Saturday, 30 August 2014

A MAN APART: Belafonte caps an illustrious career with a huge Academy honour

FIGURE OF SPEECH: Belafonte onstage during the 2014 amfAR New York Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on February 5, 2014 in New York City. 

When one hears the name Harry Belafonte it's hard not to think of the robust and melodious voice crooning the lyrics to "Day O (The Banana Song)", the chiselled features staring back from the cover of the groundbreaking album Calypso, or the arresting visuals featured in the probing documentary Sing Your Song that wowed Sundance in 2011.

In a career spanning several decades, the 87-year-old Jamerican artist and activist has made such sterling contributions to the arts to the point where he's now best described as an exemplary icon who has touched countless lives with his powerful oratory and captivating stage, musical and film performances and documentary appearances. A book, My Song: A Memoir, was published in 2010.

But what folks don't get to celebrate or even discuss enough of are his lavish contributions to humanitarian causes that brought huge credit to the performing-arts industry for years. It is for this very aspect of his life's work that he's been tapped to receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Motion Picture Academy's 6th Annual Governor Awards in November in Hollywood.

Only a very select group of icon-artists have received this uberprestigious honour since it was first handed out in 1956. Quincy Jones, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Angelina Jolie and Oprah Winfrey, to name only a few. Per the Academy, Belafonte is being recognized for his dedication to shedding light on racism and inequality worldwide.

For the multihyphenate, it's a crowning achievement in a life and career that's already been greatly laurelled. To date, Belafonte is the winner of a trio of Grammy Awards and a holder of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy, an Emmy and a Tony from the American Theatre Wing. In 1989, he received the Kennedy Centre Honours and in 1994 came the National Medal of Arts.

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CLUB VIP: Stars dazzle on the scene from Rose Hall to the Liguanea Club

GOOD LOOKING OUT: August 23, St. James. Helping the homegirl Vivica A. Fox celebrate the big 5-0 on the breezy lawns of the Rose Hall Great House in MoBay on Saturday were head-turners like The Game's Wendy Racquel Robinson and ace designer/stylist to the stars NeaLis McIntosh, who had Robinson all dolled up for the shinding. (Photo: Skkan Media).

GAME CHANGERS: August 23, Kingston. Jamaica's top tennis stars were on show this past weekend as the curtains came down on the Hi-Pro All-Jamaica Senior Tennis Championships at the Liguanea Club. Kingpin Damion Johnson, left, (collecting his trophy from Hi-Pro's Darren Lawrence) was crowned winner of the Men's Open title. (Photo: Skkan Media).

HEAD OF THE CLASS: At company headquarters, Grace Kennedy Group CEO, Don Wehby, (second right) imparted pearls of wisdom to these accomplished students, the 2014 recipients of the Carlton Alexander bursary. From left are Dwayne Campbell, Darienne Spalding, Danielle Griffiths and Brianna Lindo. (Photo: Grace Kennedy).

FAMILY AFFAIR: August 27, Kingston. The sons and grand-daughters of the late Carlton Alexander - Philip, Zoe and Edward - also posed for photographs with Wehby and this year's batch of bursary recipients. (Photo: Grace Kennedy).

WE LIKE IT: August 27, Kingston. Red Stripe's newly launched 2014/15 initiative Drink Right WE I.D. got the thumbs-up from endorsers like Lisa Hanna and Warren Weir, who were both on hand for Wednesday's well-supported launch at Red Stripe HQ. (Photo: Skkan Media).

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Friday, 29 August 2014

ROGER SAYS GOOD NIGHT: Remembering an indelible politician and jovial public servant

BEER VIBES: The minister (with Senator Norman Grant) at the 2013 Denbigh Agricultural Show in Clarendon. Below, with Simpson-Miller and others at Denbigh 2012.

For those who knew him best, Roger Harold Clifford Clarke was a man who took a bonhomie approach to life and a commitedly civic sense of duty to his work in representational politics. He took both styles with him when he died on Thursday in Miami, Florida, where he'd gone to have surgery done on his back. He died of a massive heart attack while on his way home, the reports say. He was 74.

