Saturday, 30 November 2013

ON THE RADAR: The PAJ honours five living legends + Win attractive prizes in the Logistics Hub Essay Competition

A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: The Annual Veterans' Luncheon of the Press Association of Jamaica (one of many activities to mark National Journalism Week) this year paid tribute to media stalwarts Franklyn McKnight, Owen James, Godfrey Barnes, Janet Mowatt and Wyvolyn Gager, who were all presented with plaques during the luncheon hosted yet again by J. Wray & Nephew inside their Spanish Town Road-based Hospitality Room on Wednesday.

WRITE ABOUT IT: Observing the theme of "Jamaica's Global Logistics Hub -- The Big Opportunity for Jamaica and the World," the industry/commerce ministry's Logistics Hub Essay Competition is now open (to Jamaicans living in Jamaica only) in two age categories (15-21 years and 22-35 years) and offering prizes ranging from an all-expense paid trip to Panama to sizeable cash awards. Entries must be received by December 15. Contact logisticsmiic.gov.jm.





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NEWS YOU CAN USE: The work begins for new JCA prez Billy Heaven + The NCDA this month marks a major milestone

THE MAN FOR THE JOB: "I am grateful and I look forward to working with my team and all those who want to see cricket grow and develop. It's a lot of work, but we are committed to the task and hope to hit the ground running with our planned policies and programmes as soon as possible." That coming from newly-elected president of the Jamaica Cricket Association, W. Billy Heaven, who scored a landslide victory at the polls (over key rival Milton Henry) on Thursday at the Jamaica Conference Centre. The new executive will serve a two-year term. Heaven, a former executive director of the National Foundation of Jamaica (NFJ), currently serves the CHASE Fund as its Chief Executive Officer. 

THAT TIME OF YEAR: On the local calendar, November remains one of the most significant months, as far as special occasions of national import are concerned. This year, in particular, the month marks the Observance of National Youth Month, Drug Awareness Month, and the 30th anniversary of the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA). "Over the years, what we have done is to highlight most of the negatives that are associated with the council," explains Nordia Henry, a substance-abuse officer with the council. "This year, we wanted to put a spin on it, so basically what we have done is [to highlight] all the protective factors that are available to our young people."





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Friday, 29 November 2013

EMOTIONAL RESCUE: Heartwarming Black Nativity movingly examines family and forgiveness

FAMILY SPIRIT: Hudson and Lattimore are a close-knit mother-son duo facing the music.

As we all know by now, Jennifer Hudson's singing voice is a remarkably fine-tuned instrument that continues to hold the music world, and indeed Hollywood, in her thrall, with her pick of parts, ranging from her Academy Award-winning turn as Effie White in Dreamgirls to her more recent portrayal of the titular heroine in the underappreciated Winnie.

This month, the actress-singer brings those outsize vocals and respectable acting ability to Black Nativity, a rousing and hugely enjoyable gospel-themed musical based on the Langston Hughes play about family and healing old wounds, now adapted for the big screen and stylishly directed by Kasi Lemmons. 

With a star-packed ensemble, including fellow heavyweights Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett, Hudson shines as Naima, a doting mother struggling to make ends meet and raise her headstrong young son Langston (Jacob Lattimore). When their home is put up for foreclosure at the height of the Christmas holidays, Naima reluctantly sends the boy to spend time with his grandfolks, her estranged parents (played by Whitaker and Bassett), a prominent pastor and wife based in Harlem, in the hope that things will take a turn for the better. 
But in the way that circumstances often happen, greater trials come into play, but especially when pieces of the family's past bubble to the surface with life-altering consequences. Rounding out the strong supporting cast: Tyrese Gibson, Nasir 'Nas' Jones, Luke James and Vondie Curtis Hall. 

