Thursday, 28 February 2013

IN THE MIX: Wayne Marshall in the midst of first European tour + Usain Bolt dishes fitness tips in Details

BODY OF WORK: Everybody wants to know the fitness secrets behind Usain Bolt’s record-shattering performances on the track. In the March issue of Details magazine, the speedster graciously offers some of the surefire strategies behind his phenomenal success. “In addition to attaining gold medals and record-breaking speed,” writes the magazine, “Usain Bolt has built one of the best bodies on the planet, and while you’ll never catch him on the track, you can steal his fitness-and-regimen.” Bolt was photographed exclusively for the feature by Eric Ray Davidson

FLYING SOLO: As he gets ready for the arrival of his hotly anticipated new studio album, True Colours (due out in April from Ghetto Youths International), Wayne Marshall is currently headlining his first solo tour of Europe that will see him unleashing his infectious brand of reggae/dancehall before club audiences in Spain, Norway, Denmark and Germany, and other countries, over the course of the next four weeks. (In the photo above, Marshall performs at the U-Club in Wuppertal, Germany, on Feb. 22). Marshall’s new album includes collaborations with Konshens, Tarrus Riley, and Sean Paul.

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POWERFUL PORTRAITS: A new photography exhibit captures reggae’s continuing evolution

PICTURE THIS: Images of Big Youth, Culture, and Etana, by Peter Simon (below).

Coinciding with a new venture between acclaimed photographer Peter Simon and New York-based record label VP Records, Simon’s new retrospective photo exhibition "Reggae Bloodlines: Lens of A Generation" had its Kingston debut Thursday night at the Puls8 Complex. 

“The show is a celebration of Peter and his life’s work,” explains Patricia Chin, co-founder of VP Records. “Peter is a longtime friend and supporter of the music, and we’re proud to be working with him on this new venture.” Simon is equally enthusiastic about partnering with the label. “I’m very excited to see my work incorporated into the various forms that are planned by VP,” he says. “I look forward to a whole new audience being exposed to these images.”

Simon, who specializes in powerful portraits, has amassed an oeuvre that includes installations of intriguing images of Jamaican culture spanning the early 1970s to the present day, and includes prominent reggae artistes of each respective era, from Peter Tosh to Jimmy Cliff to Bob Marley. Art photography lovers and reggae aficionados in New York City and Martha’s Vineyard can look out for the exhibit's arrival in the coming months. 

VP Records is preparing for the summer release of Reggae Bloodlines: The Natty Dread Era, a multi-disc compilation inspired by Peter Simon's 1977 book Reggae Bloodlines: In Search of the Music and Culture of Jamaica. The acclaimed book, photographed by Simon and written by Stephen Davis, chronicles the 1970s reggae scene. To learn more about Simon and his terrific body of work, visit

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CULTURE BEAT: Set Up Shop lands at # 1 + National Book Award winners announced

LITERARY SMASH HITS: The winners of the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced in the US on Thursday evening. Debut novelist Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk beat out NW by Zadie Smith for the fiction award. Leanne Shapton’s Swimming Studies won the autobiography award, Marina Waner’s Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights received the criticism prize, while D. A. Powell’s Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys was cited for poetry. Also, Robert Caro’s The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, the fourth volume in the series, won in the biography category while Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity beat out favourite Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo for the nonfiction prize. 

REGGAE GOLD: Set Up Shop Vol. 1, the 14-track compilation from Ghetto Youths International, debuted at #1 on iTunes reggae album chart in the United States and Japan and landed at #2 in the United Kingdom this past Tuesday. “Ghetto Youths International’s aim is to introduce new and exciting talent to the market,” explains executive producer Damian Marley. “The response from the market is encouraging and tells us that the market is still loving reggae music.”

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SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: Construction to commence on new state-of-the-art cardiac wing at Bustamante Hospital

STEP ONE: PM Simpson-Miller, Shaggy, and others perform the official ground-breaking.

“Our children constitute a special segment of the population. They deserve the best care and treatment as the health of our people represents the wealth of our nation,” remarked Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, addressing Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new multi-million dollar state-of-the-art Cardiac Wing at the Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston. 