A politician who produced laudable results, especially in his roles as MP and as the present government's Agriculture and Fisheries minister, Clarke earned the respect of his constituents in North East St. Elizabeth (which he represented from 1991 to 2007) and Central Westmoreland (up until the time of his death) - and his numerous colleagues in Gordon House, not least among them PM Portia Simpson-Miller. In responding to the shocking news of Clarke's death, Simpson-Miller saluted the late PNP stalwart for his conviction on the job and the compassion he brought to everyday life.

"Roger Clarke was a special kind of politician who was loved not only by members of his party but people on the other side," Simpson-Miller noted in a statement released by the OPM. "He was loved by Jamaicans of all walks of life. His caring, gentle and compassionate spirit was matched by his generosity, good humour and laughter. It's hard for us to be sad when Roger Clarke was a man who brought laughter to so many of us."

Personally, what struck me most about this heftily built son of Westmoreland (born June 11, 1940) was his jovial, easy-to-get-along-with aura, typical of down-to-earth folks who can walk with kings without losing that common touch. It's an immensely likeable quality that the Opposition Leader also recognized in him. "[Clarke] had a cheerful nature and sharp wit, always injecting fun and revelry in his commentary and to debates in the House," Andrew Holness recalled. "He was a diffuser; there was always a simple thought he would introduce to a tense discussion that would cause us to look at ourselves and change the mood of the discussion."

In his time, Roger Clarke led quite a successful political career, to say the least. He never lost an election, winning a total of eight (two Local Government polls and six General Elections). His resume further highlights such positions as former Mayor of Black River and Chair of the St. Elizabeth Parish Council. For three years (1988-1991) he occupied the presidency of the Local Government Authority. But the role to which he brought the most distinguished service and obvious devotion was that of agriculture minister. "He was a champion of the agricultural sector who contributed significantly to its development, both as minister and as a farmer," proclaimed Clarke's JLP counterpart J.C. Hutchinson. "I will miss his wise counsel," Simpson-Miller added, "his tremendous sense of duty to public life and his outstanding contribution to agriculture."

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PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Warren Weir supports Red Stripe's new responsible drinking campaign

SIGN OF THE TIMES: In its quest to spread greater awareness about safe and responsible drinking islandwide, corporate citizen Red Stripe on Wednesday launched its Drink Right WE I.D. campaign, a much-welcomed initiative tied with the company's commitment to reducing the level of underage drinking in the country. As such, Red Stripe wants consumers to show some form of identification when purchasing alcohol. Olympian Warren Weir pledges his endorsement of the initiative by affixing his signature to the Autograph Wall mounted at the event hosted at Red Stripe headquarters. The track star, who is known for working closely with the Champs athletes at his alma mater Calabar High, joined such fellow public figures as Youth minister Lisa Hanna and newly crowned Miss Jamaica World Laurie-Ann Chin as advocates for this timely and supremely important cause. Also on board for the mission of enlightening the population on the impact of alcohol misuse and the importance of responsible drinking at all levels of the society are bodies like the National Parent Teachers Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ) and the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA). (Photo: Skkan Media)

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ON TOP OF THE WORLD: 'Globe'-trotting Hamlet company savours the cultural exchange and challenges

CURTAIN CALL: Cast members following a performance of the Globe's travelling production.

"They love the island vibe," enthuses Dave McEvoy, referring to the close-knit cast and crew of the Globe Theatre's touring production of Hamlet, which has touched down in Jamaica for the latest stop on its 205-nation tour. "We visited the Bob Marley Museum yesterday. We had dinner at the British Embassy, and now we're looking forward to the show tonight."

McEvoy is the show's production manager, the man tasked with the responsibility of handling the nuts-and-bolts details of the play, which has so far taken them to 38 countries. As we all know by now, on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth, the Globe decided to embark on a Hamlet tour with a difference, taking the show to every recognized state on the planet. A gargantuan undertaking to be sure that is not without its major challenges.

