Thursday, 30 July 2015

WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE: Filmmaker Mary Wells gets an eye-opening experience with Kingston Paradise

'PARADISE' FOUND: Wells, Daley and Munair Zacca celebrating the film's premiere at the Jamaica Film Festival.

“I come from a family of strong, critical thinkers, and they had a lasting impression on me,” explains Mary Wells, the filmmaker who, in the face of insurmountable odds, brought us Kingston Paradise, which has gone on to secure acclaim locally, regionally and internationally. “Growing up, you learned to have courage and how to articulate your ideas. I was brought up in that kind of a family. So by the time I got to college I had acquired a number of different skills and was passionate about many different things.” On that long list are still photography, costuming and writing drama and comedy for the stage and the screen. And, as it turns out, while making Kingston Paradise all these talents came in handy for Wells.

Spinning the hilarious, occasionally touching and frequently sobering story of a likeable crook (Chris ‘Johnny’ Daley), his sidekick (Gregory Nelson) and lady friend (Camille Small), Wells serves up a modern-day Jamaican parable exploring themes of loyalty, ambition, dignity and the combustible combination of crime and poverty in the inner-city. Taking in the finished product is one thing; to hear Wells recount the six-year journey it took to bring the project to audiences is quite another. “When I look back on where we started in 2009 to get to this point, I feel a sense of accomplishment,” she reflects, during an interview with TALLAWAH at the Spanish Court Hotel, her gray curls framing her face, her backpack perched on her lap.

“Making the film was such an intense, intimate six-year workshop. We had very little money, but we got it done. I’m a 28-year veteran of the business, and working on this project taught me lessons I will never forget.”

In the end, Mary concedes that the overall experience, particularly the tough weeks spent on-set in the rough-and-tumble Southside and Tel Aviv, was well worth it. In addition to picking up the Programmer’s Award at the Pan African Film fest in Los Angeles in 2013, Kingston Paradise won Best Diaspora Feature at the Africa Movie Awards in Nigeria in 2014 and copped an Audience Award at the last CaribbeanTales Film Festival in Toronto.

Though the film wasn’t an award winner at the Jamaica Film Festival earlier this month, it screened to largely positive reviews inside a packed Courtleigh Auditorium. If Mary was disappointed to leave the festival’s closing ceremony empty-handed she’s not saying. What matters, she does profess, is that the film got its Jamaican debut at long last. “I’m glad they accepted it and we got to screen it for a sample Jamaican audience for the first time. That was my objective and we achieved it,” she says. “Hopefully, we will be able to release it in local cinemas before the end of the year.”

It’s a man’s world, the popular saying goes. The film world included, Mary Wells is forced to conclude. “Globally, there are certain challenges that women filmmakers have. Do I feel marginalized here in Jamaica? I felt the gender differences more than ever while shooting,” she recalls. “Being a woman calling the shots, it was hard. I was fighting to be heard. And it’s unfortunate. But you find that it’s part of the industry, so it’s not unique to me.”

An increase in the number of women filmmakers putting out feature-length films in Jamaica is possible, Mary believes, once adequate funding is available. “You find that a lot of the women starting out in the industry are limited to shorts because the money just isn’t there. Making Kingston Paradise I was fortunate to get a little support from the CHASE Fund, a European entity and the CPTC,” says the director, who also managed to secure a distribution deal with a company based in Los Angeles. 

Does she have any advice for aspiring and emerging Jamaican filmmakers who want to get their voices heard? “Remain highly focused and know what it is that you want. It’s about the journey not the end result. I cannot emphasize that enough,” says Wells, whose own personal journey took her from Kingston to George Washington University and Miami Dade College, where she studied television production and theatre arts. “For me, making a film is like going on a long journey up a steep hill. You’ll slip and slide plenty, but you should pick yourself back up. I am still on that journey.”




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ON THE RECORD: Gospel crooner D-Murphy talks fatherhood, his musical hustle, and taking risks

ART & LIFE: "You become a lot more aware of your goals," says the singer of getting older; (below) With fans at Keesing Live.

When gospel singer D-Murphy hits centrestage he unleashes a persona so full of life that you can’t help but bounce along to his unique blend of hosannas and spirit-lifting praise. What’s more, the 30-year-old exudes the experience and stagecraft of an entertainer twice his age and size (he stands at about 5’6”), which makes his artistry all the more compelling. After a few years on the gospel scene, D-Murphy is ready to formally introduce himself to Jamaica, with the impending release of The Framework, his debut EP that’s bound to help solidify his place among the new vanguard of Jamaican gospel music. TALLAWAH recently caught up with the new dad and former Papine High student (nĂ© Dwayne Murphy) to talk about flying solo as an independent artiste, becoming a father for the first time, and dealing with adversity.