The iconic source material aside, the movie's best asset is the suite of wonderfully performed musical numbers (several anchored by Hudson's sheer vocal power) that comprise the film's repeat-worthy soundtrack. In the end, though it wraps up its threads of conflict a bit too neatly, Black Nativity comes off as a heartwarming and spirit-lifting treat boasting an utterly resonant tale and soothing musical entertainment. Tyrone's Verdict: B+





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FIGURES OF SPEECH: Sting 2013 scores the JTB endorsement + A.J. Nicholson responds to Trini deportation saga

CATCHING THE BUZZ: "Sting is such an iconic Jamaican event and, in that regard, we are very excited to be on board this year, and I think the guys are doing something very special," says Jason Hall, deputy director of the Jamaica Tourist Board, which is co-sponsoring Sting this year, on the noteworthy occasion of the Boxing Day extravaganza's 30th anniversary staging, which promises memorable appearances by an exhaustive roster of dancehall's finest -- and the legendary Super Cat alongside rap star du jour 2 Chainz.

TAKING A STAND: "I believe that our personal intervention and collaboration can go a far way in bringing this issue to a speedy and successful conclusion. This is of the utmost importance, as a regional integration movement, which does and is perceived as protecting and advancing the interests of all sides, is vital to the progress of our regional enterprise." -- Jamaica's foreign affairs minister A. J. Nicholson addressing the recent deportation of 13 Jamaicans from Trinidad. >>UPDATE: According to fresh reports, Nicholson and his Trini counterpart, Winston Dookeran, are scheduled to meet in Kingston next week to discuss issues concerning free movement of Jamaicans into the twin-island republic.





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Thursday, 28 November 2013

SAY IT LOUD: A feast of soul and the spoken word, as the Poetry Society closes 2013 fellowship series

AL FRESCO: MC Yasheka Graham performing hosting duties at the fellowship, which this month featured the likes of Dingo and Cherry Natural.

Each end-of-month, the Poetry Society of Jamaica brings together a gang of established and emerging creative writers to the Edna Manley College's breezy outdoor ampitheatre for a feast of rhymes, rhythms and visual art. 

Last Tuesday marked the finale of the 2013 series and, not surprisingly, the evening was chock-full of spirited open-mic sessions, audience feedback, dramatic performances by a handful of the School of Drama's final-year students, before culminating with appearances by four distinctly Jamaican poets -- Dingo, Mel Cooke, Owen 'Blakka' Ellis and Cherry Natural -- each unleashing stirring, occasionally humorous pieces from their diverse body of work, much to the delight of the attentive crowd that only seemed to swell as the night wore on. 

Cherry was her usual fiery and energetic self, dropping wit and wisdom on poems like "Fight Back" (centred on relationships and domestic violence), "Levi Jeans" ("Mi believe woman must lyrics man too!") and references to her much-buzzed-about Intellectual Bad Gal disc, which she dropped a couple of months ago. Cooke's brilliant albeit lengthy pieces tackled everything from spirituality and sexuality to the Tivoli incursion, attitudes towards migration and the festive season. 

The core highlight of Ellis' stint, meantime, was the rendering of his classic "Keyman," about an overzealous "security guard expert", while Dingo, the first of the four to grace the mic, was accompanied on guitar and sax, as he delved into clever wordplay with "Shopkeeper" and "Blouse & Skirt" full of punchlines and his trademark blend of social commentary and seemingly personal life experiences, all enveloped in a characteristically smooth delivery. 

As the Poetry Society of Jamaica, led by the dedicated pair of Tommy Ricketts and Yasheka Graham, gears up to celebrate its 25th year in April 2014, one can't help feeling that such terrific cultural sessions deserve far greater recognition. Hopefully, with sponsorship secured, they can make the leap to television, a la Centric TV's Lyric Cafe and HBO's mega-successful Def Poetry Jam. I'm just saying.





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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

ALL IN THE FAMILY: If Walls Could Talk drolly speaks to ideas of marriage and modern maternity

IT HAD TO BE HIM: Johnson plays a husband grappling with a frustrated wife and a scheming temptress; Silvera and Tulloch (pictured below).

