Saturday, 17 April 2010

KIKI EXCLUSIVE: On her relationship with TV J, her controversial documentary, and saving herself

Kerie-Ann ‘Kiki’ Lewis-Thombs is a girl with a past. At an impressionable age 18, she made a mistake when she entered the dangerous and illicit world of international drug trafficking. Like many before her, things didn’t turn out too well, and she spent 16 months in a foreign jail as consequence of her actions.


Today, with children of her own and a new lease on life, she wants to use her story to dissuade others from making poor choices similar to the one that nearly cut short her journey. A documentary, Our Very Own: Locked Up Abroad with Julius J Levy, broadcast on TV J in February, told Kiki’s story – and opened a floodgate of speculation and criticism.


Here, the embattled media sweetheart explains why she finally came clean about her experience, the truth about the Rising Stars deal and how she’s finally moving on with her life.


TALLAWAH: Not the least bit surprising, people everywhere have a lot to say about your controversial documentary, Our Very Own: Locked up Abroad with Julius J. Levy. From what you’ve gleaned, has the feedback been more negative than positive?

KIKI: It has been more positive than negative. The negative remarks came from people who just wanted to know why I wanted to even talk about that part of my life. Some were concerned, and thought of it as career suicide.


TALLAWAH: So what led to your decision to share your story with the world? And why now?

KIKI: It’s always been important for me to put my story out there, and being a media personality gave me the platform I needed. It was time, especially with me crossing paths with Advanced Media Production, a company devoted to telling the stories of our “everyday heroes”. Intellectual democracy is what they call it.


TALLAWAH: Any regrets when you look back?

KIKI: I wouldn’t say I have any regrets, but it’s surprising that corporate Jamaica is more inclined to think how [my story] will affect their brand. To this, I say it was educational not sensational, but I understand their need to protect their brand.


TALLAWAH: You were host of The Chill Room on Digicel Rising Stars, and at one point, we heard that you were a shoo-in for Yendi Phillipps’ replacement as host of the popular show. But now you are no longer a part of the Rising Stars family? What really went down?

KIKI: I was asked to do the Rising Stars hosting job, but I also had another offer on the table and after negotiations with them, I decided to go with the other offer for stability. We mutually agreed to part ways. I am getting ready to start my new job.


TALLAWAH: So what’s your relationship with TV J like now?

KIKI: It’s not any different. I have nothing against them. I wish them all the best, sincerely. Life is about learning, and I am never ungrateful for my lessons.


READ MORE: The conversation continues at TALLAWAH JAMAICA. Kiki addresses motherhood, her newfound passion, and her next life chapter. Get the rest here.


TALKING BACK: Readers write in…

Herewith, a sample of the latest round of feedback from TALLAWAH’s loyal readers:


Loving Tallawah Jamaica:


I am really loving the new look for your website! The images have really
captured what your site is all about. However being a part of the performing
arts community, namely drama, I cannot help but recognise that you have just
one photo of beloved icon Miss Lou representing this particular area. I have
over the years recognised that Jamaicans generally do not celebrate and in
turn appreciate much of the dramatic arts and tend to lean more towards the
music. I have always hoped that the media could be used as a tool to effect a
change in this regard; portraying more of the dramatic arts, like what your
web site has been successfully doing. I would really love to see at least one
or two more pictures of dramatists, there are so many to choose from.

me same one
Nadean Rawlins


Love the new mask head, a big improvement on the former. Why only Jimmy
cliff representing the old school entertainers? And I’m not sure about the newly
arrived entertainers. I guess you could have two, but dem need fi earn it some
more, man. Too much too quick; mek dem pay dem dues. Big up those who have
already achieved after years and years of hard work! Just my view.


Nzingha


Celebrating Sabrena:


Listen, I want more, more, more on this girl, so please to have a follow-up, because lots of great things to come from that 'instrument' of hers. All the best, Sabrena, and love this blog, T. Jamaican theatre's legacy is made only richer by these spaces that help the world to know about its creators and keepers.


Karl Williams


I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! Let me know how you really feel about the articles – and your general thoughts – on TALLAWAH and TALLAWAH JAMAICA. Drop me a line, anytime, by leaving a comment here, or email me at tyrone@tallawahjamaica.com or tyronesreid@gmail.com.



DREAM CHASER: ‘Jamaican Girl’ KEIDA is the new flavour in your ear


She may be all sugar and spice, but 22-year-old songbird sensation Makeida “Keida” Beckford can also bring it hard and gritty, if and when required. That same sort of versatility also characterizes her music, which is equal parts sweet and strident. Her breakout smash “Jamaican Boy,” with its irresistible throwback feel, is already securing the recognition her unmistakable talent so richly deserves. Visual artist, self-confessed tomboy, student of art and life, Keida is the new flavour in your ear.


