Wednesday, 30 December 2009

UPDATE: J-Hud out, Badu in for Jazz & Blues 2010

NATURAL WOMAN: Erykah Badu replaces Jennifer Hudson on 2010 Jazz & Blues line-up

It’s a case of a ‘dreamgirl’ deferred. Jennifer Hudson has cancelled her performance at the eagerly anticipated 2010 Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival, due to a scheduling conflict.


According to Hudson’s people, the Oscar and Grammy winner has been asked to perform during special tribute to music mogul Clive Davis at the 51st Grammy Awards on January 31. And due to rehearsals, among other essential preparations, the singer would be unable to properly honour her obligations with Turnkey Productions, the organizers behind the annual festival. The Jazz & Blues Festival is set for January 24-30.


To replace J-Hud, Walter Elmore and his team have turned to neo-soul queenpin Erykah Badu, who has agreed to make her second appearance at the festival. Another recent addition to the roster is Kenneth 'Babyface' Edmonds. The 2010 Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival will also feature performances by an impressive roster of local and international singers and musicians, including Third World, Kelly Price, Deborah Cox, Tamia, Maxi Priest.




Wednesday, 23 December 2009

COMING ATTRACTIONS: Sex & The City 2

Break out the manolos and martinis! The highly anticipated sequel to the Sex and The City movie is on its way. The film, which was reportedly shot on nearly all continents, will hit cinemas on May 28, 2010, and will revisit the lives of fab four girlfriends Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda two years after we last saw them.

Check out the teaser trailer below:


BOOK NEWS: Hutchinson releases Kin Teet Kibba Heart Bun

CULTURE MAVEN: Joan Andrea Hutchinson releases new book.

Author and raconteur Joan Andrea Hutchinson continues her mission to document and preserve aspects of Jamaican life and culture with her new book and CD, Kin Teet Kibba Heart Bun.


Hutchinson’s new volume encompasses traditional activities such as the peeling pineapples and using the skin to make juice; using the coconut milk then making gizzada and grater cake from the trash; converting overnight rice to rice porridge; and frying overnight dumplings for breakfast; bleaching white clothes on a zinc with lime and salt; and turning the collar on a shirt to extend the wear, among many others.


Kin Teet Kibba Heart Bun is the culmination of four years of research Hutchinson conducted with Jamaicans from every corner of society. Overall, it represents a composite and delightfully presented blend of information spanning decades of Jamaican life. It is sure to find favour with Jamaicans both at home and abroad.


Monday, 21 December 2009

ASAFA POWELL: “It takes a lot of hard work and support to be a champ”

HEART OF A CHAMP: Asafa Powell talks about career and contribution

Asafa Powell might be a speed king and one of the most famous faces in Jamaican athletics, but he’s also committed to making things happen behind-the-scenes, particularly through the recently-established Asafa Powell Foundation, which he plans to use as a non-profit vehicle to raise funds for and inspire scores of future Jamaican athletic champions.


The first of many events to benefit this vision was ‘A Night On Tracks,’ a fundraising concert held at the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston last Sunday, supported by Powell’s entertainer friends, the media and the general public.


After years in the sport, Powell, who hails from a working-class St. Catherine family, knows the reward of hard work, but he is also cognizant of the hardships that can derail any dream. And that knowledge continues to fuel his determination to make a positive contribution.


TALLAWAH talked to the former world record holder about the inspiration behind his new foundation, the value of giving back and what he really wants for 2010.


TALLAWAH: Congrats on the launch of your foundation, which will benefit young Jamaicans who want to pursue athletics as a career option. What initially inspired you to start the Asafa Powell Foundation?

Asafa Powell: Well, I was inspired from about four years ago when I saw the large number of young people on the street who really wanted to become athletes. A lot of them would come up to me and tell me that they wanted to get a start, but they didn’t have the support to get started, and I wanted to help them. So I pitched the idea to my brother and some other people and they encouraged me to start the foundation.


TALLAWAH: Are you satisfied with the state of athletics in the Caribbean?

Powell: Yeah man, I’m satisfied. But I think it could be better in terms of support being provided for athletes to better their careers because a lot of them cannot afford to fully support their careers financially. So in terms of moving forward I think that is something that needs to be looked at.


