Wednesday, 28 July 2010

SOUND BYTES from REGGAE SUMFEST Press Conference @ Iberostar, Rose Hall (Friday, July 24)

MEET THE PRESS: Sponsors, organisers and top entertainers Usher and Gramps Morgan sat on the panel of the 2010 Reggae Sumfest Press Conference last Friday at the Iberostar in Rose Hall to offer thoughts on this year’s staging of the festival and the benefits for all.

HEAD TABLE: Johnny Gourzong of Summerfest Productions; Usher’s road manager; Usher, Gramps Morgan and Robert Russell of Summerfest Productions.

ROBERT RUSSELL, Chairman, Summerfest Productions

Are Jamaican dancehall entertainers turning over a new leaf? Russell noted a marked improvement in the behaviour of performers who hit the stage on Dancehall Night at this Reggae Sumfest at Catherine Hall, Montego Bay. “It augurs well for our music to see how the artistes behaved [on Dancehall Night]. I felt very proud. Up to the last song that Vybz Kartel performed, people stayed in place, and it just goes to show that if you provide good entertainment, people will stay.”

JASON HALL, Jamaica Tourist Board

Reggae Sumfest still draws mega crowds to Montego Bay after 18 years, working wonders for the economy of the resort town, observes Hall. “The fact that [Reggae Sumfest] has survived is testament to its resilience and importance. MoBay is like the mecca of reggae music with hundreds of tourists and foreign press coming here to cover. The positive economic impact is great for MoBay. It’s truly a valuable event in this regard and makes our job of marketing the city that much easier.”

JOMO CATO, Red Stripe

“We promote and support Jamaican music not just because it benefits the music industry but also the hospitality sector. Producing a world class festival here adds value to brand Jamaica; we all benefit.”


“Sumfest provides a great mix of local and international brands and talent. A job well done. Congrats to Summerfest Productions.”


“As the platinum hotel sponsor, Reggae Sumfest has secured us increased hotel revue and marketability. We are already signing off on next year. Reggae Sumfest is a great opportunity for reggae music to shine.”


The R&B superstar is an unabashed lover of the tropics, digs the fusion of hip-hop, R&B and reggae and strives to stay current creatively:

On loving Jamaica: “It’s wonderful to be here to perform and be a part of this culture. I’ve been here many times, but this is my first time at [Reggae Sumfest]. I’m sorry the weather is looking the way it is, but I hope you’re ready for it. We’re going to have a wonderful time. I’ve planned something special for Jamaica.”

On reggae-meets-R&B-meets hip hop: “The fusion is beautiful; it’s a chemistry that has worked for many years. The rhythms that come through the drums and the keys are amazing.”

Staying current: “Music is a universal language, so I just have to adjust and be consistent. I gotta give a nod to classic artistes of the past who were able to bridge the gap and also give love and respect to artistes of the past year. Being consistent is about being in touch with whatever music you perform as it evolves. No matter what I sing, I’m going to entertain.”

Related Posts:

* Top 9 Moments of Reggae Sumfest 2010

* King of R&B: Usher kills it on International Night II @ Reggae Sumfest

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

USHER and CHRIS BROWN on stage together in Jamaica: The most memorable moment in ‘Sumfest’ history?

Reggae Sumfest really struck a chord this year. Local pop and R&B fans got a fantastic surprise last Saturday night when two of the world’s biggest entertainment sensations, Usher and Chris Brown, shared the stage and launched into an exhilarating, is-this-really-happening stint alongside Elephant Man that lasted for close to ten minutes. For many in the crowd who witnessed the spectacle at Catherine Hall, it was the most memorable moment of the three-day Reggae Sumfest and the indubitable highlight of International Night II – and probably one of the most memorable in the history of the long-running Greatest Reggae Show On Earth, according to the event’s organizers.

Reggae Sumfest 2010 had no shortage of highlights: Etana, Romain Virgo, Gramps Morgan and Shaggy all gave strong performances, and hosts like Paula Ann Porter-Jones, Richie B and Francois St. Juste brought the engaging banter, especially in between the lengthy band changes. (Don’t even get me started on the long breaks for the band changes). And a few other star-shaped statues could be given out as well to performers like Beenie Man and Vybz Kartel. But the key moment worth remembering was all about R&B’s biggest male stars shining their brightest on stage. Both headliners, Usher and Chris Brown, also reportedly recorded a song at a studio in Montego Bay before they left the island. (Can’t wait to hear that track! I hope it’s nothing disappointing like that silly Alicia Keys-Beyonce duet “Put It In A Love Song”).

What a fitting close their successful trip to Jamaica!

Sidebar/Flashback: Not to throw shade or rain on their parade, but do you remember during the Rihanna-Chris Brown scandal last year, when Chris Brown went out jet-skiing in Miami and Usher reacted to the photos by totally criticizing him with: "C'mon, Chris. Have a little bit of remorse, man. The man's on jet skis? Like, just relaxing in Miami?"

