Wednesday, 20 July 2016

BACK FOR MORE: Capleton’s popular ‘St. Mary’ stage show poised for triumphant return

ON MESSAGE: The iconic deejay addressing the audience at Tuesday's well-supported launch in Kingston; (below) with a pair of female fans.

There are certain events on the local entertainment calendar that, once they’ve made a dent in the pop culture psyche, people will not let them just disappear from the scene. Count Capleton’s signature event Ah St. Mary Mi Come From among them. The megaconcert and kiddies treat was not staged for the past three years, and fans has been clamouring for its return. Now it’s back, set for Saturday, August 5, at its new home of Gray’s Inn in Annotto Bay, with a supersized entertainment package that promises value for money.

According to Capleton (nĂ© Clifton Bailey), this 12th staging of the re-energized event feels like a fresh start. “It’s the reinvention of the show, so we’re looking forward to more support than before,” he tells TALLAWAH, looking regal in his ‘fiery’ garb at the official launch, held at 28 Courtney Walsh Drive in Kingston, on Tuesday night.

Bailey, who treated the sizeable audience to an impromptu performance, said the core objective of the show remains the same: putting on a stellar production and making charitable contributions to the people of his birth parish. What’s more, he emphasized that team effort is paramount. “Without unity it nah go happen as it supposed to. Unity is the ultimate power; that’s why Ah St. Mary Mi Come From is so successful.”

Leading the charge at Capleton Music Inc is the iconic deejay’s manager Claudette Kemp, who echoed his sentiments about joining forces. “We must give thanks to the sponsors,” she stressed. “This is our breakthrough year. The vision came to me separate the children’s treat from the concert to attract more sponsorship, and I think it worked.” Red Stripe, Catherine’s Peak, Tropical Foods, CVM TV and Cal’s are among the nearly one dozen sponsors.
Mayor of Port Maria, Levan Freeman, stressed the importance of Ah St. Mary Mi Come From for not just the economy of the parish but for boosting morale among residents young and old. “Sometimes I have to wonder if it’s for profit or for charity because of the large number of charities that continue to benefit from it,” he observed. “In St. Mary, we look forward to having it and supporting it. So we’re glad it’s back. There are challenges, but we’ll work together as always to make it a success.”

Keynote speaker Carolyn Cooper was quick to highlight the bigger picture, drawing attention to Capleton’s altruism and penchant for positivity. “[This show] makes a vital contribution to the parish and is an important fundraising vehicle,” she told the gathering. “What Capleton has done is turn this event into a statement on the power of dancehall and an example of what we can all do to contribute to something bigger. He remembers where he is coming from, consistently recognizing that we have to give back to society and carrying forward the message of positivity.”

The kiddies treat will take place on Wednesday, August 24, with proceeds from the concert, whose star-studded lineup boasts a mix of heavy-hitters (Capleton, Jah Cure, Beenie Man, Chronixx, Romain Virgo), elder statesmen (Ken Boothe, Josey Wales, Louie Culture), warrior women (Ikaya, Kelissa, Lady G), rising acts (Dann I, Don Andre, Loyal Flames) and disciples of conscious reggae like Iba Mahr, Jah Bouks and Warrior King.

LOVE, LOSS & WHAT SHE WROTE: Well-acted Seven Shades of Woman delights and provokes thought

TIME TO REFLECT: Robinson commands the stage in this scene from her monologue; (below) Jackson takes centrestage.

Maya Angelou’s magisterial voice-over recital of “Phenomenal Woman” serving as the anchor of Seven Shades of Woman is just one of the many appealing assets of this creatively conceived and commendably staged revue that’s filling seats at the Phoenix Theatre in New Kingston. On opening night last Friday, we were treated to an alternately serious and sobering, humorous and heartfelt, production that provides terrific work for its five talented actresses, led by Best Actress aspirant Julene Robinson.

Women continue to make remarkable strides in leadership and service roles from the church to the White House, the bedroom to the boardroom, prevailing against unimaginable odds more often than not, and it is this resilience, cunning and unrelenting force that the show celebrates through a series of sketches mired in trials, truth-telling and a sleek balance of comedy and drama.

