Monday, 27 February 2012

HUSTLE AND FLOW: Konshens is shaking up dancehall while poised for higher heights

SCENES FROM A CAREER: Konshens on life in the spotlight.

This has got to be one of the tiniest television studios in the city, but you couldn’t tell from the outside due to the vociferous cheers emanating from the audience comprised of exuberant young-adult females, event promoters, and others. The setting is a taping of the music-video-countdown show Hitlist at the studios of CVM TV on Constant Spring Road. Konshens, accompanied by a mini-entourage, is here, eager to perform and promote his new album, Mental Maintenance, due out this month.

Athletic and wiry, the deejay, who is casually attired in a red checkered shirt with long sleeves, knee-length jeans, red kicks, and a pair of designer shades, manages to elicit even louder noise from the audience once he gets on the mic and leaps into renditions of “Gal A Bubble” and “Do Sumn,” among other newish hits that have been dominating the airwaves and video playlists over the course of the past weeks. The fans go wild with each selection, and Konshens’ performance positively thrives on the love.

It’s a telling moment for the 27-year-old artiste (born Garfield Spence) who, since making his initial dent in the public psyche with the infectious 2008 street hustlers’ anthem “Winner,” has had more than his fair share of ups and downs in the process of establishing himself as a household name and advancing his career. (In his interview on the couch with hostess Phoenix, he drolly recalls how he came close to getting a massive boo at Sting three years ago.)

Since bursting onto the dancehall scene, the Sherlock-bred entertainer has transformed himself before our very eyes into a trailblazing star of note endowed with showstopping confidence and memorable lyricism that have earned him the respect of peers and fans alike. “I’m very proud of him because he has worked very hard to reach where he is now,” observes Miguel Noble, the deejay’s road manager. “He took the time out to learn the business, and even though there was a lot of trial and error, we used all of that as lessons.”

Not surprisingly, these days Konshens is thinking deeply about what it means to be at the top of his game and what he needs to do next. It’s a state that could confound lesser artistes, but Konshens has too much hunger and ambition to not keep his head in the unpredictable game. For one thing, the highly anticipated new album is part of a bold new chapter in Konshens’ quest to ascend to yet another level. A 17-track concoction of up- and mid-tempo tracks and one-drop numbers, Mental Maintenance is dually emotional and entertaining. “The mood of the album is a song for every situation,” Konshens tells TALLAWAH, as we catch up after he’s done taping Hitlist. “I’m a moody person, so I wanted a song to apply any particular moment. I worked with some new and old producers and we come up with a very good album.”

As if putting out a new CD and planning a US-European tour weren’t enough, Konshens is also venturing into fashion with a clothing line, OH’K, now in pre-development. “Going into fashion is mainly business for me. You want to maximize on your ability, and at the same time you want to please the fans and keep yourself present inna the market,” says Konshens, who, like megastar Kanye West, ultimately plans to design pieces for both men and women. “It’s better for you business-wise and the fans get to connect with you more. I am not a pro when it comes to the fashion industry; I don’t know much about it, honestly. But I know what girls like to wear, and I know what I love to see them in. So I’ll start with the females.”

By his own admission, Konshens has no established personal style. “My fashion is any way I get up in the morning and feel. So I wouldn’t say I have a fashion identity or a fashion preference.”

There is a handful of Jamaican male dancehall stars who possess a mysterious charisma that can catapult a deejay from fledgling recording star to sex symbol. Assassin, Cham and I-Octane have it. Add Konshens to that list. It’s a magnetism that, coupled with their talent, draws female fans to them like a flame. Still, Konshens knows first-hand how the fickleness of fame can make or break an entertainer – and how a fan’s perception of you can change in the blink of an eye. As it happens, Konshens’ recent decision to switch his hair colour from the usual black to an eye-popping red has been met with the same kind of mixed reactions that came in the wake of Chris Brown’s blonde dye job.

