Monday, 31 August 2015

POINT OF VIEW: Art-world rising stars Richard Nattoo and Monique Gilpin reflect on craft and creating challenging work

HER OWN CREATION: At age 30, Monique Gilpin holds down one of the single most coveted jobs in the Jamaican arts world: assistant curator at the National Gallery West in her hometown of Montego Bay, St. James – the newest arm of the National Gallery of Jamaica. Though the more theoretical aspect of life as an artist brings it owns rewards, Gilpin says she can’t live without the heady result comes with creating and showcasing works that speak open dialogue and reflect her myriad and varied experiences as a Caribbean native. “The way I see the world is based on what I have experienced,” shares the Edna Manley School of Art grad, who is among the 10 artists currently participating in the just-opened Young Talent exhibition at the National Gallery. Her ‘Porcelain Series’ is a striking mix of opulent colour and social commentary. “Growing up I’ve always yearned for some stability in my life, and that’s what inspired this series. I wanted to explore something that hits close to home.” The artist-audience relationship, she observes, is a tricky one but’s dynamic she’s come to cherish. “Art in general needs no explanation,” Gilpin insists. “If the viewer can relate to what I’ve created in some way shape or way or form then my work is done.” 

THE SURREAL LIFE: Richard Nattoo wasn’t your average four year old. As he recalls, that’s when his journey as an artist began – a trajectory that’s taken him from pen and ink to lush watercolor, glass and archival paper and the various media in between. In short, when it comes to artistic expression for Nattoo the options are endless. “Growing up I used art as a way to vent about whatever was going around me,” explains the 22-year-old St. Catherine native, who says he finds fulfillment in provocatively tackling the issues and ideas that capture his gaze. (Consider his “Lost in the Odyssey” and “Immersed”, both featured in the 2015 Young Talent showcase at the National Gallery.) “Exploration has always been a constant in my life and an integral part of my art and artistic processes. I create in an attempt to capture and deconstruct the common feelings and emotions in everyday life,’ says the University of Technology undergrad, who is pursuing a BA in Architectural Studies. Like Gilpin, he relishes any and every opportunity to forge a real connection with his audiences. Says Nattoo, “With my work I want to capture the feelings I experience and translate them into the kinds of surreal spaces that we all inhabit within ourselves.”

> The 2015 Young Talent show is on view at the National Gallery, Downtown Kingston, from Aug. 30 through Nov. 14.

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ON HER MIND: Kerry-Ann Henry recalls the moments that led to her transformation as dancer extraordinaire and educator

SHE'S THE ONE: "I think my response to music is dance," shares Henry, the NDTC's ballet mistress. "I like performing, growing, exploring and learning new things."

I have been dancing since I was about seven years old, and dance has been the one constant in my life. As a Campion College old girl, there were periods when I was completely involved with my studies, at UWI Mona (Maths and Actuarial Science), the University of East Anglia (Masters in Development Studies) and the University of British Columbia (Masters in Education Technology). And I’ve played a few sports. But I’ve never, ever stopped dancing.

I’ve learned so many different life lessons from my journey through dance. Sometimes you wonder why you have a passion for a certain something, and then you realize it’s what you were called to do. Music is another passion of mine, and I think my response to music is dance. I like performing, growing, exploring and learning new things, and in a way I see myself as a perpetual student of the arts. It’s funny, but I’ll probably be going to school for the rest of my life.

But my day job as Director of the School of Dance is serious business. I’m very much in love with the education aspect of my job, and I think having that love for performance makes it easier and helps me to be a better educator and administrator. You’re also able to link your experiences from the stage to theory. It’s also about looking at policy: What do you need (as students) to compete globally? There’s also the whole aspect of planning and putting on events. Yes, it’s a lot of work but having the passion for what I do makes it all worth it.