Whether we are watching Robinson’s delightful matter-of-fact monologue about roots, identity and finding a decent man beyond the boundaries of race and class or Shawna-Kae Burns playing the mother of all church hypocrites gossiping throughout the pastor’s sermon, we are reminded that women (Jamaican and global) come in all shapes, sizes and shades. Seven Shades of Woman? More like a million.
In one scene, Maylynne Lowe gives a lip-smacking lesson in grit and steely determination as a wicked aunt who faces the Judgement to give an account for her sins. A riveting confession ensues. Shantol Jackson employs an African-American accent (thick with bitterness) to portray a young hooker who refuses to give up her seat on the bus. Shanique Brown and Robinson team up to portray a depressed Jamaica-based daughter and her frustrated UK-based mother attempting to bond, for the first time in ages, on Skype.

But the most entertaining scenes manifest when the ladies share the stage together. Case in point: Robinson (the posh preacher’s wife type), Brown (the deep-rural granny) and Jackson (the foxy social climber) sending up prayers laced with extraordinary demands. Then there’s Robinson as bright spark Ayanna, who has to be empowered by her protective mother (Burns) to stand up to a ‘peppery’ classmate (Brown), in a piece that looks at peer pressure and the psychological effects of bullying on young girls.

Best of all: Burns, Jackson, Robinson and Lowe appearing as four physically challenged old women heading out on a road trip and the high jinks that precede their departure. Phenomenally funny stuff. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

WOMAN OF THE WORLD: Actress Bertina McCaulay talks women, power and the changing of the guard

CLASS ACTS: McCaulay bonding with her son Sekai; (below) the cast of Woman Tongue.

At age 52, and with over two decades’ worth of solid work under her belt, actress Bertina McCaulay has made a successful career out of tackling emotionally hefty roles that resonate deeply with her in more ways than one. But starring in the oestrogen-spiked stage hit Woman Tongue (remounted this past weekend at Mona’s Philip Sherlock Centre) just so happened to engage with ideas she’s been toying with in recent times – notably shifting power structures, complex human relationships, and women on top. Here, the veteran star of film (Cool Runnings), stage (Amen Corner; Love and Marriage and New York City) and TV (Royal Palm Estate) has a quick chat with TALLAWAH. 

TALLAWAH: Woman Tongue boasts a female writer and an accomplished all-female cast. How come we haven’t seen more female Jamaican writers coming to the fore?
Bertina McCaulay: It’s interesting because we do need more women writers to be telling our stories. It’s still a male-dominated field, so we need to see more of the women stepping up. Our local male playwrights are doing an excellent job, but the women can do it just as well.

TALLAWAH: On the performance side of things, an exciting new wave of young actresses has leaped to the fore (namely Shantol Jackson, Shanique Brown, Julene Robinson, et al) and are making their presence felt. What do you make of their emergence?
Bertina McCaulay: I love it, love it, because we have to be about renewal. You can’t keep the same set of people in the spotlight forever. We have to start playing the mothers and the grandmothers. Just like Leonie Forbes. She was young once; she used to play the daughter and then she started playing the mother and then the granny. Mi soon start play granny, too. I think. (Laughs).

TALLAWAH: On a more serious note, Portia Simpson-Miller has asserted that she will not be stepping down as PNP party leader any time soon, and aspiring challenger Peter Bunting has changed his tune. Is the immense pressure on Simpson-Miller justified?
Bertina McCaulay: The pressure that is on her has nothing to do with her being a woman. It has more to do with the changing of the guard. You’ve got to hand over power to the younger generation at some point, and welcome the younger ones who can lead. It’s about renewal. And this is not unique to the political arena; that’s what’s happening around the world.

TALLAWAH: So will Hilary Clinton make history?
Bertina McCaulay: My God, I hope she does! We need her to. And I don’t mean to sound harsh or anything, but if they allow [Donald Trump] to win, it can lead to a lot of serious damage for not just America, but the world.

TALLAWAH: What’s your advice for newly installed UK Prime Minister Theresa May?
Bertina McCaulay: Just lead. Don’t worry about people saying this is another woman in a man’s job. Just lead by example and be the best prime minister that you can be.

> REVIEW: Woman Tongue speaks some powerful truths

Saturday, 16 July 2016

MADE IN JAMAICA: Africa-inspired Zene products get to the root of the matter

ALL NATURAL: Brown's Zene line champions female empowerment and self-worth.