TALLAWAH: Your smash reggae-dancehall hit “Jamaican Boy” extols the desirable qualities of the Jamaican male. What inspired the song? Have you ever dated non-Jamaican guys?

Keida: No, never (Laughs). The song is really talking about the positives of Jamaican guys because they are often stereotyped as all bad. So the song is giving a more positive outlook.


TALLAWAH: You seem to possess real skill as a songwriter. What initially drew you to songwriting?

Keida: Well, when I started singing, the writing came with it. I also used to keep a journal growing up, and I used to write poetry.


TALLAWAH: The old-school vibe of “Jamaican Boy” fits ideally with your voice. Do you consider yourself a versatile artiste?

Keida: I am definitely versatile; everyone in my family is blessed. I listen to all types of music, from old school to modern-day music, because I get to fuse it with reggae and dancehall to create my own sound.


TALLAWAH: What have you learned from working with hitmakers like Craig “Leftside” Parkes?

Keida: It’s still a learning process. His musical background and the work of his father are very inspiring. I am just trying to learn as much as I can as I go along.


TALLAWAH: Do you ever worry about falling into the dreaded pool reserved for one-hit wonders?

Keida: Actually, not at all. When I just started out, some people were saying that I am an artist and not a musician, and that I would be a one-hit wonder, but I have done other songs since releasing “Jamaican Boy” and they’ve gotten good reception.


GET MORE KEIDA: The music babe dishes on Bolt and Powell, and why she’s undeniably TALLAWAH. Get the rest here.





BITS: Usain Bolt reaches out + JCDC gets a fat cheque + Buju Banton’s a ‘curious case’

SPOTLIGHTING BUJU: There’s an article (“The Curious Case of Buju Banton”) in the brand new issue of VIBE magazine that I look forward to reading. From all accounts, the feature story addresses the veteran deejay’s recent legal troubles (arrest and imprisonment on cocaine charges in the US), as well as his everlasting fight with gay rights groups. But you know, as history shows, those international publications rarely capture a story on Jamaicans authentically. Though VIBE, a respected hip-hop-centric, urban African-American magazine, has consistently spotlighted reggae and dancehall acts in its 17-year history, Buju Banton’s story has never been fully told. Will keep you posted.



BIG MONEY, BIG MONEY: The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) will kick off its 2010 Jamaica Festival activities with the biggest sponsorship package in the agency’s history. Mobile phone company CLARO made a grand statement earlier this week when they set aside $60 million to go towards sponsoring the 2010 festivities, as Jamaica gears up to celebrate 48 years of independence. (Digicel, what’s your next move?) “This is a signal from CLARO that they are very much interested in culture despite the economic hardships. Strong private sector partnership is a critical component of the JCDC’s overall re-branding and re-vitalisation strategy,” said culture minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange. “This [money] will go a far way in maintaining our standards and further enhancing our product.”



BOLT’S BIG HEART: Even as he prepares to dive headfirst into his superbusy 2010 athletic season, Usain Bolt is reaching out to the less fortunate. The ace sprinter and world record holder on Thursday feted over 30 boys from five children’s home across the island at the Alhambra Inn in St. Andrew. The youngsters will be Bolt’s special guests at the May 1 Jamaica International Invitational Meet at the National Stadium. As part of his wide-reaching charitable endeavours, the luncheon (and motivational talk) also formed part of a mentorship programme with United Way. Has a Usain Bolt Foundation been established yet? It’s about time. And when will Highway 2000 be re-named?




BOOK BUZZ: Tyrone's Summer Reading List


SUMMER READING: Is there any better time than the summer to catch upon your reading? Hardly. This year, I’m keeping company with these five titles as the heat rises and the days get longer.



HURT & HEARTBREAK: USA Today calls it’s "a story of shattering grief." Quindlen (Rise and Shine), a skilled storyteller, weaves a "mesmerizing" tale centred on loss and guilt, following Mary Beth Latham, a wife and mother of two who is jolted to the core when her family experiences an unimaginable tragedy. I already imagine myself turning pages on the long trip to Negril.



SECOND ACT: I fell in love with asha bandele’s lyrical, magical prose after reading and re-reading The Prisoner’s Wife, her deeply moving memoir about falling for and later marrying Rashid, a convict doing 20 years in a maximum security prison for murder. In Something Like Beautiful, the follow-up, she invites readers along with her as he raises Nisa, the daughter that resulted from her union with Rashid.



GUESSING GAME: The respected, award-winning author Bernard Cooper spins 11 stories peppered with characters that are "sometimes screwball hilarious, other times heartbreakingly real." At just 208 pages, it’s sure to be a breezy read.