“It’s just the opposite of me. When people study you too much and know exactly what you’re coming with all the time, you get old,” says Konshens, explaining the new look. “And every artiste knows that the important thing is to be current. And the only way to really be current is to change.” Recently named one of the sexiest men in dancehall by The Star, Konshens admits he found some people’s reaction to his image upgrade mildly surprising. “The reactions have been mixed. At first, nuff people done with me. It’s like I dye my brain and not my hair, you understand,” he says good-naturedly. “But people get much more drastic things than just dye hair, but mi nuh worry ‘bout that. The girls them love it same way. Some of them bun it, and now them don’t even remember again. So them coulda soon get something else.”

If there’s one thing a life in the spotlight has taught Konshens, it’s that, when all is said and done, image matters. “It matters very much. Because even with this hair thing, as much as some people nuh like it, everybody know me when they see me,” he explains. “In the past, you had people who love Konshens to the grung, and nuh know exactly what Konshens look like. Walk pass me whole heap of time. So image is very important when people can identify with you and see you and know seh ah you that. But it bad for you because you can’t hide again (Laughs), but so it guh.”

NEXT TIME: Konshens talks about his SubKonshus label and big plans for 2012

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OSCARS 2012: The Artist, Meryl Streep, Hugo own the night

THE GOLDEN LADY: Streep gets her due on Oscar night.

Meryl Streep was beaming on stage Sunday night at the 2012 Academy Awards inside the Hollywood & Highland Centre in Hollywood. And deservedly so. The 62-year-old living legend won the Oscar for Best Actress for her remarkable performance in The Iron Lady.

“Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you!” Meryl said when she got up on stage to accept the award, which many pundits thought would have gone to Viola Davis (The Help). “I really want to thank all my colleagues, all my friends. I see my life before my eyes, my old friends, my new friends,” Meryl emotionally said at the end of her speech. “The thing that counts the most for me is the friendships and the love…my friends, thank you all of you. For this inexplicably wonderful career. Thank you.”

In short, it was a fantastic night for movies at the 84th Oscars. The big winners of the evening were The Artist and Hugo, which picked up five statuettes each. The Artist won for Best Picture, Best Director (Michel Hazanavicius), Best Actor (Jean Dujardin), Best Costume Design, and Best Original Score. Hugo, meanwhile, snagged wins for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects.

While Streep picked up her third Oscar win, the Academy anointed three first-time winners: Dujardin (The Artist) won Best Actor over George Clooney, Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for her superb work in The Help, and Christopher Plummer (Beginners) was named Best Supporting Actor.

For the complete list of winners, go to


DRAMA QUEENS: Can Jamaica’s women playwrights get some power and respect?

MAKING A SCENE: Harris' big three have earned critical hosannas.

Thanks to the recent (and continued) success of Dahlia Harris, Jamaican women playwrights seem to be fortifying their collective voice in the theatre industry. Earning acclaim from critics and theatregoers alike, Harris’ trifecta of stage hits – Judgement, God’s Way and Back A Yaad – has inadvertently reignited the debate over whether our female writers measure up to their male counterparts when it comes to pulling the ubiquitous mix of money, power and respect in their favour.

Long before Harris, there was Barbara Gloudon (who still pens the book and lyrics for the annual LTM pantomime), as well as Carol Lawes and Honor Ford-Smith, who have collaborated on writing projects. In the contemporary setup, in addition to Harris, the likes of Amba Chevannes, Angie Binns and rising star Teneile Warrren are repping for the women. Yet male playwrights continue to outnumber and outmuscle them. So while our actresses continue to make strides centrestage with consistently brilliant performances, when it comes to scripts, Jamaican women still haven’t fully arrived.

“I think the major challenge is getting the work mounted. That's where the male dominance is prevalent,” Harris explains. “A lot of female writers interact with me, and you would be amazed at the number of scripts being generated and the level of frustration because less than a handful actually make it to the stage. This also affects what I call the 'balance of representation', how we work towards representing people, how they are and not what we perceive them to be. The female experience, and thus perspective, will always be different from our male counterparts’. Consciously or not, the female writer brings this to her work.”