Every year, the final-year Visual Arts students at the Edna Manley College put on a blockbuster exhibition that draws people from all walks to view their imaginative creations in a range of mediums and disciplines spanning sculpture, paintings, prints, textiles and entrepreneurial initiatives.

Danielle Brown, a graphics art major, decided to tackle ‘the root of the matter’ by launching Zene, a line of local-made, all-natural hair and skin-care products that dually celebrate our African heritage and modern Jamaican womanhood. “I decided to do the products because of my love for my African ancestry,” she tells TALLAWAH, calling by telephone. “It’s mostly an expression of young modern Black womanhood. And it’s a female brand, a female line that caters to natural hair ladies, so we are encouraging you to empower yourself and embrace your identity.”

The Zene line (from a Swahili word meaning ‘beautiful’) includes curling pudding, daily moisturizing cream, shampoo and conditioner, and the all-important edge tamer, presented in bottles adorned with eye-popping African patterns given a modern hyperchromatic update. More good news: no additives, no preservatives.

“There is a major trend nowadays with natural hairstyles, so we are right in line with that,” explains Brown, 21, who admittedly struggled with identity and self-acceptance issues in her younger days. “Growing up, it was hard to identify with other women and some of the products that were available to me. So I decided to create something other than what is available.”

What started out as a final-year college project is now a promising business adventure that Danielle Brown is determined to explore to the fullest. “Everybody is asking for it to be in the stores,” she says of the response to the year-old line of products. “It’s gonna be available in the stores, but for now we’re keeping it exclusive and done to order. People also want their own customized products.”

For Brown, based in the Long Mountain section of St. Andrew, where family members help with the creative process, customer feedback has been invaluable. She’s not giving up the dream of doing graphic design as the career of choice, but creating the Zene line has made her an accidental businesswoman with an additional source of income, and she is keenly interested in the future possibilities. “The long-term plan is to get the products in the stores and to get natural-hair salons to use it in people’s hair. We are about embracing your African roots and promoting natural beauty and healthier lifestyles.”

> Follow Brown on Instagram @zenelifestyle or email for more information.

RUN FOR COVER: Bolt talks racing form, Rio 2016 and retirement with Sports Illustrated

TOP SHAPE: "These are the Olympics that separate me from the pack," the world record-holder says.

For the third time in his illustrious track-and-field career, Usain Bolt is gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated. In the interview, which touches on everything from injuries and gold medals to Rio 2016 and retirement, the 29-year-old Jamaican speedster and World’s Fastest Man reunites with prolific scribe Tim Layden, who has interviewed Bolt five times since they first met in 2008. This time around, they had a lot to catch up on. Here are some of TALLAWAH’s favourite quotes from the piece:

On whether his mind ‘strays’ during training: “All the time. I think about victories. I think about world records. The other day I was running 110s, and then I was warming down all by myself. In Rio, should I run the 100 metres just to win, and save my energy for the 200 metres? I really want to break that world record again. If I shut it down in the 100, will people be happy? I don’t know. But that’s the kind of thing I think about all the time.”

On his staying power: “Sometimes I question myself: Why am I still doing this? I’ve accomplished so much in the sport. You know what I mean? I still want to accomplish more, but it gets harder over time. I talked to Michael Johnson once about this, how you shouldn’t stick around for too long. The more you race, the more you tear your body down. I’ve been telling people for years that I’m a lazy person, and I don’t think they believe me. But I really am. I don’t like training.”

On the challenges of the 2015 season: “It was just really stressful, man. In June, I wasn’t running the way I’m supposed to be running, and Gatlin was in the form of his life….. But once I do a couple of 180-150-100 step-downs at proper speed, I know I’m in shape.”

On what makes the Rio Games special: “These are the Olympics that separate me from the pack. I’m older now, and it’s harder for me. But anytime I start feeling down, I remind myself, ‘You have got to get this done this year.’”

On retiring from athletics: “What do I think about for my retirement? I just think about not doing track anymore. You know what I mean? I want to live comfortably when I retire.” 

> To check out the full interview, go to the Sports Illustrated webpage.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

COUNTRY STRONG: Upcoming Jamaica 54 events promise festive energy, patriotic spirit

TRUE COLOURS: Jamaicans are expected to turn out in their numbers for the annual Emancipendence celebrations.

