Tuesday, 30 June 2015

CATCH THE BUZZ: Talia Soares, Krystal Tomlinson secure places among Miss Ja World top 20

SHINING TIME: Here at TALLAWAH we can’t help but be huge admirers of young women who pride themselves on being multifaceted all-rounders and seize opportunities as they come. That said, we are sending out massive kudos to Talia Soares, co-host of TV-J’s entertainment show Intense, and Krystal Tomlinson, co-host of FAME FM’s long-running gabfest Uncensored – two media darlings who have secured places among the Top 20 finalists for Miss Jamaica World 2015! While Tomlinson, who first appeared on our radar as a festival queen a few years ago, wears the sash Miss Spa Aesthetique, Soares is Miss Monfose Hair Care Series. The gorgeous gals clearly impressed the judges at last Sunday’s first-round eliminations at the Jamaica Pegasus, where 39 hopefuls were whittled down to the top 20. It’s anyone’s guess who will walk away with the crown at the grand coronation on August 15, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, but judging by the early buzz Soares and Tomlinson have been generating they currently rank among the strongest candidates for the 2015 title. “Talia stands a very good chance of going all the way, and Krystal has experience to her advantage. But we’ll just have to wait and see,” an inside source tells TALLAWAH.

RUNS IN THE FAMILY: Who knew? National sprint champion Asafa Powell, whose superimpressive form is the talk of the own, is being coached by none other than his big brother Donovan Powell, a former top sprinter at the high-school level, who says the former MVP athlete’s much-publicized positive test for a banned substance served to bring the family closer together to weather the crisis. “It hit us very hard as a family because my father always says if a leaf falls off a tree, it should fall on the next son’s shoulders,” Powell recently told an interviewer. “So it hit me as hard as it hit him….. I was as depressed as he was, but our family is very religious and God saw us through.”

STAYING POWER: Where did the original vision for Reggae Sumfest spring from? How do the conceptualizers feel now looking back? “We all had a dream 23 years ago and decided to take a risk. When we look at it now, it did not seem to be a lot of money, but it was a lot of money,” Summerfest Productions’ Johnny Gourzong dished to reporters last Tuesday night as the 2015 iteration of the internationally acclaimed music festival was being launched at the Iberostar Suites in Montego Bay. “We have had our challenges, but we have survived.”

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ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Why Colin Channer’s Providential is our most anticipated book of the year

MAN OF HIS WORD: Honest reflection and humour course throughout Channer's poetry debut.

Talk about a long wait. It’s been well over a decade since Colin Channer graced bookstore shelves with a new release to join the ranks of his fictional bestsellers Waiting in Vain, Satisfy My Soul and The Girl with the Golden Shoes.

Now, the Jamaican-American scribe, chief founder of the Calabash International Literary Festival, is getting set to break his lengthy self-imposed hiatus with the publication of his debut collection of poems, Providential (Akashic), an anthology centred on an unlikely hero: the Jamaican policeman.

At the same time, Providential heralds a slight creative departure for Channer, whose fans have come to associate him with razor-sharp prose laced with wit, humour and keen observations.

But critics and colleagues of the author say readers needn’t worry, as Providential more than holds its own as a deeply impressive first collection. “Channer has written a fine set of poems that, like classical myth, starts with the search for the lost father and ends with the found son,” reports bestselling author Russell Ebanks, “the poet in the process replacing the lost father with the found self.”

With this anthology, Channer’s writing life makes a quantum leap forward, taking him that much closer to the ranks of Olive Senior, Lorna Goodison, and Kwame Dawes (among others), who are known for bodies of work that move almost seamlessly between the poetic and the prosaic.

And, by all accounts, it’s an achievement for Channer attained through creative risk that pays off. “Not since Claude McKay’s Constab Ballads of 1912 has a writer attempted to tackle the unlikely figure of the Jamaican policeman,” proclaim publishers Akashic Books. “These poems manage to turn intimate relationships between a man and his father, a man and his mothers, a man and his country, and a man and his children into something akin to grace.”