It’s a point that in a way underscores Angie Binns’ own experiences. “At the time that I ventured into theatre, in 2009, there were very few women writing and this actually proved to be an advantage rather than a hindrance," says Binns. "Why? Because in life, the demand for something different will always arise, regardless of the efforts to stifle it and hold on to the designated standard.“

And while she readily admits that women playwrights still have far to go, Binns acknowledges that audience feedback is supremely important. “The most support I received was from the general public who attended my shows. Their response was very gratifying. And don’t be fooled either, they come with high expectations so I can’t give them any old willy-nilly thing. The vast majority of theatre lovers are dying to see what women are writing, having been fed a more than steady diet of testosterone-soaked productions over the years,” argues Binns, citing a fond memory from the 2010 staging of her superb family drama Second Chance.

“A gentleman approached me after a show, took my hand and remarked ‘Yuh know mi cry fi yuh show. And mi nuh cry yuh nuh. Lady, yuh muss keep writing, yuh hear. It good.’ Or something like that. But it made a huge impact on me.”

For the playwright, the encounter was also a lesson in the power of good writing to touch lives and even transform. “Theatre reaches and touches people in a real way, so we as writers have a responsibility to write our asses off the best we can. So as I continue to learn this tough business and continue to garner the necessary writing skills essential to be successful, I will keep positive and enjoy the ride as much as possible.”

Meanwhile, as she prepares to unleash yet another stage production later this year, Harris (who also wears the hats of producer and occasional director) says she willingly accepts the challenge of bringing diversity to the stage, in spite of the hurdles.

“In this market, producers are hard-pressed to abandon established writing/directing partnerships for newer or even non-commercial efforts, and thus my drive to mount the work on my own,” she emphasizes. “The criticisms within the industry have far outweighed the support and within that small group the men outnumber the women. I think that's the other major challenge; as female writers struggle to establish a greater voice, we have to work beyond [everything that tries] to silence us.”

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CHRISTINE ANN BELL: Powerhouse actress, trailblazing PR woman, icon

HARD ACT TO FOLLOW: Bell was masterful in Josephine's Night Out.

The Jamaican theatre and media communities lost a cherished ally with the sudden passing of prize-winning stage (A Raisin In The Sun) and television (Royal Palm Estate) actress and communications pro Christine Ann Bell, who recently drew her final breath after a bout with the Big C. Personally, I got to know Christine in my line of work as a young print journalist and much later as theatre critic for TALLAWAH. It was through the latter, naturally, that I was witness to her extraordinary gifts as a thespian. Simply outstanding.

Reviewing her final stage performance – in Basil Dawkins’ one-hander, Josephine’s Night Out, in October 2010 – I was so deeply impressed by her capacity for emotional honesty that I had no choice but to bestow the performance with the rare grade of an A+. Christine Ann Bell was the only Jamaican actor who ever moved me to tears.

Portraying a woman unlucky in love and burdened by a scandalous secret, such was the miraculous depth and unforgettable authenticity of her work in that play. Not to be belabour the point, but she was that good. Her three Best-Actress Actor Boys are also a testament to the lavish brilliance she brought to her roles.

Highly respected and deeply admired, Christine Bell was a class act. And so, in much the same way that she lived – with humility, a passion for refined expression, and grace – the iconic actress took her final bow. After a long battle with cancer, she died last Friday at the Andrews Memorial Hospital in Kingston. She was 59 years old.

>> REVIEW: The great Christine Bell makes her entrance again

GONE TOO SOON: Bell, 1952-2012.

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GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Aston Cooke gives a sneak peek of Jonkanoo Jamboree

FIRST LOOK: Cooke, Harris, Cunningham, Mignott and Thomas.

If you need proof that indigenous Jamaican theatre is alive and well, look no further than the Phillip Sherlock Centre this coming May, where a starry cast will bring playwright Aston Cooke’s latest effort, Jonkanoo Jamboree, to life. Exploring everything from tradition and greed to poverty and resilience, the play came in for a dramatic reading on the weekend at the Talking Trees Literary Fiesta in Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth.

“In this our 50th year, I chose to celebrate Jonkanoo,” said Cooke summarily, in his introduction of the piece, which, set in a coastal Jamaican village, features a raft of colourful characters with curious names like Mr. Buckingsworth and Miss Terrelonge.

