Friday, 31 May 2013

THE MUSIC MIX: Toots Hibbert files lawsuit against former manager + Wayne Marshall poised to make waves with latest hit

CASE IN POINT: Band leader Toots Hibbert is reportedly suing a former manager for US$1.25 million. According to TMZ, Hibberts (now 70) claims in a new lawsuit that in 1994 he hired Marc-Antoine Chetata to manage the business and music affairs of his band, Toots & the Maytals. Hibberts further reveals that Chetata took advantage of his limited education and lack of business savvy in persuading him to sign an agreement that gave the manager 50 percent song ownership. Since the early sixties, the Grammy-winning band has recorded over 30 albums. Now Hibberts is seeking financial compensation and full ownership of his songs. Earlier this month, the reggae legend was injured when a 19-year-old patron threw a bottle and hit him during a concert performance in Richmond, Virginia. He was later treated at hospital and released, and decided to cancel the remainder of his US tour. 

GO WITH THE FLOW: The countdown is on to the highly anticipated summer release of Wayne Marshall's Ghetto Youths' debut, Tru Colours, which is being executive-produced by Damian Marley. Ahead of the album's arrival, Marshall has dropped "I Know," a brash, radio-ready single that talks fast and hits hard with its references to everything from girls to ganja to gangster posturing. As he spews rhymes over a languid one-drop beat, the singjay exudes the sort of rootsy, conscious appeal that continues to distinguish and define the gritty, new-generation Marley sound. And this shouldn't come as a surprise. Given his integral place in the new-look Tuff Gong camp, Marshall has found himself in legendary company. Meantime, take a listen to the song HERE.

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LITERARY GIANT: Malcolm Gladwell tackles underdogs and favourites in forthcoming book, David and Goliath

BY THE BOOKS: The author being interviewed (for One People) by Justine Henzell.

"In the vast world of nonfiction writing, Malcolm Gladwell is as close to a singular talent as exists today," declares the New York Times, in reference to the bestselling British-Canadian-Jamaican author, whose widely acclaimed oeuvre comprises, among others, 2000's Tipping Point, Blink (2005) and Outliers (2008). 

Now comes his latest creation, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, which forcefully examines the hidden rules that shape the balance between the mighty and the weak, the powerful and the dispossessed. In short, it's an exploration of the struggle of underdogs versus favourites. 

Partially inspired by an article Gladwell wrote for the New Yorker in 2009 entitled "How David Beats Goliath," the new book draws upon politics, business, psychology and history in presenting its arguments. "Davids win all the time, when they acknowledge their weaknesses and choose not to play by someone else's rules," says Gladwell, advising readers to play to their strengths. "If you're playing against a team that knows how to play basketball, the last thing you should do is play basketball." 

Now 49, Gladwell (whose books often traffic in the unexpected implications of research in social sciences and make extended use of academic work) was born in England to a Jamaican psychotherapist and a British Mathematics professor. Along with the likes of Harry Belafonte, Colin Powell and Jimmy Cliff, he was featured in the 2012 documentary, One People

David and Goliath will be published in October by Little, Brown and Company.

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Thursday, 30 May 2013

GIRL ON THE GO: Danielle Isaacs talks body image, her brand-new album, and being a work-in-progress

HIGH POINT: The cover art for the star's upcoming release.

Danielle "DI" Isaacs has been toiling in the musical trenches for quite some time, and her efforts are starting to bear succulent fruit, chiefly through her professional and creative association with Sly & Robbie. The Grammy-winning hitmaking duo worked their brand of studio magic in crafting tracks for Isaac's new 8-track disc, the aptly titled The Rebel, due out June 11. 

But, as she tells it, the dancehall vixen (equal parts spice and sugar), remains a work-in-progress determined to attain international superstardom as a result of genuine hard work and talent. And with a busy summer ahead, she won't be disappearing anytime soon. For one, she has a date with Reggae Sumfest's Dancehall Night crowd, vowing to render a performance fit for the record books. In the meantime, she gives us a glimpse into her multifaceted life: 

TALLAWAH: When did you realize that you wanted to work with Sly & Robbie and how did the relationship come about? 
Isaacs: It just happened organically. I first worked with them when I did "Brown Girl in the Ring" and the relationship grew from there. But I'd been in and out with them after a couple years. Now I feel like we've officially started the journey, and it's been good. 

