Friday, 23 February 2018

‘REMEMBERING REX’: UWI Singers and NDTC put on splendid tribute concert; Barry Moncrieffe specially honoured

PITCH PERFECT: A rich, harmonious blend elevated the University Singers' song selections.

EVERYONE agrees that the best way to pay tribute to the late great Rex Nettleford is to experience his living legacy in living colour. The new-generation National Dance Theatre Company (under the leadership of newly appointed Artistic Director Marlon Simms) and the University Singers (led by Noel Dexter successor Franklin Halliburton) put on a fantastic show in his honour last Tuesday night – a joint performance dubbed “Remembering Rex,” under the auspices of the Rex Nettleford Foundation.

Full of living colour, visual power and energy, the troupe’s work on the night offered sterling reminders of the indelible contributions that Nettleford made not only to their respective repertoires but to the arts nationally.

The Singers opened with a robust rendition of “Lift Every Voice,” powered by a harmonious blend. With Simms interpreting the music with movement, Halliburton took a solo moment with a splendid performance of “The Lord’s Prayer” before the choir returned centrestage to do “Ave Maria,” a sprightly version that Halliburton arranged.

Elsewhere on the programme, they offered a couple memorable Negro spirituals – Christopher Whyte taking the lead on “I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray” and soprano Racine Barrett showing off gorgeous vocals as she led “Ride on King Jesus”.

“Seasons of Love” from Rent also found favour with the sizeable audience as did their “South African Medley”, arranged by Kathy Brown. The “Rocksteady Suite” (arranged by Djenne Greaves) teemed with roots-rockin’ nostalgia.

The dancers, meanwhile, contributed five works to the show. The choreography for 2002’s “Incantation” was supplied by Jeanguy Saintus, while Troy Powell choreographed the engrossing “Unscathed” from 2015. As ever, “Tintinnabulum” (1997) was testament to Nettleford’s penchant for creating works that reflect the deep social forces at work in Jamaican traditions and customs.

Of course, the same can be said of “Kumina,” his 1971 classic, for which Simms and Keita-Marie Chamberlain assumed the roles of King and Queen, under a bright full moon, leading the company to a triumphant curtain call. 

But the night was not all about Nettleford. Barry Moncrieffe, who took over as Artistic Director when Nettleford passed in 2010 and retired from active duty in December, was specially honoured by the foundation, with Ambassador Richard Bernal presenting him with an award for his 55 years with the NDTC. “Fifty-five years is a long time and a long journey, and I wouldn’t have survived without your love and support. Thanks to those who really held my hand along the way,” he said, accepting the honour. “My successor, Marlon Simms, he’s ready.”

Thursday, 22 February 2018

CULTURE VULTURE: Sly & Robbie’s latest honour + Heineken and Sankofa re-team for ‘The Movement’ + Bob’s songs inspire upcoming Hollywood film

> 100 schools islandwide to benefit from anti-alcohol ‘Movement’
Given the prevalence of underage drinking across Jamaica and the increasing importance of alcohol awareness among the youth population, some 100 schools islandwide are being targeted this year for “The Movement,” a Red Stripe/Heineken-sponsored initiative that fuses performing arts and Jamaican dancehall culture with sobering messages. Renowned arts programme facilitator Fabian Thomas (Sankofa Productions) and his cast of actors will present a 20-minute skit, featuring three characters and the life-altering decisions that they make. This is the third year that Thomas and his team are partnering with Red Stripe, now celebrating its 100th anniversary. For Thomas, it’s about using entertainment to spread an important message. “The schools love it, the kids love it, and we are encouraged by the responses,” he tells TALLAWAH. “The response has been so overwhelming that there are ‘movement’ clubs now being formed in several of the school that we’ve visited.” This year’s programme is scheduled to run from March to December.

> Sly & Robbie to receive first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award at YVAs
With 10 Grammy nominations to their credit (1999’s Friends won Best Reggae Album), Lowell ‘Sly’ Dunbar and Robert ‘Robbie’ Shakespeare are indisputably reggae royalty. This Saturday, as the Your View Awards (YVAs) return to the National Indoor Sport Centre for its 10th anniversary staging, Sly & Robbie will be honoured with the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is being sponsored by the CHASE Fund. Aptly nicknamed The Rhythm Twins, Sly & Robbie have worked with a who’s who of global music icons over the years – from No Doubt and the Rolling Stones to James Brown and Jimmy Cliff.

