Monday, 31 August 2009

NEWS FLASH: Buju Banton US shows cancelled after gay protests

UNDER FIRE: Gay protests lead to cancellation of Banton concerts

Here we go again. The concert promoters Live Nation and AEG have cancelled shows by reggae and dancehall artiste Buju Banton, whose violent homophobic lyrics have drawn fresh protests from gay rights advocacy groups in the US, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Since the release of his 1992 single “Boom Boom Bye”, Banton has been caught up in a backlash orchestrated by international gay rights organizations. Just last week, a campaign by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Centre led to hundreds of calls and e-mail messages to promoters Live Nation and AEG to have several of Banton’s upcoming US shows cancelled.

Consequently, shows in Philadelphia (September 12), Chicago (October 1), San Francisco (October 10), Los Angeles (October 14), Las Vegas (October 15), Dallas (October 20) and Houston (October 22) have been cancelled.

In 2004, Banton was tried and acquitted on charges that he participated in the beating of six gay men in Jamaica. Three years later, the artiste signed a “reggae compassionate act”, saying that he would not make homophobic statements in public, release new homophobic songs nor authorize the re-release of previous homophobic songs.

Banton’s latest album,
Rasta Got Soul, was released in April.

TALLAWAH Q & A: Faynia Williams

ART & PASSION: Faynia Williams has a thing for the arts

As president of the Dramatic Theatre Committee (DTC) of UNESCO’s International Theatre Institute and artistic director of England’s Brighton Theatre, Faynia Williams is always up to her neck with work. Thankfully, she enjoys what she does so much that she hardly finds time to complain. Plus, she gets to travel to exotic locales all the time in carrying out her international duties. Her most recent stop was in Kingston, Jamaica, (August 24-31) where she led a symposium and series of workshops on theatre, conflict and the development of the arts.

A fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Arts, an award-winning theatre and opera director, as well as a BBC radio play producer, screenwriter and filmmaker, Williams is a seriously gifted woman madly in love with theatre and is unswerving in her advocacy for its growth and preservation around the world.

TALLAWAH: What are your thoughts on the theatre atmosphere in Kingston, considered the theatre capital of the Caribbean?

Faynia Williams: From what I’ve seen so far, it’s very lively. What I find interesting is how your young actors respond quickly to scripts, like at the symposium [on Friday]. I was really very impressed.

TALLAWAH: Tell me about the state of theatre back home in England.

FW: In England, the theatre business is very large. It’s also very regional. You have commercial theatre at West End, which was set up to bring in money and make profits. You also have fringe theatre, which is not for profit. There is also a lot of performance across boundaries employing channels like art, video installation and other alternative methods and ideas. There is also quite a fashion for turning films into plays and plays into films. Many of our big actors came out of that arrangement.

TALLAWAH: What books are you currently reading?

FW: I am actually reading The Pirate’s Daughter, which is set in Port Antonio. We are going there tomorrow. I am also reading a biography of Bob Marley. Those are the two books I brought with me. Usually, I am reading some heavier stuff (Laughs).

TALLAWAH: Is this your first visit to Jamaica?

FW: Yes, this is my first visit to Jamaica, buy I have been to the Caribbean before; I’ve been to Guyana.

TALLAWAH: I know you plan to return.

FW: Definitely, I enjoy it here. And I have been asked to return. It was important for me to come and not impose my culture on people here but to come and work on the ground. And I have been enjoying it. I love the people and I love the food (Laughs).

TALLAWAH: In what ways would you like to see the ITI Dramatic Theatre Committee (DTC) move to new heights as you move forward?

FW: Well, we’ve always wanted to diversify so having Dorothy [Cunningham] as our first Caribbean member is very important. We hope to grow with many other countries taking part. We have our biennial congress taking place in 2010, and we want to continue our projects as well as establish archives so that an information bank of our work and ventures will be available.

