Monday, 30 June 2014

WORK IN PROGRESS: With ODPEM's evolving role come a wave of complex new challenges

REACHING OUT: Portmore residents interacting with the ODPEM team at Saturday's expo at the Portmore Mall. Inset, Glaze addresses the gathering.

As with any public Jamaican agency, the challenges facing the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) in their quest to protect lives and educate people grow more imposing and increasingly complex as the very goals they are seeking to achieve. So when the agency's Deputy Director-General Horace Glaze got wind of the newly emerged and mysterious chikungunya virus threatening lives across the region, it only served to remind him that every day brings yet more unwelcomed guests to the front door.

"The Ministry of Health has been telling us that the virus is presently all around us in the region. It is a virus somewhat similar to the malaria and dengue virus, and it is associated with mosquito bites," Glaze tells TALLAWAH. "We want to encourage our citizens, especially persons living in Portmore, where people have always been complaining about mosquitoes, to be on the alert."

As it happens, Glaze is standing at the this very moment in a lot adjacent to the bustling Portmore Mall, as ODPEM staffers stage one of the agency's community awareness expos aimed at enlightening residents about the supreme importance of disaster risk management and the essential precautionary measures that that entails. We are, after all, approaching the height of the 2014 hurricane season, and June marks Hurricane Preparedness Month.

But more on the virus. "There are no reported cases in Jamaica," Glaze assures us, "but the health ministry informs us that as soon as a single case is identified we pretty much have to treat it as an outbreak." He adds, "This is a new virus and we don't know what can happen, so they have heightened surveillance at the ports." 

Given our history of devastating floods, earthquakes and other destructive natural hazards (new and recurrent), the Caribbean is famously a disaster-prone geographic zone. Jamaicans, like everyone else, are fearful, and this very much informs how ODPEM continues to step up their efforts. 

But, as Glaze emphasizes, it's the frequently emerging new hazards, like the chikungunya, that makes disaster management more and more challenging for the agency year after year. "That's why the continued education our people is so important," he says. "We have to be able to respond despite how new these issues may be to us. We still have to have a mechanism that is robust and flexible enough to respond to these types of incidents." 

Is Jamaica's present mechanism robust and flexible enough? "Our national disaster mechanism I believe is robust enough. What we have to do is exercise it and test it," Glaze points out. "Don't just wait on the hurricane but continue to carry out the exercises that we do and start to have them more frequently and get everyone involved in the process."

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WOMEN ON TOP: Christine Lagarde's cautious optimism + Anticipating a new-look Mission Catwalk + Shanique Myrie triumphs

PAID IN FULL: By now we're all fully versed in the shocking details of the Shanique Myrie saga and how her lengthy fight for justice cast her in the brutal glare of the media spotlight. But having survived such an ordeal to emerge whole, Myrie has become an inspiration and a symbol of courage for women everywhere. "If I did it, anybody else can do it," she said last week, after being informed that the Barbados government had, at long last, paid over the US$38,000 (J$4 million) in damages she is owed. Harking back to her March 2011 trip to the Caribbean territory that took a bizarre, humiliating turn at the airport, where she was subjected to a hostile strip search, Myrie recalled, "I was just a normal, innocent young lady going to Barbados with no bad intention whatsoever and they took advantage of me, and I stood up." Admittedly "relieved" that the nightmare is now behind her, she remains confident that her fight was worth it. "It just takes encouragement and effort," she said.

CHECKS AND BALANCES: The most powerful woman in global finance believes there's hope for Jamaica as far as our ailing economy is concerned. And while that's no cause for Gordon House celebration, Christine Lagarde's expression of optimism is certainly worth paying attention to and building on. "The economic outlook is promising. Compared to a year ago, growth has picked up, unemployment has declined, inflation has been brought under control and the current account deficit has shown an ongoing improvement," said the International Monetary Fund's Managing Director (pictured above with finance and planning minister, Dr. Peter Phillips), a guest of the Jamaican government on the weekend. "Much has been achieved and yet much remains to be done."