"So far it's been very exciting for us. The crew enjoys hopping from one continent to the next, but it's very challenging at the same time with regards to the technical parts of the production," McEvoy tells TALLAWAH. Ironically, we're standing by the stage watching as the stage manager, Becky, and her team carry out last-minute set changes before curtain. "Because of the diversity of the different venues we visit, we have been doing a lot of adjusting which can take hours. But the Little Theatre is perfect. The stage is just the right size."

Directed by Dominic Dromgoole, who didn't make the trip to Jamaica, the Globe cast manages to put a modern spin on the classic tale of vengeance and honour without compromising an ounce of the Bard's vision. As McEvoy tells it, the Globe Theatre wanted their version to appeal to audiences of all types who might just come away with a newfound appreciation for the timeless story. "Our main objective is to connect with a broad spectrum of people," he says. "I think in some ways, it's a relatable story for everyone."

After Jamaica are stops in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The second leg of the tour, TALLAWAH learned, started in July, taking the 10-member contingent across North and Central America and Cuba. "It's not an easy mission," McEvoy concedes, laughing, "but it's a great experience for the actors." Thirty-eight down, 167 to go.

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CHAT 'BOUT: Tuition fees, fare-hike protests and CPL cricket shape this week's conversation

"The CPL has succeeded in reinvigorating the passion for cricket across the region and has, in two short years, established its own distinctive brand and earned exciting market capital. Nothing must be done to impair its image or erode its credibility." Head of the Caribbean Premier League's Cricket Tournament Committee, P. J. Patterson, on why the league is an asset to the regional sport 

"Last year, for the first time, the Minister of Education paid for all CSEC and CAPE students [wards of the state], and so we are now able to track the number of students who are doing exams, who have passed, and what they are doing. So we are seeing the need to provide scholarships for them to pursue their tertiary education." CEO of the Child Development Agency, Rosalee Gage-Grey, addressing the recent inaugural National Children's Summit at the Jamaica Conference Centre

"I am pleased with these schools and teachers that have been following the ministry's directive, but I am frowning at those institutions that have been inconsiderate and disobedient. This [study] is the clearest indication, for all the reasons that we know, that there should be extreme restraint in requiring many textbooks." Education minister Ronald Thwaites in response to the 2014 Consumer Affairs Commission Annual School Textbook Survey, carried out between July 29 and August 7 

"Our children, over the last two years, have been doing very well and that is because of the programmes that we have implemented. We now have children getting 10 ones and four CAPE subjects. We have students getting into Law school. So now we have to try and find ways to pay for their school fees." Youth and Culture minister Lisa Hanna on the government's challenge of funding the external exam fees for wards of the state 

"We have made a statement. We have to now look at the government's response and then we decide where to proceed from here. We have a number of activities that we have to plan before going into conference. Depending on the circumstances we may have to protest again. I don't know, but we are mobilized." Opposition spokesman on transport, Dr. Horace Chang, in the wake of this week's JLP-led protests against JUTC bus fare increases

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Thursday, 28 August 2014

NO PLACE LIKE HOME: A rhythmic story collection captures the ups and downs of island life

WELL VERSED: The author's new anthology celebrates an island sense of place.

Any mention of the most prolific women writers of contemporary Jamaican fiction must include Claudette Beckford-Brady, who is churning out fascinating new work with impressive regularity. 

After emerging with the sublime first novel, Sweet Home Jamaica, an absorbing tale of family dynamics and migration (its sequel, The Missing Years, followed), Beckford-Brady quickly drew notice for her often keenly observant stories, which have gone on to win medals in the National Creative Writing Competition. Further testament to her storytelling prowess, the author is one of only two writers with more than one story featured in the JCDC-published Gold Anthology. (On the horizon is the marital saga, Return to Fidelity.)

If you fell for those samples of her writing, you're sure to be bowled over by the pieces collected in her latest effort, Yaard and Abroad: From a Jamaican Perspective (Author House), a tight collection of nearly 20 stories tackling the lives and times of ordinary folks like us in the pursuit of happiness. The author's wide-ranging interests are narrowed here to focus, too, on her musings on island life and in the wider Diaspora.