I guess that’s just water under the bridge now… *sips tea*

THEATRE SPOTLIGHT: Jamaica Youth Theatre generates buzz in England with new production

YOUTH ARISE: The Jamaica Youth Theatre (JYT) is getting high praises for their recent showing of Graffiti: From the Wall to the Stage in Manchester, England, where they are participating in the World Youth Theatre Festival. Here’s how critic Poppy Helm describes the performance at the Contact Theatre:

Jamaica Youth Theatre’s Graffiti was an extremely polished performance. The company leapt onto stage brandishing cans of spray paint and kept the pace high throughout this exploration of self-expression. Nothing is wasted in this piece, the performers often using their own bodies in place of set or props (at one point collectively creating a train, a car and then a bus). However, at one point a simple red sash was used to dramatic effect, creating a stream of blood, a washing line and a rope binding corpses together. The dialogue (chanted, rapped and sung) is engaging in both its unusual delivery and clever wordplay although occasionally a touch repetitive. The company shine brightest during the dance sections, moving in unison and creating a real carnival atmosphere. By the time a reggae number rolls round towards the end of the piece, the auditorium feels like one huge party. This is no flimsy feel-good performance though; there are powerful messages about unity and acceptance delivered with maturity by these talented young people.

Congrats to the JYT! Here are some highlights from the stage:

Related Posts:

* Theatre Spotlight: Piercing drama ‘Second Chance’ proves its worth

* Theatre on the Edge 2010: Fantasy, domestic dysfunction and gay love

UPDATE: ‘Chatty Chatty Sharlene’ has an opinion about the Chris Brown cap

Gossip ‘queen’ and Chat! columnist Sharlene had a few choice words for me in her popular weekly column on Tuesday. As soon as I stopped laughing, I realised I had to share with my dear readers. Here’s Sharlene’s hilarious bit:

“Who dat guy? Di guy weh ketch Chris Brown cap and a act like it is di world. My yute, mi naah lie, yuh should leave it for a female cuz I’ere it was part a di act fi the holder of the cap come pon stage, but it neva guh according to plan. Anyway, yuh neva affi a act like a psycho fan wit it. And mi si two lovely lady who woulda do anything fi touch it and a kno di hat coulda wooow dem in. And yuh hog it up and a tell them NOOO don’t touch. It neva look rite, yute, a can jus imagine yuh frame it.”

Oh, Sharlene.

LMAO. Her huge exaggerations aside, Sharlene is such a funny lady; she never fails to crack me up!

Personally, however, it’s quite liberating to know that the opinions of others (on certain issues) never matter to me. I am unflappable. Some things are just immaterial. A lady in the office says Sharlene is just one of the bitter “haters”. Probably.

More important, I don’t know who informed Sharlene that Chris Brown wanted people on the stage with him, when press insiders had learned well in advance that Chris Brown’s long list of diva requests included: photos permitted during his first two songs only; limited contact; and NO INTERVIEWS! The poor girl who climbed onto the stage during his performance, primed for a lapdance, got the embarrassment of her life when she was quickly escorted off the stage so that a backup dancer could take her place. Womp.

I still adore your column, Shar. (Thanks for the idea to frame the cap. It never occurred to me.)

Frankly, I love the attention; it’s good for my self-esteem – and my future memoirs.

Moving on... *doing my dance*

THE CAP OF CONTENTION: Come and getttttttttttt it! (It’s going to the highest bidder!)

Related Posts:

* Pieces of Me: Chris Brown hooks a brother up with a cool new cap

* Top 9 Moments of Reggae Sumfest 2010

TALKING BACK: Princeton musicology professor Noriko Manabe clarifies a few things on Japanese reggae lecture

ROOTS & CULTURE: Ivy League academic Noriko Manabe (above), a Japanese-American, recently paid a visit to the island to deliver a public lecture at the University of the West Indies, Mona, at the behest of Dr. Carolyn Cooper and the Department of Literatures in English. The musicology professor took the time to clarify a few things re TALLAWAH’s coverage of her brilliant lecture. Here’s Manabe’s letter:

Thank you very much for attending my talk last Tuesday and for taking the time to write your thoughtful review of it on your website. It is most appreciated.

If I may, I'd like to clarify a few little things that I may not have explained well in my talk:

As you note, Japansplash indeed was a great original driver of reggae's popularity in the 1980s and 90s. However, its influence has waned since its founder moved on to other things and another management group took it over. Since the late 1990s, the summer festivals arranged primarily around Japanese reggae artists (like Yokohama Reggae Festival, organized by Mighty Crown) have become more influential than the current version of Japansplash, which is much smaller than what it was in the 80s and 90s. It would be more accurate to say, "Japansplash, which attracts massive crowds annually, is considered to have been the single biggest driver in popularizing reggae in Japan in the 80s and 90s."

While dancehall in Japan is indeed bigger than roots reggae now, as you point out, the roots reggae scene is actually still alive and well; it hasn't disappeared. I've seen some excellent club performances of Japanese roots reggae bands, especially around Kyoto and Osaka. In fact, some acts like Home Grown that perform alongside dancehall acts would actually consider themselves to be more roots reggae. Most Japanese dancehall artists will record 1-2 songs in the "roots" vein on their albums. Several other forms of Jamaican music are actively performed in Japan today—ska, dub, etc. I personally haven't seen any Japanese mento or Nyabinghi drum groups, but it's altogether possible that they exist.