Participating in the dramatic reading were Dorothy Cunningham, Dahlia Harris, Fabian Thomas and Akeem Mignott, whose robustly expressive voices made the lyrical story and interesting plot points positively leap off the page. In addition to the festive atmosphere that Jonkanoo conjures, theatregoers can expect references to the familiar menace of squatting and class warfare when the play finally hits the stage. At the same time, it remains to be seen how the whole thing will come together.

In the meantime, if there’s any conclusion to be drawn after witnessing Saturday’s entertaining reading it’s that Jonkanoo Jamboree, written in time for Jamaica’s Golden Jubilee, certainly promises to be an eventful affair, drenched in drama and humour and the ubiquitous struggle to eke out a living when times are tough. Above all, though, the play appears to engage with issues that have always mattered to its gifted writer.

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TALKING TREES 2012: Highlights from Treasure Beach

“Most of what I write comes out of my experiences or what I hear, or what I see,” said writer-playwright-Anglican priest Easton Lee (above), before launching into a hilarious tale of growing up with his folks in St. Bess, where his father ran a private bar in Siloah. On a day that featured a host of strong presentations, Lee was a bonafide highlight at last Saturday’s Talking Trees Literary Fiesta in Treasure Beach. Reflecting on his mother, Lee recalled her as “a gentle soul with a sweet voice”, while noting that there was “no ailment or fever her touch couldn’t heal.” Lee’s early morning segment also featured Monique Morrison and Melanie Schwapp.

A panel discussion on writing for children proved insightful, as the participants (Diane Brown, Jean Forbes, Sharon Martini, Kellie Magnus and moderator Suzanne Francis-Brown), discussed their approach to penning edu-tational tales for youngsters and the urgent need for more indigenous kiddie-friendly reading material. “Kids today are more sophisticated than some parents realize,” observed Brown. “There is very little that reflects the lives that kids are living today. We need more books that are both captivating and commercially viable.”

Readings and reflections also came from the Mark Thomas (stentorian), Roland Watson-Grant (clever and witty) and Kalilah Enriquez, whose saccharine voice imbued her poems and short story with compelling beauty. The Best of St. Bess featured acclaimed poet Christine Craig (above), the Shane Drummers and Fern Luecke. Nigerian Igoni Barrett gave a surprisingly succinct presentation marked by short-story excerpts and reflections on his journey as a man with Afro-Caribbean lineage and a broad worldview.

While Fabian Thomas brought fierce lyricism to his spoken word stint, the increasingly popular Dr. Michael Abrahams (above) offered a typically hilarious performance (riffing on everything from politics to sexuality to the church), which proved a difficult act for Malachi Smith to follow. But follow he did, and quite admirably too. His race-horsing take on the impending US Presidential Elections was a runaway hit.

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NEWS & NOTES: Updates on Protoje, Norah Jones and The Business of Sport

NATURAL MYSTIC: Reggae artiste Protoje has been selected to give a showcase performance at the 25th South by Southwest Music and Media Conference and Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. The reggae star (and his Indiggnation band) will make their debut North American appearance at the event on Sat, March 17, at the popular reggae club Flamingo Cantina. Protoje's participation at SXSW is being sponsored by Digicel. SXSW is the largest music, film and interactive media-and-entertainment trade event in North America and is expected to attract over 50,000 participants this year. The 10-day event will run from March 9 to 18.

A CUT ABOVE: Back to thrill her legion of fans, multiple Grammy winner Norah Jones has unveiled the cover art and tracklisting for her eagerly awaited fifth studio album, Little Broken Hearts, due out May 1. Can hardly wait. Hearts is a follow-up to Jones’ platinum-selling 2009 effort, The Fall.

TALKING SPORTS: From May 3-4, the second edition of The Business of Sport will take place at the Jamaica Pegasus in New Kingston. An international think-tank on the business nature of sports, the event will feature such areas of interest as contracts, money management, psychology, image management, sport and culture, beyond being an athlete. Cost: US$150 to attend plus airfare and accommodation. The conference is open to all interests in the business of sport. Registration now on at

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TAKE 5: Show Yourself Some Love

A MOMENT IN THE SUN: Rest and recharge.