TALLAWAH: You used to be a key member of the Radikal Yawd crew, but you’ve left that camp to fly solo. Is it scary being on your own right now?

D-Murphy: It can be. But who better to shape your career than you? I take care of all my management stuff, but I work with Spurr Music, who does my booking.

TALLAWAH: What has been the biggest adversity you’ve had to overcome? 
D-Murphy: Believing in myself. When you become used to people telling you that you can’t, you start to doubt yourself, but once you believe that you can do whatever it is that you say you want to do, that confidence helps to get you through. So believing in myself was the biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome. 

TALLAWAH: How do you juggle all those responsibilities and still maintain your spiritual core? 
D-Murphy: I have an amazing wife, Stephanie Murphy. She helps me stay grounded and humble. She’s my business partner, my life partner, and my best friend. She’s the one who tells me when I’m having a big head. (Laughs). 

TALLAWAH: Gospel artistes are now releasing EPs with alarming regularity like everyone else. How essential is this medium in an artiste’s career today? 

D-Murphy: I would say it’s become very essential. Sometimes you’re not ready to release a full album, but you don’t want to release just one song. With an EP you can experiment and introduce a variety of styles to your listeners. My EP that’s coming out soon is a good example, because it’s a mix of worship, R&B flavour, a little hip-hop and reggae. 
TALLAWAH: You became a dad for the first time two weeks ago. Congrats! Are you ready for the adventure? 
D-Murphy: I’m excited but a bit scared. Excited in the sense that I get to raise a son and protect and provide for him, but you become scared when you think of the world you’ll be bringing him up in. So I want to be a father who relies on God’s guidance, so my son will have that part of me to emulate as well. 

TALLAWAH: How else has life changed for you, since you entered your 30s? 
D-Murphy: I’m more of a doer. You become a lot more aware of your goals and the time factor. In a sense, maturity takes over. 

TALLAWAH: Indeed. So what do you want your musical legacy to be ultimately? 
D-Murphy: I want to do music that will last for generations. I want my songs to still be impacting people’s lives 50 years from now. I want people to say that he left something behind that is priceless; there’s heart in it and there’s truth in it.




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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

STAGE LEFT: What’s new, what’s next, what’s trending on Jamaica’s theatre scene (and Broadway)

Akeem Mignott may be a young leading man on the rise, but the talented actor is also quietly building a solid presence in the realm of media and television. In addition to a recurring gig as Jenny Jenny’s co-host on Dancin’ Dynamites, Mignott now lends his star power and energy to new-kid-on-the-block channel FEVA TV as an on-air talent. Mignott and other members of the FEVA team were spotted all over Montego Bay last weekend, on the occasion of Reggae Sumfest, scoring interviews with everyone from dancehall’s finest to International Night headliner Common. As for his red-hot acting career, Mignott was last seen on stage co-starring with Glen Campbell and Natalee Cole in Hurricane Honeymoon at the Little Theatre.
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Even as Ole Fyah Stick continues to flash sparks, thrilling audiences on the road from Kingston to Montego Bay, Deon Silvera and Dahlia Harris are already plotting their next creative partnership. Silvera was also in the Second City for Reggae Sumfest last weekend and told TALLAWAH that she’s already booked to costar in Harris’ next play for DMH Productions, which premieres in December. Prior to Ole Fyah Stick, the dynamic duo previously collaborated on shows like Jamaica 2 Rahtid, Back A Yaad, and Judgment.
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Recording new music and working on her well-anticipated next album (a follow-up to the incredible Sunday Kind of Love) has kept Keisha Patterson busy and out of the spotlight, but we hear she’s making a big theatrical comeback this summer. According to our sources, the singer-actress, last seen in Paternal Instinct at the Pantry and Ladies of the Night at Centrestage, is bringing her versatile acting skills and terrific vocals to the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company’s At the Barricades, a brash musical loosely based on the classic Les Miserables, playing at the Philip Sherlock Centre in August. More to come.
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Following her first appearance on a Jamaican concert stage, Jennifer Hudson is gearing up to make her debut appearances on a Broadway stage. The Oscar and Grammy winner has landed the coveted role of Shug Avery in a revival of The Colour Purple, a role that will see her blending her twin passions of acting and singing in eight shows per week, starting in September. During a Q-and-A at the Reggae Sumfest press conference in Montego Bay, Hudson told TALLAWAH that preparing for the role has been understandably “challenging”, but she’s up to the task and grateful for the “discipline” that’s come along with it.
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Productions that do business on the Kingston theatre scene during the summer months are hardly, if ever at all, dedicated to the Emancipendence spirit of our forebears. Perhaps that’s because the Pantomime Company does such a fine job of covering that beat year after year, fusing music, drama and humour into an entertaining package for their annual summer show. This year’s offering Freedom Fi Who? promises another generous slice of enlightenment and wholesome family entertainment, when it plays at the Little Little Theatre on Saturday, August 1 (3:30pm and 7:30pm) and Sunday, August 2 (4:30pm). Freedom Fi Who? – A story about our ancestors’ journey to ‘full free.’