TALLAWAH: How important is it for you as a celebrated and successful athlete to give back to your community, your country?

Powell: It’s very important for me because I love Jamaica. I wasn’t born with a lot of money; I grew up seeing my family struggling. I know what it takes to be a champion and it takes a lot of hard work and support to get the work done. So now that I am in a position to help, that’s what I want to do.


TALLAWAH: What else has struggle taught you about life?

Powell: It has taught me to really never give up and to work hard for what I want to achieve.


TALLAWAH: Speaking of achievement, can we expect a world record run in 2010?

Powell: I always want to perform at that level whenever I am on the track, so a world record is definitely possible in the New Year. But that is not always at the forefront of my mind whenever I go out there. If it happens, it happens. But every athlete wants to do something spectacular each time.


TALLAWAH: So what else are you hoping for in the New Year?

Powell: I just want to remain healthy and get this foundation on the road.


TALLAWAH: Are you thinking of starting a family?

Powell: Yes, I want to start a family one day. Everyone wants to at one point or another. That’s something I definitely want to do… soon.


TALLAWAH: So, how’s Yendi?

Powell: She’s alright.


TALLAWAH: I was told she is in South Africa.

Powell: She’s supposed to be coming home [today] for the show.


TALLAWAH: And for Christmas.

Powell: Yes, for Christmas too (Laughs).




MUSIC REVIEW: Chris Brown - Graffiti

WALKING ON THE MOON: Chris Brown re-emerges with Graffiti, his third studio album.

Graffiti (Jive/Zomba)
Artiste: Chris Brown

Tyrone’s Verdict: B-

Chris Brown has had quite a year. In February, on the eve of the Grammy Awards, he allegedly assaulted then girlfriend Rihanna, sparking an international outcry from both music lovers and curious onlookers. The rest of the year was a tabloid media frenzy, culminating with Brown being sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to perform over 100 hours of community service for the offense. But despite the legal woes and venom the embattled young star had to face in the wake of his troubles, he was determined to resuscitate a music career many predicted would never rise again.

On
Graffiti, his recently released third album, Brown aims to kick things up a notch from his last outing, Exclusive. However, the new album is largely a musical misfire, delivering a middling 14-track set of mostly mid-tempo songs bolstered by big-budget production, some catchy melodies and his usual pop-driven songwriting. With just a handful of memorable tracks, the project never quite achieves that wow factor or magical coherence that distinguished Exclusive from the sea of male R&B records we've waded through in the past couple years.

A blend of contemporary R&B, hip hop, soul and electro-pop,
Graffiti gives nods to Brown’s influences like Prince, Usher, Stevie and MJ, but relies too heavily on a swath of throbbing beats to stay afloat. “I Can Transform Ya,” from super-producer Swizz Beatz, makes for an arresting first single (on which rapper Lil’ Wayne lends an amazing verse), and is followed up by the heartfelt “Crawl,” about rekindling a love affair after disappointment.

Brown also assembles a long roster of collaborators for the new album — Trey Songz and The Game on “Wait;” singer/producer Tank on “Take My Time;” newcomer Ester Dean on “I Love You;” and Plies raps on “What I Do” — but, with the exception of Plies, such contributions bring very little flavor to the broth.

Among the highlights, though, are the Ryan Leslie-produced “Famous Girl” — which contains the line, “I should never have wrote Disturbia” — the eerily true-to-life “Fallin’ Down,” and the beautifully sublime bonus track “Glow In The Dark.”

Where Chris Brown's two previous albums scored big with fans as well as critics with their delightful range of lyrics and melodies backed by his strong and beautiful voice,
Graffiti is overpowered simply by its zeal to prove that he’s still got “it.” Make no mistake, while Brown’s appeal has waned in the eyes of some, his talent remains undeniable. He just needs to dig a little deeper right now.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Glow in The Dark” (Bonus Track)

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Catching up with Ethiopian empress Sheba

LIONESS ON THE RISE: Sheba is ready to roar


Sheba Sahlemariam has quite a story to tell. A refugee from war-plagued Ethiopia, the singer was reared among the concrete jungles of New York City, Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. Named after the Queen of Sheba, to whom her family traces direct ancestry, Sheba is a cousin to Emperor Haile Selassie. And this, in part, highlights the eerie circumstances surrounding her family’s move from Ethiopia to Guyana, where she spent her early childhood and later, to Jamaica, which deepened her love and connection to reggae and dancehall.


