Friday, 29 October 2010

ON THE MAGAZINE RACKS: ETANA opens up about music and romance to ‘Riddim’ + ZIGGY MARLEY talks reggae, marijuana and new comic book with ‘Culture’

A HERO COMES HOME: Grammy winner Ziggy Marley is taking on the world of comic books with the introduction of his very own superhero, Marijuanaman. But this superhero has no designs on saving the planet; his primary objective is to educate about the wonders of cannabis. “[The comic book] is coming along good. It’s a concept [designed] to educate people about the plant and using it as a resource beyond just the medical purposes. There are many more beneficial uses,” Marley shares in the latest issue of Culture Magazine. In the interview, Marley also fields questions on the medical marijuana movement, the lasting relevance of reggae music around the world, and releasing new music online via his new Wild & Free singles series. Asked if these new tracks are indicative of the creative direction of his next album, Marley explains: “No. I thought so at the beginning, and I was trying to figure it out, but it is not letting me do that. Each song is totally different. I am going to get there, though. It’s also about involving friends and seeing what they say and think and to see what the next songs are going to be like. It’s an experiment, and I don’t have [a] formula yet.”

JOY & HAPPINESS: In the wake of a clandestine marriage and increasing pregnancy rumours, Etana is finally talking – and setting the record straight. In a revealing six-page cover interview, the reggae singer-songwriter opens up to the foreign-based Riddim Magazine, reportedly sharing intimate details about her personal life as well as her ever-evolving music career. I’m certain her fans in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, where the mag is distributed will appreciate the juicy tidbits. Meanwhile, fresh from concerts in France, Italy and the Scandinavian territories, Etana is looking ahead to touring dates in North and South America, as part of the promotional schedule for her keenly awaited sophomore album, Free Expressions, which has been pushed to an early 2011 release.

FILM REVIEW: Languid morality tale 'Stone' does nothing for its heavyweight cast

(NOT) ETCHED IN 'STONE': Robert DeNiro (left) and Edward Norton.

It is always disheartening to witness a film that largely squanders the talents of its acclaimed actors. Case in point: Director John Curran's Stone, a laborious faith, morals and prison saga that wastes too much time talking the talk instead of walking the walk. Cinematic great Robert DeNiro plays Jack Mabry, a veteran parole officer looking towards retirement. Before his exit, though, he is assigned to review the case of a convicted arsonist played by Edward Norton. As prison official and prisoner become increasingly enmeshed in each other's lives, they also become entangled in a game of wits, with each trying to get the upper hand against the other. Both actors attempt to act the hell out of the roles; it's just too bad the hammy, preachy script doesn't offer them incisive dialogue, the sort of gripping verbal exchanges you expect to effectively ratchet up the dramatic tension as prisoner and parole officer zone in on each other's emotional weaknesses. Consequently, before long, you begin to lose interest to discover who's the really more despicable of the two creatures. In equally thankless roles, Frances Conroy and Milla Jovovich play their long-suffering women. Tyrone's Verdict: C-

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Singer and musician DUANE STEPHENSON talks about imparting message through his music and learning as he goes

ART AND LIFE: "I like to step outside of my comfort zone," shares singer-songwriter Duane Stephenson.

Pulling on the heart and mind concerns he has for his fellow man, singer-songwriter Duane Stephenson crafts music that warms the heart and challenges the mind. Not surprisingly, his authentic, lyrically sound take on life and love led to the warm reception of his debut album From August Town and its recently released follow-up, the critically acclaimed Black Gold, which delivers a hypnotic blend of rootsy reggae and soulful, bluesy echoes of world music. TALLAWAH recently caught up with the 33-year-old crooner, fresh from touring overseas, to talk about attracting new fans of his sound and lending his voice to the cries of the less fortunate.

You recently released your second album, Black Gold. From what you’ve gleaned, how have fans and radio been responding to the songs?
So far, all the responses from fans and critics have been excellent. The fans certainly love it because it shows a bit of growth, and the critics speak to the fact that I write in a very lyrically mature style. So right now it’s all about promoting the album as I move forward. And that is what music is about for me – pleasing the listeners.