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ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: How NDTC soloist Mark Phinn found his place in the world of modern dance

POISE AND PASSION: Phinn, in fine form, performing his signature solo "Don't Leave Me."

In the galaxy of elite dancers who populate the National Dance Theatre Company’s principal corps, Mark Phinn is, quite possibly, the most enigmatic; a lavishly talented artist who shies away from the spotlight. “I’m usually the one fighting for the back. I don’t like being up front,” admits Phinn, whose medium built frame stands close to six feet, making him virtually impossible to hide when the dancers hit centrestage. In a word, Mark shines, exhibiting that winning combination of agility, technical rigour and finesse that makes him a joy to watch.

That he’s such an appealing character who can brilliantly transform mid-performance is one of the reasons it’s so interesting to hear him talk about his approach to his craft. “Dance and I have a love-hate relationship, but it is something that means the world to me,” he tells TALLAWAH, seated behind a work desk inside the company’s cozy little upstairs office on the Little Theatre complex, a day before the 2015 season is scheduled to open. “I am a very visual dancer, and I can be very hard on myself. So I’ll do a sequence and tape it and watch it over and over, and I won’t stop critiquing it. I’m very critical of myself.”

Mark Phinn the dancer could have been Mark Phinn the record-breaking track superstar. While making the transition from primary school standout to Ardenne High freshman, the boy’s phenomenal speed had everyone close to him setting their sights on athletics career if the academics didn’t work out. “I was very quick. I used to sprint on my toes, so they all thought I was a natural,” Mark remembers. But talk about a dream denied. “One day in first form I was practising on the school field, and I stepped into a sinkhole, and my knees and my ankles got seriously damaged.” 

Though everyone was saddened at such an unexpected turn of events, track-and-field’s loss was to be dance’s gain. At the dawn of the 1990s, as fate would have it, Mark was introduced to the leisure dance programme at the Edna Manley College and soon enough discovered that he had some rhythm in his bones and liked shaking his groove thang. “I kept going back and I never stopped,” he recalls. “I attended the summer school after that, and then I got invited to the training classes here [at the NDTC].”

And that’s how and where the late great Prof. Rex Nettleford entered his life. The rest, as they say, is history. “My first year with the NDTC was in 1999, doing one dance,” Mark recalls, laughing. “It might have been Gherrebenta.” But he gets serious again when paying homage to Prof. Rex. “For me, the greatest thing about being in the NDTC family is that I go to work with Prof. He was such a disciplinarian,” he says, adding that Nettleford not only took him under his wing as a rising talent in the company but took an interest in his overall well-being. “With his help and his advice I was able to improve myself a lot. I went back to school and did Library Studies at EXED. Prof. basically helped me to straighten out my life.”

And look at him now, beaming like the star boy who’s done his papa proud. Today, at age 39 (he looks more like a mischievous 25-year-old), Mark Phinn, the youngest of four kids from a political Gordon Town family, serves as the official archivist of the National Dance Theatre Company, charged with documenting the company’s history as it unfolds, while keeping tabs on their storied legacy and, as he tells it, “keeping everything in order.” “It is a bit taxing at times. There is so much history to go through. Everyday you learn something new,” says Phinn, who has also taken over the reins of the company’s presence on social media.

In the meantime, as the NDTC unveils its 2015 repertoire at the Little Theatre in Kingston this month, Mark is already looking ahead to a time when more Jamaican men will embrace the world of interpretive dance. “I don’t know why they are so scared,” he reflects. “I want to see more males become part of the local dance community.” He’s also challenging the NDTC to further widen its reach as the company heads into its seventh decade. “I would like for us to go out more into the country,” he says, “for performances and to do some workshops.” 

