Wednesday, 26 April 2017

TALK OF THE TOWN: Suzie Q’s gospel chapter; Francois & Paula; Jamaica’s Oldest Woman, and more

EVERY week viewers would tune in by the thousands for a quick rundown of the hottest music videos in the land and catch up with their favourite entertainers, thanks to Reggae Trail TV, hosted by Suzie Q. Nowadays, the affable hostess is taking the show in a brand-new direction. Introducing the Suzie Q Gospel Trail, which is being launched this Friday, April 28, at The Hive (formerly the Famous Night Club) in Portmore, St. Catherine. As we hear, the launch is being put on by On Point Entertainment, and will take the form of a grand gospel showcase and premiere party, with performances by Lt. Stitchie, Carlene Davis, rising sensation Alicia Taylor and the Katalys Crew, among several others. If you want more info, check out suzieqgospeltrail.com.
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People are saying RJR’s new pairing of Francois St. Juste and Paula-Ann Porter-Jones is the new Allan & Dorraine. Airwaves veterans Porter-Jones and St. Juste have teamed up to host Sunny Side Up, weekday mornings from 5:00am - 8:30am, a move that could boost the morning listenership for the long-running station.
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Things seem to be progressing smoothly towards the much-anticipated staging of this summer’s Reggae Sumfest concert series, now in its 25th year! Newly christened “Our Music, Our Festival”, the fest takes place July 16-22 at Catherine Hall, Montego Bay. According to a release, Times Square in NYC recently got a taste of what’s to come in July, as DownSound Entertainment hosted a special New York launch at The Sky Room.
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So in addition to being home to the World’s Fastest Man and Woman, Jamaica now has the distinction of being home to the World’s Oldest Woman! At 117, Violet Mosse Brown, a native of Trelawney, also happens to be the World’s Oldest Living Person, period, according to checks by the US-based Gerontology Research Group. So what’s Mama Violet’s big living-it-up secret? “Really and truly, when people ask me what me at to live so long,” she recently told an interviewer, “I say to them than I eat everything except pork and chicken, and I don’t drink rum.” Kiddies, take note.
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R.I.P Germaine Mason. #HigherHeights

> QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK 

What’s the latest on the Buju Banton saga? Are his lawyers still working on that appeal? Is he in good health? 

Is Cindy Breakspeare still planning to publish that tell-all book, revealing her side of the-Bob-Marley-I-knew story? God knows the world is waiting on it. Surely it will be one of those juicy unputdownable reads.

What has become of the Jamaica International Invitational track meet? The silence is deafening…






MADE IN JAMAICA: These fine home-made products sample the best of our island flavours

SO FRESH, SO CLEAN: Is there a more sensational feeling than being refreshed by a Blue Mountain stream? Perhaps the next best thing is being caressed by products from Blue Mountain Aromatics, a beauty line that somehow managed to slip under the radar but has been, thankfully, discovered, in time for Mother’s Day. Distributed by Parang Industries Limited, the wholesome skin-care line (smelling like tropical fruity goodness) carries the ortanique soap, the cocoa butter soap, the lavender and vanilla soap and the rosemary and mint soap. Among the key ingredients? Heavenly notes of palm oil, castor oil, coconut oil and peppermint. Why not try them all? Even better, these products are all hand-made in Jamaica. Contact the makers at bluemountainaromatics@cwjamaica.com or call 906-0347. 

SOME LIKE IT HOT: All Jamaicans know there’s no finer way to jazz up a home-cooked meal than with a great condiment. Sammi’s Gourmet Treats has some terrific options with your name written all over them. For starters, savour the delectable delight of the from-scratch Escoveitch Pickle Sauce (a palate cleanser best served with fried fish and chicken) or the Spicy Tamarind Jam (full of spicy, tangy sweet fruits). Then sample the lunch table-ready Pineapple Jam, Pomegranate Java Plum Jam or the Orange Coconut Jam, made from heart-healthy oranges combined with refreshing island coconuts. Find Sammi’s Gourmet Treats on Facebook and Instagram or visit their home page at sammistreats.com. 

SPICE IT UP: Based in Yallahs, St. Thomas, A Taste of the Caribbean Limited (manufacturers of the Dunson’s line of products) stakes its claim as suppliers of the most tantalizing sauces this side of the region. They carry a hefty stock: in addition to their Jamaican Jerk Sauce and Jamaican Jerk Barbecue Sauce, they are known for their Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce and Spicy Tamarind Sauce, alongside the finger-lickin’ Jamaican Brown Stew Sauce. Check them out online at dunsonsjamaicafoods.com or contact them at dunsonsfood@gmail.com.






