Tuesday, 31 July 2012

ON THE RECORD: Konshens sounds off on career moves and Rastafari with MTV

VOX POPULAR: The ace deejay keeps it real.

As we reported earlier this week, dancehall hottie Konshens recently flew to the Big Apple to do some press and promotional work, including a photoshoot and interview with MTV Iggy in Manhattan. As it turns out, the conversation touched on a range of interesting topics:

On SubKonshus, his burgeoning record label: “I don’t want it to be known for one particular thing. I like variety. So whether you’re a good studio artist or you’re a good stage performer or you’re the entire package, something has to just stand out.”

Reggae and Rastafari: “I think if you are a Jamaican, and if you do reggae and dancehall music, you don’t have to, but you should respect Rasta as not just a tool to get exposure. You grew up amongst Rastafarian people who take Rastafarianism very serious. So it’s really a shame for you to use it as a mockery, or as a stepping stone, if you’re not serious about it.”

Striking a balance between the personal and the professional: “Keyword is balance. About the topics and the serious topics. I’m naturally that type of person, where it’s time to be serious I’m very serious. Just as when it’s time to party, I’m an idiot. I’m very much a fool. So, once you strike that balance in your life, yuh no stress out yourself in the serious thing, just as well as yuh no take them for granted.”

To read the full interview with Konshens, click HERE.

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OLYMPICS WATCH: Superfit Asafa meets Edinburgh’s Prince Phillip + Gary Allen addresses TV J’s lack of London feed

THIS IS IT: On Saturday, Jamaica’s Asafa Powell was among the Olympic hopefuls who had a brief chat with Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh (right), who was leading a tour of the Athletes’ Village at the 2012 Summer Games in London. Don Anderson, Chef de Mission of Jamaica’s contingent, was also on hand for the light exchange. Powell, meantime, has been itching to hit the track to kick-start his bid for a medal in the Men’s 100M. Feeling superfit and injury-free, Powell says he’s confident of his chances this weekend. “I know I have what it takes to go out there and put in on the track,” he says, “and a lot of guys will eat my dust.”

LOST IN TRANSMISSION: Viewers who were looking forward to the usual solid and thorough Olympics coverage for which TV J has earned kudos in the past will be disappointed to learn that “the nation station” doesn’t have the goods to deliver this go-round. Addressing concerns during Tuesday afternoon’s Pure Gold discussion segment, Gary Allen (Managing Director of the RJR Group) noted that, in a nutshell, TV J was unable to secure the IOC broadcast rights for Jamaica. “CVM bought the exclusive television rights and we did approach them to ask if they’d share the rights, and they said no.” So the next best thing, he says, involves providing viewers with as much in-depth discussions and analysis as possible.

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THE MUSIC SCENE: Singer-songwriter Courtney John is finding the words

SMOOTH OPERATOR: Reggae-soul lovers, rejoice! Courtney John is back with new music. The beloved crooner (Jamaica’s answer to Maxwell?) has put out his latest studio album, From Letters to Words, a soothing and soulful record currently available via iTunes.

HARDER THAN EVER: And speaking of authentic reggae, Rebirth, the latest from living legend Jimmy Cliff is a hit with critics. Proclaims Blinded by Sound: “Rebirth is one of Cliff’s strongest albums to date; which is saying something for someone with a track record as long as his.”

TALK THAT TALK: Meantime, Raine Seville earlier this week debuted her new mixtape Talk Is Cheap, which is hosted and mixed by ZJ Liquid’s H2O Records. While showcasing Raine’s music from 2009 to the present, the 21-track mixtape finds the foxy young singer working with such reggae-dancehall hitmakers as Daseca, Payday Music, Don Corleone, Washroom Entertainment, Chimney Records – and collaborating on tracks with the likes of Serani and Voicemail.

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ON THE SCENE: Samantha Albert + Norman Peart + Sir Patrick Allen + Carole Beckford + Sanjay + PM Portia Simpson-Miller + Kiprich

GENERALLY SPEAKING: July 29, Kingston. PM Portia Simpson-Miller warmly greets Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen, after the service of thanksgiving for Jamaica's 50th anniversary of Independence held at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kingston on Sunday. In her message, the prime minister called on Jamaicans to be inspired and strengthened to build a nation that is peaceful, productive, prosperous and protective of all citizens. (Photo: OPM).

EASY RIDER: July 30, Britain. Competing in the Equestrian Eventing (Individual Cross Country) at Greenwich Park at the Summer Games in London on Monday, Jamaican Olympian Samantha Albert ended her bid (among more than 60 other contenders) in 51st place. (Photo: AP).