How did you find the experience of touring with The Wailers in the United States earlier this month?
It was an American tour that took us between Maine and New Orleans, South Carolina and Kentucky – and those kinds of shows are a little different from what I am used to. It’s a much broader audience, so I got a lot of new listeners, and the response has been great. Over the summer, I had done a one-week run with [The Wailers], but this recent tour was a full three weeks, which was much more intense. We sometimes had to do some long drives for hundreds of miles. But I’m not complaining; I like to get different touring experiences. I like to step outside of my comfort zone.

People were first introduced to you when you sang with To-Isis. For any artiste leaving a group to strike out as a solo act the transition can be difficult. How have you been making the adjustment?
The adjustment was a bit rough at first, because I was in To-Isis for almost 10 years, and when you’re in a group sometimes you are able to take a little rest and maybe step into the back a little. But as a solo artiste you can’t do that; you have to put in 250 percent. You can’t afford for any loopholes. So it’s much more work, of course. And what I also like is that as a solo act you get to tell your own stories and express your own views in your own creative way.

Your music largely champions the down-trodden. Why that route?
Reggae has always been heavily based on social commentary, about the experiences of people in the society, and I’m passionate about that. Plus, I am from August Town, and I still live there. In my music, even though some of the issues I deal with are harsh realities, I try to put an undertone of hope to it, and speak to the people I know who can help the people who are suffering. In life, you have to be grateful, and give a little.

What are the toughest lessons you’ve had to learn as an ascending singer and musician?
In Jamaica, one of the main challenges is getting adequate air time because there are so many of us, and it’s a very competitive atmosphere out there. But patience is very important; you have to be patient, and learn to listen. And then expand on what you learn. Personally, I have had to realise that in my music I am painting a picture for the world, not just a local corner in the community.

So that’s your secret weapon?
Yes, definitely. Do your music in a way that a man elsewhere in the world can relate to it. Your stories should always go somewhere, and should have a start, middle and an end. Also, one of the things that mean a lot to me is when parents come up to me and tell me that their kids can play my CD without having to skip any songs. It really means a lot, and that’s how I want my music to impact people.

What’s on your music player right now?
Right now, I’m listening to some Tarrus Riley, Queen Ifrica, Peter Tosh, Lucky Dube and a little Bob Marley. I also listen to a lot of country and western, plus I have a compilation of alternative music that I play every now and again. For me, good music is good music; it has no boundaries.

What is your approach to meditation?
Before a show, I try to find a quiet corner and relax and focus on what I’m going to do, because mi easy fi shame (Laughs). At home, I am a movie fanatic. That is how I relax.

PLAY I SOME MUSIC: Revealing docudrama 'Rise Up' offers a potent glimpse into Jamaica’s vast musical underground

THROUGH THE LENS: Director Luciano Blotta and reggae singer Turbulence film a scene for Rise Up.

“I’m a musician, so that’s what I’m gonna do,” states reggae artiste Turbulence in a pivotal scene from the enlightening and essential new film Rise Up (Freedom Pictures). The simplicity and directness that characterize the singer’s admission is essentially what drives the film, which, at its best, discovers and illuminates interesting sagas from Jamaica’s musical underground.

What factors have led to Jamaica earning the long-standing rank as one of the top music-exporting countries on the planet? Where lies the foundation of our boundless passion for musical expression? According to Rise Up, helmed by Argentinian filmmaker Luciano Blotta (with the backing of local-based producers), Jamaica’s musical heritage is firmly rooted in the spirit of African ancestry, sprouting originally from the hearts of our forefathers, who were brought here in droves to work the plantations.

Today, with our vast reserve of wide-ranging talent, Jamaicans’ love of music derives its urgency from a belief that music has the capacity to both uplift and heal. More pointedly, for many Jamaicans (particularly the young), the film argues, music is a readily accessible means to disentangle oneself from the limiting forces of poverty. At some point or another, we all want to soar above our circumstances.