The north-coast-set "Rent-a-Dread," for instance, is a humorous window into the illicit world of sex tourism island style. A pair of best girlfriends at a bar riff on their perspectives on interracial dating in "The White Man". A jilted housewife plots her next move in "Bun" and a woman decides to trade the British cold for some island sunshine - after getting even with her ruthless man - in "Justine's Revenge." 

Then there are entries like "Nah Gah Inglan?", "Reminiscences," "Returning Resident" and "Where Is Jamaica?" that stirringly celebrate that ubiquitous sense of place that lend all the best short stories their firm anchor. 

Also new and noteworthy: 
> Who couldn't use a word of encouragement in these deeply troubling times? Combining historical, cultural and personal examples with Biblical insights, Bishop T.D. Jakes, one of the finest counsellors of our time, has released Instinct: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive (FaithWorks Books), his newest motivational tome that outlines for readers "how to discover their natural aptitudes and release the vision of past experiences." 

> This September noted musician Sheila E brings her rhythmic flair to the page with the release of The Beat of My Own Drum: A Memoir (Atria Books). In nearly 400 pages, the legendary drummer offers up what Publisher's Weekly describes as " inspiring story of survival over adversity and fulfilling her potential as an artist."

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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

JOKE'S ON YOU: Laff It Off is a rollicking blend of satire and social commentary

COMEDY GOLD: Cast members enacting a scene from the 23-sketch production.

Oliver Mair's new musical revue Laff If Off owes a debt to such forerunners as Aston Cooke's Jamaica 2 Rahtid formula, but it's a hugely entertaining production that fuses boldly original insight and up-to-the-minute social commentary with laugh-out-loud satire and unbridled energy. It stands proudly on its own.

Divided into two acts, these 20-odd sketches, products of the writer-actor's sly sense of humour and impressively keen observations of our island way of life and overall human nature, tackle everything from Jamaica's unique brand of politics to religion to even online dating.

No one is spared, and that includes dancehall entertainers like Mr. Vegas (Russhaine 'Dutty' Berry), who comes in for a fine roasting in "Cutting Edge," a bull's-eye sketch featuring a no-nonsense Mutabaruka (Rodney Campbell, superb); Gordon House parliamentarians, who get mean caricatures in the sarcastically witty "Jamaica's Finest"; and the World's Fastest Man, amusingly personified by Akeem Mignott, who certainly put in 110 percent in his multiple-character performance. As such, Mignott is undoubtedly an asset to a 10-member cast also made up of Mair himself, Lime Tree Lane's Mark 'Bones' Martin, Dalton Spence, Christina Starz and popular TV wonder-women Patria-Kae Aarons and Simone Clarke-Cooper, who both clearly have a blast reconnecting with their performing-arts roots.

Laff It off is powered by manic camaraderie and subversive wit. Not all of it comes off though: the show's handful of musical numbers are tepid at best and such solid Act 1 sketches as "Prime Ministers" and "1 Accord" would have worked better as Act 2 nears its climax. But even so, the adrenaline and resultingly spirited performance that we witness seem to make up for any shortcomings that threaten to dampen the show's overall thrill - an ideal end-of-summer present for a friend or relative.

After all, as Mair and his gang so cheekily impart to the Little Little Theatre audience, when life is working your last nerve, sometimes the best solution is to let out a hearty, full-throated laugh. Tyrone's Verdict: B+

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Monday, 25 August 2014

MAKING A SCENE: Trailing our favourite stars from city Kingston to Rio de Janeiro

THE RIGHT NOTE: August 20, St. Andrew. Headlining the benefit edition of Live in the City at CRU Kitchen and Bar last week, dancehall hotshot Konshens, who graced the stage alongside his SubKonshus crew, poured his all into a performance that featured a round of hits, old and new, from his diverse rep. The deejay's next album, Hotel Room, drops later this year. (Photo: Skkan Media)  