What’s more, the diversity of the collection’s offerings is also bound to delight Channer’s loyalists. “The collection achieves an intimate and lyrical meditation on family, policing, loss and violence,” Akashic further notes. “But the work is enlivened by humour, tenderness and the rich possibilities that come from honest reflection.”

> Channer, whose poems have appeared in Renaissance Noir and Harvard Review, currently resides in New England. Providential goes on sale Septempber 1.

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FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK: Kingston, MoBay, and Jamaica’s festival culture on a high

CAMERA READY: Dahlia Harris, Rodney Campbell and Carole Beckford attending the Jamaica Film Festival launch. (Below) David Marchand and Chloe Walters-Wallace at Devon House for KOTE 2015.

At the height of the just-concluded Kingston on the Edge urban arts festival, one of the key players TALLAWAH interviewed at length was workhorse co-organizer Enola Williams, who revealed that the impetus driving the organizing committee year after year is the desire to highlight to the rest of the world some of the positive things happening in city Kingston – at a time when we are in dire need of a corrective to the doom and gloom of crime and a badly performing economy.

Anyone who stepped out to support KOTE’s 2015 events across city Kingston this past week would agree with our conclusion that, once again, it’s mission accomplished.

From the brilliant showcasing of new art, fresh and revelatory documentaries, exciting new artistic talents on show, and contributions from established master who continue to thrill, provoke and challenge Generation Next (Barrington Watson, David Marchand, take a bow), there was no shortage of highlights. To Enola and the team, a big brava!

Kingston on the Edge 2015 cast a keen, generous eye on the evolution of the arts community – the status quo and where are heading triumphantly. And what was revealed gives us hope. In short, the culture – its rich bounty – is still giving us reason to smile. But it goes without saying that the emerging generation has their work cut out for them in keeping it so.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Jamaican cultural festivals are having a moment, and we are all the better for it. As it turns out, the climaxing of KOTE has made way for the commencement of GATTFest, which is fast establishing a cool reputation of its own. And very, very soon history will be made when the Jamaica Film Festival, at long last, makes its grand debut, running from July 7-11 and giving the film industry a much-needed boon. Yes! We can’t thank Jampro and the Jamaica Film Commission enough for going above and beyond to make the festival a reality. We look forward to its inaugural success.

And because the summer months are upon us, attention naturally turns also to the JCDC’s raft of upcoming activities, leading into the Emancipendence celebrations, under the apt theme, “Proud & Free: Jamaica 53.” 

This year I am giddily happy that returning for its second staging is the Aunty Roachy Film & TV Fest (August 3), where nostalgia, Jamaican classics, and vintage flashback moments will command the spotlight in honour of Miss Lou, at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre. Of course, TALLAWAH will be providing masses of coverage of all the JCDC events.

And last, but by no means least, Reggae Sumfest 2015 promises a blockbuster showcase that should draw record nightly crowds to Catherine Hall over the July 12-18 period – with Montego Bay sending a strong message that Kingston may be the cultural capital of the island and the region, but MoBay is also where it’s at.

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Monday, 29 June 2015

QUOTES OF THE WEEK: Sound bytes from Andrew Holness, Omar Holness, Asafa Powell, and more

“This is a new me. I’m just enjoying it. No big deal. Over the years I used to make it a big deal and put pressure on myself. Now I’m just going to relax and do what I have to do.” Sub-10 king Asafa Powell addressing his impressive form in 100M at the National Senior Trials in Kingston on the weekend 

“The rise of criminality in the Caribbean region, I would say, is inextricably linked to the increasing proliferation of small arms and light weapons, or firearms and its associated ammunition, resulting in higher mortality rates and increasing fear in the community. The detrimental impact of these arms propelled CARICOM to the top of global homicide statistics, while adversely impacting socio-economic development.”  Calixtus Joseph of the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security endorsing a call for the regional body to take a more proactive approach to the fight against crime 