How have folks been responding to your new music, especially with the new album, The Rebel, about to drop? 
Wow, it's been really positive, because it's like we finally got to do some really serious work to show people what I am capable of. It's an introductory EP-type album that we want to market well so that people will get to know Danielle better. My career is about to get major. The feedback on the new songs has been a positive vibe. "My Man" has been getting great reviews. From the media to the people in the streets, people are feeling the new stuff. The album is gonna show my versatility and growth, and I have people like Shabba Ranks and Gramps Morgan on it, so you know it's serious business. 

Do you have a favourite cut on the album? 
No, they are all my babies. As a recording artiste, it's like you have a new child every week. So I love all of them equally. And I want to big up my team and the songwriters because team work makes the dream work. Everybody plays their part. 

What's your philosophy when it comes to body image? 
In terms of how I present myself to the public, image is everything. So as an artiste, you aim to please, but you have to love and respect yourself first. We see the people out there who are creating history, and they are the ones we use as a mark to determine where to take the career. I've also been working out a lot, trying to lose some pounds because summer is coming up, and [Reggae] Sumfest is coming up. And I'm planning to give a really sexy and sophisticated performance. (Laughs). 

Do you have a beauty secret? 
I just keep it natural. I was born with it. (Laughs). My mother is a very pretty girl. So I don't do anything out of the ordinary. Just exercise. 

Will you ever get married? 
Oh, definitely. And I want to have lots of babies. But I am nowhere near ready right now. Right now I'm single and focussed on the music and working on more of what I need to do because we are all works-in-progress. And I am always trying to improve.

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THE BUZZ REPORT: Whitmore responds to Shelton controversy + Hope Gardens set to host Kingston Pon Di River + Jamaica's Christian Allen exits Scripps Howard

FINDING THE WORDS: We were all rooting for him to go all the way, but Christian Allen, 13, of Ardenne High was on Wednesday eliminated in the Preliminaries (Rounds 1, 2 and 3) of the Scripps Howard Spelling Bee championship, currently underway in Maryland. Taking part this year are some 281 spellers from across the United States, as well as the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Japan, South Korea and Jamaica. 42 entrants advanced to Thursday's semi-finals, with a portion of that number scheduled to compete in the championship finals, airing Thursday night live on ESPN from the Maryland Ballroom of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Centre in National Harbour, Maryland. Jamaica's Jody-Anne Maxwell, an Ardenne alumna, won the competition back in 1998. [Update: 13-year-old Arvind Mahankali of New York emerged winner of this year's championship.]

ART & NATURE: This year's staging of the budding Kingston Pon Di River Literary Arts & Music Festival, now its third year, will be held on Sunday, June 30 at the Hope Gardens. Among the poets and performers scheduled to appear: Mutabaruka, Cherry Natural, Ann-Margaret Lim, Robert Lalah, Mel Cooke, the Kingston Drummers, and Tribe Sankofa (above).

UPDATE: Though he wasn't summoned for the crucial upcoming World Cup qualifiers, Luton Shelton is still very much a part of the national senior football programme, according to coach Theodore Whitmore (right). "It was a tough job, and that was a tough decision," Whitmore says of the controversial decision to omit the goal-getting striker from the team's latest lineup. "[Shelton] wasn't called for this game, but that doesn't mean that he is out of the programme. It was just a part of the decision-making... We are in a difficult spot right now, but we have to remain positive."

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OUT & ABOUT: Ricardo Fuller + Lesli-Ann Belnavis + Bobby Clarke + Nicole Fuller + Reynaldo Martin + Mario Evon + Merlene Ottey

ONE OF THE BOYS: May 25, United States. At last Saturday's star-studded Adidas Grand Prix inside the Icahn Stadium on New York's Randall's Island, Jamaican track legend Merlene Ottey was presented with a special award of merit by Irie Jam Media, who are presently celebrating 20 years of tri-state broadcasting. Above, Ottey is snapped alongside (from left) Bobby Clarke, Anthony Turner and Louie Grant(Photo: Image Newsletter)

FAMILY AFFAIR: May 25, St. James. Montego Bay's Grand Palladium was the place to see and be seen on Saturday night, as partygoers flocked to Sky Bleu, an all-inclusive sea-side affair that drew appearances by the likes of ex-Reggae Boy Ricardo Fuller and the lovely Nicole Fuller. Patrons enjoyed the endless party vibes, says a source, as well as the turntable skills of Trinidad's DJ Lava and Jus Jay out of Barbados. (Photo: Skkan Media)