Tuesday, 25 April 2017

POWER & PRAISE: Electric performances thrill concertgoers at Unity in the City gospel bash

CROWD PLEASERS: Greene connected with a stirring blend of his popular and more recent tunes; (below) Downswell, Blakka & Bello wowing the packed arena.

Innovative stagecraft and forging a solid connection with your audience are key to delivering a great live show. The headline acts who took to the stage at Easter Monday’s Unity in the City grand gospel concert, inside the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston, seemed to have little difficulty winning over the supersized crowd (scores of patrons had to be turned back), as they delivered performances laced with vigour, sturdy vocals, and the occasional whiff of panache. 

To say the least, it was a thoroughly entertaining concert that, thankfully, lived up to our high expectations. In other words, the hundred who shelled out their big bucks to see Travis Greene light up the stage were not disappointed, as the Grammy-nominated US-based gospel star gave an electrifying set, armed with his trusty guitar and casual gear (a cool-kid cap included) that kept us in his thrall for well over an hour. 

“This is my first time in Kingston but it won’t be my last,” Greene told the enthusiastic concertgoers before launching into “We Are Here For You,” a burst of rhythmic energy that introduced us to his 5-piece backing band and three back-up vocalists. Up next were tunes like “See the Light,” during which a sea of dazzling cell-phone screens lit up the auditorium, and the prayerful “You Have Won the Victory.” A massive sing-along accompanied “Intentional” and his Grammy-nominated hit “Made a Way,” which closed his set on a golden high. 

Jermaine Edwards, a vision in dazzling white, brought his powerful brand of island worship with “Smile”, “There’s a Peace”, “I Feel Free” and the keyboard-assisted “Hallelujah to our King.” Kevin Downswell also gave the people what they came for, drawing on selections like “All the Way,” “If It’s Not You” and “Nobody Loves Me The Way You Do” ahead of renditions of “That’s Enough”, “One Day”, “Goodbye World” (alongside a couple of male dancers) and the jubilant finale that “Stronger” provided. 

Papa San, ever the reliable show-close, expertly brought up the rear with a bunch of his timeless hits, among them “Jesus My Saviour”, “Tell Devil Loose”, “Jesus Make Me Smile Again” and the sensational “Shake Your Tambourina.” 

Earlier in the night, we heard from the fiercely talented Rondell Positive who, alongside his I-Worshipp collaborators, proved he’s still more than a conqueror; R&B-gospel act Ray Soul, powerhouse songstress Ashayla Shenae, fast-emerging singer-songwriter Kevin Heath and the awesome Transformed Life Church Singers. 

We laughed out loud at the spot-on comedic stylings of industry veterans Blakka & Bello (still killing it after all these years) and Leighton Smith, who knows how to make the grumpy/grouchy downright hilarious. Nadine Blair and Ian ‘Ity’ Ellis were the night’s delightful emcees.






Monday, 24 April 2017

RISE & SHINE: Reflective, rousing dance theatre takes centrestage at NDTC’s Easter Sunday performance

FINE FORM: Dancers performing Troy Powell's "Unscathed" during last Sunday's well-attended performance.

THE single greatest pleasure of a performance put on by the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC) is that near-seamless blend of exquisite choreography, lithe ands graceful movements and stirring musical accompaniment provided by the NDTC Singers and musicians, led by the innovative Ewan Simpson, their musical director.

The mammoth crowd that flocked to the Little Theatre in Kingston this past Easter Sunday for the 36th renewal of the company’s annual Morning of Movement and Music got a taste of quintessential NDTC, thanks to a performance both wonderfully entertaining and immensely satisfying – totally reflective of the holy season.

As expected, we were treated to a selection of new and revived works, none more rousing than the exuberant curtain-raiser, set to “The Hallelujah Chorus”, with choreography supplied by Kevin Moore, whose 2017 work “Mercy” (employing seven of the company’s finest dancers and the captivating strains of Jeff Majors performing “Psalm 23”) was a moving depiction of rhythm and technical rigour in sync.

Kerry-Ann Henry’s “Haven,” the other 2017 work, scored high marks for its glorious blend of uniformed movements (the competent trio of Gillian Steele, Rachel Walter ad Ashleigh Bromfield seizing the spotlight) and lush vocals from Kaydene Gordon and Conrod Hall performing “The Prayer.”

Mark Phinn and Michael Small deserved the resounding applause they drew for their touching pas de deux “Of Sympathy and Love,” a 2003 piece from Clive Thompson; NDTC rookie Javal Lewis proved his leading-man potential performing Chris Walker’s “Walk With Me”, while guest performer Fae Ellington brought a whiff of whimsy to the Easton Lee poem “Dance Me, Lord.” 

