Monday, 30 September 2013

SINGING HER SONG: Tessanne Chin on The Voice and rising above industry setbacks

IN TUNE: The singer in performance as a superstardom hopeful.

Powerhouse Jamaican songstress and The Voice contestant Tessanne Chin was recently a guest on RJR's Beyond The Headlines, where she rapped with Dionne Jackson-Miller about her stint on the NBC talent reality series, currently in its fourth season,  and rising above industry setbacks. Below, a few excerpts from their conversation:

On opting to do The Voice:
"I've always felt that I wanted an international career. I grew up admiring singers like Celine Dion and Whitney Houston, so that's where it kind of started for me," says the sultry singer. "So why not go out there and see what happens?"

On getting the judges' four-chair turnaround, a competition rarity:
"I was so overcome. As a young singer, you do what you do, but getting that kind of validation floored me. When that happened, I had to call upon that sense of professionalism." (Laughs).

On covering Pink's power ballad "Try":
"For me, that was me getting up and trying again. People see you and your success, and they don't know that you've been through so much in the industry. I've experienced a lot of No's, so I felt that song was fitting."

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CATCH THE BUZZ: Morgan Heritage heads off on tour with India.Arie + Week-long series of activities to mark Human Resource Week

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: After giving fans a sample of their magical creative partnership on the soothing 2011 R&B hit "Therapy" (off India.Arie's last album, Testimony: Volume II), the soulful songstress and Jamaica's own Gramps Morgan (alongside the Morgan Heritage clan) are hitting the road this fall for the SongVersation Tour, in support of Arie's new disc (of the same name). For more info on the multi-city concert series, which kicks off on Oct.1, go here. "Opening for India.Arie is a great look for reggae music. It's also a huge honour for me to be sharing the stage with a friend and a spiritual woman that I love and admire. She loves reggae music and I'm proud of that," says Morgan, before adding, "This tour will be great for [Morgan Heritage], for reggae music and the music business overall because it shows the unity and diversity in soul music."

THE WORKING WORLD: Human Resource Management Week will be observed from October 6-11, beginning with a church service at the Grace Ministry Church in Kingston. Human Resource Management Day's Conference 33 Launch is scheduled for Oct. 8, while the inaugural Public Lecture will take place at the JAMPRO Business Auditorium in New Kingston on Oct. 10, commencing at 5:30pm. For details on the week-long series of events, visit

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EIGHT BY TEN FESTIVAL: Night 1 yields poignant social commentary, a blend of experience and youth

A diverse crop of directors (long established names and relative neophytes) got the inaugural Eight by Ten theatre festival going at Mona's Philip Sherlock Centre last Friday night. A solid showcase, marked by impressive stagecraft and creative risks that frequently bore fruit.

Whether it was the pairing of Trevor Nairne and Lenford Salmon to adapt Roy Coney's Run For Your Wife or Dahlia Harris' social commentary-spiked Across The Line (a look at sporting talent, longevity and human nature), the eight pieces offered the succint reminder of theatre's singular power (even in miniature form) to delight, transport and provoke.

Barbara Gloudon's funeral-party-set Don't Go There and Rayon McLean's minimalist-staged , monologue-heavy Open/Closed Doors, featuring the women of the Quilt Ensemble, managed to combine the poignant and the provocative to terrific effect. 

By now, local theatre is steadily getting acquainted with the young McLean's outside-the-box approach to his art while the veteran Gloudon's work-in-progress has the makings of a laugh riot for the sophisticated set. I'm happy that there is a place for both of them in contemporary Jamaican theatre. (Photography: Michael Daley)

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HIT PARADE: Joyful noise, splendid visuals highlight HoLung & Friends' Candles in the Dark

SING DE CHORUS: Performers in a scene from Candles In The Dark at the Arena.

When it comes to a Father HoLung & Friends presentation, it's a given that the sacred and spiritual will form part of the programme, but as tradition has shown, the fusion of diverse Jamaican sounds and Afro-Caribbean rhythms usually add flavour to balance the entertainment package. 

And that's precisely why their latest offering, The Greatest Hits: Candles in the Dark works so well, even in spite of the show's incredible length (it runs for well over 2.5 hours) and some technical/audio problem at the outset. 

For the most part, the presentation (playing on weekends at the National Arena through Oct. 13) delivers no shortage of lush choral harmonies, high-energy choreography and a dazzling visual showcase, thanks to Robin Baston's lighting wizardry and Denise Richards' terrific costuming. 

Whether exalting the miracles of The Messiah ("Jesus too the Blind') or celebrating the Ascension ("He Is Risen") or paying tribute to our unique island home ("Jamaica Jamaica", these are songs notable largely for their irresistible reggae-pop sensibilities while laden with amply inspiration, feel-good vibes and, on occasion, hand-clapping, toe-tapping danceability.