Alongside works by Shelly-Ann Maxwell, Troy Powell, Chris Walker, Renee McDonald and Nettleford, patrons will be treated this season to a remount of “Don’t Leave Me,” choreographed by Jamie Thompson. And Mark, of all people, won’t be able to retreat into the background to hide from the spotlight. It’s his popular solo number that positions him front and centre. Where he truly belongs. 

> GETTING TO KNOW MARK: Phinn’s Favourite Things 

MUSIC: “I enjoy listening to instrumentals and classical music. I like reggae but I’m not that big a fan.” 

FOOD: “The best thing I can cook is chicken pasta. And porridge.” 

MENTOR: “Michael Clarke, who is a former Director of Museums at the Institute of Jamaica. He is now based in the UK, but he’s one of the first persons who encouraged me to seriously pursue something in the arts.” 

TV: “I’ve started watching this new series on Netflix called Sense 8. It’s pretty cool.” 

BOOKS: “I don’t get a lot of time to read books that aren’t NDTC-related or dance-related. I like that whenever people ask questions about the company I can answer convincingly.”




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MAN OF THE MOMENT: Gospel sensation Kevin Downswell charts a fascinating course as entertainer and evolver

'STRONGER' THAN EVER: At present, Downswell is the most in-demand artiste on the local gospel scene.

Kevin Downswell is transformation personified. Like so many artistes of his ilk, it’s an evolution that encompasses both his personal and artistic journies. “A lot of people don’t know my real story. When I was a teenager if you walked past me at the bus stop and said Hello, it felt like the world to me. My self-esteem was so low. I thought of myself as nothing,” the singer confessed, as he performed for scores of his fans at Keesing Live on Saturday. Then he added this: “So many times our circumstances, if we are not careful, can be so thick that they create another us.”

Kevin is the living proof, but even at his lowest ebb, he had no doubt as to who was ordering his steps and steering him toward his destiny. Fast-forward a couple of decades from those difficult teenage years and Downswell has morphed into a successful, very stylish and supremely confident version of his talented self – with a gorgeous, supportive wife on his arm and a burgeoning empire that now spans music (two stellar solo albums), ministry (the vibrant KD Ministries) and the written word (the newly published The Serarch Continues).

Today, as a man well into his 30s, Kevin Downswell’s cup runneth over. He’s undoubtedly the most in-demand Jamaican-based gospel artiste in the biz right now (he’ll be everywhere this summer, including Sunday’s big Denbigh gospel splash), he just celebrated a birthday, published a motivational book and has a third album dropping later this year. Capping it all? The abiding respect and admiration of peers and loyalists.



> A JOLLY GOOD FELLOW: Why we celebrate Kevin Downswell

ARNOLD KELLY: “He is not in a box. He appeals to and effectively ministers to people from all walks of life. His music very inviting, and it makes you stop and think. It’s very hard to listen to a Kevin Downswell song and miss the message.”

BASILLIA BARNABY-CUFFE: “We are so happy with the direction that God is taking him. It’s good to see the ministers branching out. We are talented people. Fear and doubt have a way of crippling children of God, so whenever you feel driven to do something you have to just do it.” 

JERMAINE EDWARDS: “He represents excellence in gospel music, and I like to see when Christians ah go up. When you see people doing good music, support them. As gospel artistes we need the public to back us because the secular [artistes] have people backing them.”

MARSHA DOWNSWELL: “He is a people person. He is where the people are and he reaches out to them. He is coming from an honest place. Being on this journey with him is so humbling, so amazing. Sometimes it’s just like ‘Wow.”




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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

PHOTO DIARY: Kevin Downswell and friends gather for book launch and praise party

His empowering and deeply felt lyrics have a way of pulling worshippers together like bees to honey, so it wasn’t at all surprising to see the hundreds-strong numbers flock to 5 Keesing Avenue on Saturday evening to show Kevin Downswell some support as the celebrated gospel minister launched his new book, The Search Continues, and headlined a live concert immediately after, featuring guest appearances by fellow Christian soldiers D-Murphy, Omari and the On The Shout band. (Also spotted in the mix: Henley Morgan, Jermaine Edwards and songstress Cherine.) Published in Kingston by Minna Press, The Search Continues shares the context, motivations and inspirations behind some of the singer-songwriter’s most memorable praise-and-worship anthems, as well as candid reflections on his journey so far. It’s a 98-page must-read if the word-of-mouth reviews are anything to go by. Below, TALLAWAH shares a few faces-in-the-crowd moments from Saturday’s well-attended event: 

GUIDING LIGHTS: Long known for their encouragement of young gospel talents, Glory Music’s Tommy Cowan and Carlene Davis were happy to share a photo-op with the industry’s man of the moment. 