BOOK REVIEW: Jean Lowrie-Chin – Souldance

SOUL FOOD: Lowrie-Chin offers a fascinating debut collection

Title: Souldance (2009)
Author: Jean Lowrie-Chin
Publisher: Ian Randle Publishers
Pages: 170

The endearing photo of two youthful angels on the cover of Souldance: Poems & Writings (Ian Randle Publishers, 2009), Jean Lowrie-Chin’s absorbing debut collection of her columns, prose and verse, is an excellent indicator of the nature of the book’s content. Touching, sensitive and captivating, Souldance is brimming with universal themes of love, family, community and struggle. The care and quality with which Lowrie-Chin crafts her pieces equally appeals to readers.

Souldance captures the work that has flowed from the pen of one of Jamaica’s recognizable public relations professionals and newspaper columnists for nearly 30 years. Lowrie-Chin’s affection and concern for her homeland, the inimitable bond she shares with relatives and her thoughts on life and humanity are showcased through sterling prose and poetry.

Among the standouts that gripped me is “A Dad for All Seasons,” a moving account of the life and legacy of J.E. Lowrie, the author’s accountant father who we are told took his last breath (he died of an arthritic condition) in 1977 while whispering prayers in the company of his darling wife.

While shedding light on a rich family history, the piece also powerfully captured a striking father-daughter bond. “Dad threw himself into the role of father with a gusto that I have rarely seen in biological fathers. Every Saturday was library day, and after we carefully selected our books, we would be taken to the old Oxford Pharmacy for ice-cream. No wonder we all went into communications – he made the written word sweet for us,” Lowrie-Chin writes. Her ‘daddy tribute’ is a perfect companion piece for “My Mother’s Working Love,” a salute to her mother, Maisie Lowrie, now in her eighties.

Meanwhile, selections like “Jamaica: Treasure Island,” “Best of Times in Beijing,” and “A Vision of our Men at Risk” illuminate Lowrie-Chin’s devotion for her island home and her tirelessness in championing our people. Her poetry, written mostly in free verse, is peppered with truisms and her reflections on an existence too many of us take for granted. In “Let’s Fly,” for example, she observes, “One day it hits you/You know the bitter truth/That nothing lasts forever/Especially your youth.”

She’s also not afraid to take a proper look at the woman staring back from the mirror: “Thirty grabbed me round the waist…in thirty’s twirl I found no time for bitterness or regret.” (from “Thirty”) or feel like a girl again, enveloped in the love of her beloved husband, Hubie: “Now the poinciana through the window/ Is beautiful again/And Neil Diamond sounds sexy again/And I can understand a sentence/Without reading it again/I can smile in the dark/You love me…/Again.” (from “Again”).

At a modest 170 pages and split into three sections, Souldance is a valuable and breezy read. My only quibble? The poems could have been interspersed throughout the book instead of packed to the front to make for a more balanced arrangement. But that takes away nothing major from the overall enjoyment of Lowrie-Chin’s writing. At it's best, Souldance chronicles the experiences and ideology of a woman, a “breathless messenger” intensely in love with God, family and country.

ARTS BRIEF: IOJ releases special anniversary Jamaica Journal

ICON: Edward Seaga graces cover of special commemorative issue of Jamaica Journal

The much celebrated Jamaica Journal magazine, the flagship publication of the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) has launched its 130th anniversary issue, which features former Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga as its cover subject.

Edited by Kim Robinson, the new special issue features a diverse range of reviews, essays and articles, notably Edward Seaga’s “A Life on a Cultural Mission,” his account of his work in Jamaican culture, including launching the Jamaica Journal as a medium of documenting the culture. University lecturer Clinton Hutton offers “The Revival Table: Feasting with the Ancestors and Spirits”; historian Verene Shepherd writes “Sir Anthony Musgrave and the Institute of Jamaica, while Professor Rupert Lewis contributes “Jamaica Black Power and Walter Rodney in 1968.”

Also included in this commemorative edition are articles pertaining to West Indian lit, excerpts from works by local talent, book reviews from such renowned scholars as Carolyn Cooper and Maureen Warner-Lewis and reports on recent art exhibitions. Artists Hope Brooks, David Boxer and Petrine Archer remember their late colleague Christopher Gonzalez.