Delivering insightful stories from across the island, the film primarily takes viewers inside the lives of dirt-poor dreamers like a before-he-was-big Turbulence and a Clarendon-bred singer Kemoy Reid, but aims for balance with the inclusion of well-to-doers Ice Anastacia, a musical male trio from upper St. Andrew, intent on making it to the Reggae Sumfest stage. The common thread that links all the film’s subjects, however, is a thirst to break into the arena of success, to “rise up” from obscurity.

Meanwhile, adding to the varied and influential voices that lend the film some weight and authority are cameos from such luminaries as Sly & Robbie, Mikey Bennett, Johnny Gourzong, Toots Hibbert, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Bunny Goodison. And it wouldn’t be a proper film about the soul of Jamaican music without some reference to the influence and contribution of the Rastafarian community; hence, an inclusion of voices from that sect.

Overall, Rise Up benefits enormously from Blotta’s tenacity behind the camera – and his full-blooded desire to capture the essence of the accounts featured. How he weaves the three main interconnected stories into a compelling whole is smartly done.

Tightly edited to run under two hours, and never less than engaging, Rise Up (filmed over the course of five years) is shot in a rough documentary quality that gives the picture an earthy, arthouse feel. Very minor, forgettable quibbles aside, the film delivers an effective mix of in-depth interview, heightened honesty and a layer of real grit that stays true to the spirit and history of Jamaican music. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

ON THE SCENE: Diana King + Courtney Rattray + Cezar + Yendi + Dalton Harris + I-Octane + Wayne Marshall

RISING UP: Luciano Blotta (centre), director of the new musical docudrama Rise Up, addresses the audience prior to the premiere of the film at the Carib Cinema in Kingston earlier this evening (Tuesday, October 26). Sharing the moment are Marc Hart (right) and music producer Carlo Less.

ROCKIN' THE MIC: 2010 Digicel Rising Stars champ Dalton Harris is wasting no time getting his shine on. Harris was spotted at the Arnett Gardens mini-stadium on Sunday evening providing half-time entertainment for football spectators who came out to enjoy action from the ongoing Digicel Premiere League.

FAB CHICAS: Overseas-based songbird Diana King, who is currently in the island for upcoming engagements, shares lens time with Yendi Phillipps on the set of Monday's taping of TV J's Smile Jamaica. So great to know Diana is still doing her regal thing. Yendi, meanwhile, is getting good practice as Simon's co-host of the morning programme while Simone is away on new mommy duties.

'HIGH' OCTANE: Talented reggae-dancehall star I-Octane thrills the massive crowd at the Digicel Premiere League football game at Arnett Gardens on Sunday. Loving the sharp outfit, by the way.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Ambassador to China, Courtney Rattray (left), shares a moment with Deputy General Manager of COMPLANT International Engineering and Development Corporation America & Asia Department, Mr. Kevin Q. Fu. Occasion was the opening day of the 4th Annual China-LAC (Latin American and the Caribbean) Business Summit in Chengdu, China (from October 21-22) under the theme, "Strength accumulated from cooperation, growth witnessed by harmonious development." The COMPLANT subsidiary will be the main contractor for the construction of more than 3,500 houses in St. Elizabeth and St. Ann under the Ministry of Water and Housing's Low-Income Housing Project. COMPLANT's history of construction in Jamaica includes work on the Trelawny Multipurpose Stadium and the Montego Bay Convention and Exhibition Centre.

BALLIN': Athletic local entertainers, like Wayne Marshall and Cezar Cunningham (far left), laced up their boots for the 2010 NCB Ziadie/Bell Celebrity Charity Football game at St. George's College. Fun times - and a great cause.

Monday, 25 October 2010

THEATRE REVIEW: Superb Cammock and McDonald-Russell are double the pleasure in ‘Single Entry’

TRUE COLOURS: Sharee McDonald-Russell and Nyanda Cammock rep their parties in Single Entry.