No doubt inspired by countless real-life family sagas, If Walls Could Talk (recently in revival at Kingston's Green Gables Theatre and a notable improvement on the 2011 original) isn't just a solidly penned, well paced dramedy, it's surely one of the most rib-tickling domestic sagas ever written about a Jamaican couple that can't conceive.

Volier Johnson and Deon Silvera star as Melvin and Jennifer Bailey, a crazy-in-love middle-aged pair who are on the cusp of celebrating their eleventh anniversary. They seem to be having a swell time until flirty seductress Megan (Dainty Bellanfantie) enters the picture with her traffic-stopping physique and disarming smile, never failing to remind John that she's his company's key investor so he'd better put out.

The plot thickens when Jennifer, desperate to effectively "compete" -- and starting to feel her maternal instincts urgently kick in -- hatches a plan to have their devoted, livewire housekeeper (Rosie Murray, reprising her award-nominated role) go to bed with her husband to get knocked up as their surrogate. 
Although writer-director David Tulloch's script is pretty much run-of-the-mill (save for a couple surprises here and there), it's execution under the lights is anything but, vividly showing us the characters' motives, memories, memories and regrets and, in something out of a dreamscape, featuring a cameo appearance by Keith 'Shebada' Ramsey as the talking wall, but moreso Mel's guilt-ridden conscience.

 What chiefly holds the show together is the performance by Silvera, who effortlessly embodies Jennifer's blend of driven career-woman and damsel-on-the-edge-of-a-nervous-breakdown, realized with touches of serious-sweet and charismatic hubris. The veteran actress makes us identify with a frustrated individual (a faithful wife and hopeful mom-to-be) whose belated realization is that, in the end, no man (or woman, for that matter) can truly go it alone. Tyrone's Verdict: B+




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A DANCER'S LIFE: Fierce talent Steven Cornwall is not afraid to show his motion

MENTOR AND MUSE: Cornwall (right) and Wilson at the Bank of Jamaica in August.

From turning in impressive performances in the dance corps to giving a star-making stint in Tony Wilson's Rose Hall as the seduced accountant Robert -- and a life-changing internship with the acclaimed Alvin Ailey Dance Company this past summer -- the talented Steven Cornwall's refined features, polished air and innate gift for the performing arts keep him firmly anchored in the present and seriously poised for a bright future. TALLAWAH caught up with the Company Dance Theatre's leading man to talk about lessons learned, role play, and how he fills his time away from the spotlight.

ON A ROLE: Getting to disappear into the pivotal part of Robert, the dashing bookkeeper in the company's Rose Hall, remains a fulfilling experience for the 25-year-old rising star. "This was actually my second time doing [the role], and this time around I felt that I understood it much better. So I got more into the character and how to relate to the others in the show as well. I think I did well." 

HIS ALVIN AILEY CONNECTION: "I did the very intensive summer programme [in New York] this year, and it was really, really good. Five weeks of hard, hard training. I definitely want to join the Alvin Ailey company one day; I love the idea of being in a professional and successful group of that standard. Maybe I can make some money (Laughs). 
LEARNING CURVE: "Dancing has taught me so much over the years, but going to Alvin Ailey really opened my eyes and reminded me to just be humble. Don't think you're the best because there is always someone out there who can do more turns than you. So I plan to just stay grounded and aim for the best." 

ART AND LIFE: "I don't think I have a life outside of dance (Laughs). I'm a homeboy mostly. Apart from performing I teach at the Dance Centre, and I'm also a trainer at Gymkhana. So I'm always dancing. I dance 24/7. I've been doing this all my life and I don't regret one single day."





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THE NATION: Now in its 10th year, the Eat Jamaican Campaign stays the course

GARDEN FRESH: Olympian Brigitte Foster-Hylton among the stars endorsing the national initiative.

This past Monday, King's House played host to the launch of the Eat Jamaican Campaign's 10th anniversary series of activities, attended by several stakeholders in the agriculture industry and Dr. Jerome Thomas, representative of the United Nations's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in Jamaica.