WONDER WOMEN: Fresh-faced beauty and television hostess Kerie ‘Kiki’ Thombs (left), who served as emcee at the book launch, bonded with Carlene Davis

TWO OF A KIND: The dynamic Nadine Blair (right), pictured here with friend Adriana, was also in attendance, repping the family station Love FM, one of the media sponsors of the event. 

PERSONAL TOUCH: The lines grew longer by the minute, but KD showed some stamina as he signed dozens of copies of his book for patrons, with his doting wife, Marsha, by his side. 

ON THE SPOT: It was all Marsha’s idea, of course, to surprise her hubby with a belated birthday cake as he wrapped up his performance on the main stage, much to the delight of the crowd.




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Thursday, 23 July 2015

CHAT ‘BOUT: Dr. Angella Brown-Burke + Michael Dyke + Owen Arthur + Usain Bolt + Miguel Coley

“These guys are dreaming big now, and the opportunity is there to win. And if they don’t take it, they would be disappointed and Jamaica would be disappointed. But mentally we have to be really focused and ready. We back ourselves 100 percent that we can win. We just have to be tactically astute and very disciplined on the field.”  Reggae Boyz’ assistant coach Miguel Coley on the team’s chances of winning the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup 
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“When I really realized I was getting older was last season when I got injured. Trying to get back was much harder than the years when I was younger. Now it takes time to get going, and I need a lot more races. I’ve noticed that I have to be very careful, and I just have to be aware of everything around me and make sure I’m on point.”  Jamaican track superstar Usain Bolt in an interview this week with the IAAF Inside Athletics programme about prolonging his sprinting career 
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“Michael Manley will go down as the person who tried to carry Jamaica in one direction, representing that he has made some fundamental mistakes and was big enough to say so. It takes a whole lot of man to do that, especially if you live as a politician out in full glare of public life.” ― Former Prime Minister of Barbados Owen Arthur addressing a Gleaner’s Editors’ Forum in Kingston last week 
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“Naturally we would have been disappointed knowing we only garnered one medal. But when you look at the level of competition here, it would have been extremely difficult based on this high standard that we have been experiencing, and with the [unsatisfactory] level of preparation of our athletes especially after the Boys and Girls Championships." ― Michael Dyke, head coach of Jamaica’s contingent to the 2015 IAAF World Youth Champs, citing lack of preparation for the team’s dismal performance at the championships 
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“And even as global and economic development tops the agenda we are mindful of our symbiotic relationship with the environment. Jamaica’s climate sensitivity and climate vulnerability make long-term climate change a developmental issue that must be given serious and urgent consideration now.”  Mayor of Kingston, Dr. Angella Brown-Burke, in a release prior to participating in a workshop on climate change and modern slavery this week at the Casina Pio IV in Vatican City




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OUT & ABOUT: Seen on the scene at Reggae Sumfest 2015

A TO Z: “I like to call it ‘warrior princess’,” is how pop-dancehall entertainer Zhavea describes her electric musical style, which was in full flight on International Night II at Catherine Hall. The Cali-based artiste, readily cites Janet Jackson among her idols. “She’s just phenomenal,” she tells TALLAWAH. “I like the way she’s perfected the art of dancing and singing, and that’s something I want to bring to my own career.” 

IT TAKES THREE: Moments after turning up the heat on the mainstage during the Pepsi Refresh Hour, deejay Kalado made his stop in the press room, where he shared lens time with cool girls Lori-Ann and Valencia of Creative Marketing Associates. 

DREAM TEAM: Easily one of the most triumphant showings at the festival came from reggae/lover’s rock crooners LUST, a stellar band that seems to get better with time. Here, the fantastic four field post-performance questions from the media. 

UP FRONT: A woman who wears many hats these days, Rising Stars’ hostess and The Gleaner’s Online Brand Manager Terri-Karelle Reid (right) and Ashley Miller of TV-J’s Intense were fixtures inside the VIP area, soaking up the feel-good vibes all weekend long. 

GIRL POWER: Songstress Jennifer Hudson got a run for her money when the time came for her to duet with contest winner Allison Roberts, who threw herself into the performance, earning vociferous cheers from the home crowd and the J-Hud stamp of approval.




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SHOW STOPPERS: The 10 Best Moments at Reggae Sumfest 2015

Reggae Sumfest 2015 delivered everything a great live music event should: phenomenal acts, captivating performances, and a production value that fused state-of-the-art technology with audio-visual wizardry. In short, what played out at Catherine Hall on the weekend was both spectacle and solid entertainment. Here, TALLAWAH puts the spotlight on ten performers (a mixed bag in no particular order) who proved unforgettable. 