CHILL SPOT: July 29, Kingston. Guest performer Kiprich and host Sanjay vibe (while making individual style statements) inside the Blackberry Lounge on Sunday's third live show of Digicel Stars. (Photo: Digicel).

FLYING SOLO: July 29, Kingston. Later hitting the mainstage to give a rendition of his latest jam, "Facebook," Kiprich brought the show to a close with his trademark vigour and lyrical humour. (Photo: Digicel).

LONDON BOUND: July 30, Kingston. Off to the Summer Olympics in Britain to see our golden boy Usain Bolt (and the rest of Team Jamaica) deliver dazzling performances on the track are, from left, Bolt's publicist Carole Beckford, his brother Sadiki, his parents Wellesley and Jennifer, and his longtime business manager Norman Peart. Their trip to the Games was endorsed by mobile giants Digicel. (Photo: Digicel).

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MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2012: Anthony Winkler’s historical rethink God Carlos

Legendary Jamaican novelist Anthony C. Winkler (The Lunatic, Crocodile) keeps reminding us that he can write about anything. Due out September 4 via Akashic Books, Winkler’s newest effort, God Carlos, has been described as “a provocative and persuasive historical novel exploring the Spanish brutality against native Indians in early-16th-century Jamaica.”

Already the book is the subject of much acclaim. “Set in the sixteenth century, Winkler's latest novel is something like Heart of Darkness meets Animal Farm,” reports Kei Miller (The Last Warner Woman). “But what happens when Jamaica's most flamboyantly irreverent and fiercely contemporary novelist tackles the past? Why, the past becomes flamboyantly irreverent and fiercely contemporary. Winkler's achievement here is not that he remakes himself as a historical writer, but that he remakes history.”

Notes Marlon James: “Every country (is she’s lucky) gets the Mark Twain she deserves, and Winkler is ours, bristling with savage Jamaican wit and heart-stopping compassion.”

Pre-order your copy HERE.

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Monday, 30 July 2012

NEWS & NOTES: I-Octane suffers respiratory scare + DJ Nicholas is embracing fatherhood

REST PERIOD: Reggae hitmaker I-Octane is not feeling like his usual fiery self these days. According to his management, the entertainer was recently hospitalized after suffering respiratory problems and is presently under strict doctor’s orders. “He is now under the care of his physician and though recuperating, he has been advised by his doctor to rest until further reassessment,” informs a newly released statement. “As a result, I-Octane will be unable to honour some of the commitments previously scheduled. [But] based on discussions with his doctor, he is expected to make a full recovery and is looking forward to performing for his fans.”

FATHER KNOWS BEST: “It’s a beautiful thing,” shares DJ Nicholas, extolling the joys of fatherhood during a recently aired interview with TV J. The gospel star and his lovely wife, Sandra, last month welcomed their first child, a bouncing baby boy, into their nest. “I was waiting and waiting, and he didn’t come until the seventh year of my marriage. And seven in the Bible means completion, which is a perfect number," says Nicholas. "So that’s a living testimony for me. After God delivered me from the ganja and everything, God still ah prove himself to me. So me know God real, and we need fi know that.”

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Sunday, 29 July 2012

COFFEE TALK: Alia Atkinson sizzles in London + Jeff Anderson-Gunter’s latest honour

IN THE SWIM: National-record holder Alia Atkinson made history in London on Sunday when she became the third Jamaican ever to qualify for an Olympic swimming final after she advanced to the 100m breaststroke finals at the ongoing 2012 Games. Atkinson, 23, attained a personal best clocking of 1:06.79 in a swim-off with Canada's Tera Van Beilen, which became necessary as both swimmers tied for fourth place in semi-final one, with a time of 1:07.48. Both young women had also tied for the eighth and final spot for Monday’s final.

GETTING HIS DUE: Acclaimed Jamerican actor and director Jeff Anderson-Gunter will be honored during a ‘Jamaica Night’ celebration in Los Angeles on Independence Day, August 6, to be held at Derricks Jamaica Cuisine and Catering. Under the theme “Reminisce, Recite, Re-Live,” the special Jamaica 50 event is being put on by Celebrate Jamaica Los Angeles, and will also pay tribute to Barbara Barabino, President of the LA-based Ragga Muffins Productions, a reggae artiste promotion and production outfit.

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YOHAN’S OLYMPIC QUEST: “I Am a Man of Surprises”

DREAM CHASER: Blake hopes to mine gold in his Olympic debut.

The much-anticipated Men’s 100M final of the London Olympics – slated for next Sunday, August 5 – has been haunting The Beast. “I eat, sleep, think, walk and pray about it,” he confesses in a new interview with Britain’s The Daily Mail. “The Olympic final is the crème de la crème. Why wouldn’t it dominate my mind at every moment?”