Put You First

Today give yourself permission to place your needs ahead of everyone else’s, if only for a few minutes. Whether that means you don’t pick up the phone when your needy cousin calls or you spend an extra five minutes in the shower – whatever you do, do it guilt-free.

Make An Appointment
Taking care of number one means maintaining your good health. So if you’re putting off an annual exam, suffering in silence with headaches or delaying a mammogram, schedule and appointment ASAP. Have trouble remembering when it’s time for a regular visit? Send yourself an email reminder now for next year (or beyond) through free services like or

Buy Yourself A Bouquet
Don’t wait for a guy/gal to send you a bundle of blooms. Pick out your own arrangement for your desk at work, your dining room, or your bedside nightstand. Hydrangea, chrysanthemums and dahlias create a perfect springtime sprays.

Write A Love Note
Whether you pen it in your journal or post it on your bathroom mirror, create a list of five things you’re great at doing or five lovable personal qualities. Read it – and add to it – daily.

Rest Assured
Sleep is the first sacrifice most people make when there’s more work to be done, errands to run or family obligations to handle, according to the US National Sleep Foundation. Tonight try surrendering to sleep and turning in early. Do something relaxing (like taking a bath or listening to soothing music) before drifting off, to assure yourself a good night’s slumber.


HOT TICKET: A guide to this month’s must-do shows and great performances

TV BUZZ: Set to premiere on March 20, the second season of the hit fashion reality series Mission Catwalk will feature contestants from across the Caribbean. The 15 designers – from Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica – will compete for a range of highly coveted prizes, chief among them the chance to show a collection at London Fashion Week.

ALBUM LAUNCH: On March 6, reggae and dancehall star Mr. Vegas will launch his new double CD, Sweet Jamaica, with an unplugged album launch on March 6 at Mango Ranch, 16 West Kings House Road. Attendees will enjoy an up-close and personal experience with the entertainer, whose new release is also a special tribute to Jamaica 50.

AWARDS: The 2nd Annual Thespian Spirit Awards (the Thespies), presented under the auspices of TALLAWAH Magazine have been re-scheduled for sometime in March. Top nominees this year include Basil Dawkins’ Where Is My Father? (above), Patrick Brown’s Charlie’s Angels and Keiran King’s period musical Last Call. Who will take home Thespy gold? Stay tuned.

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OUT & ABOUT: Tami Chynn + Kalilah Enriquez + PM Portia Simpson-Miller + Melanie Schwapp + Yendi Phillipps

BRINGING SEXY BACK: Feb. 22, Trinidad. Grooving to a soca beat and flaunting those famous curves, Yendi Phillipps was a white-hot vision on the streets of Trinidad as she got on baaaad recently at Trini Carnival 2012.

FLY MAMAS: Feb. 24, Cayman. Flanked by a pair of staffers from the national airline, singer Tami Chynn recently touched down in the Cayman Islands for a little R&R (among other things), sporting a casually low-key ensemble. Love the shades!

WISE WORDS: Feb. 25, St. Elizabeth. Sharing some of her best pieces, writer Melanie Schwapp delighted festivalgoers at the 2012 Talking Trees Literary Fiesta in St. Elizabeth on the weekend.

ONE WITH NATURE: Feb. 25, St. Elizabeth. Gracing the stage at Talking Trees on the weekend, the lovely Kalilah Enriquez read beautiful selections from her admirable stash of poems and short stories, transporting her listeners to some magical realm.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE: Feb. 23, Kingston. Having completed a five-year stint in Jamaica, Ambassador Victor Zotin returns to Russia at the end of February. Zotin recently visited PM Portia Simpson-Miller at Jamaica House, describing Jamaica as one of his best postings and thanking the Jamaican government and people for making his time here a wonderful experience.


Friday, 24 February 2012

CONVERSATION HIGHLIGHTS: Nigerian scribe Igoni Barrett riffs on art and life

OUT OF AFRICA: "Everyone says we are on the verge," observes Barrett.

With his stunning literary gifts and deep Afro-Caribbean heritage, A. Igoni Barrett is an excellent conversation companion on matters concerning the Motherland and the art of being a writer. Ahead of his headline appearance at this weekend’s Talking Trees Literary Fiesta in Treasure Beach, the Nigerian author, 33, spoke with TALLAWAH about his Jamaican roots, living in latter-day Africa, and his meticulous approach to his craft.

