectations,” the veteran director and chief organizer told TALLAWAH in a post-concert interview. “But it means that the festival is growing and can only get better in the years to come.” The lovely Mary Elizabeth Dick, dynamic wife of host pastor Devon Dick, concurs. “When I saw the persons coming in after we had already started and couldn’t find seats, it proved that what we have here is something of quality that the public is interested in, and that makes me very proud,” she said.

Festival of Choirs brings together some of the most widely acclaimed church-based and mainstream choral groups for a feast of sounds that ranges from sacred and spirituals to Jamaican folk gems and popular tunes. For this year’s staging, 12 choirs participated, putting on a show that left audience members both satisfied and longing for more.

Among the most memorable moments: The Carifolk Singers brought their trademark lively harmonies, humour, rhythmic drumming and spirited choreography to the stage, as they gave renditions of “Mango Time,” “Mango Tree,” “Dip Them Bedward”, “Great Day”, “Alle” and “Keyman.” The acapella stylings of the King’s Men Chorus (representing the Meadowvale SDA Church) also elicited resounding applause from the crowd, who favoured songs like “If We Ever”, “When I Was Sick” and “What a Mighty God”.

The Nexus Ensemble was in their element, delivering spirit-lifting classics like “Precious Lord” and “Break Every Chain”, which had the benefit of some stellar solo performances. By the time groups like the McIntyre-led Boulevard Baptist Choir appeared front and centre to perform evocative takes on “Psalm 23” and “Jah Is My Keeper”, the concert was a clear winner.

Pastor Devon Dick believes the combination of free entry to the public and high entertainment value contribute greatly to Festival of Choir’s monumental success. “Another factor is that in Jamaica most events tend to feature bands and not enough choirs, so that makes our event stand out,” he says. “We also have a mix of young choirs and adult choirs because we feel that it is important to have the children involved from now, so that when we have passed on they will continue it.”

Monday, 8 February 2016

BOOK OF THE MOMENT: A fascinating new book sheds light on the talented and troubled Don Drummond

HIS STORY: "Don Drummond, like his music, is haunting," says the Chicago-bred author.

Few iconic Jamaican musicians remain as elusive as Don Drummond, the legendary trombonist, who battled mental illness and died under mysterious circumstances at Kingston’s Bellevue Hospital, at age 35, after being institutionalized for “criminal insanity,” stemming from the stabbing death of his lover, the rumba queen Margarita. But, as history attests, much of Don’s life – down to his final days – was largely shrouded in mystery. So the question remains: who was Don Drummond really and what was the true end of his story?

Chicago-born journalist and ska enthusiast Heather Augustyn gamely tackles these ‘mysteries’ with gusto in her new book Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist (McFarland Press), which was launched at the Institute of Jamaica on Sunday to jump-start this year’s Reggae/Black History Month Grounation Series (titled “Ungle Malungu Man: Musings on Don Drummond.”)

Drawing on oral history, good old-fashioned investigative journalism and relentless research, Augustyn constructs a biography that examines the brief life and massive legacy of one of the Caribbean’s “all-time greatest musical geniuses” while offering a historical narrative blended with drama, a whiff of scandal and highlights from a golden musical era. What’s more, the author weaves together the words of childhood friends, former classmates, fellow musicians, medical staff, legal counsel and teachers to enliven this odyssey into “an unusual mind.”

Addressing Sunday’s launch, Augustyn spoke about finding inspiration. “As a teenager I came to know ska music through the British incarnation. I came to love [Don Drummond’s] music and fell in love with your culture. But as I researched the music I fell deeper in love with it and made it my life’s work,” said Augustyn, a married mother of two boys (now residing in Indiana), who also penned Ska: An Oral History, Ska: The Rhythm of Liberation and Song Birds: Pioneering Women in Jamaican Music. “Each time I listen to his music I hear something new. His music is so familiar, it feels like a shadow within. Don Drummond, like his music, is haunting.”

She later added, “I also wrote this book because Roger Steffens told me that there are over 500 books about Bob Marley. I wanted to write a book about the music that inspired Bob Marley.”

Psychologist Dr. Christopher Charles said he read Augustyn’s book and uncovered a few errors of fact. But he gives her a solid B+ for the splendid effort. “A work like this is long overdue, and more books should be written about the don of dons,” said the UWI Mona-based senior lecturer, Sunday’s keynote speaker. “Heather did an excellent job of writing down the life of one of Jamaica’s greatest musicians. It’s a worthwhile contribution to the culture.”

LIFE & STYLE: News and notes featuring the Jamaica Pegasus, the Sunshine Girls – and the buzzworthy Marley Natural line

NATURE IN A BOTTLE: Calling naturalistas everywhere! Marley Natural is a spanking new lifestyle brand created in collaboration with the late reggae superstar’s estate. It features a collection of transformative body washes, lotions, soaps and salves that’s already received the stamp of approval from the experts, including the ahead-of-the-curve team at Vogue. “Arriving in clean graphic bottles with crisp scents of Rastafari green, yellow and red, they seem destined to elevate the conversation around the herb,” the magazine raves. “The products are packed with lemongrass, turmeric, cerasee and coconut oil, but it’s the hemp seed oil that stands out as the star ingredient.” So how (and where) can Jamaicans get their hands on these exciting products? Marley body care and accessories are available online at as of Feb. 6, the 71st anniversary of Bob Marley’s birth.