THE COOL CROWD: May 25, Kingston. Popping up on the fashion scene over the weekend: reggae-soul's Mario Evon and the fine company of Lesli-Ann Belnavis, Sashi Pantry and Reynaldo Martin, all out in support of the Style Week activities. (Photo: Skkan Media)

LEG WORK: May 26, Kingston. With its 150-foot catwalk prominently positioned along New Kingston's Knutsford Boulevard, Saint International's FashionBlock 2013 was a kaleidoscope of vivid colour and couture, fierce energy, and leggy top models, who impressively helped to bring the curtains down on another incarnation of Style Week Jamaica. (Photo: STUSH)

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INSTANT CALM: 5 Great Ways to Go from Edgy to Ease

ON THE BALL: Exercise helps the brain release feel-good endorphins.

"There are little things you can do for yourself every day to live a less stressful life," says Catherine Fisher Collins, associate professor of community and human services at New York's Empire State College. Stress saps your energy and also leads to poor decisions, like driving too fast or drinking too much. But you don't have to succumb to it. So when life's working your last nerve, try one of these five tips for instant calm: 

1. Deep Breathing: Close your eyes, take some deep breaths and try to relax your mind and body. It's a quick way to restore calm. "It helps because you're focusing on your breath and taking your mind off whatever stressful event," explains Collins. 

2. Positive Thinking: By repeating encouraging affirmations (phrases you'd like to believe about yourself and your life) you can reprogram yourself to see things in a more positive light, says Elizabeth Scott, a family therapist and life coach based in Los Angeles. Instead of saying, 'I don't want to feel stressed,' say, 'I'm feeling peaceful.' 

3. Soothing Tunes: Research shows that listening to music can reduce tension, slow breathing, and lower your blood pressure. Songs with a slow, meditative tempo were found practically effective in one study printed in the British Medical Journal publication Heart in 2005. 

4. Massage Therapy: With the intense demand and pull we put on our bodies -- lugging around laptops, kids, heavy grocery bags -- sometimes we just need to have our muscles loosened, says Nmaku Onyewu, a certified US-based massage therapist. Massage is helpful for reducing anxiety, alleviating pain, and even enhancing immune function. In fact, some studies suggest that massage releases endorphins, those brain chemicals that weaken pain and elevate mood. 

5. Move Those Bones: We all know exercise can greatly improve our health by keeping our weight in check and by strengthening our cardiovascular system when we do it most days for at least half-an-hour at a time. But exercise can also eliminate stress and help the brain release feel-good endorphins. As it turns out, moving about may be all the mellowing out you need right now.

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Wednesday, 29 May 2013

MAN OF THE MOMENT: As Rising Stars repositions him front and centre, Anthony Miller has our full attention

WHY IS THIS MAN SMILING?: "I am just here to tell it like it is." 

Jamaican pop culture watchers do love a good comeback story. So it's no surprise that Anthony "Killer" Miller's return to the judging panel of Digicel Rising Stars has so intensely captured the public's attention. The underwhelming ratings the talent show endured over the course of the last few seasons seriously threatened the whole idea that the TV J-hosted reality series could remain a healthy and viable product, especially in these challenging times. 

"All it took was an admission from Digicel that the show was not going well, and they were inviting me back in a bid to restore what they thought was missing," Miller is quoted as saying in a recent Splash interview. "Then, of course, there was the call from TV J also asking me to consider. When Gary Allen calls you and puts this on the table, you just have to say yes." 

At the beginning of the series a decade ago, the veteran journalist and producer (he still oversees the long-running Entertainment Report) joined Nadine Sutherland and A.J. Brown (later replaced by Clyde McKenzie) as the judges, who week after week dished out critiques and "pearls of wisdom" to the stardom hopefuls. For the most part, the trio fared well with viewers, who dug the mix of personalities. A few years later, however, as the producers revamped the show and gave it a fresh format, Miller made his exit along with Sutherland and McKenzie. 

As his hordes of admirers will tell you, Miller, who had quickly earned comparisons to American Idol's Simon Cowell, was the show's best asset. A brilliant, sharp-witted proponent of tough love, he was known (and still is, apparently) for delivering unsweetened, unbiased assessments of the budding singers and deejays. While there are those who squirmed at his steely approach, many viewers welcomed his mix of tell-it-like-it-is candour and acerbic wit. 