TALLAWAH: How does it feel to be on this side of the planet for a change?
Barrett: It feels great. This is actually my first time in the Caribbean, my first time in Jamaica. It’s a good experience. This is a gorgeous place. I’ve enjoyed myself so far, and I know I’ll enjoy the rest of time that I have here.

You have relatives who hail from Jamaica, so it’s minorly surprising that this is your first trip to the island.
My father left Jamaica in the ’60s and he never came back, so he’s been living in Nigeria for over 40 years now, and as you know Nigeria is very far from Jamaica. So for one reason or another I never got to visit. The family always planned to have reunions, but most of my relatives that were here have moved to the United States and Canada. I have one uncle who still lives here in Jamaica, and he doesn’t live here full-time. So when [the organizers] got in touch with me for this festival, it was the perfect opportunity for me to come.

In a general sense, how would you describe life today in Africa?
Well, everyone says Africa is on the verge, Africa is next. And it’s interesting because Africa is a rich continent with fast-developing countries like Ghana. Nigeria is a much larger country with a population of over 150 million, making it the largest Black nation. So it’s big in a lot of ways, but it has its issues it’s trying to fix. And when it does Nigeria will be an even greater country. You also have greatly developing countries like South Africa, Morocco and Kenya. So things are different for different countries in Africa.

What’s the latest on your writing life?
Well, I’m working on a novel now. I just finished writing my second short-story collection earlier this year called Love Is Power or Something Like That. The novel doesn’t have a title yet. It’s too early to speak about, but I hope it will be out next year. I’m really excited about this short-story collection though. It’s about love, it’s about power, it’s about domination, and it’s about oppression. But it’s also about the ways in which love binds families together.

Where do you stand on the matter of novel writing versus crafting the short story?
I enjoy the short story form. I think it’s different from the novel in the sense that it allows you to tighten your writing. For many years I lived in Lagos; it’s a vibrant city, and in every corner there’s a story jumping out at you, and I just thought that there were just too many stories demanding attention and bubbling in my head. The short story also allows you to hone your skills because it is a shorter form, a shorter distance. It allows you to find your voice, but the short story is not a trial run for novel writing. It’s a different form. And now that I’ve become pretty good at short-story writing I find that it is difficult to move to the novel because it’s a different beast. (Laughs).

Finally, how big of a reggae fan are you?
I love reggae. Reggae is very popular in Africa. Of course, there’s Bob Marley, and on the dancehall side, there’s Sean Paul. Beenie Man has been a staple. So I love reggae and dancehall as much as other Africans.

LIT AND LYME: Barrett, with Talking Trees chief organizer Christine Marrett.

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LAUNCH REPORT: Presenters, organizers lyme ahead of Talking Trees

What: Talking Trees Writers’ Lyme

Where: Jacks Hill, St. Andrew

When: Thursday evening

Guest List: Easton Lee, A. Igoni Barrett, Christine Craig, Aston Cooke, Fabian Thomas, Gwyneth Harold, Roland Watson-Grant, Paul Rodgers, Kyoko Nishimoto, Monique Morrison, Janet Barrett, Melanie Schwapp and Christine Marrett, among others.

Highlights: Living legend Lee (centre, above) regaled guests with his customarily witty anecdotes; Igoni Barrett brought us the latest good news from the Motherland; Marrett (right, above), for her part, shared her enthusiasm at the second staging of the literary fiesta at her 2 Seasons Guest House in St. Bess; Guests enjoyed delicious nibbles and cocktails (prepared by delightful hostess Janet Barrett, pictured above) mixed with a warm spirit of fellowship that lasted well into the night.

Fresh-faced Melanie Schwapp looked divine in this dyed purple number.

Journalist Paul Rodgers and wife Kyoko Nishimoto dropped by.

Theatre veterans Fabian Thomas (left) and Aston Cooke seen in conversation.

Gwyneth Harold, Monique Morrison and Roland Watson-Grant share a light moment.