The Jamaica 54 Emancipendence celebrations, under the theme “Let’s Get Together and Feel Alright”, promise a raft of activities, steeped in tradition, innovation and festive energy, that guarantee merriment, lots of nostalgia and pure excitement.

Sunday, July 31, brings the National Thanksgiving Service, to be held at Windward Road’s Pentecostal Gospel Assembly, commencing at 11am. The Jamaica Gospel Song grand finale concert is also scheduled for that Sunday, starting at 7pm, at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre. And speaking of the Hope Road-based Centre, for the third year in a row, the venue will play host to the Independence Village, a sprawling day-to-night cultural hub (think food court, ground produce, live music), which will draw mammoth crowds daily.

Monday, August 1 (Emancipation Day), is scheduled for the grand opening of the Augus’ Mawnin’ Market (6am) and the Miss Jamaica Festival Queen coronation, which gets going at 8pm. On August 2, the Aunty Roachy Festival kicks off at noon, ahead of the usually action-packed Fashion Greets Music showcase, set for 8pm. The kaleidoscopic performing-arts extravaganza Mello Go Roun’ will be the highlight on August 3, starting at 8pm. The World Reggae Dance Championships, also starting at 8pm, is set for August 4.

Meanwhile, the avidly awaited ‘Reggae to Rio’ concert (a timely reminder that the summer belongs to Brazil) will be held on Friday, August 5. The spotlight then shifts to Independence Day, August 6, for the Independence Parade (King’s House, 9am) and the main event – the Grand Gala (inside the National Stadium, 6pm). For those who prefer the big-screen treatment, the Independence Village will host a viewing party, also starting at 6pm.

And there’s more to look forward to. On Sunday, August 14, the Louise Bennett Garden Theatre will host the Jamaica Poetry Festival, a feast of the written and spoken word, starting at 7pm. Marcus Garvey’s birthday, August 17, calls for a floral tribute at National Heroes Park at 8am. Lawrence Park, in his hometown of St. Ann’s Bay, will stage a civic ceremony, starting at 4pm.

Throughout the Emancipendence period, parish capitals will also put on a variety of activities and special events, ranging from parades and flag ceremonies to concerts and street dances.

ALL EYES ON RIO: Official Team Jamaica squad revealed + Will Zik-V spoil the show? + Nesta Carter receives SDF financial aid

MISSION, MEDALS: With just over three weeks to go before the eyes of the world turn to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for this summer’s keenly anticipated Olympics, Jamaica’s 63-member delegation was announced at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on Monday. Of that number, 44 are athletes (led by defending champions Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce), who will vie for medals in athletics, swimming, field events and gymnastics. But what will become of Jason Morgan’s bid to represent the country at the Games? Will the shot-put champion’s shocking omission be overruled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ahead of their departure? We’ll just have to wait and see how this one plays out.

CARTER ON HOLD: Meanwhile, relay gold medallist Nesta Carter won’t be going to Rio this summer, as he will have to attend a hearing into his doping case in Lausanne, Switzerland. But there’s some good news for him. According to reports, the embattled sprinter is to receive some financial aid to help cover his legal fees. The Social Development Foundation (SDF) has signed off on £20,000 (J$3.3 million) to be dispatched to his attorneys to aid in the fight against the doping charges. Carter’s troubles, a positive test for a banned substance, stems from his participation in the Beijing Olympics in China in 2008.

THE SHOW MUST GO ON: Will the dreaded Zika Virus put a damper on the spectacle of the Rio Games? Not if local officials in Brazil have a say in the matter. “Over the past few weeks, rumours of the possibility of an outbreak of tropical disease during the Games has circulated. We can assure you, as has the World Health Organization, that the risk of Zik-V infection during the Games is practically non-existent. Historically, an extremely low incidence of disease transmitted by the aedes aegypti has been recorded during the winter season in the southern hemisphere,” says Brazil’s interim president Michel Temer. “Brazil is ready to receive all of the visitors who will be enjoying the pleasure of watching the world’s elite international sports athletes compete, and surely we will have a great deal to show the five billion viewers around the world who will be watching the Games as well. Brazil awaits you with open arms.”