Tuesday, 26 April 2011

CHRIS MARTIN Exclusive: The star opens up about artistic growth, being young in the reggae industry, and his special friendship with Ce’Cile

FLYING SOLO: "You have to focus on the goals ahead, and that’s what I do," says Martin.

His polished vocals and chiselled physique continuosuly elicit screams from a legion of female fans, but what’s most appealing about singer Chris Martin these days is the maturity he’s displaying as his fast-growing career propels him to new heights, winning him new admirers as far away as Africa and Europe. With a hot new single flying up the charts and a sophomore album in the works, the 24-year-old takes time to reflect on his journey, signal where he’s headed – and speak on, for the first time, his relationship with Ce’Cile.

Word is Chris Martin is a big deal in the Motherland, but especially in Kenya, where people sing your songs perfectly.
It’s all been great love. My songs have been doing well and opening a lot of doors over there. But “Paper Lovin” is the track that really kicked down the doors. I was named the Best Reggae Artiste in Kenya for 2010, so it goes to show the kind of love we are getting. Reggae is buzzing in Africa.

It’s admirable how you’ve grown tremendously as a solo artiste since 2005.
Absolutely. And I feel really good about my growth. I would be ungrateful if I felt otherwise. I feel blessed, and I just continue to put a lot of effort in writing my songs and my performances. I am happy with my career right now, and I love where it’s going.

Still, at 24, you’re a pretty young entertainer in the business. What challenges do you face as a young artiste and how do you meet them?
As it relates to my career, I wouldn’t say there are any challenges. You just have to focus on the goals ahead, and that’s what I do. All the time I try to put my best foot forward. I think that for me it’s good to be young because it gives me more time to work on my craft. I am my own boss, so I determine how much I get out of this. You have to work hard.

Your catchy new single “Paper Lovin” addresses women who primarily enter relationships for financial gain. Did you draw inspiration for the song from your real life?
[The song] is based on a real-life experience, but it’s not based on my life. You have girls, attractive girls, who are around only for what they can gain when things are going good for the man. So that’s what the song is talking about. But it relates to friends and family too, not just women, because you need people to be there for you, to support you, not just when the times are good.

So your ideal lady must be…
God-fearing and understand herself. She also has to be understanding of my career. She must be able to represent me in public if I am unable to attend an event, for instance. Plus, she must have the physical attributes that we men like.

Speaking of women, any truth to the romance rumours that link you with dancehall bad gyal Ce’Cile?
Ce’Cile and I are very close. She’s a female that I check for. She’s a good friend, someone who has also been helping me with my career. We write songs together, go to the movies together.

That’s so sweet. What impresses you the most about her?
She’s a wonderful person, sweet, kind, very selfless. She puts other people’s feelings above hers. She takes care of people, and that’s one of the things I really respect about her.

So you are keeping the relationship strictly platonic for now.
Yeah, right now we are close friends, but you never know what can happen. Let’s wait and see. I’m keeping my fingers crossed (Laughs).

What’s next for you this year?
I’m working on my second album right now; it’s about 90 per cent complete. And I’m still recording new songs and working on perfecting my craft to bring more to the fans because I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

Finally, I have to ask you about that haircut. It has an old-school feel meets futuristic vibe going on.
My barber always gives me a new style, and I like to try new looks because my head goes with almost any haircut. I had a mohawk before, but we decided to shave the back and keep the high top. This one we call the Johnny Bravo style (Laughs). My barber is getting a lot of new business because of it.

Watch Martin keep it grown-and-sexy in his latest clip, "Paper Lovin":

MORNING GLORY: NDTC dancers and singers bring joy, vivid life to the Eastertide

DYNAMIC DUO: Marlon Simms and Kerry-Ann Henry for "Ave Verum."

Judging by the sea of automobiles in the parking lot and the dozens lining the side streets, to any passerby at the Little Theatre on Tom Redcam Road in Kingston this past Sunday morning, something truly special was unfolding inside. Spectacular is more apt to describe the presentation that warmly greeted audience members who were out to witness the National Dance Theatre Company’s (NDTC) dance artists, singers and musicians herald the resurrection of our Lord, with curtains at precisely 6:00 am.