1. LADY SAW 
As the long-reigning queen of the Jamaican dancehall, Marion Hall can lay claim to some serious firsts. Add to the list: the first female act to close Dancehall Night, rising to the occasion in her own inimitable style (translation: raunchy-riotous-perversely funny) to surpass even our wildest expectations. Highlight: Now we have a whole new definition for the phrase “likkle bit” 

2. LUST 
We always knew these talented brothers could carry a tune, but nothing prepared us for the hair-raising harmonies and captivating stage presence they brought to Catherine Hall on Saturday night, as they breezed through their popular hits with equal parts ferocity and finesse. Highlight: A masterful rendition of “Just as I Am” 

3. JENNIFER HUDSON 
Whether you were hooked by her sassy repartee, dazzled by her supersexy ensemble, or simply left mesmerized by her out-of-this-world vocals, J-Hud left no doubt as to why she’s heiress apparent to Whitney Houston’s throne, holding us in her thrall for well over an hour. Highlight: Her encore-generating rendition of the Dreamgirls power anthem “And I Am Telling You” 

4. JESSE ROYAL 
There is something to be said for the smooth and conscious stylings of this roots-reggae soldier who lets his voice do the work. And what an instrument! Without a doubt, Jesse’s whole vibe speaks to what a reggae festival is all about. Highlight: The tender-tough appeal of his mid-performance tune “Ghetto Girl” 

5. BEENIE MAN 
Who better to bring the curtains down on Sumfest 2015 than the man who lives for big moments like these? Moses proved an unstoppable lyrical force in the wee hours of Sunday morning, delivering a near-seamless blend of hits old and (fairly) new to produce a performance fit for the record books. Highlight: The whole show 

6. KAREEN 
This year, TALLAWAH’s prize for most outstanding up-and-comer to grace the mainstage falls to this Ocho Rios native, who captivated the early crowd Friday night with rock-star edge, shimmering pop gloss, and a tight mix of originals and covers. Highlight: A take-no-prisoners riff on Rihanna’s “Better Have My Money” 

7. PEPSI REFRESH HOUR 
A supercool addition to this year’s International Night package, Pepsi ambassadors Kalado, Chi Ching Ching, Zagga, Ikaya, Raine Seville and Denyque needed no more than sixty minutes in all (each performing brisk individual sets) to bring the house down with their vibrant energy and crowd-pleasing balance of song and dance. Highlight: Denyque's sizzling "Ring the Alarm" bit 

8. T.I. 
If there’s one thing this pint-sized rap star doesn’t fall short of it’s the hefty swagger to complement his fiery and hard-hitting rhymes. There was plenty to go around as the Atlanta all-star worked the Catherine Hall stage on International Night 1 to bombastic effect, scoring a triumphant Jamaican debut. Highlight: A cameo appearance by Beenie Man that only served to up the ante 

9. RAGING FYAH 
This increasingly popular reggae band brought a very Wailers-esque vibe to the mainstage, producing a performance as memorably rootsy as it was frequently riveting. Just one quibble: We feel the set was way too short for an act of their caliber. But that took nothing away from the overall potency of the performance. Highlight: “Judgement Day” given a righteous-meets-classic spin 

10. COMMON 
The Chi-Town-bred MC stayed true to the conscious-cool formula that has worked for him for decades, lacing the jam-packed crowd with powerful anthems of uplift, ranging from “The People” to “Testify” to the Oscar-winning gem “Glory.” Highlight: Performing “Come Close” as a serenade to beaming audience member Tiffani




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Tuesday, 21 July 2015

WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE: For Jill McIntosh, netball development in Jamaica is work in progress

HOLDING COURT: It's a pleasure working with such talented girls, says McIntosh (inset).

A strategist and deep thinker who has fashioned a reputation as a woman who specializes in results, Jill McIntosh knows all about using a little to produce something truly spectacular. It’s one of the reasons the Australian pro has fit in so well with Netball Jamaica as Technical Director of the senior squad, the Sunshine Girls – a team she describes as a set of hardworking young women who can go the distance, thanks to their dedication, willingness to embrace new ideas and make do with limited resources.

“It’s very hard to compete at the international level without all the necessary resources. It’s tough. But these Jamaican girls do it and still do better than so many other countries,” McIntosh tells TALLAWAH during a rare break from her duties one recent evening at the Leila Robinson Courts. “I think the other countries could learn a lot from these Jamaican girls.”