> Cedella Marley co-producing film based on Bob’s music
He’s been the subject of documentary features, short films and stage musicals. Now, Bob Marley’s music is about to get the cinematic treatment. According to reports out of Hollywood, Kenya Barris (the maverick behind TV’s Black-ish and the 2017 big-screen comedy Girls Trip) is gearing up to do a film based on Marley’s songs. Cedella Marley has signed on to co-produce the project. Andrea Milcro of Fox Animation, one of the film company’s set to bring the idea to life, says, “We not only have the opportunity to build new relationships for the studio, but we get to tell a story inspired by the music of Bob Marley, one of the greatest music legends of our time.” Universal Music Group’s Polygram Entertainment is also attached to the project.

KELLY PRICE IN J’CA: The R&B diva pays tribute to Whitney, recaps her journey at Red Rose for Gregory

MISS MELODY: Price brought her signature mix of powerhouse vocals and testimony to the mainstage.

“I loved her for being honest with me,” Kelly Price said on-stage at Jamaica College last Wednesday night, paying tribute to her late R&B sister and good friend Whitney Houston. “She gave me great personal advice about my career and about life. And in spite of all the things that she went through there will never be another like her.”

Price’s reflection on her close friendship with Houston and the good times that they shared came during an electrifying performance at Red Rose for Gregory, before a packed house – red-and-white-clad couples, music lovers and other patrons basking in the great vibes, on the occasion of Valentine’s Day.

The six-time Grammy-nominated songstress, sporting a black form-fitting number and rocking divalicious curls, promised to take the patrons on a journey reflecting her eventful career – from the late 90s when record execs and other detractors told her she was “too fat, too Black and too loud” to have a successful career to the height of the 2000s when she did her own smash rendition of Shirley Murdock’s “As We Lay.”

For close to an hour, Kelly had her audience transfixed with her stagecraft, empowerment pep talks and commentary on everything from body image to self-worth. 

Blessed with lush vocals and a multi-octave range that can raise the roof, Price gave spirited renditions of some of her classic tracks (“It’s My Time”, “You Should’ve Told Me” etc.), snippets of the tracks she penned for P. Diddy, Mase and the Bad Boy family, and “Heartbreak Hotel,” which memorably teamed her with Houston and Faith Evans.

But arguably the biggest hit of Price’s career is the “Friend of Mine” remix featuring Ron Isley and R. Kelly. As expected the audience sang along word for word, and Price (who was ably assisted by her disc jock DJ Jermaine) brought her performance to a triumphant close.

Red Rose for Gregory was co-headlined by Freddie McGregor, who delivered the big hits of his illustrious career and a Dennis Brown tribute to the euphoric delight of his on-their-feet fans. Short Boss (at right) gave a short-and-spicy set earlier in the night, as did Robert Minott and St. Ann-based rising star Kaydeno. 

There were no words to describe the pitch-perfect showcase delivered by Pat Edwards, Karen Smith and Gem Myers (who go by Pakage). They brought the house down with pristine three-part harmonies, delving into a suite of disco/Motown jams and classic anthems that whetted appetites for the feast that was to come.

NEWS & NOTES: Sagicor Sigma Run rakes in $50M + Small businesses to benefit from J’ca Business Fund grants + Dr. Janet Dyer appointed HEART Trust/NTA Managing Director

MONEY WELL SPENT: More than 25,000 participants took to the streets of New Kingston on Sunday morning to support the 2018 renewal of the Sagicor Sigma Run, now in its seventh year. The event, which drew endorsements from everyone, including PM Andrew Holness, health minister Dr. Christopher Tufton, Sagicor's Chris Zacca and ambassadors Davina Bennett, Patrice White and Usain Bolt, raised a whopping $50 million. The proceeds will be donated to the Spanish Town Hospital’s Neo-Natal Unit and St. Christopher’s School for the Deaf. In the words of PM Holness, the record-setting charity event remains “a great run for a great cause.” Ann-Marie Finegan, 26, and 38-year-old Ryon Chambers emerged winners of the 5K road race. 