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SHINING EXAMPLE: Father Richard HoLung discusses his biography and reflects on his musical journey

THE RIGHT NOTE: "We definitely want our music to be visionary; music with a purpose."

Father Richard HoLung's much buzzed-about new biography Candles in the Dark reveals past and present struggles - and his passion for helping the less fortunate. Still, the book doesn't skimp on the fact that he's a charismatic singer-songwriter and entertainer who remains in tune with the pulse of Jamaican music and continues to lead the Missionaries of the Poor well into another decade. TALLAWAH catches up with the 74-year-old living legend to talk about the book and the way forward for the MOP ministry. 

TALLAWAH: How did the collaboration with St. Benedict's Press, writer Joseph Pearce and you come about in bringing this book to life? 
Fr. HoLung: They just approached me about doing it because they felt that it was a story that needed to be told. I think it's a well-written book. It depicts the life of the brothers with amazing detail, as well as the conflicts and difficulties that have come my way over the years. 

Elaborate on the nature of the conflicts you speak about? 
Well, in the seventies and eighties, many were against the work of the Missionaries of the Poor, and I was against a lot of the injustices that I saw taking place. So the book decribes it all in great detail. 

So, on reflection, would you say it all was worth it? 
Oh yes. I look at the achievements and what we've come through as a good thing. 

What inspired this Greatest Hits production? 
These are mainly songs that I wrote over the years. I thought it was a wonderful idea to do a show of thus mature because it includes not only our senior singers but also the Kids of Father HoLung & Friends, which is three years old, but they have been doing beautifully. 

What's next for MOP? Where does the ministry go from here? 
We definitely want our music to be visionary; music with a purpose but also speaks to the struggles in life. It's important that the songs look at that deep inner search.

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DISAPPEARING ACT: Emotional complexity, haunting mystery give Prisoners its twisty appeal

LOST AND FOUND: Jackman (right) and Gyllenhaal in a scene from Prisoners.

In Prisoners, Hugh Jackman delivers the most emotionally riveting performance of his career (not even his Oscar-nominated turn in last year's Les Miserables measures up) as an anguished father desperate to reunite with is young daughter, who along with a friend vanished without a trace.

When the prime suspect in the girls' disappearance declines to divulge details of their whereabouts, a situation frustratingly compounded by a tardy investigating team (led by Jake Gyllenhaal's Detective Loki) dragging their feet, Keller decides to take matters into his own hands. And that's when things take a devastating turn giving rise to life-altering consequences. 

Above all else, it becomes clear, Prisoners (powerfully acted and skilfully directed by Denis Villeneuve) raises complicated moral questions, chief among them, just how far would you go, as a parent/guardian to protect your child? 

Clocking in at 146 minutes, the film is a tad overlong, but with its blend of intricate plotting, engaging storytelling, mystery and sense of foreboding, twists you don't see coming, and rock-solid performances, Prisoners easily ranks among the most finely wrought dramas of the year. 

Clearly Villeneuve is a director with a deft touch when it comes to pulling magnetic performances from his cast. In addition to Jackman, fine work comes from Mellisa Leo (Alex's mousy aunt, Holly), Maria Bello (Keller's pain-ravaged wife) and Viola Davis and Terrence Howard (the parents of the other missing girl) completing the first-rate cast.

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Thursday, 26 September 2013

ON THE BALL: Phase 3 gets a kick out of taking local sports coverage to new heights

SHARP FOCUS: The production firm employs such state-of-the-art equipment as these Sony HXC high-def cameras.

For Caribbean people, Jamaicans especially, sports remains a unifying force potent enough to pack living rooms, sports bars and practically every other venue equipped with a television set or other form of audio-visual media. Phase 3 Productions, with its on-the-ball team (led by CEO/Creative Director Delano Forbes and Executive Chair Dr. Marcia Forbes) has smartly opted to use this knowledge in driving the company's vision forward.

"We made a strategic decision that going into sports would give us a competitive advantage," offers Dr. Forbes, seated behind her desk at the 30-year-old production company's Half-Way-Tree HQ. "So from about the mid-2000s we decided that that's what where we're going."

In spite of the challenge of The Recession, Phase 3's thorough coverage of large multi-camera events has distinguished them from the pack across the region. And that's thanks in part to the investment of of multiple millions of dollars (including cameras fetching US$50,000 a piece). "That was a big payoff for us," says Forbes. "We started getting work from overseas, working with people like ESPN circa 2010. For 2013 alone, it's been tremendous, especially having our camera crew merging with overseas partners."

So what's next? Growing the staff and evolving the approach to the work. "The strategic vision is being realized, but we're not there yet. We need to be constantly improving the technology that's essential for sports coverage," Forbes says, citing such products as the Flow Championship Cup, Red Stripe's Football Mondays, and the upcoming Under-17 CONCACAF Women's Championships among their events.