Indeed. But with a top-notch cast of star sprinters (Bolt, Powell, Gay and Gatlin included) gunning to land gold in the marquee event come Sunday, Blake – making his debut at this stage – is well aware that a Herculean task lies ahead of him.

Still, as Blake has vividly shown in recent months, he’s up for any challenge. After all, he’s put in the groundwork and fully expects his tireless efforts to reap fruit at the end of the day. “I close my eyes and dream about it. I give it everything. That is why I am The Beast,” says the reigning world champion. “My philosophy is, when I am working, other guys are sleeping. I never stop working.”

The 22-year-old Blake, who ran the second fastest 200M in history (last year’s 19.26 secs in Brussels) has been enjoying a year of invincibility and, according to him, that sort of prestige gives him the upper-hand. “Being unbeaten this year is an important thing,” he explains. “It gives me a mental edge. It will be in every athlete’s mind.”

Meantime, the bigger picture indicates that Blake is looking to pull off the kind of sensational feat Usain Bolt achieved in Beijing: golds in the 100M, 200M and 4X100M relay. If Blake has his way, that would essentially mean dethroning his friend and training partner and etching his name in the Book of Jamaican Legends. “I am a man of surprises,” he says. “I surprised people in Daegu. I surprised them in Brussels. I can surprise them in London. You never know what can happen.”

TWO OF A KIND: Compatriots Blake and Bolt in London.

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GOLDEN REBIRTH: NDTC’s 50th restores the beauty and joy of dance theatre

ANCIEN RÈGIME: Dancers in a scene from The Crossing.

The 2012 Season of Dance of the National Dance Theatre Company is an excellent example of how to make the vintage and the utterly modern co-exist in harmony. Equal parts dazzling and daring, celebratory and reflective, the presentation finds the venerable company moving into a new chapter (another half-a-century, no less) firmly touting – and achieving – its mission of continuity and renewal. In essence, living up to the Nettleford ideal.

This past Friday when I went to take in the show at the Little Theatre, the programme offered seven works, a hugely enjoyable mix of revived classics and fresh mountings, opening with Nettleford’s The Crossing, an impassioned and painful work that comes off as a paean to oppression, struggle and redemption. Making ample use of Negro spirituals and references to slavery and colonialism, it features controlled, graceful movements, including some lovely solo work by that lithe creature Kerry-Ann Henry, who never fails to dazzle with beauty and precision.

I equally enjoyed the work’s sequencing and contrast of moods (joyous one moment, lugubrious the next), but in the end, The Crossing transcends all that, ultimately offering a display of how to fashion pure art out of suffering and adversity.

Stage legend Melanie Graham was a welcome leading presence in Bert Rose’s Edna M, a moving and poignant story centred on art and memory, and featuring choreography as delicate as the woman herself. Showing us that age ain’t on her page, Graham kept pace wonderfully with the new-gen performers, particularly a quartet of sinewy male dancers portraying semi-nude sculptures. Truly provocative stuff. But that’s precisely the thing with the NDTC – especially creative masterminds like Rose and Nettleford and Clive Thompson – it’s about rising above the confines of convention and pushing the boundaries of artistic creativity.

And speaking of Thompson, I found his Ode a thoroughly fresh, freewheelin’ and fun ball of spunk and energy (with a contemporary flair), which lent a change of pace and mood to the evening’s proceedings. Among the highlights: Marley tunes given a groovy jazz-funk treatment, a frisky-flirty Marisa Benain, Henry again in all her agile glory, not to mention some subtle erotic undertones.

The crowd-pleasing Siempre Corriendo by Ramon Alayo is a study in power and athleticism, with a four taut males (locals Marlon Simms/Mark Phinn and Cuban invitees Delvis Savigne Friñon/Edsinol Gonzalez) moving in near-perfect sync to a menacing operatic soundtrack. Eduardo Rivero’s Sulkari, meantime, is a haunting tribal-esque affair marked by stunning imagery in spite of the dim lighting and gorgeous costumes, while Barbara McDaniel’s lukewarm Valhala features a solo male clad only in passion-red pants and a riot of fierce curls atop his head.

It virtually goes without saying that any special NDTC performance must conclude with Nettleford’s visceral masterpiece, Gerrehbenta, the most joyous work of the company’s vast repertoire. Spectacular with its kaleidoscope of vivid hues and inspired early-Jamaican movements, it’s a slice of genuine terpsichorean splendour. I’ve seen it performed year after year, and each time it feels, quite incredibly, like a new experience.

This year, that warm sensation extends to the company’s entire 50th anniversary season, an involving and compelling mélange of the new and the old, reminding viewers of the power and sheer magical joy that is excellent dance theatre. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

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Saturday, 28 July 2012

'IT'S AN HONOUR': Golden boy Usain Bolt shines during ritzy Olympic ceremony

FLYING HIGH: Team Jamaica brightens up the Olympic Stadium.