SUPPLY & DEMAND: The Jamaica Business Fund (JBF) has announced the impending launch of the third cycle of supply chain grants to benefit small and medium-sized enterprises. The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) has oversight responsibility for this J$600M fund. The grants will serve as investment into Jamaican enterprises to boost their competitiveness. The DBJ predicts that through these investments, the SME sector will become more productive, resulting in increased export sales and employment, as well as growth in import substitution and other business-related activities. Entrepreneurs can get additional information at

WOMAN ON TOP: Effective Feb. 1, Dr. Janet Dyer is the new Managing Director of the HEART Trust/NTA. Her long association with the agency spans over three decades, commencing with her stint as a trainee at the Runaway Bay academy in 1986. Dr. Dyer is also a former Director/Principal of the St. Ann-based institution and has held other senior management positions at HEART. Prior to her new appointment, she’d been Acting Managing Director since November 2017. An alumna of St. Elizabeth Technical, Dr. Dyer holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Hotel & Tourism Management from Washington International University and an MBA and a BSc from Nova South Eastern University.

Monday, 19 February 2018

ON THE SCENE: Naomi works the stage at Soul Rebel 73 + Davina stuns at RJR/Gleaner Gala; PM Holness gets the youth vote, and more

FLY GIRL: Feb. 6, St. Andrew. Gospel and reggae-pop songstress Naomi Cowan delivers the goods while giving a main-stage performance at Soul Rebel 73, the 2018 Bob Marley b’day celebrations at 56 Hope Road. Protoje and a host of rising reggae ambassadors also graced the stage. (Photo: Sleek)

TALK UP YOUT’: Feb. 6, St. Andrew. Ever giving a voice to the nation’s youngsters, emcee Emprezz Golding gave this lad some shine as she carried out hosting duties at Soul Rebel 73, which, as expected, drew a mammoth crowd to the grounds of the Hope Road-based Bob Marley Museum. (Photo: Sleek)

COUCH THERAPY: Feb. 13, Kingston. Prof. Gordon Shirley cuts a dashing figure in his strong suit, as he sits down with hostess Dahlia Harris, moments after being named Man of the Year at the RJR/Gleaner Honour Awards Gala inside the Grand Jamaica Suite of the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Tuesday. Prof. Shirley, an esteemed public servant, is currently head of the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ). (Photo: Sleek)

TABLE FOR TWO: Feb. 13, Kingston. Two of this year’s distinguished honorees – a dapper Dr. Christopher Tufton (Health & Wellness) and a ravishing Miss Jamaica Universe Davina Bennett (Arts & Culture) – strike a pose for the shutterbugs at Tuesday’s RJR/Gleaner Honour Awards Gala at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. (Photo: Skkan Media)

VOTE OF CONFIDENCE: Feb. 13, St. Andrew. Last week’s media appreciation party, A Taste of Jamaica, offered PM Andrew Holness yet another opportunity to bond with his young supporters. Out in their numbers at the Jamaica House-hosted event, they flocked to the PM who obviously loved the company. (Photo: Sleek)

GIRL OF THE MOMENT: Singer-actress Shanique Brown talks balance, breakout stardom and her career game plan

BRINGING IT: "I'm taking my time to get it right," Brown says of the EP she has planned for 2018.

“I’M a full-time performer,” declares Shanique Brown, explaining the delicate balancing act that now forms the crux of her life in the arts. The twenty-something star, who has been winning fans as GiRL (her soulful alter ego), has joined the ensemble cast of DMH Productions’ Dat a Gwaan Jamaica Remix, which plays to her strengths as a songstress, actress and budding comedienne.

She shines among her castmates in the hit comedy revue, taking on roles that range from a ghetto-fabulous vendor to a delinquent tenant dodging her landlord to Commissioner-of-Police hopeful Novlette Grant.