For Miller, it's simply about keeping it real and being himself. "I have never watched American Idol and therefore the comparisons with Simon Cowell could not be further from the truth," he has said in response. "I am just here to tell it like it is." 

Well, that's precisely why folks are happy he's returned to the show. And not a moment too soon, as they are about to embark on the 10th anniversary season. From street corners to social media, folks say their interest in Rising Stars has been renewed thanks to Miller's long-anticipated return. Of course, a huge portion of that number will be tuning in expressly to witness how he "analyzes" the new crop of contestants. For me, it's must-see TV.

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NEW & NOTEWORTHY: This week's buzz on books

With her latest novel, King of Cuba (Scribner), National Book Award finalist Cristina Garcia (Dreaming in Cuban) delivers a pulsating story that entertains and illuminates, centred on a fictionalized account of the life and times of El Comandante, Fidel Castro. Readers can expect cameos from Bill Clinton, the Bay of Pigs and an octogenarian Cuban exile obsessed with seeking revenge against the dictator. "Miss Garcia's novel feels as much her revenge fantasy as [Castro's]," reports the New York Times. "[She] can also be lazy with the pen... but luckily she can be quite funny." Says Kirkus Reviews, "It's a clever, well-conceived dual portrait that shows what connects and divides Cubans inside and outside of the island." 
Featuring never-before-seen images and previously unpublished stories, Photograph is a picture-laden retrospective of Ringo Starr's early life and his years as a member of the groundbreaking British pop band, The Beatles. Slated for a June 12 release in e-book format, the publication will coincide with a Grammy Museum exhibit titled Ringo: Peace and Love
Helen Fielding's new Bridget Jones adventure novel is titled Mad About the Boy and will be published by Knopf on October 15. It's the third in the acclaimed series that follows its plucky heroine (immortalized on the big screen by Renée Zellweger) through the stages of her life.

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CATCH THE BUZZ: Star baller dropped from Reggae Boyz squad + Major auction planned for Mutual Gallery

BODY OF WORK: Constituting pieces by lesser-known artists and such masters as Osmond Watson, Albert Huie, Mallica 'Kapo' Reynolds and Barrington Watson (above), more than 100 artworks will be up for auction at the Mutual Gallery come June 5. A portion of the auction will be used to raise funds for noted intuitive artist Michael Parchment, who has excelled over the years in the JCDC Visual Arts competition and has exhibited at home and in Europe. 

MOMENT OF TRUTH: The surprising decision by the Reggae Boyz coaching staff (led by head coach Theodore Whitmore and newly appointed TB, Alfredo Montesso) to omit prolific goal-scorer Luton Shelton from the senior squad has met with harsh criticism from onlookers, including longtime JFF critic, Oral Tracey. "It only proves that [Whitmore and Montesso] don't know what they are doing," the outspoken Tracey concluded on Tuesday's Sports Commentary. Jamaica is scheduled to tackle CONCACAF giants Mexico in the final stage of the World Cup qualifiers at the National Stadium on June 4, ahead of facing the United States at the same venue on June 7. Next, they travel to Central America for a June 11 encounter with Honduras.

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THE TRANSFORMERS: A Letter from the Editor

The continuing and evolving success of some of Jamaica's most dynamic personalities is what TALLAWAH is celebrating this month. 

Jerry D, the renowned broadcaster has made a fanfare return to the airwaves, buoyed by infectious enthusiasm sure to woo listeners to his new weekday afternoon entertainment fest, Vibe 360. 

But, as you willl read in our absorbing cover story ("The Will to Win"), Jerry is not just interested in delighting folks with the latest tunes and exciting giveaways; he's also keenly interested in tackling pertinent and important issues that run the gamut from crime and violence to fatherhood and family, even as he challenges himself to eat healthier and boost his fitness level. 

One intriguing individual who's having no trouble in the fitness department these days is the uberglamorous and supersmart Kamila McDonald ("Living Her Life"), who opens up for the first time about overcoming the weight gain of her late teen years that threatened to hold her back. 

As her impressive bio shows, McDonald has gone on achieve Ivy League success, wed the man of her dreams (the reggae superstar Jah Cure, with whom she has a lovely daughter, now a year old) and currently hosts not one, but two, television shows. If that's not the very definition of accomplishment, then I don't know what is. 