"So, yeah, we're optimistic based on the responses to what we've done and the level of commitment we have to growing the industry."

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CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK: A scene-stealing best friend rocks the house in Internet Affair

HOT SEAT: Williams (right) and Campbell sharing a couch scene.

The fireworks in Aston Cooke's highly entertaining cyberspace/domestic saga don't arrive until well into the second act - but not chiefly at the hands of leads Pepita Little and Brian Ray-Moore. Instead, Petrina Williams, a relative newcomer to commercial theatre, lets the sparks fly as the sassy-saucy Monique, leaping to the aid/defence of her more reserved bff Donna (Marsha Campbell) in a face-off against the other woman, deftly portrayed by Little.

Williams sends the crowd into stitches with her peppery delivery. Her Monique is the sort of ride-or-die sidekick you'd be glad to have your back. It's an intense character, too, much in the tradition of such previous Cooke creations as Terri Salmon's Shelly in Concubine and you meet one in practically every Tyler Perry movie - Tasha Smith's Angella leaps readily to mind.

If nothing else, women like Monique are the embodiment of the belief that life/love is a battlefield, so get your armour.

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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

BACK A YAAD: Struggle and survival lie at the heart of gritty urban flick Home Again

LIFE STORIES: A revealing film with biting scenery and a compelling message.

Home Again, which arrived in local cinemas last week, is a tough-minded look at the plight of deportees struggling to get back on their feet on their return to Jamaica and the savage realities they encounter in the urban jungle of Kingston.

The film, directed by Suds Sutherland (his screenwriter wife Jennifer Holness penned the commendable script) features solid performances by Jamaica's own Paul Campbell, Brian Brown and Kadeem Wilson. The international headliners also make their presence felt, lending the film its balance of star power foiled against the story's brutal core. 

Tatyana Ali (of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fame) is convincing as Marva, a deported young mother desperate to find her way back to her children in the States. Campbell portrays the monstrous patriarch in whose house she takes refuge only to flee when his sexual advances become overbearing. 

Lyriq Bent (the Saw movies), as Dunston, is the stand-up guy she turns to in her hour of need, but he already has his hands full dealing with a ruthless area don (chillingly portrayed by Wilson). Stephan James, meantime, is the sweet guys with a taste for hip-hop and cute girls, who sadly loses his way. Rounding out the cast: singer Fefe Dobson (in her spiky element) and CCH Pounder, who brings maternal concern to the cast. 

In spite of its flaws (the film was actually shot in Trinidad) and moments that seem to revel in the gory violence and despicable circumstances it seeks to condemn, Home Again earns kudos for its frank depiction of the hard knocks and poor life choices human beings (not just Jamaicans and Blacks, mind you) arr prone to. At the same time, it's an important film that compellingly reminds us that every cloud has a silver lining. Tyrone's Verdict: B

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BITS & PIECES: Sean Paul's new disc drops Nov. 4 + Recovering Hansle Parchment keeping his head up

MUST BE THE MUSIC: Due out on November 4, Sean Paul's next album, Full Frequency, ranks among the most hotly anticipated dancehall-pop abums of the fall, boasting appearances by such widley known names as superproducer Polow da Don, Akon, Benny Blanco, singer Nyla Thorbourne (Brick and Lace), Konshens and Damian Marley

COMEBACK KID: On-the-mend Olympic hurdler Hansle Parchment seems poised for a huge comeback, even as he reflects on his unfortunate exit from the World Championships in Russia this past summer. "I felt really confident that I would make it to the final, possibly getting a medal as well," the Grace brand ambassador tells The Gleaner. "But these things happen, and we get disappointments sometimes, so we just have to work through these things and come back stronger for the next time."

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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

ON THE SCENE: ON THE SCENE: Brian Lumley + PM Portia Simpson-Miller + D'Angel + Ramian Williams + Ambassador Yuri Lopez + Sanjay + Sean Paul

TAILOR MADE: Sep. 5, Germany. Sporting his trademark easygoing vibe, Jamaican Grammy winner Sean Paul greets the flashing lights at Deutscher Radiopreis at Schuppen 52 last Thursday evening in Hamburg. (Photo: Getty Images)

PRESENT PERFECT: Sep. 6, Kingston. As she's done with countless diplomats before, PM Portia Simpson-Miller presents a farewell gift to His Excellency Yuri A. Gala Lopez, Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica, who has demitted office after serving in his capacity since 2009. The Prime Minister said that Ambassador Lopez was an excellent representative of Cuba who, during his tenure, worked diligently to strengthen the ties between both countries. (Photo: OPM)