“In my opinion the best players in the world have to play under pressure. If there is no pressure then the performance will be at its lowest. But I honestly don’t believe that there is too much pressure because I know that the selected players will go out there and do their utmost best.” Captain Omar Holness on the U-23 Reggae Boyz rising above challenges ahead of the CFU Olympic qualifiers 

“The public’s comments are not always informed by facts, and in the gap between the facts and what the detractors try to manipulate is a lot of room for mischief. We have heard some ridiculous figures being banded about cost. If I had that magnitude of funds I would be finished building a long time ago. Juliet and I often laugh to ourselves when we hear the things people speculate. If they only knew the hard work we put in.” Opposition Leader Andre Holness responding to flak over the home he and wife Juliet have been building for the past three years in upper St. Andrew 

“I believe universities overseas offer more comprehensive degree programmes with better internship opportunities. That’s the main reason I went with Versan, doing the SATs and applying for a university overseas. Additionally, I wanted to get new opportunities outside of Jamaica and experience new cultures. My daily motivation is finding out new things about the world.”  Campion College grad Romain Jones, Versan’s top SAT performer for 2015, who scored 2,220 points (out of a possible 2,400). He’ll be attending Columbia University in the upcoming academic year to pursue a B.Sc in Applied Mathematics

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Saturday, 27 June 2015

GROWN AND SEXY: Songbird Stephanie brings the heat to Redbones for Catharsis launch

DREAM TEAM: The lady of the hour  flanked by guest performers Double R and Javada.

The atmosphere was simply electric: a near seamless blend of edgy production design, gorgeous mood lighting, surround sound and tight piercing vocals, as sugar-and-spice songstress Stephanie brought her burgeoning career full circle with the launch of her funky new solo album, Catharsis, before a full house at the Redbones Blues Café in St. Andrew on Thursday night.

Working with a sharply well-tuned backing band – and occasionally sharing the spotlight with guest performers Lymie Murray, Double R and Javada, Stephanie served Rihanna fierceness and unbridled energy all night. Sexily clad in black hot pants, a matching top and a red-hot bob, the pint-sized songbird was in her ackee as she laced the crowd with tunes from the 15-track disc and a couple of covers peppering her performance with anecdotes, inspirational flashbacks, and thank-yous to all those who had a hand in bringing Catharsis to life.

While she dueted beautifully with Double R (“Grown and Sexy”), Lymie Murray (“Two Hearts” and Javada (“Have Me”), Stephanie needed only her pair of competent backing vocalists to hit the mark with “Coming Home”, “Shades of Grey” “Battlefield” and the scorching opener “Let It Be”.

“This album is like a documentary of my journey so far. You’re witnessing a rebirth,” the singer told TALLAWAH of the record, independently released by her own Havatio Music label, that showcases her versatility and growth as a writer and vocalist. In short, it’s the artistic breakthrough she’s been waiting for and the start of a bold new chapter she’s certain her growing fanbase will appreciate.

“A lot of people thought the album was going to be called Grown and Sexy,” she recalls, laughing. “But Catharsis better symbolizes where I am now. I promise you it’s an amazing piece of work.” 

DYNAMIC DUO: Aisha Davis and Mario Evon stepped out to support their homegirl.

SISTER, SISTER:  Longtime pals sharing a girlfriend moment Stephanie and Davis, who contributed testimony to the album's opening track. 
 ON HER OWN: The singer flaunted her sense of individual style.