STYLE AND DESIGN: In case, like us, you wee left wondering what would become of Mission Catwalk after such mediocre ratings for Season Three, rest assured that the fashion-based reality series has still got some power left in the sewing machine. This past Monday, June 23, producers held a casting call for models on the grounds of UTech which we hear attracted a fair turnout. And the prizes set aside for the show's next champion designer feel more appealing than ever. This year's winner of Mission Catwalk (whose past top alums include Shenna Carby (above) and Gregory Williams) will walk away with, among other goodies, $1 million in cash, a scholarship to pursue studies in an international fashion programme, and internship, and contracts to sell their designs. Season 4 of the series, the brainchild of executive producer Keneea Linton-George, is expected to hit local TV screen by summer's end. 

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GOING THE DISTANCE: Asafa's fearless fighting spirit + Bolt wants in on the 'Games'

OFF TO THE RACES: Usain Bolt is full of surprises. Just when his fans thought they'd have to endure not seeing the iconic sprinter take to the track in his Jamaican colours at the year's biggest athletics event the Glasgow Commonwealth Games the World's Fastest Man threw everyone a curveball. In a statement posted on, the world record holder reveals that he's informed the JAAA of his availability to represent Team Jamaica at the summer championship if they will have him. "I have submitted the relevant documentation," says Bolt, who was forced to sit out this past weekend's national senior trials at the National Stadium. "I do not wish to take the place of anyone who qualifies, but I am available for relay duty, if the selectors feel I can be an asset to the team." Spoken like a true gentleman. The 2014 Commonwealth Games take place in Glasgow, Scotland, from July 23 to August 3.

SPIRIT INDOMITABLE: You can say this for Asafa Powell: not even legal woes can dull his competitive drive. In spite of a hearing into his much-publicized doping-violation case hanging over his head and a long hiatus from competition, the embattled Jamaican sprinter is gearing up to hit the track at July 5's Diamond League meet in Paris, organizers have confirmed. Powell will lace up alongside seasoned rivals like Trinidad's Richard Thompson. Meantime, the critical CAS hearing, set for July 7 and 8, concerns Powell's appeal over the career-threatening year-and-a-half ban from the sport he received for testing positive for the WADA-banned substance oxilofrine.

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PON DE REPLAY: Four fresh tracks exploring love and revolution

Jah Cure
"Life We Live"
No matter his subject matter — be it intimacy, humanity or social responsibility — Jah Cure consistently stays on message. His rhythmic, stimulating new single (off his as-yet-untitled upcoming studio album) is quintessential Jah Cure, packing a powerful delivery, poignant lyrics and the timelessly resonant reminder that in life more important that winning is playing the game right. A-

Jah Sun feat. Jahricio and Noah
"No Retreat"
The equal-rights-and-justice mantra in reggae was popularized by Tosh circa the seventies, but this Cali-by-way-of-Costa Rica trio lend it a modern, militant and revolution-in-the-streets spin, complete with slick reggaeton vibrations. B

Morgan Heritage
"Put It On Me"
This Shane Brown-produced confection, their first since the band's last album, Here Come The Kings, finds the reggae ambassadors taking a playful approach to matters of the heart and that all-important decision of choosing to spend your future with someone. That's a mighty big commitment to make, yet the versatile band makes it sound like loads of fun. B

"Better Than This"
Few reggae soul singers are as prolific as Alaine when it comes to churning out radio-ready ear candy. The newly minted Rising Stars judge continues that fierce winning streak with her latest hit, a melodic and soulful tribute to the do-right loverman she wittily hails as "every riddim to my section; every boom-boom pow." Speak on it, girl. B

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HELD TO ACCOUNT: Jamaica's road to economic prosperity takes a hopeful turn

POWER PLAYERS: Lagarde and Simpson-Miller following their meeting in Kingston on Friday.

Perhaps the most significant morsel we can draw from IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde's weekend visit to Jamaica is her pronouncement that while the country's ultimate legacy on the economic front is up to us and the historians signs suggest we have been responding courageously to the enormous challenges. In other words, we've been doing our homework and with commendable results.

"The economic outlook is improving. Compared to a year ago, growth has picked up, unemployment has declined, inflation has been brought under control, the current account deficit has shown an ongoing improvement and the reserves are starting to recover," Lagarde said on Friday, following a meeting with government officials in Kingston.