Performing a time-honoured programme of sacred music and gorgeously (sometimes breathtakingly) executed dance pieces (including quite a few solos), the performers offered a study in technical mastery and artistic beauty that warmed the soul and excited the mind. Adrift in time and a captivating experience, you very quickly forgot that the sun was not even yet hot outside.

I am hopelessly addicted to the sombre and deeply moving, so the first major highlight of the morning was Bert Rose’s "Ave Verum" (excepted from Edna M), a glorious pas de deux set to compositions by Bach and Ennio Morricone, and featuring Marlon Simms (dance captain) and the gracefully tall and slender Kerry-Ann Henry (balletmistress), who has come into my sharp focus since the company’s 2010 season. She is truly a stunner, gifted with agility, engaging presence and an effortless allure, which she brought to this piece, collaborating quite nicely with Simms, who is something of a marvel himself when he moves.

In tribute to Anthony Locke, charismatic soloist Marisa Benain alternately glided and pranced her way into the hearts of her viewers, performing Freedom, choreographed by Monika Lawrence and Patsy Ricketts. The morning also saw new and revived works from a reputable batch of dance creators, notably the dearly departed Sheila Barnett (an excerpt of The Rope and The Cross, 1974); Simms (In the Son, 2011); Patrick Earle (The Call, 2011); Chris Walker (His Song, Her Song, 2011) and the deeply missed Professor Rex Nettleford, whose Blood Canticles (1996) and the showstopping Psalm 150 (with music by Noel Dexter) came in for fantastic rebirths to send us into the awakening day feeling joyous and incredibly filled.

JEFF ANDERSON-GUNTER: The Jamerican actor checks in to share details on his latest endeavours, and life with the family

MARLEY & ME: Anderson-Gunter (left) helps Ziggy celebrate the release of his new graphic novel, Marijuanaman, last Wednesday at Golden Apple Comics on Melrose in Los Angeles.

Acclaimed actor and director Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter never forgets his Jamaican roots, even as his rewarding career and family life whisk him away to new places and fresh experiences. In an exclusive catching-up chat with TALLAWAH, the Los Angeles-based star, who has amassed over two dozen film roles (including 1990’s Marked For Death) and numerous television appearances (The Bold and The Beautiful), gives us a much-needed update on his life and work.

Theatre is still a fervent passion: “I have been on the road touring with the show I directed, Speak Of Me As I Am, starring K.B. Solomon, the Paul Robeson story. And I will be performing at the Black Theatre Festival in Winston Salem, North Carolina at the beginning of August 2011 in Haiti Children Of God by Lorey Hayes, one of the original "Colored Girls" from the original Broadway production.

His next film project: “I am in pre-production for a film that will be shot on location in Jamaica. I am not at liberty to give you full details as yet as further negotiations are in progress. But the plan is for a start date in November of this year.”

Getting his art on: “I am curator of Target Sundays at the California African-American Museum. I produce a show every first Sunday of the month. Go to caamuseum.org and click on current events, then on Target Sunday, and you will see a little more about the programme. Each month is themed, and we have quite a bevy of luminaries who offer their time and talent to the programme; it's very special.”

Family matters: “My two boys are doing well, and I plan to possibly bring the show down to JA before the year is out, I am working on that as we speak.”

On recently running into Ziggy Marley: “He looks good and was more than gracious to all his fans and fellow artists. He was bequeathed that ‘cool’ side that Bob posessed when he was alive. Nothing flusters him. [He’s] a great dad and family man today.”

Up next: “In a week I am off to Philadelphia then Chicago. By the way, I just finished The Nick Kroll Show pilot for Comedy Central. Hope it gets picked up.”

(Photo cred: Pedro Uribe)

REGGAE FILM FEST PREVIEW: Eclectic crop of films and shorts to grace the screen

ROCK ON: Among this year's features is the music-spiked Rocksteady.

Entries in the 2011 Reggae Film Festival (scheduled for May 23-27 at Studio 38 in Kingston) have come from the USA, UK, Antigua, Poland, Brazil and Catalonia, with the largest number of entries from Jamaica, whose 11 entries include short and long features, animations and documentaries. A quick glance at a few:

Rocksteady – The Movie (USA): A brilliant feature film starring Cedric Sanders (whose performance won him a small role in The Social Network) and David Hinds, lead singer of the Steel Pulse reggae band, which provides the film's soundtrack.