And because no NDTC performance is complete without a slice or two of Rex Nettleford-inspired magic, we were happily transfixed by the fresh takes on 1997’s “Tintinnabulum,” fuelled by the robust score provided by Adieumus (also feature on Troy Powell’s brilliant “Unscathed” and “Revival Time,” a highly energetic and lavishly costumed (dazzling white) offering backed by traditional orchestra accompaniment from Chalice, before “Psalm 150” (with classic musical arrangement by Noel Dexter) brought everyone together for a memorably fantastic finale.






Friday, 21 April 2017

RIDDIMS & RHYMES: High-school bands competition unearthing future Bob Marleys and Jimmy Cliffs

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Rehearsal is a key part of the preparation process for these secondary school musicians.

PAUL Graham dreams of becoming a member of the backing band for the likes of Chronixx and Tarrus Riley and accompanying them on tour, taking reggae to the global masses. He’s getting terrific practice as a member of the Bog Walk High School band, the top school band heading into next week’s grand finals of Jamaica’s Best School Bands competition, an annual showcase for talented teen musicians and vocalists, now in its fourth year.

“I like this competition because I’m getting to make use of my talent and I get to play roots music, which is my favourite kind of music,” shares a beaming Graham, 16, who plays the bass guitar. “In the future, I want to play for artistes and go on tour and hopefully study music in college.” 

TALLAWAH hears multiple variations of his story on this warm and extremely busy Sunday night inside the Vera Moodie Concert Hall at the Edna Manley College, where the judges are checking out performances from this year’s crop of semi-finalists to select the six schools that will view for top honours at the finals on April 23.

DaWayne Wilson, the 18-year-old leader of the Cross Keys High contingent, clearly has a bright future ahead of him. Extremely tall with the vocal and songwriting skills to match, he’s been penning tunes for the past seven years. He may have a hit on his hands with “The Struggles,” a deeply resonant riff on today’s harsh socio-economic realities and the resilience it takes to pull through.

“I would say it has been an extremely wonderful experience so far. We really want to win the competition this year. We’ve been rehearsing every day after school. Some of our instruments got stolen recently, and that set us back a bit, so the song is also reflecting what we’ve been going through,” says Wilson, who is already using the stage name Prince Touriss.

In performance, he pours enormous feeling into his vocals, using his powerful tenor to awesome effect and working up a sweat. Alongside his five bandmates, they treat the audience to covers of popular hits by Bob Marley and Tessanne Chin, among others. “Music definitely chose me. I can’t think of anything else that I enjoy more,” says the Manchester native, a self-admitted fan of Romain Virgo, Sanchez and Chris Martin. “If we win the competition, it would be a great motivator for us and the school.” 

Mr. Andre Porter, chaperone of the Cross Keys gang, is well aware that his kids are beyond talented and vows to continue playing his key role as mentor. “When I first heard them perform “The Struggles”, I knew right away that it was something that deserved to be recorded,” he tells TALLAWAH. “At Cross Keys, we encourage the creativity and we use the medium of the school band and the school choir to encourage the youngsters to showcase their talent and bring glory to the school.” 

Delevante Naraga wants to make his family proud. “I started playing the drums at my church, but now I play both the drums and percussion for the school band,” shares the 15-year-old Claude McKay High student. “My family and church members encourage me all the time to continue. I want to play drums professionally.” 

Dr. Sonjah Stanley Niaah, Director of the UWI-based Institute of Caribbean Studies, hopes the competition will continue playing its important role for many years to come. “Following the great success and inspiration of bands such as Raging Fyah and NoMaddz and established bands like Third World, we stand to benefit from the encouragement of this competition,” she tells TALLAWAH. “As a country using music as one of our chief export products, we must solidify our place as a centre for the arts, and a high school competition like this will go a long way in helping that vision.”

Competition producer and founder Rayven Amani wholeheartedly agrees. “It is up to us as adults to unearth and nurture these young talents, not just vocally,” she notes. “There are so many talented children across Jamaica, and the future of the music industry is dependent on them. That’s one of the reasons I started this competition, and we hope to keep it going for the years to come.”






ON THE RECORD: Ace comic Ity Ellis on being a new man in Christ and building his ‘praise and laughter’ brand

THE NEW ME: “It’s a unique experience, and I see that the Lord is doing something in my life,” Ellis says of embracing his new chapter.

For the past quarter-century, Ian ‘Ity’ Ellis has been serving up whip-smart comedy routines with his rotund partner-in-rhyme Alton ‘Fancy Cat’ Hardware. Together, they do serious damage, blending wit, keen observations of Jamaican life and social commentary to create laugh-out-loud entertainment. 

These days, something new is happening in Ity’s life. Not only has he given his life to the Lord; he’s melded his Christian faith and comedy genius into a business venture branded as “praise and laughter,” which he and his creative team will be heavily promoting for the rest of the year and beyond. 