But these days, Sheba is offering listeners an international flavour with her unique brew of world music, Afro beats, Ethiopian traditional music and jazz. Did I neglect to mention that she studied film at Cornell University, where she nurtured her passion for making documentaries and telling untold stories? Speaking with Sheba, you can ask her anything. Just don’t ask her age. She won’t say. Instead, she will chat at length about her dreams for her burgeoning career, including her plan to drop a debut album and a mix-tape in the new year, as well as promote humanitarian efforts.


TALLAWAH chatted with the reggae princess about her background, what she’s up to now and what she wants to do with her life.


TALLAWAH: How do you define yourself as an artist?

SHEBA: My music is very international. It’s a fusion, a tapestry of my experiences. I have lived all over the world – Africa, Europe, Jamaica and America – but all my experiences have been urban experiences. And a lot of this had to do with the fact that my parents and I couldn’t go back to Ethiopia. Our passports had been taken away. We had become refugees.


TALLAWAH: How did your struggles help to shape your sound and your outlook?

SHEBA: You have to take the negative and turn it positive. When you are in between worlds, you are able to see the connections between cultures. I basically gave my life over to these different cultures. And I think that’s why my voice is so unique. I’ve been on all sides of life. As refugees, we were forced out into the world and we had to do our best to survive. I’ve had to adjust to many different situations. But my experiences have also given me a lot of exposure, and for that I am very grateful.


TALLAWAH: Let’s talk a little about your music career. Bounty Killer recently did a remix of your new single, “Love This Lifetime.” How did the collaboration come about, and what was it like working with the dancehall veteran?

SHEBA: His camp and my camp crossed paths, and that’s how it came about. I love Bounty; he’s a legend. He brings more edge to the track. Few artistes are as charismatic as Bounty. He brings romance to the song. It’s a sweet, dynamic collabo. I’ll be performing the song with him at Sting later this month, so I’m excited about that and looking forward to it.


TALLAWAH: Nice. So are you happy with where your career’s at right now?

SHEBA: Well, I’m really just coming out of the gate, but I’ve been recording for a few years now in Jamaica, Brooklyn and Toronto. It’s really the love of the music that motivates me and keeps me going.


TALLAWAH: What’s the ultimate goal you hope to accomplish through your work as an entertainer?

SHEBA: We are in a time right now when the barriers to communication are being eroded more and more. People are being exposed more and more. So my goal is to bring many different flavours to the music.


TALLAWAH: Speaking of which, what can listeners expect when they pick up a copy of your forthcoming debut album, The Lion of Sheba.

SHEBA: This album will be the soundtrack of my life. [It] definitely pays homage to my lineage. I am a very multi-faceted person and that will be reflected on the album as well. It is almost complete. It will have a little bit of everything dancehall and reggae to lovers’ rock and Afro beats. I don’t think it’s too diverse. Everyone will be able to appreciate it.


TALLAWAH: Great. Can’t wait to hear it. What are some of your interests outside music?

SHEBA: I am really interested in world issues, politics and issues that affect our planet. I am all about conflict resolution and making a difference.


TALLAWAH: That’s beautiful. So what do you love most about Jamaica?

SHEB A: The culture. The Jamaican culture is one of the most vibrant I have ever experienced. Jamaicans are very creative, and you do everything with flair.


To learn more about Sheba, and to hear samples of her flavourful sound, visit Myspace.com/lionofsheba.



THEATRE REVIEW: Pot O' Gold

DREAM OR NIGHTMARE: Leonie Forbes and Alwyn Allen in a scene from Pot O' Gold (Photos: Stuart Reeve)

Pot O’ Gold (Area Youth Foundation)
Director: Sheila Graham
Cast: Lakeisha Ellison, Alwyn Allen, Woleta Francis and Leonie Forbes
Venue: The Theatre Place, New Kingston

Tyrone’s Verdict: B-

Jamaica’s oral tradition, of course, has long had its way with popular story character Anansi, turning him into a folk hero of sorts. So no one would have been surprised in the least if he received the same brash treatment in Pot O’ Gold, the latest theatrical offering from the Area Youth Foundation.