Still, the highlight of Lagarde's brief message for many was her mention of Jamaica's IMF-backed economic reform programme, straddling a four-year nearly US$950-million Extended Fund Facility, being off to "a very strong start." It's an encouraging endorsement that comes as a cautiously optimistic corrective to the doom and the gloom. "Jamaica has the IMF's full support," Lagarde assures. "We stand ready to help in any way we can. But, of course, it is up to you. Jamaicans with the public and private sector working in close harmony to build a bright future for this beautiful country." 

And no one has expressed deeper commitment to harmonious economic transformation in the country than government leader PM Portia Simpson-Miller, who maintains that growth stimulation and job creation are her administration's top priorities moving forward. "We recognize and appreciate that the progress and recovery already being experienced still need considerable care, nurturing and support from all segments of the Jamaican society," Simpson-Miller said on Friday. 

Whether Miss Lagarde's brief Jamaican sojourn will inspire any meaningful turn-around to speak of remains to be seen, but the significance of her presence in the Caribbean, seemingly genuine interest in Jamaica's well-being and her optimism about our future growth aren't lost on Sista P. "Lagarde's visit signifies the Fund's acknowledgement and endorsement of the considerable progress which has been realized in the first year of Jamaica's economic transformation programme a programme aimed at reversing the country's history of low growth and high debt," the PM said. "Jamaica thanks Madame Lagarde and her team for the policy advice, technical assistance and financial support which have proved valuable in continuing our quest for economic prosperity." 

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Saturday, 28 June 2014

SUMMER'S MUST LIST: Your guide to the best in culture this season (Part One)

FILM: They say every bonafide music legend gets the biopic he deserves, so it was only a matter of time before the inspiring-intriguing James Brown saga got the celluloid treatment. Director Tate Taylor (The Help) has assembled an accomplished cast to bring the late Godfather of Soul's story, Get On Up, to the big screen at long last. Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis and Nelsan Ellis and other play key supporting roles opposite Chadwick Boseman (superb as Jackie Robinson in 42), who fills Brown's gold-dusted dancing shoes and gets to belt out tunes like "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." In cinemas Aug. 1.

BOOK: Heneka Watkis-Porter has made a name for herself as a relentless go-getter buoyed by the entrepreneurial spirit who moves easily between fashion (the sporty patriotic Patwa Apparel), food (the 10 Fireside line of condiments), media (she hosts a pair of radio shows) - and now, signalling her latest adventure, a foray into authorship. A compendium of the wit and wisdom and business savvy she's accrued over the years, 15 Hints to Entrepreneurial Success: Lessons From a Caribbean Business Woman (Author House Publishing) is Watkis-Porter's generous offering to those in need of a bit of tried-and-proven advice in the pursuit of their dream. These days, that's practically everybody. Available now from local booksellers and online outlets.

EVENT: Massive nightly crowds are expected to descend on Catherine Hall per usual when Reggae Sumfest, the premier reggae festival on the planet, returns home for its 2014 staging, scheduled for July 13-19. A strong all-Jamaican contingent will storm the stage, in addition to showstopping sets from the likes of Tessanne Chin, Wiz Khalifa and Future. We're expecting stage magic.

ALBUM: And speaking of Mrs. Cuffe, we're always checking for Jamrock's favourite homegirl du jour, whose Count On My Love, her first album since winning The Voice, is among the most anticipated records of the season. While she keeps the guest list to a minimum (Shaggy and Damian Marley reportedly make cameos), the tracks (10 in total) were crafted by a megawatt squad of hitmakers, including Claude Kelly and Ryan Tedder. On sale July 1.

THEATRE: The very idea of being alone on stage for over an hour-and-a-half can daunt even the most experienced of actors. Not Rosie Murray, who is poised to make it seem like a piece of cake when she brings her avidly awaited one-woman opus Slice of Life (venue and opening date to be announced) to theatre audiences in July. Directed by frequent collaborator David Tulloch, the show promises an exploration of experiences, both personal and universal, peppered with Murray's unique blend of wit and humour. 

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Friday, 27 June 2014

THROUGH THEIR EYES: Photographers transport us into their fascinating world at Pecha Kucha

SHARP FOCUS: Reeves, a dance photography pro, captured this vivid moment from the NDTC's Sulkari.