Reggae Britannia (UK): Released in February 2011, the BBC documentary tribute to Jamaica's reggae and its influence on Britain.

Intensified (SPAIN): A look at the British band that revived interest in ska in the 1980s, long after it was no longer popular in Jamaica, and inspired scores of European bands to follow their

Bob Marley – Making Of A Legend (JA/UK): Rare footage by Jamaican actress Esther Anderson of Marley and musicians in the early years before the Catch A Fire album.

Room For Rent (JA): The film version of Ginger Knight's popular roots play, crammed with a load of laughs, and starring Volier Johnson and Deon Silvera.

Women filmmakers stepping up?
This year's festival includes 5 films by female directors, including the short features Dinner by Tameka Jarvis-George of Antigua, and Reckoning by Jamaican film student Jovel Johnson. Among the animated entries from Jamaica are Bad Influence by Reinardo ‘Menta l’ Chung and Cabbie Chronicles by Alison Tabois Latchman.

FESTIVAL UPDATE: What’s in store for patrons at inaugural Talking Trees Literary Fiesta

WEST INDIAN LIT: Authors Garfield Ellis (left) and George Lamming.

Making plans for Treasure Beach to enjoy the literary and other cultural offerings at the upcoming Bread Basket Festival? Here’s what’s being planned for the lit lovers:

10:00 am: The fiesta’s first readings begin with the segment Party Pizzazz, featuring novelist Garfield Ellis and journalist Robert Lalah. Ellis recently launched his latest novel, Till I’m Laid to Rest. Lalah is popular for his columns, Roving with Lalah, and the book of the same name.

11:30 am: The panel discussion begins and features founder of Independent VoYces Literary Fair, Judith Fulloon Reid; TALLAWAH's Tyrone S. Reid, and Chairman of Ian Randle Publishers, Ian Randle. The moderator of the discussion is composer and director of the music production collaborative, Sounds of Joy, Joy Simmons Brown.

12:30 pm: Best of the Fests features from Independent VoYces Literary Fair writers Sonia King (Jacket or Full Suit) and Veronica Blake Carnegie (The Tie that Came Back and Other Stories). Two writers from the Asante Adonai Literary Lyme will also be invited to participate in this segment.

1:10 pm to 2:00 pm: Open Mike is on and will be moderated by Joy Simons Brown. Writers are invited to read their best material in two minutes or less.

2:00 pm: Sneak Peek gets underway and is a reading of Keiran King’s upcoming play Last Call, a musical set in 1949 at Kingston’s Myrtle Bank Hotel.

2:30 pm: Our Talk starts with readings from foundation dub poet based in Florida, Malachi Smith; co-founder of the Jamaica Poetry Society and broadcaster, Tomlin Ellis; writer and UTech lecturer in Communication Studies and Creative Writing, Nova Gordon Bell; and Northern Virginia-based fiction writer, Pamela K. Marshall.

3:30 pm: Talking Drums features a performance by twin brothers of Treasure Beach, the Shane Drummers.

4:00 pm: Feature presenter, A. Igoni Barrett, appears for Roots and Branches.

The May 28 fiesta, which is free to the public, opens at 9:00 am, when patrons will be treated to an hour of Recorded Talk, featuring recordings of speeches, recitations and literary work interspersed with musical selections. MC for the day is Gwyneth Harold Davidson, author the novel, Bad Girls in School, and the adventure audio drama, Fly Guy. Go to 2seasonsguesthouse.com/blog for more info on the fiesta.

BUSINESS & PLEASURE: Sex and mischief commingle in frisky, hilarious ‘Double Dose’

GAME TIME: Brown, Reid and Grant are ready to play.

Check your history books. Hot, beautiful women are the ones most likely to screw you over. Even so, watching them carry out their conniving schemes sometimes make for a completely entertaining thrill ride. With the new comedy Double Dose, now playing in Kingston at the Green Gables Theatre, director Bunny Allen and a pair of curvalicious sexpots named Babalita (Abigail Grant) and Pinky (Caroline Brown, who alternates with Natalee Cole) put this theory to the test with splendid results.