ALL OF US: August 20, St. Andrew. On a rare break from their globe-trotting ways, Morgan Heritage's Peeta Morgan, Gramps Morgan and Una Morgan also put in appearances in support of Live in the City, sharing the frame here with radiant Miss Jamaica Universe contestant Kaci Fennell. (Photo: Skkan Media)

BY YOUR SIDE: August 20, Kingston. It was a real family affair inside the Knutsford Boulevard hotspot Triple Century last Wednesday night, as dancehall disciple Wayne Marshall launched his latest album, Tru Colours. Here, the man of the hour hangs tight with a certain supersongstress (and sister-in-law) who goes by Tessanne Chin. (Photo: Skkan Media)

FOR MOSIAH: August 17, Kingston. Commemorating the 127th anniversary of Marcus Garvey's birth, Youth and Culture minister Lisa Hanna places a wreath on the national hero's tombstone during a floral tribute at National Heroes' Park. In her message to mark the occasion, Hanna hailed the late UNIA stalwart as "the quintessential pioneer" and "a great Jamaican." (Photo: OPM)

WILD AT HEART: August 17, Brazil. More often than not, work and play goes hand in hand for the world's greatest living sprinter, Usain Bolt, seen here goofing around with pal and American rival Wallace Spearmon at the Rio de Janeiro-hosted Copacabana sea-side meet last week. (Photo:

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GAME, SET, MATCH: A wave of exciting talents hold court at All-Jamaica Tennis Champs Finale

THE CHAMP: Johnson greeting young fans following his triumph at the Liguanea Club on Saturday night.

Being number one is hard work. Just ask Damion Johnson, the court veteran who has held the distinction of being the top-ranked tennis player in the country for the past ten years. "It keeps you focussed because you have to be a role model for the younger generation. They look up to me, and I take that very seriously," the 29-year-old Johnson says, having just wrapped up yet another championship triumph: the Hi-Pro All-Jamaica senior Men's Open title at the Liguanea Club on Saturday night.

Johnson, who is no stranger to putting in stellar performances and reaping the fruits of his labour (he has the multiple trophies to prove it), has every intention of continuing his winning ways. "Everyone wants the top spot, so that keeps me motivated," he tells TALLAWAH. "I have to stay on my A-game."

Attributing his swift ascent in the sport to dedication and countless hours of training and fine-tuning, Johnson has fashioned a side career for himself as a coach who has worked with rapidly emerging stars of the game like Blaise Bicknell. "My aim is to add to the number of top junior players that already exists in the country," the sportsman explains. For his own future ambition, the sky is the limit. "I'm looking forward to staying on top of local tennis," he says. "I'm still young so I have several more years to look forward to as a player."

That's a masterpiece of an understatement, considering that the just-concluded All-Jamaica tournament also drew participation from old pros of the game competing in the Junior Veterans league (35 years and over) and Senior Veterans (45 and over). The women, though few in numbers, also made their presence felt, with 13-year-old sensation Selena Blythe scooping up the junior women's crown and Phaedra Kepple dominating among the seniors. "We had a great tournament," Tennis Jamaica prez John Bailey conceded in his address at the trophy presentation. "I do hope this is a first in a series of well-supported tournaments to come."

In spite of the torrential downpour that preceded the finale, the tournament's most engrossing delight was the show-closing Men's Doubles Final that saw Johnson and singles rival Daniel Harris teaming up against the fiercely competitive (and much younger) Martin brothers, Kyle and Christopher. A white-hot battle of wills ensued much to the excitement of the large turnout that packed the stands. In the end, Johnson and Harris proved better on the day, but the Martins (who are destined for greatness in the sport) certainly put them through the ringer.

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Saturday, 23 August 2014

CHAT 'BOUT: Lisa Hanna bats for ALS research; Garnett Roper addresses bus fare-hike; Usain Bolt anticipates superb indoor run, and more

"I've never run indoors; I was always too tall. When I heard there was going to be a roof, I was looking forward to that." Sprint superstar Usain Bolt (during a press conference in Warsaw on Wednesday) on setting the scene for a superb performance at the 5th Annual Skolimowska Memorial meet in Poland. A day earlier Bolt marked his 28th birthday.