WAR & PEACE: This stunning, poetic work by Charles Frazier was made into an acclaimed motion picture, directed by the late genius Anthony Minghella and starring Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Renee Zelwegger, who won the Oscar for her remarkable performance as the headstrong Ruby Thewes. I’ve always wanted to read the book (about romance and struggle in the war-torn American South) that inspired the movie (one of my all-time faves), and I’m already at the second chapter. It’s a tad dense, but Frazier’s language is simply too evocative to pass up.



ALL MY SONS: Yes, yes, yes! Before he passed last year, beloved African-American author E. Lynn Harris wrote this prospective bestseller that transports readers into a world where vain models and their equally vain handlers rule the roost, and fathers and sons square off over matters concerning priorities and ambition. E. Lynn Harris never disappoints, so In My Father’s House is perfect for the beach bag.



AT THE MOVIES: Why Did I Get Married Too? and Green Zone


‘ZONING’ OUT


Oscar winner Matt Damon (above) consistently impresses with nuanced, intelligent performances, even when the material declines to offer any real challenge to his gifts as an actor. Case in point: Green Zone (StudioCanal/Relativity Media), a sporadically intense but inconsistent suspense thriller set during the pointless US War on Iraq that thankfully keeps the political dialogue at a minimum – while blending fact with fiction. Along with co-stars Meg Ryan (as a sly Wall Street Journal reporter) and Greg Kinnear (as a sinister Pentagon big-wig), Damon re-teams here with director Paul Greengrass (Bourne Ultimatum) for his role as Roy Miller, a strong-willed US soldier sent with the troops to find weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in the Middle Eastern country. (We all know how that turned out). When his search keeps coming up empty; Miller gets frustrated and decides to go after the truth. Like Damon’s Miller, viewers are pulled into a violent zone of conflict that builds in intensity and is heavily marked by explosive activities. Greengrass (United 93) seems drawn to stories riddled with conspiracy, as well as those that highlight key events in US history, and with Green Zone he continues this trend, though with less flattering results. Given the flawed outcome, Green Zone doesn’t come close to Greengrass’ (nor Damon’s) finest work – nor is it as engrossing as The Hurt Locker, the Oscar-winning film considered the best film ever made about the war in Iraq.




MARRIAGE IS NO VACATION


Though bordering on melodrama, Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too? (Lionsgate) might satisfy its core audience with its heady mix of occasionally intense drama and side-splitting humour – more or less the Tyler Perry trademark. Marriage, commitment, infidelity, trust and grief are important themes examined in this sequel, which re-introduces us to four couples (Janet Jackson/Malik Yoba (above); Jill Scott/Lamman Rucker; Tasha Smith/Michael Jai White; and Sharon Leal/Perry) who’ve maintained a close friendship for years. They take an annual vacation (this time to the spectacular Bahamas) to celebrate their unions and reflect on their relationships. But this getaway soon becomes anything but relaxing when an uninvited guest (Richard T. Jones) shows up, tension mounts, secrets start tumbling out of the closet and the cracks in everybody’s love life begin to show. The film, which also features cameo appearances from Cicely Tyson and Louis Gossett Jr, as a friendly elderly couple, periodically descends into sermonizing (a trap Perry films seem unable to avoid), but the process of getting to the surprising climax is a frequently moving, entertaining experience. A stunning performance from Jackson adds to the benefits of seeing Perry’s latest release, which also delivers traces of the writer-director’s wicked wit and capacity for holding up a mirror to African-American society.




Friday, 16 April 2010

PHOTO FAB: Grace Jones + Usain Bolt + PM Bruce Golding + Sean Paul + Tami

I love me some Grace Jones. Who else (Lady Gaga, sit down) can rock a zebra-meets-haute couture ensemble like this (during a live performance at the Vrendenburg in Utrecht, Netherlands on April 13) – and get away with it? Remember this?



It’s good to see The World’s Fastest Man broadening his reach into more immediate charity endeavours. The sprint superstar recently hosted over 30 boys from state-run homes at a luncheon and motivational talk at the Alhambra Inn in St. Andrew. The kids will be his special guests at the upcoming Jamaica International Invitational Track Meet at the National Stadium.



PM Bruce Golding’s diplomatic rounds never end. Here, the chief servant greets Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), during her recent courtesy call at Jamaica House (while health minister Rudyard Spencer looks on).



I must admit that that new Sean Paul hair craze is starting to grow on me, and it’s poppin’ up everywhere, including in Sydney, Australia where he recently performed before a sold-out crowd. Arrgh!



As the face of her new ultra-femme clothing line, anĂșna by Tami&Lubica, pop-dancehall diva (make that ‘certified diva’) Tami Chynn looks gorg’ in this new image from the line’s promo campaign.