TALLAWAH caught up with the 40-something entertainer, businessman and popular emcee at Monday’s Unity in the City gospel bash at the National Indoor Sports Centre to talk about his Christian walk, his serious side, and celebrating a major career milestone. 

TALLAWAH: How have you been finding the Christian-life experience? Has the church embraced you? 
Ity Ellis: Since I made the change January 1st of last year, it has been wonderful. As you know, my genre is comedy, where it’s all about fun and laughter, but the church has really embraced me. I’m doing more events like these, and the response has been good. It’s a unique experience, and I see that the Lord is doing something in my life. I’m also building my own brand called “praise and laughter”, so the work continues. 

TALLAWAH: What has surprised you the most since making the transition? 
Ity Ellis: I think what has come as the biggest surprise for me is the amount of experts outside of Christianity who are telling Christians how they should live; people who are not Christians behaving like experts. 

TALLAWAH: So what would you say is your role now as a new man in Christ? 
Ity Ellis: My role is to live a life that people can see Christ in me and come to know Christ. 

TALLAWAH: You’ve been serving as a brand ambassador for mobile giants Flow for a while. What’s that like? 
Ity Ellis: I’m a free agent now, but I still do some work with them from time to time, appearing on different shows, emceeing, performing. I did have a contract with them, but I’m not working with them in that capacity any more. 

TALLAWAH: Your comedic partnership with Fancy Cat still gets people rolling in the aisles wherever you go. Are you still as thrilled about stand-up comedy as when you just started out? 
Ity Ellis: Absolutely. This year, I’m celebrating 25 years of my comedic partnership with Fancy Cat. This is our 10th year doing The Ity & Fancy Cat Show. So we’re giving thanks. It’s still fun, it’s still exciting, but my friends say I shouldn’t let the church get me too serious. (Laughs). 

TALLAWAH: So there is a serious side to you. 
Ity Ellis: Yes, definitely. When it comes to God I am very serious. 

TALLAWAH: How will the rest of the year play out for you? What are you most looking forward to? 
Ity Ellis: As I said, it’s the 10th year of The Ity & Fancy Cat Show, so we have major plans to celebrate that milestone. We also plan to put on a big show later this year in support of the whole “praise and laughter” brand that we are promoting. 

TALLAWAH: That’s a lot to look forward to. When you reflect on your journey to this point, how do you feel about your life in general? 
Ity Ellis: It feels good; it feels wonderful. I have life, can’t complain. And having that life now extends beyond the physical realm. For me, life is now eternal through Christ.






Tuesday, 18 April 2017

STAGE LEFT: JCDC finalists going for gold + Karl Williams and Braata Productions team up + Halvard White preps for May recital

DREAMING IN COLOUR: Karl Williams has done it again. The versatile award-winning playwright has followed up the triumphant success of his provocative plays The Black That I Am and Not About Eve with Welcome to America: A Caribbean Musical, which gets its world premiere run at the York College in New York this month. The song-and-dance show sees Williams (book and lyrics) collaborating with Braata Productions’ Andrew Clarke (producer) and composer/musician Joel Edwards (musical director). Exploring the Caribbean immigrant experience, the complex pursuit of the American dream, and such universal themes as ambition, hope and dignity, Welcome to America tells the story of Sabrina Barnes (Fitgi Saint-Louis) who leaves her island home in the hope of becoming a bonafide star, but she soon realizes that, in spite of her talent and determination, the dream she is chasing may be in jeopardy. In addition to Williams, Clarke and Edwards, the production’s creative team includes Courtney Ffrench, who supplies the choreography and Yudelka Heyer, who directs. 

CLASS ACT: On May 2, Mona’s Philip Sherlock Centre will come alive with the sound of heavenly piano-playing. Iconic pianist Halvard White is bringing his impeccable artistry and one-of-a-kind musicianship to the stage for a recital that’s sure to delight his long-time admirers and secure new members for the fan club. No stranger to giving solo piano recitals that consistently draw standing ovations from packed audiences, White’s programme will see him delivering interpretations of compositions by Chopin, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninov and Ludwig Van Beethoven, among other classical masters. Showtime is 7:30pm. 

TALENT SHOW: Before the crème de la crème can be selected for the beloved Mello-Go-Roun’ concert showcase, performers have to bring their A-game to the National Finals of the JCDC Festival of the Performing Arts. This year’s finals, to select gold medal winners in music, dance, speech, drama and traditional folk forms, is currently underway at the Little Theatre in Kingston, bringing together the year’s most outstanding entries and entrants (prep, primary and high-schoolers, community groups, et al) from across the island. The 2017 finals are scheduled to conclude on May 2.