Based on a solid-enough script from David McIntosh, it’s a tale of spurned lovers, revenge and frisky behaviour, spun with heavy servings of humour that not only connects with the audience but elicits constant rounds of laughter. Keith ‘Shebada’ Ramsey and Garfield Reid are billed as the main stars, but Grant and Brown, playing those feisty, maybe-up-to-no-good ‘sexologists’ with considerable zest and appeal, do enough to steal the show.

Double Dose shares the story of Archibald Wilson (Reid), a middle-aged businessman who runs a bar and sex-house named Archie Pargie with his ex, Imogene (Juliet Shank), who is still hopelessly in love with him, though she’s now seeing Shebada (Ramsey, funny as ever). The arrival of the two sex kittens (who book rooms for quite an extended period) brings endless drama to the place of business, much to the distress of Imogene, who will do anything to be rid of their nuisance, especially when they turn their charm and seductiveness on her two men. But why have these two young women come to Archie Pargie? And what secret is Archie trying so feverishly to keep hidden? Such questions – and the road to the responses – drive much of the action in the play, which boasts an architecturally solid set design and good lighting.

Allen allows his actors to have fun with the parts with just the right amount of restraint but, truth is, Ramsey and Reid are eventually relegated to sideshows; Double Dose ultimately belongs to Grant and Brown, and they make no bones about seizing the spotlight, especially Grant, who is just amazing to watch. Thankfully, this works in favour of the production since keeping the budding actresses front and centre, along with the mystery of their true intentions, keeps the fire burning. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

Monday, 25 April 2011

HE IS RISEN: Highlights from National Dance Theatre Company Easter Sunday morning of movement and praise

LEAPS OF FAITH: A bonafide cathartic experience blending awe-inspiring dance and stirring spiritual song, this year's NDTC Easter Sunday morning presentation, an event that annually draws a mammoth audience to the Little Theatre in Kingston, was a potent elixir for the weary soul. In truth, there's hardly a more fitting way to celebrate the close of the 40-day Lenten season. Highlights from the stage:

Thursday, 21 April 2011

HOT DISCOVERY: Actress Abigail Grant is here for your entertainment

TAKING FLIGHT: Grant flips the script with daring new role

In the summer of 2010, Abigail Grant stunned audiences with her utterly winning portrayal of Maude, a conflicted woman of a certain age, in GhettOut. This month, the blossoming actress brings a scorching mix of youth, feistiness and boundless sex appeal to the stage as a prostitute who may be up to no good in Double Dose. And, as we learn here, Grant enjoys solid and satisfying artistic pleasure as much as she revels in thrilling her viewers.

Playing a prostitute has been eye-opening: “I had to do lots of research to find out what it’s like for these girls on a daily basis. Some of the girls I spoke to says it’s fun, especially because of the attention that they get. They like it. But for some of these women who have no alternative, [prostitution] is a means of living, a way of life. So basically when playing a character like that you have to have that kind of mindset.”

She has a thing for Tyler Perry movies: “I really like the actors in that movie Why Did I Get Married?; Tyler Perry and Janet Jackson, in particular. Tyler Perry tends to make movies that I enjoy.”

A good butt-kicking flick gets her attention too: “In The Karate Kid, I love the action. It was really good, and I was very surprised at [Jaden Smith’s] performance. Talent definitely runs in the family.”

BET’s hit series The Game is a weekly guilty pleasure: “It’s comedy and drama all in one, and I love that combination. The show has really grown on me. It deals with a lot of real-life issues, like marriage and relationships, and how people cope.”

REVEALED: Grant working the scene in Double Dose

ON THE SCENE: Usain Bolt meets British High Commissioner + Damian Marley rocks the mic at Coachella

REGGAE IN THE DESERT: Sharing billing with Erykah Badu, Kanye West and Nas, Damian Marley performed his hits before a sea of screaming patrons at the 2011 Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, which ended Sunday. For the uninitiated, Coachella is one of the premier events on the international music calendar. Seriously, I am feverishly awaiting Junior Gong's follow-up album to Welcome to Jamrock. The wait is intolerable.