PREMIERE LEAGUE: What keeps the swanky Jamaica Pegasus Hotel ahead of the competition? Unbridled team spirit is a key ingredient in the mix. So says General Manager, Peter Hillary, who was giving his remarks at the hotel’s recent Staff Awards & Appreciation Ceremony. “You guys did phenomenal last year. 2015 was a great year for us,” Hillary praised his staffers, later noting that some 16 well-known international dignitaries, who visited Jamaica’s shores last year, made the Pegasus their hotel of choice. “This is not only remarkable for Kingston but great for this property,” he said. Any highlights? “One of the most noble ones for me was when President [Barack] Obama stayed here. Looking back, it’s one of the most rewarding moments for me, knowing that we all worked as a team. The chief of delegation came up to me afterward and said she was amazed at our team spirit here.”

HOLDING COURT: Moving into a new chapter, Jamaica’s senior netballers – the Sunshine Girls – have been split into two separate squads: the regular competitions team and the FastNet (Fast 5) cohort. Minette Reynolds and Annette Daley will resume work with the regular team, while the FastNet players will be guided for their upcoming tournament (set for October) by Connie Francis and Sasher-Gaye Henry, who has retired as a national player and now lectures at the GC Foster College. To say the least, the Netball Jamaica family is thrilled to have Connie returning to active duty in the fold. “We’re very enthusiastic about having Connie back with the programme,” President Paula Daley-Morris tells TALLAWAH. “She’s always going to be included in whatever we are doing.”

BROTHER MAN: Barrington Watson remembered as boundary-pushing artist, creative genius and family man

PERSONAL VISION: The masterful artist's diverse oeuvre included masterpieces like 1981's Conversation, pictured below.

On Saturday, February 6, before the commencement of the thanksgiving service to celebrate the life and work of painter and cultural icon Professor Basil Barrington Watson, the swelling congregation was treated to a collage of video presentations featuring Watson being honoured by various organizations, including the Old Boys’ Association of his alma mater Kingston College. In case you didn’t know, Watson and his four brothers all attended Kingston College at the same time (in the 1940s and 50s), and it is still considered a KC record – having five siblings from the same family enrolled at the institution all at the same time.

In one of the video clips (highlights from a 1996 awards dinner), all five brothers (Barrington, Leighton, Melvin, Edward and Donald) are reunited, drawing a standing ovation from the audience.

Melvin, the fourth-born son of the quintet – and the only surviving one to attend Saturday’s memorial – recalled numerous similar occasions as he paid tribute to his dearly departed brother. Though all five brothers evolved into accomplished and upstanding citizens of the world, Barrington was always the supernova in the family: a creative genius who went on to do pioneering work in the art world, even though their father Vivian firmly opposed his vision of pursuing art. “From the time he could a pencil he was drawing,” recalled Melvin Watson, who now resides in Maryland, USA. “My father said, ‘You will become an artist over my dead body.’ And we all know how that turned out.”

Barrington’s good friend Paul Matalon said he was “iconic to say the least” – a man whose artistic exploits sought to make the world a more human place. Culture minister Lisa Hanna, whose eloquent tribute started off the morning’s proceedings, hailed the painter as “a pioneering cultural icon” whose magnificent works (especially his uncanny interpretations of the female form) carry presence and impact.

But it was avid art collector and friend of the late artist, William ‘Bill’ Clarke who painted the most vivid portrait of Watson, delivering a eulogy that traced his formative years to his time in England at the Royal College of Art to the body of work he created (including such masterpieces as Mother and Child and Conversation) to the family he adored that must now carry on the legacy. (A legacy that includes the famed Orange Park Great House in St. Thomas, which served as his haven, his studio and his sanctuary for much of his creative life.

Above all, what seemed to most profoundly shape the man that Barrington Watson (the second-born of the five brothers) became was the influence of the people who raised him, especially his father. “I always thought my father was a very wise man,” Watson says in one of the video clips, sporting a strong suit, his signature pair of glasses and puffy gray hair. “In my family, the most important thing we learned was to give something back to society, to the world.”

Saturday, 6 February 2016

QUOTES OF THE WEEK: John-Paul White + Horace Dalley + Jah Cure + Bruce Golding + PM Portia Simpson-Miller

“The way I was brought up does not allow me to pay attention to evil. So whatever is evil, I leave it aside. I deal with it by praying to my God….. In my entire political career I have been criticized a lot. I don’t mind constructive criticism, but I hate destructive criticisms, because it means that the person making the destructive criticisms of you cannot be someone with a good heart.” — PM Portia Simpson-Miller, in a recent Gleaner interview, on dealing with negativity

“What I think is undeniable is the need for some kind of oversight and greater transparency in how Petrojam administers its pricing mechanism, whatever that may be – something that ought not to be left to its board of directors alone. The motorist should be enabled to better understand what goes on between his wallet and the pump.” — Former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding weighing in on the latest round of the gas debate

“The government has a responsibility to ensure that there is adequate pharmaceutical stuff available, and that is why I have instructed my team at the ministry to call out all our public health instructors who have retired in the last two years to come out because we need all hands on deck now to ensure that our country is protected as best as we can from the Zika virus.” — Horace Dalley, Minister of Health, updating Jamaicans on the fight against the Zik-V

“If I could travel to America, I could achieve more, so I am reaching out to knowledgeable people and immigration lawyers to get the right advice. Maybe winning a Grammy would help with getting a visa to achieve that. Knowing what I have been through, I could help others build their careers.”  Grammy nominee Jah Cure talking to about the restrictions placed on him as a former inmate

“I wish to remove any issue that may potentially cause the party embarrassment. Therefore I will step back as the standard-bearer for the party’s Northern Trelawny constituency in the interest of the greater good and in the aim of securing an overall victory for the PNP. No doubt there are thousands and thousands of people in the constituency who will be disappointed. However, I assure them that they will always be close to my heart.” — Embattled businessman John-Paul White announcing the withdrawal of his candidacy from the upcoming General Elections