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Friday, 26 June 2015

SEEN ON THE SCENE: David Boxer + Ayanna Dixon + Gary Ferguson + Chloe Walters-Wallace + the Shepherd Brothers

WE ARE FAMILY: June 11, Kingston. A close-knit quartet that’s been harmonizing and thrilling crowds in their native Frankfield, Clarendon – and elsewhere – for the last eight years and counting, the Shepherd Brothers (Kevon McLean, Marc Foster, Edward Foster and Stephen Richards), pictured here at the Jamaica Pegasus, have landed a coveted spot among the 10 finalists vying for top honours in this year’s JCDC National Gospel Song Competition with “Jesus Remember Me.” Looking ahead, the bandmates (who live by the creed “bringing light to music”) have set their sights on impacting lives through their growing ministry. “We want to mentor young people,” shares McLean, “and being one of the finalists this year is a platform we are making us of.” (Photo: TALLAWAH)

FRONT AND CENTRE: June 21, Kingston. Members of the local yoga community were out in their numbers at the National Indoor Sports Centre last Sunday evening, as Art of Living Jamaica and the Jamaica Yoga Association teamed up to host a mini retreat in honour of International Yoga Day. Here, a team of instructors gather onstage following a round of deep breathing techniques and meditation exercises. (Photo: TALLAWAH)

IN THE FRAME: June 22, St. Andrew. The Devonshire at Devon House recently played host to the premiere of Tsunami Scarecrow, a short documentary charting the artistic life and legacy of reclusive Jamaican painter David Marchand. Art-world icon David Boxer, who gives testimony in the documentary, shared lens time with friend Sonia Mills and the project’s director Chloe Walters-Wallace, a Jamaican-born filmmaker currently based in New Orleans. (Photo: TALLAWAH)

HAPPY PEOPLE: June 23, St. Andrew. All roads lead to the Folly Ruins on Sunday July 5 for the 15th anniversary staging of the Portland Jerk Festival, which got a lively and fair-sized launch at Barbican Beach on Tuesday night. Jerk king Gary Ferguson, who’s bringing his skills to the festival this year, was only too happy to present giveaway winner Tara Wilson with a pair of complimentary tickets. (Photo: TALLAWAH)

FLY GIRLS: June 25, Kingston. Busier than a bee these days and rocking an edgy new look, designer and fashionista Ayanna Dixon (left) was among the artists showing their latest work (Dixon displayed a series of her couture sketches) at a Kingston on the Edge group exhibition at the Spanish Court Hotel Wednesday night. Fellow Mission Catwalk alum and Belizean it girl Rebecca Stirm, currently on vacay in Jamaica, also put in an appearance. (Photo: TALLAWAH)

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Barrington Watson remembers the tough early years – and rising to the occasion

MASTER CLASS: Watson (centre), with students Katrina Abrahams and Sebastian Elliott; (below) Elliott and Abrahams catch up.

On reflection Barrington Watson is well aware that his life could have turned out a hundred different ways, given the myriad talents he developed as a youth. But, ultimately, the lure of the art world proved too powerful for him to resist, reeling him in like a prize catch.

“I chose to be an artist but my father wanted me to become a lawyer. I was a good footballer and had many opportunities to play football in England, and I could have done just about any other profession. But I found art to be the most difficult,” explains the legendary artist, who relishes the thrill of conquering creative challenges. “I like to be challenged, and it’s interesting to do things that in the beginning you never understood. You find out. It’s a talent I have been given, and by gaining knowledge I was better able to use my talent.”

TALLAWAH spent time talking with Watson on Thursday evening at the well-appointed Gallery Barrington on Old Hope Road in St. Andrew, as a couple of his most talented students – Sebastian Elliott and Katrina Abrahams – joined him for the Kingston On The Edge session, “From Master to Student.”

Undoubtedly a master of his craft with the iconic body of work, the prestigious accolades and international acclaim to show for his 50-plus years in the art business, Watson makes visual art seem as effortless as a layup. But, by his own admission, nothing could be further from the truth. “It’s never smooth sailing. You have to dig deep. Before I became successful I had to do quite a few menial jobs to stay alive,” he reflects. “But the greatest thing I experienced through doing art is that it takes you to all levels of society. There was no question about class, uptown, downtown. Art crosses all the lines.”