By definition, Pecha Kucha (pronounced PE-CHAK-CHA) is the onomatopoeic Japanese term meaning 'the sound of conversation'; the English equivalent for 'chit-chat'. So the element of dialogue is a given. But when the concept merges with a subject as cool and intriguing as photography, it makes for a rather refreshing meditation on the arts.

In the case of Kingston on the Edge's Pecha Kucha 20 X 20, which took place at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston last Wednesday evening, it saw the coming together of a dynamic group of Jamaican photographers (relative newcomers to the form and seasoned pros) discussing their work finding inspiration, overcoming challenges, distinguishing themselves complete with power-point presentation.

The packed meeting room, elegantly decked out with white chairs, white curtains and drinks being served by charming waiters, sat rapt (with intermittent peals of laughter) as these supertalented visionaries expressed, more of less, the pride and palpable passion driving their work - twin qualities that set them apart from peers we've encountered since the start of the festival.

Kirk Martin, for instance (a UWI Camera Club alum), engagingly reflected on the need for "quiet, simplicity, and finding that inner peace" as a template for his process. "[Photography] is like therapy for me; it lets me me find my centre," he admitted, as the screen showcased a selection of his best pieces, notable for their clean lines and unfussy composition.

Presentations also came from the Exhibit Hope initiative and the JN Resolution project and other potential household names as Shanti Persaud, Glen Henry and Stuart Reeves, the veteran of the group. 

On scoring the perfect shot, Reeves (a specialist in still lifes and dance photography) said simply, "Sometimes you just hope that your finger hits the shutter at the right moment." Henry, who is into animation and game development, noted, "For me, it's the storytelling behind [the art] that I find most fascinating, and it's something I'd like to continue exploring." 

When combined with the interdisciplinary show (ceramics, conceptual art, photography) taking place in the adjoining room, Pecha Kucha served to us that a singularly strong and soulful image is indeed worth a million words.

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TALLAWAH MOMENT: The IMF's Christine Lagarde jets in for three-day working visit

TOI ET MOI: Power players Dr. Peter Phillips and Christine Lagarde have a lot to talk about.

Never mind that she's the single most powerful woman in global finance, Christine Lagarde played the charmed, gracious guest to full tilt inside the Norman International Airport in Kingston Thursday evening, lending a keen ear to finance and planning minister, Dr. Peter Phillips. 

Phillips led a welcoming party to greet the IMF boss (she's been the Fund's Managing Director since July 2011), who'd just jetted into the island for a three-day working visit. Governor of the Bank of Jamaica, Brian Winter, and state minister Arnoldo Brown were also on hand. 

To say the least, Christine Lagarde's presence in Jamaica at this time is very meaningful. 

Though the formidable Frenchwoman's working visit will be chiefly centred on talks concerning Jamaica's perpetually headline-making involvement with the International Monetary Fund, her weekend-long itinerary features a lecture at the UWI Mona Campus; a Jamaica House courtesy call on Pm Portia Simpson-Miller; a tour of the HEART College of Construction Services in Portmore, and gracing a women's leadership breakfast at the Terra Nova. 

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Thursday, 26 June 2014

SCOOP: TALLAWAH dishes culture/entertainment news from Kingston to Florida

Old time sinting come back again! As part of this year's Independence celebrations, the Heart of Ska Festival, is set to enter the scene as the newest addition to the festivities. "We have lost widespread engagement with the form here in Jamaica. The festival's name speaks to the genesis of the genre, rooted not just in the musical form but in fashion, movement and discourse," explains Dahlia Harris, Principal Director of Culture in the youth and culture ministry. "Ska is a way of life and we felt it was important to begin the process of re-establishment," she adds. The Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre will play host to the event on August 12.

> SportsMax has joined forces with the producers of Miss Jamaica World to broadcast the 2014 pageant live to Jamaicans in the Diaspora this summer.

> Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals in and around Florida's Pembroke Pines area are expected to turn up in their numbers for this year's staging of the Anancy Festival at the South Regional Broward College Library on Saturday, June 28. The family-friendly event is making its return with short-film screenings, storytelling sessions, and performances galore.

> Still in that neck of the woods, the Wolmer's Alumni Association's South Florida Chapter will host its annual banquet on Saturday, July 19 at the Renaissance Hotel Plantation, with Dr. Barbara Gloudon being flown in as guest speaker. Wolmer's is all of 285 years old this year.