Written and directed by Sheila Graham, the production blends indigenous folklore, drama, suspense and music for a humorous and sometimes raucous production that explores themes of family, corruption, religion, thug culture and politics. Occasionally, the storytelling is tripped up by the garish staging and frenetic pacing, but once the story settles in, though, a little miracle unfolds.

You know trouble is imminent when Anansi is featured in a play, let alone appearing in the opening sequence. After a dreamlike encounter with a wise woman who identifies herself as Nanny (Leonie Forbes in a delicious cameo appearance) informs him that gold is hidden somewhere in Rainbow Park, the small, troubled community where he lives. Anansi (Alwyn Allen) weaves a web of deceit among several residents, ultimately hoping to claim the prize for himself.

SCHEMERS: Woleta Francis and Ainsworth Case share the stage in Pot O' Gold

Among those unwittingly ensnared in the trickster’s scheme are Angelina (Lakeisha Ellison), a good-natured salon operator, who is rumoured to have hidden the gold; her energetic good girlfriend Rosie (Kesha Masters); a corrupt pastor (Ainsworth Case) and an ambitious local thug (Courtney Swaby) who does the bidding of a power-hungry woman politician (Woleta Francis).

Graham’s meticulous direction and occasionally witty writing is one of the highlights. The actors do enough to get the message across through their performances, but with the exception of Francis (who offers a rangey and impressive breakout turn), there aren’t any strong standouts.

Still, despite its few shortcomings Pot O’ Gold is an entertaining family affair with a message that is as relevant as it is powerful.


FILM REVIEW: Brothers

WAR COMES HOME: Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal star in Brothers


Brothers (Lionsgate Pictures)

Director: Jim Sheridan

Cast: Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, Sam Shepard and Jake Gyllenhaal

Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins


Tyrone’s Verdict: B


The aims of Brothers, an inspired drama about the effects of war on a close-knit American family, are compassionate and respectful – noble, even, in director Jim Sheridan’s desire to pack as much dramatic tension into a film that is essentially a remake of a Danish original.


While his film ultimately lacks evenness, Sheridan (In America) employs a generic filmmaking style and wields his artistic chops with satisfactory results. As such, Brothers, bolstered by a subtle, expository script and strong performances from a trio of young actors, is a bruising and crucial look at family dynamics and the consequences of war.


Tobey Maguire (The Cider House Rules, Spider Man) dominates the ensemble cast as Sam Cahill, a Marine about to deployed on his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan, leaving behind his delicate wife and high-school sweetheart Grace (Natalie Portman, in a fine turn) and their two young precocious daughters.


Sam is presumed dead when his helicopter crashes during a surprise attack. Tommy (a terrific Jake Gyllenhaal), Sam’s charismatic but delinquent younger brother steps in to comfort Grace and the girls and help them get past their pain. When Sam finally returns home Afghanistan, he senses a change in the home atmosphere, suspecting an affair between his wife and brother in his absence.


Arguably, Maguire gives the finest performance of his career, delivering his portrayal of the troubled war vet with a force and conviction that is nothing short of award-worthy. An explosive kitchen scene with Portman and Gyllenhaal near the end tops it off perfectly. Some fine supporting work comes from Sam Shepard (The Assassination of Jesse James) as Sam and Tommy’s demanding father, Hank.


In short, Brothers is an important dramatic work that has contours of traditional war films, but it engagingly focuses on the lives of these committed soldiers both in and out of battle – and the devastating impact war can have in the domestic sphere.


MUSIC NEWS: Jamaica Jazz & Blues gets new home; Erykah Badu and Babyface added to 2010 line-up


MUSIC ROYALTY: Erykah Badu (above) and Kenneth 'Babyface' Edmonds to perform at Jamaica Jazz & Blues 2010

Music aficionados who make the annual trek to western Jamaica for the Jamaica Jazz & Blues showcase will enjoy the musical sounds and sights at a new venue come 2010. The Trelawny Multi-Purpose Stadium in Falmouth has been selected as the new home of the highly anticipated calendar event.