Fresh out of Ardenne High, theatre quickly became Brown’s firm base but she’s always had music in her heart. So before long, while taking acting jobs, she was appearing on the Kingston live music scene, recording singles like the infectious jam “Fly” (with Dat a Gwaan Jamaica costar Kadeem ‘Kenzic’ Wilson) and teaming up with producers for her forthcoming EP and her first full-length album.

“It’s been an interesting journey,” she says in a masterpiece of understatement, moments after wrapping another performance at the Phoenix Theatre. A few feet away, her costars are chatting with patrons, who seem to have enjoyed the show immensely. “That’s what it is for me – a journey. It’s a lot of work; it gets hard, but I prepare. And I like a challenge.” It shows. Attempting to break into the music mainstream demands more than a gorgeous voice and a pretty face. It takes real resilience. But, as Brown says, she is prepared.

In addition to doing more stage work this year, she wants to put out her debut EP by the time summer arrives. “I’m taking my time to get it right. I’m not making any promises as to the release date, but the fans will enjoy it,” she offers. “I’ve learned from the past singles I’ve released and how people have responded because I want to perfect the others that I have coming out.” 

As if that weren’t enough, Brown takes pleasure in rekindling her passion for film work. She has completed two screen projects due for release in 2018 – including a short titled The City of Man. For Brown, what’s happening in her career now is a nice transition from 2017, when she appeared in Michelle Serieux’s Sugar and Kurt Wright’s Origins – both of which earned critical acclaim locally and regionally, thanks to the Propella initiative. 

As for taking a turn behind the camera as a filmmaker, that might happen eventually, but as things currently stand, Brown’s plate is more than full. “I really want to finish my EP and get it perfect,” says the soft-spoken and chocolate-hued starlet, who sat on a panel at the recent Voice of a Woman Festival, honouring entertainment Grace Jones and Jamaican women making great strides in the arts. “Oh, and I want to put on five more pounds.”

THE BEAUTY PAGE: Sherone Simpson “enjoying” first-time motherhood + ‘Top Model’ promises a “captivating” Season 4 + Stephanie’s fierce new look

Sherone’s Happy New Life!
The radiant glow of motherhood is not the only things that’s different about Sherone Simpson. The first-time mommy says these days there’s extra pep in her step and lots of energy to spare, thanks to the new love of her life – infant daughter, Leanna. “I am really enjoying motherhood. I have an extra drive now,” the Olympian and ace sprinter recently told an interviewer, as she made her long-awaited return to the track. “When I go out in the mornings, I think about Leanna. Coming here competing, Leanna is on my mid. She gives me that drive in everything that I am doing. She is my extra motivation.” Simpson, currently in her 30s, is quick to admit that it’s not a one-woman show when it comes to raising her daughter and teaching her about the birds and the bees. “I have a very good support system, and I have to give thanks. I have my mother, my fiancé, my sister and I have a very good nanny.” When it comes to juggling her passion for the track with quality time for parenting and other commitments, Simpson says, “You just have to plan ahead.”

Viewing Pleasure!
“It’s been a tremendous challenge. We couldn’t have done it without the support of the Caribbean people and our loyal viewers,” says head judge and executive producer Wendy Fitzwilliam, dishing about the new season of Caribbean’s Next Top Model. Now entering its fourth cycle, the televised reality series had most of its upcoming episodes shot on location in Jamaica, home of Season 3 champ, Shanique Simms, pictured above with Fitzwilliam (right), Melia Braco Hotel’s Dimitris Kosvogiannis and Kim Lee, representing media partners and broadcast station, Flow. “We’re delighted to be on board once again for the fourth season of [Top Model], which continues to draw bigger and bigger audiences as a platform for young Caribbean women to develop careers in the fashion industry,” says Garry Sinclair, President of Flow/C&W Communications Caribbean. “Viewers are in for another captivating season.” Season 4 episodes air on Flow 1, Wednesdays at 9pm.

Her style, her way!
We are loving Stephanie’s long, shoulder-length 'mane' game. The songbird and fierce stylista worked the look while attending the recent media launch party to support her alma mater Ashé as they jump-started their 25th anniversary celebrations in Kingston. Definitely one of the sharpest looks in this head-turning diva’s lookbook.