> WHAT'S HOT RIGHT NOW: Brand new records from Raging Fyah (Destiny) and Prodi (Voice of the People); Live World Cup action at the SportsMax Zone; Kingston On The Edge's diverse schedule of events 
WHAT'S NOT: Too little time to soak it all in 

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GIRL OF THE MOMENT: Class act Denyque makes the leap to leading-lady status

GLOW ON: The singer, with DJ Nicco, at her recent video premiere party in Kingston.

For years Jamaica has been producing reggae-pop divas with a taste for audacious lyrics and inimitable retro-meets-modern style, while combining effortless sex-symbol aura with girl-next-door appeal. Think Diana King, Nadine Sutherland and Patra. And now, in a pitch-perfect amalgamation of all three, Denyque.

A certified all-Jamaican girl, the 20-something singer has already conquered the local charts, radio and video playlists with her string of infectiously groovy hits ("Make Me Believe You," "Summer Love" among them), and now, with the unwavering support of her fans and mentors, she has her eyes set on conquering new territory.

To match her emergence as a bonafide leading lady in entertainment, Denyque has been transitioning into even more sophisticated endeavours. In June, she debuted a provocative new swimwear line, WetSwim, at Caribbean Fashion Week (CFW), her version of how Jamaican women should look and feel at the beach or the pool party. And buoyed by the largely positive reviews, something tells me there's more where that came from. 

A week later she slipped into celebration mode for the release of her catchy new single "How We Rave" with practically the whole music fraternity showing up at Mercedes Benz to offer support. And sources reveal an album is in the works.

We like Denyque very much here at TALLAWAH. Sporty, classy, healthy and ubertalented, she's a terrific role model for young girls. Consider us intrigued to see what she'll do next. But as far as music and fashion go, rest assured that she'll continue finding exciting new ways of mixing these twin passions. And luckily for her, they remains two staples that will never go out of style. 

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MAN POWER: Steering the newest Transformers, Mark Wahlberg proves he's an actor for all seasons

READY FOR ACTION: Wahlberg (as engineer Kale Yaeger) and Peltz (as daughter Tessa) flee danger.

Ranking easily among the most adventurous actors of his Hollywood generation, Mark Wahlberg has fashioned a steady career out of roles that play off his outsize courage, versatility and all-round photogenic appeal.

He was the fresh-faced ingenue who gets "shown the ropes" in Boogie Nights, he impressed as the hot-headed if tightly wound cop colleague in The Departed and again he wowed critics as the intensely driven boxing sibling in David O. Russell's The Fighter, to cite a few of his career highlights. Devotedly nostalgic fans will also recall his foray into 90s hip-hop as the party-starting, roof-raising Marky Mark.

But the big screen is where he has shone brightest, proving himself a force to be reckoned with. And nowhere is this clearer than in the latest instalment of Michael Bay's man-versus-robot mega-franchise Transformers (the new edition is eerily subtitled Age of Extinction) where Wahlberg delivers as Kale Yaeger, a struggling Texas robotics engineer who must protect his family - basically his head-strong college-bound daughter Tessa (an appealing Nicola Peltz) when they find themselves at the epicentre of a deadly tussle between the US government and alien robots, with the future of the free world at stake. Channelling their inner baddies, Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammar costar.

But unlike previous instalments in the Transformers series (which practically made Shia LaBeouf a major star), the lengthy Age of Extinction though packing its own moments of maddening noisiness and conventional action-adventure formula has the mind-bending action sequences, humour and respectable narrative that make the film much more than an indulgence in teen-boy fixations. 

A powerhouse filmmaker with a serious soft spot for blowing stuff up, Bay hinges his hopes on Wahlberg to carry the picture. Rising to the occasion, he doesn't disappoint. Conveying a father's relatable struggles to fulfil his responsibilities (he's way behind on mortgage payments) and a stand-up guy determined to do the right thing in spite of the unthinkable odds (he risks all to help Optimus Prime prevail against shady CIA forces), Wahlberg shows that he's that rare leading man with deftness, charisma and real blockbuster appeal. Tyrone's Verdict:

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EDITOR'S PICKS: KOTE kick-off at Redbones; an indie rocker impresses; a docu screening hits hard at Liberty Hall