Lighting up the room in a sunshine-yellow shirt and warmly greeting guests as they come up to his chair, the 84-year-old visionary says he finds joy and takes immense pride in “imparting knowledge” and seeing his style and techniques reflected in work produced by his students.
For their part, Abrahams, 38, and Elliott, 30, know how incredibly lucky they are to be able to sit at the feet of one of the world’s greatest living painters. “He’s a teacher at heart; a very patient and giving man,” is how Abrahams describes her beloved “Barry.” Adds Elliott, “I see him as someone who not only teaches but encourages you and gives you guidance. He’s a very humble man, but he doesn’t believe in second place.”

For all his accomplishments and living-legend stature, modesty becomes Barrington Watson. Still, he’s not afraid to toot his own horn every now and again. “I think that as an artist I achieved what I set out to achieve,” says Watson, who is nearly finished working on a piece titled “The Bathers of Roselle”. “And what I have seen from history is that I am better than a whole lot of other artists. And I’m not unhappy about that.”

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BETWEEN THE PAGES: Kevin Downswell’s The Search Continues gets summer release date

Earlier this year Kevin Downswell revealed to TALLAWAH readers that he was in the process of completing a motivational tome that would provide fresh insight into his evolution as a musician and Christian minister, while sharing some hard-earned wisdom he hopes will empower and inspire those who pick up a copy. True to his word, Downswell is now gearing up for the summer release of The Search Continues (KD Ministries), which will be launched on Saturday, July 25, at Alternative Music Limited (5 Keesing Avenue), the home of Keesing Live. But that’s not all. As it happens, the book launch represents only half of the festivities Kevin has planned for patrons who come out to support. A live concert in celebration of the book’s release will rock the venue immediately after, with performances by Omari, D-Murphy and the On the Shout Band, among other friends of KD Ministries. Part proceeds from the event will benefit the I Fed One Foundation. For more information and to book tickets, contact Source of Light, the Music Mart or Sam Wisdom Music.

>> TALLAWAH PICKS: Two more summer reads to consider:

CHAPTER TWO: Few classics explore Big Themes of race, class and humanity with the verve and universal resonance of To Kill a Mockingbird. That’s one of the reasons author Harper Lee’s long-gestating follow-up Go Set a Watchman (Harper Publishers) is such an avidly awaited release. Featuring many of the characters from Mockingbird who are now leading new lives 20 years later, Watchman revolves around the very likeable Scout, who returns to her deep South roots to reconnect with dear ol’ dad Atticus – a reunion that touches off issues both personal and political. [288 pages; Slated for release July 14]

HEAT WAVE: If you thought February’s big-screen rendering of Fifty Shades of Grey was the last time the world would hear from Christian Grey, think again. Back by popular demand, the obsessed-about billionaire with the questionable ‘tastes’ narrates Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as told by Christian (Vintage), in which author E.L. James shed new light on the “love story” that enthralled millions of readers, giving us a window into Christian’s psyche – his deepest thoughts, reflections and dreams. Fire extinguisher not included. [576 pages; In store now]

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15 YEARS LATER: Portland Jerk Festival celebrates the evolution of a Jamaican original

TASTE MAKERS: Chantrelle and Fung share a close up at the festival's launch on Tuesday.

For Bobby Chantrelle, the Portland Jerk Festival belongs to the people of Portland, but it remains an excellent vehicle for showcasing the wonders of Jamaican jerk to the rest of the world. “One of our major goals this year is to let the visitors from around the world know that this is where jerk started, this is where it all begin, and it’s time to take the world by storm,” said Chantrelle, speaking with TALLAWAH at the 15th anniversary launch of the popular tourist event at Barbican Beach on Tuesday. “What the festival has done for Portland is just remarkable to the point where it has become the signature tourist event in the parish, and this year feels like a step up to the next level.”

A special milestone like birthday number 15, where the emphasis is on the continued evolution of jerk as a culinary benchmark, is not to be taken lightly. The new-look Folly Ruins will play host to the event on Sunday, July 5; Chicago’s own master chef Judson Todd Allen will be flying in to whip up a few of his specialties for the crowd; and celebrity chefs like Suzanne Couch, Gary Ferguson and Lorraine Fung are planning to put on a show of their own.