It helps that McIntosh, a veteran of the Aussie school of high performance, is such a consummate professional that her expert conditioning of the girls and guidance of coaches Minette Reynolds and Annette Daley has had splendidly nurturing effects on the national programme. The vast improvement in the team’s on-court style, including their agility and overall effectiveness, speaks volumes. “I enjoyed working with [the team] the first time I was here for the Commonwealth Games. So when [President Marva Bernard] asked me to come back for a second time, I didn’t hesitate to say yes,” Jill remembers. “This is a very talented group of girls who have terrific skills, and it’s great to work with talent like this.”

Born and raised in Perth, situated on the western coast of Australia, Jill McIntosh’s bio reads like that of a Hall of Fame honoree of the sport of netball, commencing with her days as a schoolgirl star of the game, all the way up to her retirement from the court in 1986 to take up coaching. She famously coached the Australian senior team to global dominance from 1995 to 2013, the year that Jamaica hosted the World Championships inside a brand-new National Indoor Sports Centre.

So, if there’s anyone who can show our local girls how to beat the best in the world, Jill McIntosh is the woman for the job. Does she feel that our new-look Sunshine Girls has what it takes to finally ascend to #1? “It’s a tough call. The top four teams in the world work extremely hard when it comes to the big championships, and it’s who makes the least mistakes on the day that will win the gold,” she posits. “It’s a psychological battle, but these girls definitely have the mental toughness that it will take to win the championship.”

Fresh from their 3-0 test series triumph over Barbados in June and a clean sweep of their matches against the Berger Elite All Stars only a couple of weeks ago, the Girls are on a high heading into the World Cup, set for August 7-16 in Sydney. As it turns out, the tournament will also mark the final hurrah for McIntosh on this life-changing Jamaican odyssey, which officially ends in September. What will she do next? “I love coaching, so I am looking forward to working with some of the local teams when I return home,” shares the sixty-something McIntosh, whose current home is based in Canberra.

Looking ahead, Jill says that when her final day in Jamaica arrives she will be boarding her flight with the assurance that what she’s left behind will be built on for the future growth of netball in Jamaica. “I’m confident that the coaches will be able to continue the programme and develop it further without me,” she says with a river-wide smile. “They’ll be just fine.”

Follow the Sunshine Girls @NetballJamaica




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Monday, 20 July 2015

GLAM GIRLS ROCK: Sumfest ladies Denyque, Talia and Raine dish on success, confidence and owning their sexy

FEELING CHANGE: After enduring her share of heartbreak and painful invasion of privacy, nothing beats the thrill of personal growth and self-discovery for singer Raine Seville, who was a ravishing vision and a ball of energy on the Sumfest mainstage during the Pepsi Refresh Hour and later on in the press room, where she gave TALLAWAH the 411 on her amazing life today. “I’m very happy with it. I’ve grown so much vocally and confidence-wise. Before, I used to be afraid of performing, but now I love to perform and put on a show for the crowd. I think I’m a much more confident and creative person today,” says the 20-something songstress and mother, who is now signed to Headline Entertainment. Asked about the vibe in the Pepsi camp (alongside Kalado, Chi Ching Ching, ZaggaDenyque) Raine, pictured above with Ikaya, said it’s all love and family fun. So no catfights? “No catfights,” laughs Raine, who is currently promoting “Chat Mi,” a feisty collabo with Lisa Hyper. “We really enjoy doing the shows together and we do work well together. We take this opportunity to be ambassadors very seriously because we are representing Pepsi, which is a global brand.” 

BODY ELECTRIC: All-Jamaican cool girl Denyque may be considered eye candy by her countless male fans, but the singer is very clear on how she deals with that kind of “attention.” “I never intentionally set out to draw that kind of attention from my fans, but I think it’s great to be considered a symbol of female beauty and to appeal across the board,” says the chanteuse and brand ambassador whose renditions of “Ring the Alarm” and “Make Me Believe You” (among other tracks) on Saturday night earned raves from the massive crowd. To say the least, the hot mama has a superbusy summer ahead. In addition to doing promotional work for her new self-titled EP, she’s getting set to unveil the latest additions to her super-sexy swimwear line WetSwim. “On July 28, we’re releasing the Fire collection,” she tells TALLAWAH. “Very edgy, very feminine. The women will love it.” And, of course, the men will appreciate the visual delights. 