The Jamaica Journal, one of the Caribbean’s leading cultural publications, was first published in 1967. As an authoritative source on Jamaican heritage, contemporary culture and natural environment, the magazine’s coverage of a wide range of topics - history, literature, science and the arts commands the interest of the general reader. Over the years, the publication has featured icons of our cultural heritage such as Louise Bennett-Coverley, Ranny Williams, Olive Lewin and Bob Marley.

Currently, the IOJ publishes two issues per year. Articles for the Jamaica Journal are peer-reviewed by an academic editorial team, a criterion for academic publications. Consequently, it is a useful resource for students and researchers and this characteristic explains its presence in academic institutions and libraries locally, regionally and internationally.

Friday, 28 August 2009

SPORTS CULTURE: Bolt lands Sports Illustrated cover

FEEL 'THE HEAT': Sprint sensation Usain Bolt on cover of latest Sports Illustrated

What’s a sports superstar to do after shattering his own two world records and giving new meaning to the words “phenom” and “sensation?” Nab the cover of Sports Illustrated, of course! Following his track-blazing exploits at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Berlin, Germany, last week, Jamaica’s sprint powerhouse Usain Bolt has scored the cover of renowned American sports magazine, Sports Illustrated.

The 23-year-old Bolt, who sped to world record times of 9.58 seconds and 19.19 seconds to win the sprint double for men in Germany, will be featured on the cover of the magazine’s September issue dubbed “September Heat,” which hits newsstands today (Friday, August 31).

Bolt is the first track and field athlete since Marion Jones in October 2000 to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. Among the non-American athletes to appear on the cover of the magazine are Cuba’s Alberto Juantorena (September 1977) and Britain’s former 1,500 metre world record holder Sebastian Coe (1980).

TRANSITION: Dominick Dunne (1925-2009)

THE DEPARTED: Dominick Dunne passes at 83

Dominick Dunne, the former Hollywood producer, diarist and best-selling author known for his in-depth Vanity Fair essays on the courtroom travails of the rich and famous, died Wednesday in New York City after a long battle with cancer. Dunne, who told stories of shocking crimes among high society folks through his magazine articles and best-selling novels such as The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, was 83. Dunne's son, actor-director Griffin Dunne, said in a statement that his father had been battling bladder cancer.

Affectionately called 'Nick' by his friends, Dunne was putting the finishing touches on his final novel, which he planned to call Too Much Money, when his health took a turn for the worse. He flew to Germany earlier this month for another round of stem cell treatments at the same Bavarian clinic where the late Farrah Fawcett was treated. He was hospitalized upon his return to New York, and then sent home.

Dunne, who lived in Manhattan, was also beginning to write his memoirs and, until close to the end of his life, he posted messages on his website commenting on events in his life and thanking his fans for their support. As a correspondent for Vanity Fair, Dunne was a fixture at some of the most famous trials of the century – Claus von Bulow, William Kennedy Smith, the Menendez brothers, Michael Skakel, Phil Spector and O.J. Simpson.

Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter praised Dunne as an exceptional reporter who proved as fascinating as the people he wrote about. "Anyone who remembers the sight of O.J. Simpson trying on the famous glove probably remembers a bespectacled Dunne, resplendent in his trademark Turnbull & Asser monogrammed shirt, on the court bench behind him," Carter wrote in a statement. "It is fair to say that the halls of Vanity Fair will be lonelier without him and that, indeed, we will not see his like anytime soon, if ever again."

SPORTS CULTURE: PM Bruce Golding salutes Ja's Berlin stars

FANTASTIC FIVE: Jamaica's Men 4x100m winners (L-R) Usain Bolt, Michael Frater, Asafa Powell and Steve Mullings pose with the World Champs mascot, Berlino, in Berlin last week.

"The performance of our athletes at the Berlin games and the victories they have brought to our country almost on a daily basis, confirm that this country is destined for greatness. We are blessed, our people are blessed and we now need to translate this energy, this determination, discipline and drive, into all spheres of our lives."

This is the message that Prime Minister Bruce Golding sent to Jamaica’s athletes, in response to their brilliant and exceptional performance at the Berlin Games in Germany recently.