Wednesday, 14 April 2010

TAMI CHYNN: From ‘Primadonna’ to ‘Certified Diva’

Yes, she’s gifted, happily married and prides herself on looking before she leaps, but summing up Tami Chynn’s exploits lately, you can’t help but draw the conclusion that she is one bravebird who can be the wind beneath her own wings. (But she has a major weakness for hubby, Wayne Marshall, of course.)

Anyway. These days, while continuing to craft radio-friendly, dancefloor-ready music, she is equally hard at work expanding her resume and widening her brand by branching into glamorous areas that are perfectly suited to her great taste and artistic eye. Her latest obsession? Her much-buzzed-about clothing line, anĂșna by Tami&Lubica, recently launched in partnership with respected Slovakian-Jamaican fashion designer Lubica.

“I love the line. It’s fun and flirty,” she says, gushing about the ultra-femme line. “It caters to women. We have pants, dresses, tops and jewellery, and we have big plans to take it even further. I really want to build my brand and continue to push myself into new creative areas.”

Musically, Tami has not lost her mojo. One listen to her new track, “Certified Divas,” a scorching independent ladies’ anthem, featuring dancehall’s reigning princess, Tifa, makes this abundantly clear. The track is bananas. “I’ve always wanted to do a song with Tifa. Ever since she came on the scene, I thought she was a very hot artiste,” Tami explains, taking a break in her dressing room on location at Sunday’s video shoot. “So I called Washroom Entertainment and asked for a techno beat with a dancehall-pop feel. When everything was set, I called up Tifa and she came, and three hours later the song was done. The song was written in three hours.”

That was close to a month ago. Today, I watch as both ladies work it out for the cameras to bring the highly-anticipated music video to life, under the watchful eye of director Dexter “3D” Pottinger. And Tami would have it no other way. “I think the shoot today is great. Everything is going great. The video is very simple and fashion-forward, and that’s what I love most about it. Tifa and I are just being girls and having fun.”



Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Brown’s “PUPPY LOVE”: Teen angst and rich people behaving very, very badly

I’VE CAUGHT FEELINGS: Samuels and Cole discuss "relations" in Puppy Love.


Puppy Love (Jambiz Productions)
Director: Trevor Nairne and Patrick Brown
Cast: Oliver Samuels, Earle Brown, Natalee Cole and Dahlia Harris
Venue: Pantry Playhouse, New Kingston

Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

Who doesn’t love to watch people with money misbehave? We also love to see Oliver Samuels suffer and get punched in the face by an angry father (okay, maybe that’s just me), and in Puppy Love we get all that and lots more. In Puppy Love, another gem from brilliant playwright Patrick Brown, the four-member cast lose themselves in a ferociously entertaining and hilarious ensemble piece that bristles with energy and benefits from powerful performances.

Dick (Samuels) and Denise (Dahlia Harris) have been happily married (or so they seem) for about 30 years. Successful in their individual professions, they live in a swanky upper St. Andrew home, outfitted with tony and exquisite furniture, expensive wines and lovely artwork. They’ve been friends for years with Dick’s business partner and fellow architect Harry (Earle Brown) and Harry’s voluptuous, college-age daughter, Karen (a confident Natalee Cole). But the relationship between both families takes a seriously bizarre turn when Karen, 20, suddenly and inexplicably develops “feelings” for 56-year-old Uncle Dick.

A tempting young seductress, keeping her true colours undercover, Karen offers Dick an ultimatum, threatening to commit suicide if he rebuffs her advances. Caught between a rock and a very hard place, Dick soon becomes Karen’s pawn – all this happening while the notoriously hot-tempered Harry and dutiful Denise remain in the dark. But you know the truth can’t stay hidden for long – and you also know it can’t end well.

Patrick Brown’s well-crafted story takes us into a world characterized by marriage, teenage angst and relationship drama, and lets us witness its gradual disintegration into conflict and chaos. The smart directorial choices and terrific cast make solid contributions. Harris’ Denise, while not an entirely compelling character off the page, is perfectly likable and her motivations are easy to understand. Harris has earned a reputation for inhabiting her roles so fully that you know she will lose herself in the part, regardless of the limitations.

Cole and Brown offer nice and firm supporting work, as well. But Puppy Love is Oliver Samuel’s show and provides a strong return to the stage for the comedy king after a brief absence. A natural fit for the hard-headed Dick, Samuels’ high-energy vocal dynamics and legendary on-stage antics are perfectly matched to the requirements of Brown’s script.

In short, Puppy Love has a lot going for it: side-splitting laughs, explosive action, rich people behaving badly, an exploration of important issues and lessons with a superb balance of humour and seriousness and, quite importantly, the right calibre performances to bring it all off.


TROUBLE COMES HOME: Samuels and Harris share a scene in Puppy Love.



KEEN EARS: Brown (left) and Samuels in an intense scene in Puppy Love.