IN FULL BLOOM: Media darling and Miss Jamaica World contender Talia Soares is the first to admit that she wouldn’t be where she is today had it not been for Karlene, that very special woman in her life. “With a mother like mine, there is no way I could not be a high achiever. I wouldn’t be half as successful as I am without her guidance and wisdom. She pushes me and challenges me to be a productive young lady,” shares the 23-year-old stunner, who emceed the Pepsi Refresh Hour at Sumfest on Saturday night. Beauty and brains aside, the St. Andrew High grad has a lot going for her. Having completed her first degree at UWI Mona, she went and got her a law degree from the Norman Manley Law School and is now planning a future that will see her making a serious difference in the lives of Jamaicans while being an ambassador for her country. And if she cops the crown on August 15? “I’ll take a year off and invest the time in my country and do some of the things I’m really passionate about,” she tells TALLAWAH. As for that law degree, “I plan to practice media and entertainment law while still working in the media and entertainment fields.”




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THE REEL WORLD: TALLAWAH dishes news from the film world and the showbiz scene

THE KID: Get ready to start hearing the name Shameik Moore a lot because, according to Hollywood insiders, he’s one to watch. The star of the crowd-pleasing new comedy-drama Dope (about high school, growing pains and 90s hip-hop culture) has been garnering major buzz for his breakout performance, ever since the film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January. As a result, the 20-year-old Atlanta native, who has the defining facial features of African royalty, recently made the Hollywood Reporter’s round-up of the 12 major breakouts of 2015. Since then, he’s gone on to score recognition from other esteemed publications like Essence and Vanity Fair, who made a point of drawing attention to not only his involvement with the Cartoon Network’s sketch-comedy hit Incredible Crew but the more important fact that he’s moved up on major Tinseltown directors’ lists of young actors to work with. The best part? Moore is one of us. “My entire family is Jamaican,” the actor dishes to Vanity Fair (July 2015) of his clan in the ATL, comprised mainly of Jamrock immigrants. “At home it’s nothing but reggae music and those kinds of vibes.” Sounds good to us. [Watch the trailer for Dope here.] 
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SCREEN GEM: When Destiny screened to loud cheers and applause at the Jamaica Film Festival inside the Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston on Thursday, July 9, a lot of us in the audience were seeing the feel-good movie for a second or third time. (It’s that appealing.) However, members of the Diaspora based in the UK will be getting their first chance to see what the buzz is all about when Destiny hosts its London premiere on July 31 in Leicester Square. In the meantime, other great things have been happening for the film. According to director Jeremy Whittaker, who lives in Toronto and is a former member of the TV-J family, work on the film’s soundtrack is complete, and it will be released via Tuff Gong International and Universal Music in September. 
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AT FIRST BLUSH: Here at TALLAWAH we love a good “origin story,” especially when it revolves around people we can’t help but admire and respect. That certainly includes US Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama and his iron-willed First Lady Michelle, who are the subject of the upcoming film Southside with You. Slated for a 2016 release, the biography (which delivers servings of romance and drama) will enlighten audiences about the events that brought Barack and Michelle together all those years ago – before they became the political power duo the world can’t get enough of. According to online reports, the movie (currently in production) will share the story of that fateful summer in 1989, when they met (both in their 20s) while working the corporate law scene in Chicago’s Southside. While the role of Michelle was scooped up by the radiant Tika Sumpter (Sparkle, Tyler Perry’s The Haves and The Have-Nots), Barack is being portrayed by rising star Parker Sawyers, whose screen credits include the last X-Men movie and Kathryn Bigelow’s Osama bin Laden epic Zero Dark Thirty. Southside with You is being directed by Richard Tanne.

‘ANNIE’ REVISITED: Unsurprisingly, Hollywood is making good on its promise to bring the endlessly fascinating story of Annie Palmer, the White Witch of Rose Hall, to a global audience. A team, led by US-based financier Arthur Whylie, discussed the project at length during one of the workshops at the Jamaica Film Festival, making it clear that the film (with the working title of White Witch) is expected to be complete and ready for wide release by the summer of 2018. And when it comes to casting? Whylie says they will be turning over the lead role to a major Hollywood leading lady, an actress with the depth and range to bring a character like Annie to full-bodied life. Hmmm. Stay tuned. 
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MUNAIR’S MOMENT: Special shout-out to veteran actor Munair Zacca, whose star was ablaze at the Jamaica Film Festival recently. Still, I don’t think a lot of people noticed that Munair (above, right) played memorable roles in two of the most well-received films at the festival – Destiny and Kingston Paradise – which, by coincidence it seems, were screened one right after the other on the Thursday night. Those who have first-hand knowledge of Munair’s remarkable acting skills consider him, and rightly so, an actor for all seasons.




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