Joining Patrick Brown’s Vibes as another crowd-favourite revival now renewing a connection with audiences in Kingston, Aston Cooke’s award-winning Single Entry, a wide-eyed look at struggle, resilience and immigration woes, wins over its viewers with its extensive capacity for broad humour, its true-to-life, understandable circumstances and a pair of sharp performances from its terrific leading ladies. At the same time, Cooke’s strong script fares well under direction from Michael Holgate, though the final stretch leading up to the play’s conclusion feels overworked. Still, the issues examined in Single Entry remain both relevant and relatable.

Sharee McDonald-Russell (who dazzled in last year’s Easy Street) and the usually outstanding Nyanda Cammock swap lines as Cherry and Sonia, long-time friends and neighbours from the same struggling community, who are determined to eke out a better life for themselves overseas. Setting their sights mainly on the United States (the right “farin,” according to Sonia), they make their way to the American embassy, only to have their request for visas declined repeatedly, until Mother Luck takes pity on them and they finally find themselves the holders of single entry visas to the United States. Don’t be fooled; this is no major setback for the two desperate women who secretly plan to permanently reside in the US “by the hook or by the crook.”

Cooke’s Single Entry is a play riddled with issues that hit close to home for many. While it may resonate strongly with some more than others, the play transports its viewers into a world of ‘sufferers’ and presents up-close examples of the people and their hardships. As Sonia, that livewire realist who has no qualms about her mode of “self employment,” Cammock is unstoppable. As with Camille Davis (who is currently turning it out in Vibes), it’s great to see Cammock really coming into her own as an actress with immense confidence and good comedic timing. In the role of the God-fearing, high-minded and “politically active” single mother Cherry, McDonald-Russell also shows good form and tremendous improvement in her overall stage presence. The ladies get solid support from young newcomer Akeem Mignott (who plays Cherry’s delinquent son) and Dennis Titus, who fills the role of her son’s shady father.

An undertone of the habitually shocking impact of politics on the life of constituents (and how the system is often skewed against persons who are the products of certain environments) courses provokingly through the work. In the end, though, Single Entry is really about friendship, family and the ties that bind. And though the play’s steam occasionally loses force, at its best, Single Entry is side-splittingly funny business. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

ACTING THE PART: Cammock, McDonald-Russell and Mignott in Single Entry.

AN EDUCATION: Pride, class relations and life lessons ‘mix and mingle’ in Patrick Brown’s ‘Vibes’

THE RULES OF ATTRACTION: Camille Davis and Glen Campbell in a scene from Vibes.

Patrick Brown never shies away from tackling class relations in his work, consistently and unfailingly presenting to his audience thought-provoking discourse on the cultural exchange (and clashes) that often play out when the social classes intermingle. Now finding new life at Centrestage in New Kingston, Vibes is another particularly superb dramedy from the canon of the prolific writer, which boasts appealing, well-crafted characters and an easily recognisable setting. In short, it’s easily one of Brown’s most enlightening, engaging works.

Corrosively funny, well-acted and smartly directed, Vibes introduces us to an upper-crust lawyer couple, Steve (Glen Campbell) and Valerie Hurley (Noelle Kerr), who are desperate to hire new household help following the loss of their previous housekeeper. Enter Dimples (the appealing Camille Davis), dragging her oversized suitcase, fresh from the employment agency and eager to work. She is a little rough-around-the-edges, something the icy, condescending Valerie zones in on at once.

Once she lands the job, however, and begins to settle in, Dimples quickly proves herself an industrious, energetic, worker though not one to hold her tongue, probably a side effect of growing up in a rough-and-tumble community. Kind-hearted and gentle, a stark foil for his officious wife, Steve takes Dimples under his wings, teaching her proper etiquette and new words to expand her vocabulary. And let’s just say that gradually Dimples imparts a few choice words and lessons of her own too.