“Fifteen is a young age, but it means that Portland Jerk Festival is growing. At this point the festival can only evolve and get bigger and better,” Fung told us during a rare break from her jerk pan. “That the world is craving Jamaican jerk is something we should be celebrating and show the world how proud we are of it.”

And while Chantrelle and his fellow organizers brainstorm to come up with strategies to better cater to patrons this year (shorter food lines!), he is predicting another stellar staging, hands down, featuring top local and international chefs working their magic to serve a mouth-watering feast of gourmet jerk and traditional jerk favourites. Also in the mix: show-stopping acts Rodney Price, Voicemail, JCDC finalist and Kevin Downswell providing the entertainment package. 

“The Portland Jerk Festival is a Jamaican food festival with Jamaican entertainment but with a global reach,” Chantrelle says. “This year in particular we are proud to be highlighting Jamaican jerk to the world. Traditional jerk is still the foundation, but it’s interesting what the different foreign chefs have done with their interpretations of it.”

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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

FRESH TRACKS: Get your summer started with these 5 radio-ready jams

“Make My Day”
Platinum Camp Records
Sharing an effortless camaraderie like brothers from another, this dynamic duo is poised to rule summer radio with their new instant smash that not only celebrates being in the kind of relationship that brightens your world and lifts you up but captures the ‘wow’ feeling of sharing it with The One. [A-] Take a listen.

“Favourite Boy”
Country Bus Riddim
From day one Miss Laughton has been the wide-eyed wonder girl reminding us through song that love conquers all. The seductive reggae-soul queen stays true to her trademark formula on this melodic jam that simply mesmerizes and has to be played more than a couple times. Trust. [A]. Take a listen.

“Only For You”
Country Bus Riddim
Nathaniel Hewitt’s growth as a singer-songwriter is nothing short of commendable. The evolution is till on in earnest and you can hear some of the awesome results on this latest release that features his passionate vocals and a delivery so captivating it stops you in your tracks. Natel is at home crooning about the affairs of the heart, and once again he connects with a tune that resonates. [B+] Take a listen.

“Make Love Under The Influence”
Mildew Riddim
Call him Mr. Satisfaction! The reggae-R&B star, whose October EP is one of the most anticipated releases of the year, makes like a Don Juan-gone-rogue on this hypnotic track, powered by a slick beat and lyrics straight from the Martin school of grown-folks’ business.[B+] Take a listen.

Ghetto Youths International
The most powerful – yet solemn and prayerful – anthem of the season, the newest offering from Third World finds the iconic band (boasting a few fresh faces) waxing philosophical about freedom and spirituality while giving their fans easily their most sublime record in recent years. That the track was produced by Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley is its own high recommendation. [A]. Take a listen.

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ON THE RECORD: Musician Seretse Small on fatherhood, success, and plans for the road ahead

TRIPLE THREAT: Small (centre), Webster and Harris get in performance mode at The Devonshire.

On Monday evening at the Devonshire, Devon House, avante-garde musician Seretse Small unveiled his latest body of work: an awe-inspiring suite of jazz-inflected instrumentals exploring the powerful imagery in the work of renowned and reclusive artist David Marchand, who has mounted a new exhibition, his first solo showing in over a decade, dubbed “Tsunami Scarecrow”.

Of course, such an auspicious occasion calls for nothing but the best, and the master guitarist (accompanied by Warrren Harris and Mijanne Webster, also on strings) did not disappoint, serving up some truly beautiful strains that left patrons spellbound as the artwork themselves bore witness from their places on the wall. If nothing else, what we heard paid testament to Seretse’s constantly evolving skills and his resourcefulness as an artist ever challenging himself. TALLAWAH caught up with the 47-year-old afterward to talk about creativity, his phenomenal mom, and all that jazz.