The new cardiac wing has been made possible under a public-private partnership agreement with support coming from Chain of Hope UK, Digicel Jamaica, Sagicor Investment Ltd, Gift of Life District 7020, the Caribbean Heart Menders, and the Congenital Heart Institute of Florida. Digicel Jamaica has donated $100 million towards the construction of the facility with a further $40 million coming from Sagicor Investments Limited. 

“This new cardiac wing will provide an increased number of paediatric Intensive Care Unit beds in Jamaica, reduce waiting time for such surgeries and decrease the number of children on the waiting list for surgery,” Simpson-Miller explained, adding that the specialist facility will also allow for general improvement in the expertise of local medical personnel in performing complex cardiac surgeries. Each year, up to 500 children are born with congenital heart disease, and about half of that number requires cardiac surgery. 

Also on hand for the ceremony were the likes of health minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson; Her Excellency the Most Hon. Lady Allen; Lyttleton Shirley, Chairman of South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA); Emma Scanlan, Executive Director of Chain of Hope; Digicel’s CEO Andy Thorburn; Sagicor’s Tar Nunes, and artist and philanthropist Orville ‘Shaggy’ Burrell.

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SCENE & HEARD: Jodi Stewart-Henriques + Michael Cuffe + Keneea Linton-George + I-Octane + PM Portia Simpson-Miller + Brian George + Lady Saw + Danae Ramgolam + Shaggy

RED HOT: Feb. 26, Kingston. Sporting fiery new tresses, Lady Saw puts in a stylishly laid-back appearance at the Shaggy & Friends leg of Behind The Screen inside Usain Bolt’s Tracks & Records last Tuesday night. (Photo: Skkan Media)

THREE’S COMPANY: Feb. 26, Kingston. The man of the hour spent the early part of Tuesday night at Tracks & Records catching up with folks like Brian and Keneea Linton-George, who were among the guests eager to catch the premiere of Shaggy’s newest video, “Love Mi Jamaica,” and his latest live-band performance. (Photo: Skkan Media)

EMBRACEABLE YOU: Feb. 23, St. James. Cover star Michael Cuffe, seen here sharing a taut embrace with colleague Danae Ramgolam, is feeling the love at the FAME Road Party, which brought the heat and pulsating energy to MoBay’s Pier 1 over the weekend. (Photo: Skkan Media)

SET PIECE: Feb. 26, Kingston. Maintaining his mile-a-minute work pace, reggae hitmaker I-Octane has the attention of his Scorpio 21 directors on the film set of his latest music video. (Photo: I-Octane)

WILD AT HEART: Feb. 24, Clarendon. Amid the cool country air and high-energy party vibes, homegirls Jodi ‘Jinx’ Stewart-Henriques and Muna Shadeed give free rein to their inner vixens at Chillin’ on the Farm, recently hosted at Murray’s Farm, on the outskirts of May Pen. (Photo: Skkan Media)

THINK PINK: Feb. 26, St. Andrew. PM Portia Simpson-Miller is delighted to meet Belgian Ambassador, Godelieve Van Den Berg, during a recent courtesy call at Jamaica House. The powerhouse duo discussed, among other things, the strengthening of bilateral relations between both states. (Photo: OPM)

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PLAY ON: Directors Fabian Thomas and David Tulloch ready buzzworthy new shows

ALL IN THE FAMILY: On the heels of the provocative, Thespy-nominated Wine & Roses and the debut of his R-rated sizzler Risque, David Tulloch is set to bring the heat once more. Paternal Instinct, a star-studded new family drama, premieres at the Pantry Playhouse in April. Douglas Prout will be calling the shots as director. “It will mark my return to the Kingston stage and will also star Keisha Patterson, Marsha-Ann Hay, Lisa Williams, Stephanie Hazle and Orrin Scott-Stewart,” Tulloch explains. Set design duties fall to Michael Lorde while Robin Baston will work his brand of visual magic as lighting director. “When you think about it,” says Tulloch, “everyone has won an award for their craft.” Meantime, Risque, which enjoyed a month-long run at MoBay’s Fairfield Theatre last December, is set to re-open by popular demand. 