"Our vision is for a world free from hunger and malnutrition, where food and agriculture contribute to improving the living standards of all," Thomas said. "Achieving this vision at the national level would require significantly increasing production and consumption of locally produced agricultural products as is envisaged by the Eat Jamaican Campaign."

>> To learn more about the campaign go to jas.org.jm/eatJamaican.





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ON THE REEL: Regional video competition now seeking entries + 12 Years A Slave tops Indie Spirit Awards noms

TAKING THE LEAD: The epic slavery drama 12 Years A Slave has earned a leading seven nominations heading into this year's Independent Spirit Awards (set for March 1 in Santa Monica), with Alexander Payne's midWestern family saga Nebraska coming in close behind with six bids. Both films are in the running for Best Feature, alongside All Is Lost, Frances Ha and the Coen brothers' latest prize bait Inside Llewyn Davis. This year's Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Fruitvale Station leads contenders for Best First Feature, ranking highly among Blue Caprice, Concussion, Una Noche and Wadjda. Meantime, given its position of prominence among the Spirit and the recent Gotham Film Awards nominees, 12 Years A Slave (hailed by critics for its grit and powerful performances by Chiwetel Ejiofore, Michael Fassbender and sensational newcomer Lupita Nyong'o) is widely considered the Oscar frontrunner for Best Picture. 

SCREEN TEST: The Second Annual Caribbean Science, Film and Video Competition has put out a call for interested participants to submit their imaginative video ideas for consideration by January 30. The film contest, being held under the theme "Adding Value to Local Foods," is open to anyone aged 18-35 years and who are able to mobilize a team of innovators. Over £10,000 in prizes is up for grabs. The top five finishers will also get to attend the 2014 Caribbean Tales Festival in Toronto. For more info and to see the full competition guidelines, visit ccst-caribbean.org.




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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

COMING ON STRONG: Brainy and beautiful, Lindsey Lodenquai is poised to shake up the dance world

BEST FOOT FORWARD: The on-the-rise dancer proves she's a fierce talent to watch.

"I must say dancing is a key part of my life," shares dancer/student/free spirit Lindsey Lodenquai of her involvement with the 25-year-old Company Dance Theatre, which just wrapped its fantastic 2013 season in Kingston. "I'm not too sure if I want to pursue it professionally though, but I do know I want to continue dancing for sure."

We wholeheartedly believe she should. At 19, Lindsey is a bonafide natural, who sizzles in the spotlight alongside her peers without dimming her own mega-wattage, banking on that surefire mix of riveting stage presence and the sort of radiance that pulls people in.

In person, the Immaculate Conception grad (a pretty combination of Maylynne Lowe and Noelle Kerr) is articulate and exudes the warm intelligence of a seasoned pro, whether talking about her undergrad studies at UWI Mona ("I'm now in my second year studying Entertainment and Cultural Enterprise Management. I'm loving it and I'm enjoying it") or reprising her gratifying role as Annie Palmer in Tony Wilson's vision of Rose Hall, for which she did some pretty intense research. 
"I definitely read the actual Rose Hall book, which was published many, many years ago," she admits. "I also watched YouTube videos, and I really just sat down and thought, How can I make this character pop, and how can we as a company make this production better than when it was first staged." For the record, the young leading lady put her foot in the part, bringing a thrilling authority to the stage, which certainly puts the local dance community on notice.

Looking ahead to what the future holds and the many options now open to her, Lindsey is not ready to draw any conclusions. "I'm not too sure," she confesses, referring to the career path she'll eventually take, "but something definitely in the entertainment field. I'll figure it out." One gets the feeling that she certainly will.





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COSTUME, DRAMA: For 25th season, Company Dance Theatre offers a dazzling showcase of youthful energy and wild imagination

SCENE WORK: Performers in their element during Rose Hall; Below, at the Bank of Jamaica earlier this year.