Culture minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange made the announcement at the launch of Jamaica Jazz & Blues 2010 at The Gardens of the Jamaica Pegasus in New Kingston last Monday, citing traffic concerns as one of the main factors leading to the decision.


Jamaica Jazz & Blues 2010 will be held from January 24 to 30. The lineup boasts a solid mix of R&B, soul, reggae and jazz artistes and musicians, both local and international acts. Heading the list this year are R&B legend Gladys Knight, Oscar and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson, as well as neo-soul icon Erykah Badu and multi-Grammy winner Kenneth ‘Babyface’ Edmonds. Also appearing are Joss Stone, Billy Ocean, The Queens Project (Tamia, Deborah Cox and Kelly Price), Maxi Priest, The Whispers, Machel Mantano and Third World, among others.


For additional info on Jamaica Jazz & Blues 2010, and to see the full line-up, visit Jamaicajazzandblues.com


ACTOR BOY WATCH: What About Us?


TALLAWAH
breaks down four productions that might suffer setbacks this Actor Boy season, for one reason or another...


BAD GIRLS: Camille Davis and Sakina in Diana


DIANA


Despite terrific performances from a cast led by Camille Davis and Sakina, can Diana still make it into the 2010 Actor Boy race since it is a re-working of writer-producer Patrick Brown’s Dirty Diana? The original play (Dirty Diana) wowed audiences during its lengthy run at the Centrestage Theatre in New Kingston a few years ago and its recent re-staging has gone down well with both critics and viewers. So it will be interesting to see what happens come nomination time.


HURRICANE LOVERS


Similarly, Hurricane Lovers (which ran earlier this year at the Fairfield Theatre in St James) was a re-mounting of a Patrick Brown work. Solid turns from Dahlia Harris and Douglas Prout as a newly-wed couple that experiences a physical and emotional hurricane on the night of their honeymoon, made the production an electrifying and enjoyable affair. But will Actor Boy voters pay it any attention?


ON THE JOB: Everaldo Creary and Donald Anderson (right) in Smile Orange

SMILE ORANGE


Another vintage production that got new life this year was the late Trevor Rhone’s Smile Orange, which benefitted greatly from very strong acting from a cast led by Donald Anderson and Everaldo Creary. Rhone’s masterful play about the behind-the-scenes workings of the hospitality industry and workplace dynamics is still a delightfully original Jamaican comedy, but, still, that’s no guarantee for Actor Boy recognition.


NO COMPROMISE


On a different note, for the first time in years (at least as far as I know), news broke that a production had to be shut down prematurely (after only a week), resulting from a tiff between producer and actors. Too bad, the engaging performances from Nadia Khan and Aisha Davis in No Compromise might go unrecognized as, word is, most judges and scores of theatre lovers never got to see it.


Productions I missed this year:

(Note to self: Tyrone, this is unacceptable!)


Two Can Play

MoBay Vibez

Family Affair

Cassandra

Psst/Diaspora!


CARIBBEAN FILM NEWS: Best of CaribbeanTales Film Festival for 2010

PASSION ON FILM: Carmen DeLavallade and Geoffrey Holden in Carmen and Geoffrey (First Run Features), directed by award-wining filmmaker Nick Doob

The creative industries of film and television will receive a boost next February when CaribbeanTales, a Toronto-based multimedia company, brings together formidable local, regional and international partners to showcase, discuss and promote Caribbean film at “The Best of Caribbean Tales Film Festival and Symposium,” which will take place at the Olympus Cinema, Sheraton Center and at UWI Cave Hill from February 23rd to March 2nd 2010. The festival kicked off with a media launch on December 8, 2009 at 1at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination, UWI Cave Hill in Barbados.

The event’s director is accomplished Toronto-based Trinidadian filmmaker Frances-Anne Solomon, whose most recent award-winning feature film A Winter Tale has won international acclaim, and who has been a visiting lecturer at UWI.