Keeping a very close watch on the growing attachment between boss and newly arrived housekeeper is the family’s gardener with a playboy heart, Chris (Courtney Wilson), who has the hots for Dimples but soon grows suspicious of her intentions. For Chris – and the audience at large – Steve and Dimples seem to be playing with fire, but the resolution of their storylines doesn’t fall into predictability, which makes the play (particularly its climax) one that keeps you engrossed till the end.

Brown patiently explores the role social class system plays in our society, but equally palpable is the quiet desperation people of privilege so often try feverishly to conceal. That said, Brown’s use of the Hurleys as a canvas to show what can happen when an awakening rocks your comfort zone to the core and pries open the door to your perfect little existence, nudging you into the real world, comes across effectively.

As the fiery sexpot, Davis amazes, captivating with a mix of sass and sweetness, even as the actress shows just how much she’s grown as a performer since her last outing. Kerr nicely follows up her award-worthy turn in this year’s White Witch with a fantastic take on Valerie, lending a blend of stoicism and vulnerability to the sometimes disconcerting character. Campbell, meanwhile, steps out his comedic comfort zone, demonstrating incredible versatility that renders his performance a believable exercise in proper stagecraft and compassion of spirit. Much can be said, too, of Wilson, who reprises his award-winning role with the boundless energy and humour that viewers have come to associate with his Jambiz work.

The great set design and lighting options make sterling contributions. I am not too crazy about the musical selections though – with the exception of Norah Jones’ beautifully haunting “Come Away with Me” and The Phantom of the Opera’s “Think of Me,” which both hold metaphorical significance for characters in the play.

Overall, while claiming its place as a decidedly heart-warming, frequently amusing dramedy, Vibes holds up a mirror to society, with the reminder that despite the class boundaries that seem to separate us as humans, there are common threads that unite us. We all desire, crave affection and have the power to turn mistakes into gratifying life lessons. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

THREE WAY: Noelle Kerr, Glen Campbell and Camille Davis share stage time.

DAVID ARCHULETA: The young music star returns to his comfort zone with polite-pop second album, 'The Other Side of Down'

MUSIC OF THE HEART: Pop star David Archuleta returns with sophomore album

Though not as exceptional as his 2008 self-titled debut, David Archuleta’s sophomore album, The Other Side of Down (Jive Records), is a consistently rewarding collection that moves swiftly through 12 tracks, kicking things off with the catchy, spirited opener (the title track) to the eternally optimistic album closer, “My Kind of Perfect,” which serves to wrap up the disc on a heartwarming note.Indeed, ever since his arrival in the music world, fresh from a second-place finish on American Idol, Archuleta has been treating fans with his brand of pleasant, wholesome pop music that stays nestled somewhere between Jason Mraz and Justin Timberlake.

Who can forget his debut smash single, “Crush, “ that sugary-sweet and melodic ode to puppy love, or his equally mesmerizing follow-up track “A Little Too Not Over You,” a soaring, radio-friendly ballad he co-wrote? The Other Side of Down does not represent much of a departure for the talented 20-year-old vocalist, who effectively returns to his comfort zone with well-crafted, beautifully written contemporary pop numbers that tend to fare well on the commercial landscape, thanks in large part to his fanbase of eager teen girls, music-loving gay boys, and those grown folks who can always appreciate a warm spirit, great melodies and even more terrific vocals.

Such themes as unrequited love, heartache, and longing showed up on the first album and, not surprisingly, are back for a second go-round, lacing several singles on the new record. Look no further than the remarkable jazz-tinged first single, “Something Bout Love,” the funky-strutting “Stomping the Roses” or the aforementioned groove-laden title track. You might also be particularly fond of the playful “Parachutes and Airplanes,” the finger-snappy “Look Around” (also from producer Matt Squire) and other iridescent standout cuts like “Elevator” and “Good Place,” both of which show off Archuleta’s voice at its most gleaming.