RELATIVELY SPEAKING: “As soon as I read the book, I knew I had to direct them,” confesses Fabian Thomas, referring to Tarell Alvin McCraney’s The Brother/Sister Plays, from which Thomas is adapting a pair of riveting stories for the Jamaican stage. Widely known for bringing challenging, edgy and non-traditional works to the stage with a cast of predominantly emerging talent, the director and his crew are set to breathe full-bodied life into In The Red and Brown Water (March 15-24) and The Brothers Size (March 29-April 7) at the Pantry Playhouse. McCraney’s gritty-lyrical and boundary-pushing plays delve into the world of a Louisiana bayou housing project, a landscape of hardship and dreams influenced by Yoruba mythology. While Brown Water revolves around Oya, a gifted athlete grappling with a dying mother and the challenges of young womanhood, The Brothers Size is about two siblings coming to terms with issues of sexuality, family and identity. Due to explicit language and sexual situations, both productions are aimed at mature audiences.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2013

THE BEST OF HIM: Esteemed colleagues share fond memories of working alongside Prof. Rex Nettleford

WITH a must-see new docu-film about his remarkable life and legacy on the way, five distinguished colleagues and friends from dance, theatre and music recall the easy-going brilliance of the late great Rex Nettleford, icon and timeless inspiration. 

Maria LaYacona – Photographer, National Dance Theatre Company 
“Oh gosh. There were so many great things about him. He truly wanted to help dance grow in Jamaica, and most of the kids he worked with came from very poor areas, and after rehearsal he would ensure that they all got home safely. I worked with him from 1964, and I photographed every NDTC season for over 45 years. He was just a wonderful person to work with.” 

Barbara Requa – Legendary dancer, dance educator, choreographer 
“I had known him since the 1950s when he was studying dance with Ivy Baxter, and he was always a very fun-loving and fun-filled individual, who also had his serious moments. He was very serious about his vision. He was like a brother to me and a very strong person. I will forever cherish the friendship over the years and how he was always so supportive of others. He loved to help people, and that aspect of him never changed.”  

Bridget Spaulding – Secretary/Treasurer, National Dance Theatre Company 
“What I will cherish the most about Rex Nettleford was the fact that he always shared. He was a very giving person. Yes, he was also very demanding, but he also gave back. He had the kind of personality that made you want to do things for him. He was a great man, but he never made you feel less than.” 

Noel Dexter – Founding Artistic Director, The University Singers 
“Extraordinary. That’s the best word I’d use to describe him. He accomplished truly great things in the arts. He always displayed wonderful creativity and a brilliant mind. He worked with us for many, many years and he really helped us to elevate the creative aspect of our performances and even made suggestions on how we could improve the music. He was an extraordinary gift to us.” 

Barbara Gloudon – Playwright, lyricist, National Pantomime Company 
“Working with Rex, every day was an education. Whatever feelings I had about Jamaica and its possibilities and so on were augmented by my friendship with Rex. He had such a vision. Being a part of his circle, you had to be somebody who was conscious of where the world was, but above all, what Jamaica could contribute. One of the highlights of knowing him was when he completed the manuscript for his famous book, Mirror Mirror, I was one of the people he asked to read the manuscript and give him feedback, and that’s one of the greatest honours I’ve ever had. So for me everyday with Rex was an affirming of your faith in your country and all the wonderful possibilities.”

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ON HIS MIND: Yohan Blake would love to have dinner with Oprah – and do some acting

GREEN DAY: Blake dishes on kids, cinema, and his philosophy.

He earned his popular sobriquet ‘The Beast’ on account of his incredible work ethic and hefty appetite for victory. But, as it turns out, Yohan Blake also has a surprising taste for the cinematic life. In an interview earlier this week with W-TheJournal (all about high-end watches), the Richard Mille brand ambassador confessed that if he had to pack up and immediately drop everything, “I would become a cricketer or an actor.” 