Come 2010, CaribbeanTales Film Festival will welcome three new associate directors who will work alongside Solomon to program, manage and promote the festival: Jamaican filmmaker Mary Wells, whose first feature film Kingston Paradise, recently wrapped production, and is set to hit movie screens later in the year, joins the festival’s management team as the Co-ordinator of the Barbados event. Trinidad-based producer-director-TV personality Lisa Wickham, CEO of E-Zone Entertainment and director of the Caribbean Film and Media Academy (CFMA), will also assist with the event production.

The CFMA will also host a number of workshops as part of the festival activities. And Mitzi Allen, CEO and Co-owner of HAMA TV in Antigua, also joins the Festival as an Associate Director. HAMA will be covering the Festival, and will be seeking to bring a delegation of OECS producers to Toronto in June.

The CaribbeanTales Film Festival is North America’s unique festival, which showcases the best of Caribbean cinema from around the world. Founded by Frances-Anne Solomon, the festival has survived, grown and thrived in the highly competitive Canadian festival scene to become a notable event in the city’s calendar.

CULTURE NEWS: VPAJ launches 2009 showcase


TALENT & ENERGY: Performers in a scene from The Harder They Come

Score one for the performing arts. Last Monday, December 14, Visual and Performing Arts Jamaica (VPAJ) launched its 2009 showcase at the Jamaica Trade and Invest, making for an exciting new addition to the Jamaican artistic landscape. At Monday’s launch, attended by members of the diplomatic corps, lovers and followers of the arts and several performers, VPAJ facilitator Trevor Fearon said the launch was partly an effort to bring together creative people from across the island.


“How creative artists derive benefit from their craft and how their work shapes public opinion and policy is very important,” Fearon told the gathering. “The reasons for working together are stronger than working apart, for us to better tell the stories of Jamaica.”


Visual and Performing Arts Jamaica (VPAJ) is a local body that embraces the work of a diverse range of artists and performers. Established in 2008, through the European Union/Government of Jamaica Private Sector Development Programme, the VPAJ now has some 300 members who come together to collaborate on joint projects to benefit from networking and mutual support.


For more on Visual and Performing Arts Jamaica , including events for 2010 and beyond, visit Vpaj.org


BOOK BUZZ: Perfect Holiday Gift Ideas





60-SECOND FILM REVIEW: The Princess and the Frog

WISH UPON A STAR: Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) gazes above in The Princess and The Frog

Growing up poor in Jazz-Age New Orleans, young Tianna dreamt of nothing more than making her daddy happy and proud, including her desire to fulfil his wish of operating his own fine dining establishment that would attract large crowds. But Tianna’s life is spun upside when her destiny comes calling.


A prince named Naveen (Bruno Campos) from the land of Maldonia is transformed into a frog by the evil scheming voodoo magician Dr. Facilier (Keith David). The frog prince mistakes Tiana (a remarkable Anika Noni Rose) for a princess and has her kiss him to break the spell. The kiss does not break the spell, but instead turns Tiana into a frog as well. Together, the two of them must reach the good voodoo priestess of the Bayou, Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis) while befriending a trumpet-playing alligator and a hopelessly romantic firefly along the way. At the same time, they must outwit the cunning voodoo shadowman who has plans of his own.


Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls) is delightful as Tiana and seems ideally cast. Overall, The Princess and The Frog, which features “Disney’s first Black princess” is a heartwarming, music-infused joy ride through the swamps and picturesque landscapes of New Orleans’ French Quarter.


COMING ATTRACTIONS: Corrine Bailey Rae's The Sea

PUSHING PAST THE PAIN: Corrine Bailey Rae returns with The Sea

After a year of grief and heartache (her musician husband Jason Rae died tragically in late 2008), Corrine Bailey Rae is slowly returning to her love for music after putting her passion on pause for months. Here is the official cover of Corinne Bailey Rae’s upcoming sophomore album The Sea (Virgin Records), the follow-up to her acclaimed self-titled debut release, which spawned the hits “Put Your Records On” and “Like A Star.”


The new album will be out on January 26 in the US and on February 1 in the U.K. Below, you can check out her stunning live performance of the album’s first single “I’d Do It All Again,” inspired by the death of her beloved.