LONDON CALLING: Taking a break from his arduous preparations for the challenging track season ahead, sprinter Usain Bolt accepted a visit from British High Commissioner to Jamaica, Howard Drake, at the UWI Mona/Usain Bolt Track on Tuesday. Not sure what they spoke about, but London is hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics, where Bolt plans to put on another jaw-dropping showcase.

OVERHEARD: A quick round-up of news and events caught on the Tallawah radar

BIRTHDAY GIRL: A flower blooms in April. Hearty b’day wishes to actress Camille Davis, who celebrated her “Sweet 16” on Wednesday, the 20th. I’m expecting cake in the mail. (This is Camille’s umpteenth “Sweet 16” by the way :-)

NEW ALBUM: Ryan Mark is gearing up to bring the heat this summer. The reggae gospel hotshot has announced that his next album, Israel, drops on July 2. And judging by the recently released first single and video (“Touch Di Road”), Ryan is about to unleash something lethal.

HOT TICKET: You know what goes great with bun and cheese? A good laugh mixed with some drama. This Easter weekend, patrons will be flocking to the Olympia Crown Hotel in Kingston to catch Star Bwoy, the latest comedy to hit the city. Star Bwoy, which features a cast of buzzworthy emerging talent, is written and directed by Luke Ellington, and promises to deliver the funny.

THEATRE SPECIAL: Highlights from "Double Dose" @ Green Gables Theatre, Kingston

RAMPIN' SHOP: Sex, mischief and danger collide in Double Dose, a laugh-out-loud hit comedy starring Abigail Grant, Garfield Reid and Keith 'Shebada' Ramsey, which opened Friday at the Green Gables Theatre. Look out for my review! In the meantime, some highlights from the stage:

TALKING TREES LIT FIESTA: More deets emerge on the highly-anticipated word-and-fellowship event

OUT OF AFRICA: Nigerian writer A. Igoni Barrett to participate at first-ever Talking Trees.

As the May 28 Treasure Beach event draws ever closer, TALLAWAH brings you more specific details on some of what people can expect at this year’s inaugural staging of Talking Trees:

1) The full programme will feature some 12 Jamaican writers in the fields of playwriting, performance poetry, short-story writing, novels and journalism.

2) Award-winning Nigerian short-story writer with Jamaican roots, A Igoni Barrett, will be among the readers. Igoni is reportedly very excited about visiting Jamaica and looking forward to the fiesta, and we are fortunate in the timing as he will be a resident writer at the Normal Mailer Centre this summer.

3) In addition to the readings on stage, patrons of the fiesta will be treated to an innovative session called Recorded Talk. This will feature works of writers not present and is a package of short clips of speeches, recitations, readings and dramatic performances interspersed with music.

Among the pieces included in Recorded Talk are award winning-selections from the prestigious Commonwealth Short Story Competition 2010. Organisers of the competition provided the audio recordings for Talking Trees. Verse in patois has been selected from the recorded work of The Honourable Louise Bennett Coverley and Amina Blackwood Meeks, founder of Ntukuma: The Storytelling Foundation of Jamaica and theatre practitioner, among others.

Other writers whose recorded work will be featured include the Nigerian storyteller and poet, Ad-Ziko Simba; poet and theatre practitioner, Rev. Easton Lee; multi-award-winning actress Leonie Forbes; and the Trinidadian comedian and storyteller, Paul Keens Douglas. Episodes of the Jamaican adventure audio drama, Fly Guy, written by Gwyneth Harold and featuring the talent of entertainer Farenheit, radio personalities (Dervan Malcolm of Power 106 and Ann Jeffrey of KOOL 97), and voice actors Andrew Brodber and Ruddy Wallace will also be screened.

Recorded Talk also pays homage to William Shakespeare by selecting a clip from a performance by British players in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. There is also archival material of Winston Churchill, the former British Prime Minister whose oratory and speech-writing skills are considered among the most inspirational of the 20th century. (Get full line-up of presenters for Talking Trees, plus news on the Bread Basket Festival)