"I look at myself as the Batman of track a vigilante. You may not like me but I'm needed." Bolt's nemesis and embattled sprinter Justin Gatlin in a recent interview with the Associated Press

"We are writing a $10 million cheque each day to the commuting public..... We can't support the welfare from the state company. It is a foolish argument to suggest that we shouldn't increase bus fares because if we don't then we would have to find the revenue to pay the cost of fuel." JUTC Chairman, Dr. Garnett Roper, addressing the bust fare-hike backlash in a Gleaner interview

"Entertainers and others who plan to travel to affected areas of West Africa should reconsider as they would potentially be putting themselves at risk of contracting the Ebola virus and spreading it to other persons on their return to Jamaica. The ministry continues to warn against non-essential travel to reduce the risk of their health and the health of their families. Persons who have to travel to these areas are advised not to handle dead animals and not to have any direct contact with persons who may be infected or could have been in contact with an infected person." Minister of Health, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, issuing an advisory aimed at those who may be flying off to the Ebola-affected areas of Africa

"We live in a world where strong images have become important. If they are not unique or somewhat exciting, then people don't stop to pay attention. ALS is an awful disease and has been around for a long time. I know two people suffering from it. More time, research and awareness need to be given to finding a cure." Youth and culture minister, Lisa Hanna, on why she joined the scores of influential global figures taking the Ice Bucket Challenge 

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TRUE CHARACTERS: Five sharp performances generating early awards-season momentum

LET THE BUZZ BEGIN: Salmon (left) and Forbes court acting honours with grade-A performances.

What's the skinny on theatre's awards season race so far? It's way too early for any definitive pronouncements, but TALLAWAH is keeping an eye on these five outstanding actors who have emerged as early favourites with their fantastic performances. Boasting spark and emotional heft in equal measure, they have a strong shot at being remembered at the end of the year:

Camille Davis in Funny Kind 'A Love
The brash and boozy Josephine, a loose-tongued sister who tells it like it is, is not the brightest bulb in the tanning bed, but in Davis' knowing hands you'd be hard-pressed to find a more wise-to-the-world soul. Reeling off the Patrick Brown-penned lines with relish and sharp comedic timing, Davis turns what could have been a caricature into one of the year's most indelible creations. Brava!

Leonie Forbes in For My Daughter
Has Miss Lee ever turned in a bad performance? I seriously doubt that. The legendary drama queen is at her imperious best as a matriarch of a certain age - and three-generation household - grappling with everyday family matters and harbouring a shameful secret that could ruin everything. David Tulloch's play is a tour-de-force, and that's an apt description, too, for Forbes' turn, equal parts intense and incandescent.

Dorraine Reid in Anancy Chaptaz: Monkey Bizniz
A relatively unknown talent, Reid had her work cut out for her to convince as primate leader Baboon in the IAM's most recent Anancy Chaptaz instalment. TALLAWAH highly commended her performance earlier this year, as she managed to pull of something fascinating (down to the very body language), which suggests in no uncertain terms that this is a talented actress who deserves to be better known. 

Terri Salmon in For My Daughter 
Last year's Thespy winner for supporting actress (Jamaica Sweet), Salmon could be in the running for the second consecutive year, thanks to her robust (and incredibly humorous) transformation into the pompous doyenne and pha-ma-cist Vera LuChen, a role suited to the actress' elastic charm and utter commitment to character building. 

Courtney Wilson in Funny Kind 'A Love 
A steady stream of meaty Jambiz roles has made Wilson one of the most consistent stage actors of this Jamaican generation. He further solidified that rep with an ovation-worthy portrayal of his most challenging character yet, Carlyle, a decent middle-class fellow who makes a jolting confession to his older brother (played by Glen Campbell). It's a moment realized with a commanding blend of guilt-ridden intensity and surprising restraint. 