In his congratulatory message to Jamaica’s gold medallists of the 4 x 100m Men and Women relay teams, Mr. Golding said the athletes have outdone themselves, bringing with them a nation that is bursting with pride and joy beyond words. "The entire Caribbean is brimming with joy today and the rest of the world is celebrating Jamaica’s victories," he said.

Mr. Golding paid a special tribute to Asafa Powell for his outstanding performance despite his injuries. "This demonstrates his selflessness and love for country. What more could anyone ask? We are indebted to you Asafa as we are to the entire team representing this country in Berlin at this time. We anxiously await the return of all members because without a doubt, despite the challenges we are going through at this time, this grateful nation will have to find tangible ways to express its thanks to all members of the Berlin team", the prime minister added.

Monday, 24 August 2009

MUSIC BUZZ: Sean Paul - Imperial Blaze

Fanning the Flames

ONCE AGAIN: Sean Paul bounces back with a heat-seeker

Imperial Blaze
Artiste: Sean Paul

Tyrone’s Verdict: B-

You can say this for Sean Paul Henriques: he is a capable dancehall lyricist with a penchant for energetic, club-invading anthems that celebrate the form and fecundity of the female. At the same time, he is arguably the most successful pop ambassador Jamaican music has ever had who isn't surnamed Marley.

According to his biggest cheerleaders, Mr. Henriques has done more to bridge the gap between American and Jamaican musical culture than anyone in modern music. For others, the artiste has made an enormous impact but his music has always inspired more dance-floor humping than socio-political activism. Sean Paul’s music has always been about merriment and women.

Where sales and chart performance are concerned, Sean Paul is the most successful Jamaican artiste of all time on the US charts, with three #1 singles (“Temperature”, “Get Busy”, and “Baby Boy” with Beyonce), five Top Ten hits (including “We Be Burnin'” and “Gimme The Light”), and eight chart entries over two worldwide multi-platinum albums. His third album confirmed his stature as an international superstar, with total global sales in excess of 4 million. That album was the follow-up to Sean's double-platinum 2002 VP/Atlantic debut, The TrinityDutty Rock, which sold more than 6 million copies worldwide and took home the Grammy for Best Reggae Album a year later.

On his latest and fourth album, the lively but uneven Imperial Blaze, Sean Paul’s limitless energy carries him through the 20 tracks, helping him manoeuvre over every flashy dancehall riddim that comes his way. The album sags toward the middle, but when he sticks to his strengths, Sean Paul is a force to be reckoned with. “So Fine” is a throbbing, radio-friendly lead single, but listening to the lyrics, it’s not saying much.

Tracks on Imperial Blaze were produced by some of Jamaica’s most popular beat-makers including Stephen McGregor, Craig ‘Leftside’ Parkes and Arif Cooper at such Kingston music houses as Keep Left Studios, Vendetta Studios, 2 Hard Studios, Coppershot Studios, Big Ship Studios, Fresh Ear Studios and Renaissance Sound Studio.

Followers of Sean Paul’s signature “girl” tunes will very likely fall for the bulk of the tracks on Imperial Blaze which are set aside for Sean Paul’s bedroom desires for the woman he is feeling. Look no further than “Press It Up,” on which he promises to give it to her in a way she will “never forget”, “Private Party”, “Don’t Tease Me” and the Joe Grine-esque “She Wanna Be Down”, among others. Overall, the beats are top-notch and the melodies infectious, but the CD lacks the requisite heft and variety in subject matter to nudge it into the territory of excellence and zing.

Still, among my easy favourites are the heartfelt “Hold My Hand,” which features Keri Hilson; the pulsating “Birthday Suit” and “Straight from My Heart,” a tribute to his mother and supportive mothers everywhere.

In short, Imperial Blaze presents a batch of well-produced tracks which are largely hinged to a singular topic. But, to his credit, Sean Paul makes no bones about his intentions here while employing fierce energy and bravado throughout.

DOWNLOAD: “So Fine”, “Press It Up”, “Birthday Suit” and “Hold My Hand”


Danger & Desire

PRIVATE DANCERS: Camille Davis (left) and Sakina in Diana

Diana (JAMBIZ International)

Director: Trevor Nairne

Cast: Camille Davis, Courtney Wilson, Sakina and Chris Hutchinson

Venue: Centrestage Theatre, New Kingston

Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

At a key moment in the play Diana, the title character angrily tells her boyfriend, “I am a dancer, not a prostitute.” She makes this ‘revelation’ during a pivotal scene in the two-act play, and for the first time her respect for her line of her work is made supremely clear to viewers in the audience.