While the sprint star didn’t offer any details about the type of films (or plays) he would specialize in, he apparently has a thing for laugh-out-loud comedy, as he reveals that his ideal dinner guests would have to include the likes of legendary funnyman Jim Carrey, singer Alicia Keys, and talk-show maven Oprah Winfrey. 

What else is trending is Blake’s universe: He says he can always spare 10 minutes “for kids, because they are the future” and, given his hectic training schedule, he stresses, “I never have time for partying.” Among his admitted weaknesses? “I can’t say ‘No’.” 

Still, the 23-year-old St. Jago alum emphasizes that he’s a firm believer in reaping success from good, old-fashioned hard work. “I do not have a motto. I have dreams and philosophies,” Blake says. “My dream is to be more than a legend and my philosophy is ‘The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.’ I believe in hard work and commitment.” 

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FLASH BACK: Here are Shaggy’s 5 Best Music Videos

SHAGGY’s videos consistently earn kudos for their high entertainment value and fascinating creativity. In honour of his latest, “Love Mi Jamaica,” we take a look back at the finest audio-visual accomplishments by Mr. Bombastic over the years. Roll camera!

1. Sugar Cane 
Vividly filmed and replete with deliciously eye-catching hues, this lead-off single from 2011’s Summer In Kingston delivered dazzling scenery, beautiful people, and a melodious, reggaefied salute to finding romance in our sun-kissed tropical paradise.

2. Church Heathen 
Chock-full of instantly recognizable faces (Rosie Murray, Ninja Man, Nomadzz), Shaggy offered an amusing and slightly satirical look at hypocrisy in the church. While reminding us that a little confession is good for the soul, the entertainer poked good-natured fun at society’s pretentious churchgoers with the disclaimer “If you take this too serious then you really need some chuch.” Amen to that.

3. Oh, Carolina 
Announcing a true star-in-the-making, the flirty slow groove off his debut album, Pure Pleasure, was both a nod to the Folkes Brothers who originally recorded the hit back in the day and a total demonstration of Shaggy’s skill for making vintage sounds feel adventurously fresh and modern. 

4. Bad Man Don’t Cry 
Ample proof of the genius partnership between Shaggy and frequent collaborator Jay Will, what played out was a memorable portrait of sex, lies and revenge in the guise of a mini-film with interesting guest appearances (Josey Wales, Sky Juice) and a thrilling, twisty storyline. 

5. It Wasn’t Me 
Arguably the most famous pop tune ever written about the art of cheating, the super-catchy chart-topping single earned a sprightly video centred on an unfaithful lover on the run (played by Rik Rok) and his enraged woman hot on his trail, highlighting Shaggy’s knack for creating fun records that provoke and entertain in almost equal measure.

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THE BUZZ REPORT: Shebada’s new TV sitcom on the way + Usain Bolt sets a US$300,000 date with Paris

Keith ‘Shebada’ Ramsey is headed to your living rooms. According to our sources, the popular actor-comedian leads a cast of experienced and up-and-coming actors that will start filming episodes for a new TV sitcom called Shebada in Charge as early as next week. Deon Silvera and Akeem Mignott are among the other names attached to the project that Stages Productions is hoping will hit TV screens sometime later this year. 

Also in the casting room, Oliver Samuels will reunite with Boy Blue co-stars Audrey Reid and Dennis Titus in Embassy Saga, a laugh-out-loud comedy scheduled to premiere in Kingston in April. 

And while we’re on the subject of Jamaican theatre, nominations for the 2013 Actor Boy Awards are to be announced in early March. “We’re hoping to do that next week because the judges are still putting together their lists,” explains showrunner Maurice Bryan. This past Monday, a pre-Actor Boy lyme was held at the A-Bar in Springs Plaza, Kingston. The awards ceremony is set to take place at the Little Theatre on Monday, March 25. 

As he looks to take his recording/performance career to new heights, Romain Virgo has expanded his management team. The 23-year-old reggae star’s affairs (including his bookings) will now be handled via a partnership between Vikings Productions and Shane Brown’s Jukeboxx Productions. 