The just-concluded 25th anniversary season of the Company Dance Theatre had everything a great dance recital should: poetry and spectacle, innovative choreography and a sense of vivid imagination.

Over the course of the past weekend, Tony Wilson and his incredibly agile young charges, some barely in their teens, captivated the Little Theatre crowd, bringing grace, poise and authority to the repertoire of new and revived works.

Dubbed The Trilogy: Unleashing The Next Generation, the season stretched over the course of three evenings with "Retrospect," "Renaissance" and culminating with a remounting of Rose Hall, a spellbinding and evocative dance narrative centred on the legend of the infamous great house and its most notorious inhabitant Annie Palmer (commandingly portrayed by the lovely Lindsay Lodenquai). Full of historical drama and epic romance -- not to mention a pulsating soundtrack and brilliantly diverse lighting -- the presentation, above all, was testament to Wilson's creative genius.
Elsewhere, the 2013 season was a vibrant riot of style and technical rigour, with such highlights as Michael Holgate's hauntingly Afrocentric "Creole Running"; the enchanting "Colours," Barbara McDaniel's nostalgic and humorous homage to Jamaican dancehall culture "Sessions" and Wilson's multi-octave juggernaut "Calabash," a tapestry of wildly shocking imagery and unending vigour.

In short, a triumphant collection of works, all shaken and stirred with the performers' youthful, fizzing energy.





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THE AMERICAN CONNECTION: Jamaica bids adieu to Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater + The Williams sisters make a welcome return to the island

HOLDING COURT: Armed with their trusty sporting equipment (and golden complexions!), tennis greats Serena Williams and big sis, Venus, jetted into the island last week to share their expertise and conduct a series of clinics with Jamaican youngsters on the west and south coasts, headlining, in particular, the Treasure Beach Sport and Entertainment fun, sporty weekend of activities at the Treasure Beach Sports Club in St. Bess. On Thursday, the celeb-friendly Tryall Club in Hanover played host to a cocktail reception in honour of the Grand Slam champions (pictured above with Yohan Blake and Warren Weir), who are fast becoming regulars to our shores. As we should, we always attract the brightest and the best.

PERSONAL TOUCH: You can say this for Pamela Bridgewater, you can't come between her and her groovy reggae music. "I love Beres Hammond, Jimmy Cliff, Rita Marley, Tarrus Riley, Marcia Griffiths; Bob Marley goes on all my road trips; Carlene Davis, Judy Mowatt and Shaggy," reveals the outgoing US Ambassador to Jamaica, whose tenure has come to a close after nearly four years. Among the high points of time well-spent here on The Rock? Witnessing vast positive developments in relations between locals and Americans. "I have seen improvements in consular affairs, including an Ask The Embassy column in the newspaper," Bridgewater notes. "The [visa] application process is much easier and friendlier now and we are a good neighbour in the [Liguanea] community."





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HIGHER LEARNING: A terrific new digital resource provides much-needed scholarship details

BY THE BOOK: A comprehensive database of scholarship information now available online. Below, Education minister Ronald Thwaites accepting a hard copy of the 2012 edition.

For Jamaican students seeking funding to finance their tertiary schooling, a newly digitized publication has arrived to make the quest a bit easier.

The National Scholarship Digest, considered the first of its kind in Jamaica, offers some 100 informative pages on scores of scholarships available not just locally, but throughout the region, North-, Central- and South- America, Europe, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand -- collectively valued at close to J$4 billion and being offered in a range of fields and disciplines spanning law, medicine, IT and media and communications. 

"The [digest] provides the most comprehensive database of scholarship information that allows students to go to one source to get criteria and contact information for each scholarship," explains Chris Grant, CEO of Next Move Jamaica, a company set up in 2010 to aid ambitious schoolers and their parents make, well, the next move. 

Available free of cost and sponsored by insurance giants General Accident, the National Scholarship Digest can be accessed at nextmoveja.com.





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