Minmi is actually a heterosexual female singer, not a gay entertainer. She became involved in a controversy because her track was used in a commercial featuring Ikko, the transgender entertainer.

Mighty Crown has won the World Clash in Jamaica twice and in New York twice; their first big win was in 1999 in New York, against Killamanjaro. Outside of Japan among dancehall circles, they may be better known for these victories than for the Yokohama festival.

Many thanks again for coming to my talk and writing your thoughtful review; I really appreciate it.

Related Posts:

* Japanese Reggae: Enjoying broad success but…

* Talking Back: Readers react to ‘Yendiphobia’ story

STAR SPOTLIGHT: Etana shows off her wedding ring + Damian Marley’s locks should get its own website

SINGLE LADY NO MORE: Andre Morris certainly put a ring on it. Etana was spotted flaunting her sparkly wedding ring both on the Sumfest stage and later in the press room, where she gave several interviews after her superb performance. (Of course, I'm sure she kept mum on her marriage and love life).

The ring is made of gorgeous, dazzling silver with a black gemstone (obsidian or onyx, perhaps) positioned prominently at the crest. Not bad. Not bad at all. But people are asking how much the ring cost. Meanwhile, Andre certainly enjoyed his wifey’s performance at Sumfest as he was seen – at the side of the stage – getting his groove on, especially when Etana dropped this little gem: “Andre ah gimme love, love, love…”

What can I say? Real love is hard to find.

I AM NOT MY HAIR: Does reggae star Damian Marley have the world’s longest locks? If not, then he is definitely in the running for a spot in the Guinness Book. That’s a lot of hair. Homeboy was spotted in London, where he recently observed his 32nd birthday, holding court with his ultra-long dreads.

How does he properly tend to that hair, especially for cleaning and overall caring? How uncomfortable does he get at times? How much does the hair weigh? What’s the actual length?

The long list goes on… Somebody please fill me in.

Related Posts:

* Rumour Control: Lovebirds Etana and Andre Morris make it official?!

* Damian Marley celebrates b’day in London with Nas and Amy Winehouse

REGGAE SUMFEST 2010: More Photo Highlights from Catherine Hall

REGGAE GIRLS RULE: Reggae-soul songbirds Cherine and Etana (and her wedding ring!) got close backstage after Etana's performance. Looking great, girls!

SINGING THE BLUES: Rising reggae sensation Romain Virgo gave interviews after his thrilling time on stage.

THE MIGHTY PEN: Singer Jah Cure got busy with the pen, obliging autograph seekers after his stint on stage. Jah Cure has had better performances.

NATURAL MYSTIC: Reggae crooner Hezron chatted with CEE-TV in the press room.

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Wayne Marshall and Mavado thrilled the Dancehall Night crowd with their summer anthem "My Heart". Big tune.

HOTSHOTS: Dancehall kingpin Mavado entered the stage during Usher's set Saturday night to perform songs like "So Special". Is a collabo in the works?

Sunday, 25 July 2010

TOP 9 MOMENTS OF REGGAE SUMFEST 2010…. And one that could have ruined everything! (Part 1)

SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL RECAP: Over the weekend, 30,000-plus people gathered at Catherine Hall in Montego Bay for music, mud and many, many, many awesome performances. But what were the best – and worst – moments of this year’s Reggae Sumfest?


If stagecraft is something Chris Brown learned from studying fallen idol MJ, then putting his own unique twist on the formula could have come from taking notes from seasoned pros like Usher and Beyoncé; the similar energy and stage presence is dazzling. Twerkin’, jerkin’, poppin’ and exercising his remarkable pipes through a roster of hits like “Wall to Wall”, “Kiss Kiss” and “Forever,” Brown’s fancy footwork and command of the stage was simply phenomenal. [ A- ]


This rising reggae sensation moved the crowd with a fantastic exercise in dub meets reggae – while occasionally bustin’ out a few moves that further heightened the performance. Protojé’s songs like “Dread,” “Arguments” and “JA” work on so many levels. And then his music is so strong. [ B- ]


If there was any doubt whether Virgo, dashing in a light blue and coal-black ensemble, is truly ready for the big leagues, the young singer put those doubts to rest on Friday night, thoroughly entertaining with melodious grooves from his winning self-titled debut album. [ B ]


Controlled and compassionate, Morgan firmly anchored his first solo outing at Sumfest with compelling, thoughtful message and a mature execution of his music, aided on background vocals by the super-talented Shanté (also India.Arie’s backup) and Amitria (his vocal coach), and superb accompaniment by band Psalm 27. [ B ]


The biggest reminders that accompanied Shaggy’s performance: he has dozens of hits in his catalogue; the man still knows how to own the stage; and he can still manage to elicit deafening screams from female fans, some of whom desperately seem to want to bear him children. From the sex simulations to the megahits like “It Wasn’t Me”, “Mr. Boombastic”, “Strength of a Woman” and “Hey Sexy Lady”, the performance was a successful refresher course in Mr. Lover Lover 101. A charismatic set with spark and kick. [ B+ ]