HOT SEAT: Sep. 8, Kingston. The Huawei Chill Room at Digicel Rising Stars got some heat last Sunday night, thanks to an appearance by dancehall diva D'Angel, who kicked it with host Sanjay and top-three finisher Ramian Williams(Photo: Digicel)

FINE DINING: Sep. 3, Kingston. Culinary whiz Brian Lumley enjoys the company of Astrid Batchelor and Melissa Nehemiah, both of whom attended last week's pre-opening tasting at Lumley's trendy new hot-spot 689 in New Kingston. (Photo: Skkan Media)

JUST DESSERTS: Sep. 3, Kingston. Also showing some support at the event was the gorgeous Mishonie Swack, who smilingly shared lens time with the man of the hour. (Photo: Skkan Media)

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OUT & ABOUT: Chris Gayle + PM Simpson-Miller + Verlando Small + Tahnida Nunes + Bounty Killer + Sharon Schroeter + Wavell Hinds + Terri-Karelle Griffith-Reid

DREAM TEAM: Sep. 22, Kingston. After a job well done, Digicel Rising Stars' uberproducer Sharon Schroeter is flanked by hostess Terri-Karelle Griffith-Reid, resplendent in gold, and Chill Room host, Sanjay, also feeling golden apparently, at Sunday's grand finale of the show's widely watched tenth season. (Photo: Digicel)

BEING INSTRUMENTAL: Sep. 22, Kingston. Working his customary magic on the sax, musician Verlando Small gives an ovation-worthy performance before a packed studio audience on Sunday's DRS finale, before going on to emerge Season 10 champ. (Photo: Digicel)

REASON TO SMILE: Sep. 22, Kingston. Up-and-coming singer Kadian Thompson celebrates her second-place finish (which is accompanied by a consolation prize of $600,000) alongside Digicel's Sponsorship Manager, Tahnida Nunes, as the curtains came down on the show's tenth anniversary season. (Photo: Digicel)

SHOT CALLERS: Sep. 21, Kingston. Birthday boy Chris Gayle is a merry man, as he kicks it with fellow heavy-hitters Bounty Killer and Wavell Hinds during Chris' birthday bash at Triple Century, his recently opened New Kingston-based sports bar. (Photo: Infuzion.Inc)

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: Sep. 20, St. Andrew. PM Portia Simpson-Miller greets Japan's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Kenta Wakabayashi, signalling national commitment to enhancing Jamaica/Japan ties ahead of the 50th anniversary of relations between both countries to be observed in March of next year. (Photo: OPM)

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SHINING TIME: Tessanne Chin wows in the spotlight on NBC's The Voice

SING IT OUT: Chin makes an impression with her talent-show audition.

Songbird Tessanne Chin is getting much love in the international press, thanks to her stint as a contestant on NBC's hit reality show The Voice, which is now back for its fourth season. Under the headline "Will Tessanne get all four judges to turn around?, Entertainment Weekly writes, "She hardly even had to try. Tessanne Chin makes her incredible version of Pink's "Try" seem effortless as she takes The Voice by storm on Tuesday night's episode." 

Check out a sneak peek of her performance here and watch as the judges squabble over our unique vocal talent. So it seems our girl is a hot commodity and everyone wants to know who she will choose as her coach. As EW speculates, will Adam (Levine) get her to keep saying "bread and butter" or will Cee Lo's flattery get him everywhere? The Voice's second episode of the new season airs on NBC at 8pm next Tuesday night.

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CULTURE BEAT: Carifolk Singers celebrate their 40th anniversary with an eclectic, rhythmic presentation

FEEL THE RHYTHM: Marking their 40th anniversary this month, the Carifolk Singers put on a fantastic concert season at the Little Theatre in Kingston last weekend, not to mention a commanding blend of voices giving wing to some of the most decadent folk and popular songs from the West Indian songbook, running the gamut from oldies ("Train is Comin' Baby", "I Hear Them Say") to island songs from Barbados ("Everytime I Pass", "Bromley"), Belize ("Ding Ding") and Guyana ("Sityra") to tunes for every season ("Dis Long Time Gal", "Rookombine" and "Yellow Yam"). Overall, the presentation spoke to the diversity of our culture with songs for all experiences and occasions; songs to greet, tell story, rock baby, work, have fun, court and dance. 

PLAY ON: The Philip Sherlock Centre's upcoming Eight by Ten Festival set for this weekend will featuring a cadre of new and established theatre directors, such as Michael Daley, Pierre LeMaire, Rayon McLean, Jean Small, Trevor Nairne, Suzanne Beadle, Jerry Benzwick and Fabian Thomas

CINE JAMAICA: The University of the West Indies is now offering a Level II course dubbed "Reggae Films: Screening Jamaica" at the university's Department of Literatures in English.

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