With gifted songwriters and uber-producers like Squire and repeat collaborator Mike Krompass helping to steer the ship, Archuleta’s sound is crisp and bright, making the singer-songwriter come off more like an incandescent bulb in a tanning bed. Still, though delivering charm and spark, The Other Side of Down offers nothing that depicts Archuleta as a risk-taker. At this point in his career, the singer seems content to play it safe, and considering his young age and promising future, taking it slow and pacing himself on his career path is probably a wise call.

As for the new album, Archuleta (who co-wrote eight of the 12 tracks) proves he has the goods to stay ahead of his class with a take on achingly bittersweet balladry that is quite his own. More to the point, there is no denying the young pop star’s seductive vocal skills and all-around appeal that oozes from the speakers.

DOWNLOAD: The endearing singles “Look Around” and “The Other Side of Down”

Sunday, 24 October 2010

TELLING HIS 'STORY': Ian Randle Publishers and Usain Bolt host Jamaican launch for sprinter's first book

TALE OF A TRACK STAR: Following the European release of his memoir 9.58 My Story, Jamaican ace sprinter Usain Bolt joined Ian Randle Publishers and a sizeable number of guests at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel on Tuesday for the local celebration of the release of the book, which shares Bolt's journey from humble beginnings in Trelawny to his stint as a promising track sensation to his current rank as the record-shattering fastest human on the planet. During the close to two-hour launch, special presentations were made to members of Bolt's extended family, libraries and such distinguished individuals as former Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga and the athlete's coach, Glen Mills. Bolt' s 9.58 My Story is available in local bookstores and via online outlets where books are sold.

HISTORY ON RECORD: Former Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga is presented with a copy of 9.58: My Story

FIRM GRIP: A presentation was also made to renowned sports administrator Ali McNab

FOR YOU, COACH: Glen Mills accepts his copy of Bolt's autobiography.

ALL IN THE FAMILY: Usain Bolt poses for photos with members of his extended family.

AUTOGRAPH MAN: Broadcaster extraordinaire Fae Ellington gets her copy signed.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

JAMAICA HOUSE SPOTLIGHT: On The Scene with Prime Minister Bruce Golding

An ecstatic Aileen Bailey, winner of the 6th annual Courtney Walsh Award for Excellence, revels in another moment of victory, sharing it with Prime Minister Bruce Golding.

PM Golding addresses Wednesday's 6th annual Courtney Walsh Award for Excellence at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding welcomes writer Owen Everard James (second right) and his wife Icy James (third right) on Thursday morning at Jamaica House, where they paid a call on the PM to present a copy of Mr. James’ book Jamaican by Birth; American by Choice. Accompanying them was Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Andrew Gallimore. Jamaican by birth; American by Choice examines the impact of deliberate personal choices, as it explores interpersonal, institutional and cultural relationships in Jamaica, North America, East and Southern Africa from a unique perspective that directly influences the writer’s view of race in post-Obama America. The book will be officially launched on Tuesday, October 26 at the Mico University.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding was delighted to receive a copy of Jamaican by Birth; American by Choice’, by author Owen Everard James, ahead of the book’s official launch on Tuesday. James is a Jamaican who has lived and worked in the Caribbean, Canada, the US, East and Southern Africa.

FILM REVIEW: Explosive actioner ‘Red’ packs a mean, hilarious punch

FOUR THE HARD WAY: Malkovich, Willis, Mirren and Freeman in Red

That Helen Mirren is some dame. The engaging, largely entertaining action comedy Red is most memorably highlighted by the celebrated British Oscar-winning actress (outfitted in an angelic white gown, perfect makeup, sexy hair) cranking out some wicked gunfire, sending bad men flying and diving for cover. How’s that for golden age power!

Directed by Robert Schwentke (Flightplan, The Time Traveler’s Wife) and written by Eric Hoeber (based on the popular DC Comics’ graphic novel), Red nimbly follows a team of distinguished, long-retired CIA agents, who find themselves reluctantly drawn out of their rest when their names turn up on a sort of marked-for-death list of names, due to secrets they came by while they were the agency’s top operatives way, way back in the day. Framed for killings, they must rely on their cunning, teamwork and collective experience to outwit the relentless forces that will stop at nothing to see them dead.