Sprint superstar Usain Bolt has confirmed that he will compete in the 200 metres at the Areva meeting in Paris on July 6 as part of his preparations for the World Championships. Areva forms part of the annual Samsung Diamond League, comprised of a total of 14 meets. The organizers have reportedly set aside a hefty US$300,000 as part of Bolt’s pay package.

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NEWS & NOTES: Teddy McCook conferred with IAAF’s highest honour + Jamaica’s fifth Contractor General ready for duty

FIGHTING WORDS: “We must be prepared to do whatever it takes, for however long it takes, to continue, renew and reshape our strategy in our fight against the abominable crime called corruption,” emphasizes attorney Dirk Harrison, who was on Monday sworn in as Jamaica’s fifth Contractor-General at King’s House by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen. “If we intend to make a difference, collectively, we must work together as we develop strategies and guidelines to fight crime. I therefore invite my countrymen to tell us what you know and we will take the fight to the corrupt. We will protect the whistle-blowers and report wrong-doing in the confines of observing fairness, the laws of natural justice, and seek to make Jamaica a better place to live, work and play.” Prior to his appointment, which takes effect on March 1, Harrison (a graduate of the Norman Manley School) served as deputy director of public prosecutions. 

PURE GOLD: For his outstanding contribution and meritorious service to the sport of athletics, the late Jamaican stalwart Neville ‘Teddy’ McCook has been posthumously awarded the IAAF Golden Order of Merit, the sporting body’s highest honour. The announcement was made this past Sunday on the occasion of McCook’s memorial service, held at the chapel of his alma mater, Kingston College. An IAAF delegation led by Senior Vice President Robert Hersh, Vice President Sebastian Coe and Cheikh Thiaré, Director of the Executive Office, attended the service. McCook, a former President of the Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association (from 1984-1996), was an IAAF Council Member from 1999, and President of the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association from 2007 to the time of his death earlier this month.

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ISLAND STORIES: Caribbean filmmaking is having a golden moment

LIFE IS NOT A FAIRY-TALE: Images from Chrissy and (below) Just Another Friday.

As awards season in Hollywood draws to a close, Caribbean filmmakers seem intent on seizing the spotlight and making their presence felt. The diligent team behind New Caribbean Cinema continues to push its latest project, Ring Di Alarm, on the North-American film-festival circuit, earning plaudits and stellar print and word-of-mouth reviews along the way – most recently at the Pan-African festival in Miami. 

Chris Browne’s award-winning Ghett’a Life recently picked up a lucrative US distribution deal and is set to debut on Video-On-Demand and Blockbuster DVD not too long from now. More recently, the Antiguan horror thriller The Skin, with a cast including legendary actor Carl Bradshaw, made its long-awaited debut to a warm reception in the States. 

Those successes have certainly set the stage for the arrival of two buzzworthy new movies scheduled to debut in Jamaica next month before heading overseas. First up is Chrissy, an inspirational coming-of-age tale centred on a 10-year-old schoolgirl grappling with bullies, poverty and discrimination. 

Helmed by Jamaican filmmaker Marcia Weekes and co-starring Barbadian actor Marc Fingall, it’s the latest release by Step by Step Productions, the creative house behind the popular Hush trilogy. “The involvement of Jamaicans, Barbadians, and Guyanese among the production crew,” notes executive producer David Weekes, “is evidence of the quality of work which the region can produce. Chrissy will warm the hearts of many and even move some to tears.” 
The local Christian community, too, is demonstrating its versatility with the upcoming release of Just Another Friday, being touted as Jamaica’s first gospel film. “[It’s] a story about family, conflict, tragedy and redemption,” explains author/playwright Judith Falloon-Reid, who is co-producing and co-directing the film with husband and veteran television producer Michael Brown. “The themes are current and will take moviegoers through the conflicts between a husband and wife, their Christian teenager, her worldly brother and their visiting relatives.” 

Chrissy is set for a red-carpet premiere at Liguanea’s Palace Cineplex on March 5, while Just Another Friday (co-starring Lubert Levy and A.J. Brown) premieres in Kingston on Thursday, March 21 at the Red Bones Blues Café and in Montego Bay on March 22 at the Fairfield Theatre.

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