The Games of the 30th Olympiad got off to a dazzling start in London on the weekend with an exuberantly orchestrated Opening Ceremony (artistically directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Danny Boyle), marked by bombast, a sense of pageantry and no shortage of thrills and hyperbole, watched by a global audience of billions.

But the bonafide highlight of the evening, of course, was the much-anticipated Parade of Nations, as the ‘ambassadors’ of the more than 200 participating countries (customarily led by Greece) made their way into the venue. Sprint superstar Usain Bolt was beside himself with glee – and pride – as he hoisted the Jamaican flag, with his beaming compatriots not too far behind. PM Portia Simpson-Miller and our woman in the UK, Aloun Assamba, were on hand to witness the spectacle, a most unforgettable Jamaica 50 moment.

For the 25-year-old Bolt, getting to serve as Jamaica’s flag-bearer (and on such a momentous occasion) is the stuff dreams are made of. A couple of hours later he tweeted: “Such a joy and honour to carry the Flag..let the games begin..To the world me say.”

As for the rest of the proceedings, the Brits (claiming home turf) figured prominently in the proceedings. HRH Queen Elizabeth II shared a cool entrance with an escort no less than today’s Agent 007, Daniel Craig. Soccer star David Beckham delivered the Olympic torch into the Stadium via speedboat. Rowan ‘Mr. Bean’ Atkinson made a comically delightful cameo during a reimagining of that iconic jogging scene from Chariots of Fire.

COUNTRY STRONG: Bolt, with PM Simpson-Miller in London.

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GIRL OF SUMMER: Cherine reflects on Sumfest, working with Shabba -- and what's next

RED HOT: The singer works the Sumfest crowd in a foxy ensemble.

"I feel great. Many people met Cherine on Friday night. I hope they weren't expecting Ms. Anderson," quips the dancehall-soulstress, in reference to her sexy-badass (and totally unexpected) stint alongside back-on-the-scene legend Shabba Ranks at International Night II, Reggae Sumfest.

Electrifying the massive crowd with a handful of duets, including "Champion Lover" and "Twice My Age," Cherine and Shabba shared a wicked chemistry, made all the more incredible due to its somewhat impromptu nature. "Shabba's fans came out to see a dancehall show, so that's what we put on," Cherine says. "It is an honour to work with such an accomplished and successful artist like him, a true professional and one of my favourite deejays. Plus, he's real cool to work with."

In the wake of Sumfest, Cherine is getting set to film two music videos in the coming weeks. First up is a clip for the much-talked dancehall tune "Haffi Come Back," followed by a shoot for the inspirational anthem "Eagles & Doves." On Aug. 6, the singer will put in an appearance at a special JCDC Independence event in Montego Bay, before heading off to Canada, where she is slated to headline a few festivals in mid-August.

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OUT & ABOUT: Tarrus Riley + Rita Marley + Shaggy + Natel + Stephen Marley + Usain Bolt + Cedella Marley + Asafa Powell + Damian Marley

THE FRENCH CONNECTION: July 25, France. Fast-rising recording artist Natel is delighted to be in the company of the legendary Rita Marley, whom he met for the first time at the Garance Music Festival in Bagnols, France. The three-day festival (July 25-28) kicked off with performances by the likes of the I-Threes, Derrick Morgan, Bob Andy, Mr. Vegas and others.

KINDRED SPIRITS: July 26, England. The Marley siblings (Stephen, Damian, Julian and Cedella) on Thursday brought their trademark relentless energy to the London's IndigO2, the venue hosting the 'Respect 50' series of concerts in celebration of Jamaica's Golden Jubilee. The nightly concerts will continue through August 6.

FAMILY AFFAIR: July 26, England. Even new-generation Marley, Joe Mercer (left), was brought in on the family act, joining dad Stephen and uncles Damian and Julian for a centrestage moment under the lights. Per London's Evening Standard, the "lively" crowd thoroughly enjoyed Thursday's concert.

THE BRIGHT SIDE: July 24, England. Lighting up the room in vivid national colours, compatriots Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell have a laugh during the JAAA/JOA press conference on Tuesday at the Munrow Sports Complex on the grounds of the University of Birmingham.

SETTING IT: July 22, New York. Concertgoers who flocked to the Roy Wilkins Park in Queens on Sunday for the 2012 Grace Jerk Festival got a double dose of star power in the form of headliners Tarrus Riley and Shaggy, who shared the bill with the likes of gospel's Prodigal Son and comedic duo Ity & Fancy Cat.

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