TALLAWAH: Every so often you’re tackling something fresh and innovative. What’s left for you to accomplish?
Seretse Small: A lot. I want to build up my music school, the Avant Music Academy. I want it to become a full-fledged institution that is known throughout the Caribbean. At the moment we have 96 students and 13 teachers, and the goal is to become a premier music college. When I fully retire, I want to become a major composer. I want to do more film scores. I want to mine Jamaican music; I feel there’s so much more to dig into. I want to create music education solutions that meet the needs of our people.

TALLAWAH: How did you spend Father’s Day this past weekend?
S.S.: My [23-year-old] daughter is in New York, but she called me in the morning. I had a celebratory chocolate cake, then I went right back to composing music for tonight.

TALLAWAH: When it comes to writing and composing music generally, where do your interests lie? 
S.S.: Jamaica doesn’t provide a lot of opportunities for certain kinds of composing, so I have to get as creative as possible. But I’ve always wanted to be a film composer. My mother was a huge influence on me when I was younger because of her involvement in the theatre – imagery and the art of telling a story. I did the score for [New Caribbean Cinema’s] Ring Di Alarm. It was a great experience, so I want to do more work like that.

TALLAWAH: Local jazz musicians don’t seem to get as many opportunities to shine as their reggae and dancehall counterparts. Your thoughts.
S.S.: We are not a jazz culture; the Jamaican audience is not conditioned for jazz, so you’re really challenged to do that kind of work. But I’m looking forward to seeing how we can devise our kind of improvisation language. I think dancehall has already given us a good head start.

TALLAWAH: It’s astonishing how your mom Jean Small continues to evolve and excel as a writer and performer to this day.
S.S.: Everything she gets is well deserved. I’ve been with her and seen her work, and I kept telling her, You’re great, you’re phenomenal. And she would just laugh. So seeing her get all these accolades now, it’s like, You’re all just coming to the party.

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QUIET STORM: Artist David Marchand’s elusive genius buoys up Tsunami Scarecrow

I, DAVID: A new film sheds light on the icon's brilliant art and troubled past.

What do you want to know about David Marchand? That he’s been recognized as a revolutionary presence in Jamaica’s emerging art scene in the back in the day? That his paintings, characterized by humour, lush textures and vivid landscapes, have been hailed as everything from “wildly imaginative” to “absolutely brilliant”? Or that, by his own admission, one day on a whim, at the height of his youth, he burned his mother’s house to the ground and has spent time getting psychiatric evaluation at institutions like Kingston’s own Bellevue Hospital? 

Yes, the stories of talented-and-troubled artists don’t get more complex and utterly fascinating than that of David Marchand, a Rastafarian son of St. Catherine, whose dynamic and very eventful life gets a revelatory cinematic telling in Tsunami Scarecrow, a 20-minute documentary (a work-in-progress) from debutante filmmaker Chloe Walters- Wallace, who puts a compassionate and very candid spin on the man behind the myths. 

“I want people to know that David is, first of all, a complete human being,” the New Orleans-based filmmaker tells TALLAWAH. “You hear all these different stories about him, but while researching and interviewing him and people who have worked with him I realized that there is a lot about [David] that is misunderstood. I’ve learned so much from him, and I hope that through his work and by watching the film others will too.” 

Soon to be fleshed out into a much longer feature (about 5o minutes), Tsunami Scarecrow’s highlights included candid moments with Marchand, a Jamaica College old boy, reflecting on his journey – landing a scholarship to study in New York, rubbing shoulders with big wigs in the Greenwich Village, his deportation from the States, his subsequent bouts with mental turmoil. 

There are also testimonials from Jamaican art-world connoisseurs like Susan Fredericks and David Boxer who run out of superlatives to describe Marchand’s creations. “What attracted me to David’s work was that so much of it was uniquely expressive,” Boxer says. “He fit into what we call Neo-Dada. In America you have the Jasper Johns; here in Jamaica we have David Marchand.” 

Today, David Marchand is 71 and residing in Runaway Bay, St. Ann. (He was born in Old Harbour in 1944.) With an ever-expanding body of work, he remains an inspired, active and sane artist. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

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