And since we are speaking of achievers, icons Courtney Walsh and Anthony Miller must be part of the conversation. Brilliant and sharp-witted, Miller is finally making his long-awaited return to the set of Digicel Rising Stars (the show's dwindling ratings are sure to skyrocket), while Walsh (at the plump age of 50) continues to attract honours worthy of his legendary status. 

What Miller and Walsh share most in common is an abiding commitment to nurturing young Jamaican talents and, in so doing, play their part in nation-building. And like Jerry and Kamila, they are the living proof that it's never too late for a personally transformative second act.

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Tuesday, 28 May 2013

DOUBLE PLEASURE: Press play on these hot new downloads from Destiny's Child and Jah Cure

Over a spare, spiky beat, reggae ambassador Jah Cure and R&B princess Jazmine Sullivan trade soulful, heartfelt verses on "Choose Up," his winning new single centred on matters of the heart and compellingly recalling such previous Jah Cure hits as "Call on Me" and "Unconditional Love". In a nutshell, the deets of a frustrating love triangle never sounded so melodiously pleasant. (B+). Take a listen HERE.  

No stranger to addressing painful relationship stuff via song, Kelly Rowland reunites with her Destiny's Child girls (Beyoncé and Michelle Williams) to dismiss a no-good man on "You've Changed," a liberating new single off her upcoming and highly anticipated fourth album, Talk a Good Game, arriving June 18. (A-). Perfect for afternoon radio. Take a listen HERE

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LIFE IMITATES ART: Prodigal Son embraces a conscious new vibe

FEELING CHANGE: A bold new look to go with his daring new album.

Dancehall gospel star Calvin 'Prodigal Son' Whilby, like all creative souls who believe in artistic growth, is switching things up to keep his fans intrigued and his critics guessing. 

As he prepares to release his next album (an as-yet-untitled cultural effort), these days the star is sporting a full head of hair and a noticeably more conscious vibe, prompting onlookers to speculate that he's leaving gospel for more mainstream secularism. 

Not so fast, says Whilby. While he's pleased that his latest career move has got people buzzing, the 37-year-old entertainer is quick to to inform TALLAWAH that his roots remain firmly planted in dancehall gospel. But as a growing artist, he explains, he fully subscribes to the idea of embracing and incorporating exciting new elements in his music. Hence, the new cultural abum, which he promises is "one of my best albums to date." 

Meanwhile, in addition to the upcoming CD release, Prodigal (who is currently overseas) is equally anticipating next month's staging of his annual music-and-fellowship extravaganza, Freedom Fest. Stay tuned....

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Monday, 27 May 2013

SCENE & HEARD: Craigy-T Thompson + Bulletproof Clique + Akeem Mignott + Sanjay Smith + Carlo Redwood + ZJ Ice + Cherine

CLUB RED: May 25, Kingston. Branded as a high-energy affair bringing together some of Jamaica's top-flight entertainers and disc jocks, including FAME FM's Sanjay Smith and ZIP FM's Ice, the Forbes and St. Remy party pulled a fair-sized crowd to Constant Spring's D'Entrance on Saturday night. (Photo: Infuzion.Inc)

WINNERS' CIRCLE: May 25, Kingston. After a thrilling season of entertaining displays and vibrant choreography, the curtains came down on the Jenny Jenny-hosted Dancin' Dynamites with an exuberant finale at Jamaica College on the weekend. In the end, the supertalented Bulletproof Clique (seen here with LIME's Carlo Redwood) were crowned champions, taking home a range of attractive prizes, including this hefty cheque valued at $600K. (Photo: LIME)

DIVA MOMENT: May 25, Kingston. The ever-reliable Cherine was called on to perform for the crowd at the Dancin' Dynamites finale on Saturday and responded with relish, delivering a solid account of her dynamic range steeped in dancehall-soul. She graciously posed backstage with Redwood after the show. (Photo: LIME)

TRUE COLOURS: May 25, St. Catherine. The Digicel Rising Stars auditions moved to Portmore's Heart Academy on the weekend and brought out its most delightful batch of hopefuls yet, including a surprise appearance by Thespy-winning young actor and Edna Manley undergrad Akeem Mignott, seen her giving it his best shot. (Photo: Digicel)

STAR TREATMENT: May 25, St. Catherine. It seems new judge Craigy-T Thompson is getting the hang of the whole Rising Stars experience. On location for the Portmore leg of the Season 10 auditions, the T.O.K bandmate cozies up with crew member, Kereishe(Photo: Digicel)

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