TALENT SHOW: It's that time of year again when Kingston on the Edge (KOTE) has the city in its grip, with some 26 arts-based events happening at 22 venues across the capital. Things got off to a splendid start on Friday evening with a hugely entertaining opening ceremony at Redbones, which has been transformed into a veritable cultural oasis. The urban arts festival has become known for bringing together performers from all facets of the cultural arts, so attendees were in for a delightful mix of live music (Jason Lee Worton, the funky Brainstorm and the Brazilian bombshell Orisha Sound); visual art (exhibits by Charl Baker, Richard Nattoo, Katherine Silvera et al); and dance (a collaborative piece featuring Veronique's exotic jewellery and mesmerizing choreography by Neil Ebanks, pictured above with Oneil Pryce). A jolly good time was had by all.

THE KID: KOTE event locations are terrific spots to reconnect with longtime favourite artists and to discover fantastic new talents. I got a chance to chat with Worton, a uniquely gifted indie-folk rocker who marches to the beat of his own drum. Offering sturdy originals and covers, he gave a solid yet minimalist performance at the KOTE opening ceremony. As it turns out, he also plays guitar as a member of Protoje's Indiggnation band. "I've always had my solo projects, so even when I started playing with him, I had been doing my own thing. But I'm definitely busier now because we tour a lot," says the 35-year-old, who's working on his first solo album, with influences ranging from Bob Marley to Jimi Hendrix. On life as an indie musician, he concedes, "Sometimes it's better being an unknown artiste than a big artiste with too much hype." And where does he see himself in 10 years? "I really want to be producing. And it's a dream of mine to be making Jamaican guitars."

TRUTH TO POWER: With North Parade, Downtown Kingston, all abuzz on Sunday, what with the Ward Theatre Project taking centrestage, I headed over to Liberty Hall on King Street for a screening of the documentary Hidden Colors: The Untold History of People of Aboriginal, Moor and African Descent, Tariq Nasheed's powerful look at reasons Black people have been left out of the pages of history. I was blown away. Relentless and informative, the doc combines interviews (scholars, historians) with archival footage to paint a compelling portrait of the woefully undersung roles Blacks have played for centuries in everything from science and art to sports and military technique achievements subjected to the horrors of prejudice and racism. A three-part series, Nasheed's production is an important document every living Black person should witness. Hidden Colors is available on DVD and can be found among Liberty Hall's extensive film collection.

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CHAT 'BOUT: Sound bytes of the week, featuring Hansle Parchment + Rev. Ronald Thwaites + Tanya Lee + VP Records' Randy Chin + Dr. Jonathan Greenland

"I believe my start has seen a big improvement, which has put me a lot closer to the [elite] guys, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. I would say that I am a lot healthier. I have to give God thanks for that, so I am just going to try to compete, trying to get my name out there and trying to get to the Games." Olympian Hansle Parchment on his level of readiness for the track-and-field season ahead 
"You must do more. There must be a contract between the school and each parent, stating that there is an acceptance of their responsibility to keep in touch with the schools." Education minister Rev. Ronald Thwaites on the need for improved interaction between parents and teachers in local schools 

"It is something I love; it's my passion. I grew up doing this. I don't know anything else. My parents had only girls growing up, so my father used to take me to all the sporting events. I've just not known any other life. Sports is everything for me, and there's nothing that gives me greater thrill than a victory for one of my teams or seeing fans enjoying the game." SportsMax's Tanya Lee on her lifelong passion for world sports 

"Africa has a legion of dedicated reggae fans and now with the increasing global connectivity in today's tech and online world, we are able to fulfil that demand. We are excited about this expansion and confident that we can effectively reach reggae fans in Africa." VP Records President Randy Chin on the label's move to expand into the Motherland 

"We've reached out to everyone but they don't think of the theatre as a seriously important thing. But it is. It's more important that roads; it's more important than bridges. It's a very important thing. But they behave as if the arts is some sort of luxury. But they're not; they are absolutely fundamental to the development of any nation." Ward Theatre Foundation chairman, Dr. Jonathan Greenland, bemoaning the lack of corporate support for the restoration of the Ward Theatre 

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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

WOMAN ON A MISSION: Rosina Moder's Epic Summer Action Plan

ON THE JOB: Moder (pictured here with Jamaica National's Earl Jarrett) has a packed next few months ahead.