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Friday, 22 August 2014

MEASURE OF A MAN: The James Brown story roars to life in Get On Up

SHOW STOPPER: Brown, centre, giving one of his famously electrifying stage performances.

From its 1980s opening sequence, the James Brown biopic, Get On Up grabs hold of you with a pull of seductive and irresistible you know right away you came to the right place for a funky good time. No surprise then that by the final credits you do, emerging from the experience with a newfound respect for the entertainment legend who was rightly dubbed the hardest working man in show business. 

If as they say, directing is 90 percent casting, then Tate Taylor (The Help) couldn't have asked for a more competent and committed leading man than Chadwick Boseman, who solidly anchors the film by mustering the requisite conviction (the vigour, the feistiness, the perm) to nail the portrayal. I feel Boseman's knockout performance is due a few noms this coming awards season and highly likely Best Actor honours at next year's NAACP Image Awards. 

For those who saw the actor's indelible turn as Jackie Robinson in 42, this uncanny transformation into yet another pioneering Black figure will make you marvel anew. Playing Brown, Boseman gets a stellar supporting framework through the efforts of costars like Dan Ackroyd, as a golf-playing show promoter; Jill Scott, as his love interest; and Nelsan Ellis (True Blood), as Brown's longsuffering backup vocalist and faithful right-hand man Jimmy, who bravely endures the temper and the tantrums. We feel for him. 

Cameos by Viola Davis (Brown's wayward mother who steps out on his father) and Octavia Spencer (the brothel-running aunt who takes him in) powers up the movie's star wattage with appearances memorable in spite of their brevity. 

In the end, Taylor's film paints a riveting, unforgettable portrait of a musician who was truly in a league all his own. As the movie attests, not only did James Brown define an era and inspire legions with his chart-topping tunes and electrifying stagecraft - he brought an untiring spirit to the African-American community (and to the entertainment world at large) at the height of the Civil Rights movement and the dawn of the conflict in Vietnam. 

To wit, a scene depicting Brown and his singers aboard a US army plane (under a hail of gunfire) heading to a performance for the troops is one of the film's most visceral moments. 

In short, Get On Up, though excessively lengthy, is a well-wrought and very well-acted look at James Brown the man, the musician - and the dawn of funk. It's sprinkled with moments so outrageous, they have to be seen to be believed. Tyrone's Verdict: B+ 

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ON THE DOWNLOAD: A round-up of fresh tracks from reggae and dancehall's finest

KONSHENS - Watch Your Back (Platinum Camp/ Siv Records)
Few hitmakers in the modern dancehall approach the craft with the fierce lyricism, wide-ranging topical diversity and creative risk-taking like Konshens, whose fearlessness in addressing potentially controversial matters defines his best work. On this new single, the ace deejay posits some sage and life-saving advice about due diligence and street smarts in the face of backstabbing friends. In the end, he effortlessly reacquaints us with his assured delivery and deft handling of a brisk beat.

STEPHANIE - Real Woman (Havatio Music)
"Good girls are nice, but bad girls entice," coos fast-rising chateuse Stephanie on this steamy standout from her 2013 EP of the same name, which makes a compelling case for her mean skills with the pen and knack for producing vocals with a fab balance of flair and piercing quality. Think the song packs heat? You should see the piping-hot video.

CHRIS MARTIN - Prayer (Tweety Bird Riddim)
Marking one of the meekest releases of still-young career, Martin's reflective jam announces a modest departure from his regular themes of girls and the good life, opting instead to spotlight that all-important meditational relationship with the Most High, and the art of rising above trying circumstances for want of a better life.

Also bubbling on the playlist:
> Nickeisha Barnes makes a heartfelt petition on "Reach Out," the first single off her November-due EP, Layers of my Soul. A spare, soul-searching gem.
> Dancehall soulstress Cherine, who last year heated up dancefloors with "Haffi Come Back," returns to form on the brash "Wah Dat Fah," a summer sizzler as notable for its in-your-face contours as for its sheer cockiness.

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