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NEWS & NOTES: Updates on Konshens, White Witch, and Jah Cure

SINGLE SPOTLIGHT: Dancehall hotshot Konshens was recently the main attraction at the latest taping of CVM’s music-video-countdown show, HitList. Stylishly attired in a red checkered shirt, jeans, and a pair of red kicks, the deejay thrilled the lively studio audience with a selection of his latest hits before joining sexy hostess Phoenix on the couch to dish on what he’s been up to lately. Konshens’ debut album, Mental Maintenance, arrives at iTunes next Tuesday and in stores on March 6.

SHE’S BACK: In local theatre news, Montego Bay theatregoers and the tourism community are getting set to enjoy a revival of the hit musical drama White Witch, which copped some 13 Actor Boy awards for its 2010 incarnation. With a new-look cast, the production (to be staged behind the Rose Hall Great House) is directed by Douglas Prout, and kicks off the second week in March. Replacing Best-Actress winner Maylynne Walton in the starring role is Nadia Khan, recently seen in Bittersweet Love.

PRIDE & JOY: Reggae superstar Jah Cure and gorgeous wife Kamila McDonald are now the proud parents of a bouncing baby girl. The couple (which tied the knot in 2011) welcomed their new bundle of joy into the world earlier this week. Best wishes to the Alcock family! #Congrats

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INDIE SPIRIT: Small label Bran-Nu Entertainment doing big things for reggae

IN STUDIO: An attention-worthy indie label is headed to the top.

Based in Washington DC, Bran-Nu Entertainment has not only taken advantage of the vibrant Caribbean music scene, but also networking in the Diaspora. Today the independent label is a multi-faceted organization specializing in management, distribution, publishing and licensing. Whether utilizing high-end marketing techniques, such as securing licensing deals for their artistes with international airlines, or grass-roots campaigns targeting sound systems and mixtapes, the label has been a strategic driving force in exposing reggae music to new and unconventional markets.

And their work has not gone unrecognized. BNE’s Rhoan Bromfield recently picked up a nomination for Producer of the Year (for the EP, RUTH) for the 15th Annual Washington DC Reggae Music Awards, scheduled to take place this May. BNE artiste Ruth-Ann Brown is also up for six awards. “We're humbled by the nominations because of the simple fact that our work is being recognized by our own Jamaican community in the nation's capital, Washington DC,” said Bromfield.

Although the managers of BNE are content with their current roster, they are still keeping a keen eye open for rare talent. Says a label spokesperson, “When scouting for a Nu artiste, there are several factors we take into consideration. The obvious talent and work ethic a a must, along with being able to embrace the responsibilities of having a public platform.”

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ON THE SCENE: Constance White + Jean Lowrie-Chin + Sheryl Lee Ralph + Barbara Blake-Hannah + PM Portia Simpson-Miller

AWARD WORTHY: Feb. 23, Los Angeles. Jamaica's own Constance White, Essence Magazine Editor-in-Chief (right), shares the spotlight with Oscar nominee Viola Davis (love the new do!) at the 5th Annual Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon on Thursday at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

BLACK BEAUTIES: Feb. 23, Los Angeles. White is joined on the red carpet by actress Adepero Oduye, breakout star of the sleeper hit Pariah, at Thursday's Essence BWIH luncheon.

PERFECT FIT: Feb. 23, Los Angeles. Jamerican film and stage actress Sheryl Lee Ralph also stepped out for the Essence BWIH luncheon on Thursday, cutting a fashionable figure on the red carpet.

DIPLOMATIC DELIGHT: Feb. 24, Kingston. PM Portia Simpson-Miller is clearly enjoying her conversation with the UNFPA's Babatunde Osotimehin, who paid a courtesy call on the PM at Jamaica House on Friday morning. Osotimehin's visit concerns a review of the role of the UNFPA in helping Jamaica achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

FRESH PRINTS: Feb. 18, St. Andrew. Last Saturday's Best of the Reggae Film Festival drew the likes of communications pro Jean Lowrie-Chin to the Red Bones Blues Cafe. Here, she shares a photo-op with festival organizer Barbara Blake-Hannah, both garbed in resplendent looks.

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