It’s the same fierce loyalty she brings to her relationship with her man at home, though she’s not holding on to much. Her construction boyfriend Doggie (Courtney Wilson) is insanely jealous and insecure; the rent for their place of residence is several months in arrears; the cable company has cut their service due to non-payment and the furniture is being re-possessed piece by piece. But Diana has stayed because she loves her man.

In crafting the basic set-up for the play - arguably one of his finest - playwright Patrick Brown skillfully tosses these little details into the mix as the action unfolds. Boasting all the elements for a thoroughly entertaining production, Diana is a lofty tale of desire, danger, devotion and desperation, which soars on Brown’s smart and informed writing and the strong performances of the cast, particularly Camille Davis in the title role.

As the action plays out under Trevor Nairne’s apt direction we not only meet Diana and Doggie. We are also introduced to Diana’s close friend Cher (played with vim and conviction by Sakina), a deaf-mute exotic dancer, and Pops (the always commendable Glen Campbell), who runs Pop’s Place, the bar and go-go club where Diana and Cher ‘perform’ nightly.

THREE'S COMPANY: Camille Davis, Sakina and Courtney Wilson in Diana

Wherever music, alcohol and dancing women mix, trouble can’t be too far away. For Diana and Doggie, it comes in the form of a dapper but dangerous big-spender named Candyman (a reliable Chris Hutchinson), who will stop at nothing for “one night with Diana”. And when Doggie foolishly gets himself in a predicament, it seems Candyman will finally get his way.

The cast has appealing chemistry and the performers display a mature understanding of their characters and their struggles, which makes the production all the more easy to follow and hugely enjoyable. Though Diana, a re-working of Brown’s Dirty Diana, has its outrageous moments, it is also punctuated with tastefully humorous scenes and sobering scenarios in equal measure. Well-lit and strongly acted, it is one of the most satisfying offerings to emerge from the Jambiz camp.

NEWS BRIEF: Sean Paul cancels Brooklyn appearance

UNDER THE WEATHER: Sean Paul cancels Brooklyn performance

A nagging throat problem has forced Sean Paul to cancel his performance at the Martin Luther King concert series in Brooklyn tonight (Monday, August 24), according to New York Daily News. Soca artiste Machel Montano will replace him as the headliner, bringing some carnival spice to the event.

Sean Paul has been blazing a trail across the US to promote his latest album, Imperial Blaze, and now it appears the dancehall star has burnt out his voice, at least for the moment. And one the advice of his doctor, he has cancelled his performance at the show.

"I am really disappointed that I will not be able to appear," Sean Paul said in a statement, adding, "I've been working very hard these last few weeks, to deliver the album to my fans. I was looking forward to performing the new tracks in Brooklyn."

The statement also confirmed that a throat problem he developed while on the road to promote the new album was the reason for the last minute cancellation.

CULTURE SPECIAL: Ocho Rios Craft Market

CULTURE SPECIAL: Ocho Rios Craft Market

STREET ART: Smack in the middle of the bustling tourist mecca, the Ocho Rios craft market is a veritable source of artwork and craft items depicting Jamaica and its people in its purest and truest sense. From paintings highlighting the abundance of our lush vegetation and magical natural beauty to wooden carvings of Rastafarians, women and children, there is no shortage of talent and flair on display. One any given day in the sprawling market, located on Main Street, sweet-natured tourists and a few locals mix and strike deals with the hustling vendors, sometimes with not-so satisfying results for both parties. Still, in the sea of paintings, craft items, patriotic Jamaican tees and other fancy souvenir items, the spirit of hospitality is thick and on good days the flow of dollars is encouraging. A quick glance around the marketplace reveals there is room for improvement in the standard of service offered and the need for refurbishment to some sections. But until then, the quest for fulfillment continues inside the Ocho Rios craft market.