Changing young lives: "I have a very busy summer ahead. I am assisting four students to go to Austria to do a post-grad year on music and movement," says the executive director of Music Unites Jamaica Foundation. "So we are doing heavy fundraising for these UWI students [Edna Manley College graduates] to get their scholarships. They are supposed to be going in the middle of September, so we have to find all the money before then."

Making music history: Moder is also a key member of a research team that received a grant from Jamaica National to fund the documentation of the legacy of Jamaica's largely unsung indigenous composers. "There are so many Jamaican composers that people don't know about, so we plan to produce a little handbook and hopefully have it out by the end of next year," Moder says. "I've found eight boxes containing music by Lloyd Hall. Sometimes these great musicians die, and all their music gets lost. People know a lot of Clyde Hoyt and Lloyd Hall songs, but they are nowhere published in one book. We have a lot of work to be done."

Keeping score: "We are working on the production of the first reggae opera, which Peter Ashbourne, my husband wrote," Moder shares. "We are hoping to get it on stage for May of next year."

Joining the good fight: Like so many of her peers in the arts, Moder firmly believes in staunch advocacy for the restoration of the Ward Theatre. "The Ward has to come back," she says. "It is the only theatre in Jamaica with a proper orchestra pit, where we can place in about 20 violins. The Little Theatre is too small. We would love to do the reggae opera here. Can you imagine?" A full-court press, she insists, will yield favourable results. "We have to get the political will, we have to get the artists together. We can't just let the Ward go down."

Going between the covers: Free time is always in limited supply, but reading remains one of Moder's most cherished passions. "I have about three biographies on Mozart which I haven't touched yet. I have the one by Hildebran in German and the others in English," she confides to TALLAWAH, adding, "I also need to read a book on vegan food and how to cook vegan food becasue I recently changed my diet. It's been going good. very strict. No gluten, no milk, no nothing. And then I think my summer will be done. 

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Tuesday, 24 June 2014

FRIENDS AND FAMILY: A top-notch cast of performers come together in support of the Ward Theatre

FINELY TUNED: The Ashbourne-Moder clan provided classical strains at the concert.

"My mother requested that I perform this song, and I can't refuse," said Joel Ashbourne, good-humoredly introducing his original piano piece "Kiting" on Sunday at the Ward Theatre Project, a cultural awareness and performance-based bash that saw the doors of the famed cultural landmark being reopened for the first time in almost a decade to draw attention to the fact that the creative space still matters deeply to the Jamaican arts community. 

The very musical Ashbourne-Moder gang were just one of the many acts on a bill that featured the enormous talents of artists from dance, dub poetry, live music and theatre. And, for the most part, it was a hugely enjoyable family affair. 

Instrumentalists Rosina Moder and Peter Ashbourne, joined by their sons Joel and Jeremy, breezed through renditions of Handel's "Minuet from Water Music" and the delicate Moder solo "Fi Mi Love Have Lionheart". Cat Coore, on a rare break from playing on tour with Third World, delivered magical takes (via cello) on "Forever Young," "Redemption Song" and "Jamaica Land of Beauty," while a fresh-from-Venezuela Randy McLaren reminded us of his knack for powerful word-sound-power recitals with pieces dripping with grit and soul. 

Graceful actress Jean Small, flying solo as she does best, excelled with a poignant performance piece highlighting the dynamics of modern relationships. Fabian Thomas connected with a spoken-word set focussing on everything from the balancing act of life to Usain Bolt's 2008 Beijing triumph. The Street Meets Studio dance collective, meanwhile, struck a chord with an engrossing, fleet-footed exploration of relationships with marked emphasis on time and space. 

And to top it all off, electrifying sets came from the youthful Alpha Boys orchestra and the ubiquitous brothers of NoMaddz, who continue to expand their global reach, pulling on their rousing mix of theatricality and musicality. And speaking of global reach, the concert got a welcome appearance by Luis Felipe Bellorin, the legendary Venezuelan lyricist and musician who gave an irresistible suite of Caribbean music, with his wife occasionally pitching in as interpreter as he sought to address the audience. In spite of their visitor status, I guess they count as family too. 

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