Assembling a cast of such celebrated actors as Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Mirren, Red delves into an explosive and frequently intense, fast, furious and funny exercise, which establishes in the process a platform to vividly show just how well the Mirrens, Freemans and Malkoviches of Hollywood can kick ass, take names and wield a weapon as effectively as the Stathams, Jovoviches and Stallones. Willis, in a very deceptively low-key turn, proves that his Die Hard chops haven’t abandoned him; he’s still a lethal weapon. He shares good chemistry with the very useful Mary Louise Parker (Showtime’s Weeds), who is along for the ride as a sweet-spirited love interest type.

Efficient and sufficiently satisfying (though some actors are underutilized) Red is watchable fun that benefits tremendously from its seasoned cast. Come to think of it, Red (which actually stands for Retired and Extremely Dangerous) is a sort of The Expendables for the more senior showstoppers of Tinseltown. Tyrone's Verdict: B

Sunday, 17 October 2010

SHELDON SHEPHERD: The star of ‘Better Mus’ Come’ chats about violence in the film, broadening his career options and what’s next

At 25, Sheldon Shepherd has already established himself as a triple threat: gifted actor, skilful performance poet and fearless leader of the acclaimed music/spoken word group NoMaddz that is busy these days invigorating the Jamaican live music landscape. But Shepherd’s excellent performance as a tough yet charismatic gangster in Better Mus’ Come is sure to win him new admirers who are sure to recognize not only his courage for tackling such a demanding role (which essentially carries much of the weight of the film) but also his capacity for fully inhabiting a character and staying committed to the part. Here he talks to TALLAWAH about finding inspiration for the new role, violence in Better Mus’ Come and why he wants to impact people.

Looking back on the filming of Better Mus’ Come and comparing it to the finished product, what are you most proud of?
The fact that it is all Jamaican. The cast, the director, the writer, the crew. And as Jamaicans we have come together and really used up our motto in making this film. Now people are loving it.

Your character, Ricky, is very conflicted and has huge responsibilities as a father and as leader of a gang. Where did you find inspiration for the portrayal? Did you pull on anything from your own life?
You have to, because as an actor even though you are playing a character you have to make it you. Me and Ricky share similar backgrounds in terms of experiencing life in the inner-city. I grew up in Franklin Town. And I know what it is to have no running water and things like that. But I guess Ricky’s hardships are much tougher than what I experienced because I never had to take up a gun.

Speaking of guns, how do you feel about the film’s enormous violence content? Do you think it’s too much?
The movie is fantasy but it is also a reflection of certain facts, and to tell that you have to be honest. We are just representing the events, and it was a very trying time in Jamaica. In the movie, [the violence] is tastefully done. It is poetic. It is not done to glorify violence. What we were trying to present [with the movie] is a means to an end.

We haven’t seen you on stage for a theatrical production in a while? Do you still love the theatre?
Yeah, theatre is still a passion, but at the same time we have to keep exploring new passions and stretch the tentacles to new things (Laughs). We want to be known for other things. We take our work very seriously, so whenever we do a work we care very much how it impacts people.

Your spoken word/music group NoMaddz recently released an album called The Trod. How have people been receiving it?
Ah dat dem love! People love the album, and we are glad that the freshness of the album is running hand in hand with the release of Better Mus’ Come. It’s just a great season for us in terms of artistic expression.

What do you hope to accomplish next as an actor and performance artist?
I don’t really plan my life; I just the Almighty run things. You just have to have faith and wisdom. We troddin’ the road and people realize that they can expect to be entertained by NoMaddz, and it’s a very great feeling. We have to glad for the gift of music and being able to influence people with positivity and happiness.

ABS APPRECIATION: Shepherd enjoys a quick congratulatory rubdown from Sharon Manley at the Better Mus' Come release after-party at Devon House on October 7.