I feel the same way about the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), which I’ve been a member of since I was 16. The curtains came down on our 2015 season at the Little Theatre recently, and I absolutely enjoyed it. It was very reflective of the theme ‘Renewal and Continuity’. We had a few new faces coming in and blending with the rest of us to put on an excellent production. Everybody in the NDTC gets along, and so it’s a lot of fun.
They say fun plus hard work equals magic, and we are the living proof of that. I’m glad that our seasons continue to reflect what the company stands for: creating and showcasing works that cross over into various different areas. But what I’ve loved most about the NDTC is the variety that defines the company. I love the breadth of our repertoire and how much I’ve grown as an artist with the company over the years.

Everybody who knows me knows that I’m all about growth. That’s one of the reasons why still being a part of Dancin’ Dynamites and helping to unearth and nurture new dance talents appeals to me so much. I really enjoy seeing the dancers grow from week to week and applying the comments that we give them – and just experiencing their energy and creativity. I want to see the show grow, provide more opportunities for the participants and reach a global audience.

In a way, that’s also a personal goal of mine. At my age (“mid-30s”), if I thank God for anything it’s for this incredible passion for dance – and the persons that I have been fortunate to meet so far on this journey. Dance is truly a wonderful thing, take it from me. It can enrich your life and give you perspective. – As told to TALLAWAH Magazine

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Saturday, 29 August 2015

CHAT ’BOUT: Sound bytes from Aloun Assamba, Dr. Peter Phillips, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, and more

“I’m sure that it was a characteristic determination to win and a commitment to uplift Jamaica, which carried him through the challenges of the past year and the hurdles he faced in Beijing on his way to victory. These are qualities which gave him the confidence to fearlessly take on the world and win again, days after celebrating his 29th birthday.”  The JLP’s Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange in a statement this week, following Usain Bolt’s sizzling 19.55 seconds run to nab the 200M gold medal at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China. 

“Jamaica’s contribution to the Fund was 15,000. However, Jamaica stands to benefit from more than 2 million in funding for a range of programmes and projects that support the development of youth entrepreneurship, youth in agriculture, and crime reduction in both rural and urban areas.”  Jamaica’s High Commissioner to the UK, Aloun Assamba, responding to news that Jamaican charities stand to benefit significantly from the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust 

“Too often what has happened over many years is that we bought the illusion of instantaneous solutions, which have resulted in a worsening of our fiscal accounts….. So, despite the fact that even the blind can see that Elections are on the horizon, we will not be engaging in any reckless spending simply to satisfy a set of short-term needs.”  Finance & Planning minister, Dr. Peter Phillips, addressing a press conference at the ministry’s Heroes Circle-based offices recently 

“I don’t think that people understand what [the Sunshine Girls] are up against when they go out there to play against these giants. They [Australia, New Zealand and England] are not only giants in terms of play but their size and the whole operations that they lead. Australia has a company of 150 employees, England has more than that and New Zealand about 60. We are still number four in the world and that’s some achievement for a team sport in Jamaica.”  IFNA boss Molly Rhone praising the senior Sunshine Girls for their efforts in Sydney, at a Scotiabank-hosted welcome-home ceremony in Kingston on Wednesday 

“I think it will be a better Yohan Blake in the sense that he is more mature after what he has been through. I think he totally understands. He had a lot of success at a young age and maybe people expected a lot from him. Though he delivered, these athletes do get hurt at some point in their career. But he is matured now and totally understands what it takes to get back. I’ve never met an athlete in my 40 years with his drive and we will certainly see him back to his best soon.”  Cubie Seegobin, manager of sprinter Yohan Blake, telling a reporter why the best is yet to come from the 2011 World 100M champion

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A PLACE TO CALL HOME: Following court ruling, JSPCA steps up search for new property

FURRY FRIEND: “We want to provide better quality service in an environment that’s comfortable for both staff and animals alike," explains JSPCA Managing Director, Pamela Lawson.

Pamela Lawson has a lot on her mind. As Managing Director of the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA), hers is the gargantuan task of overseeing the daily operations at the 10 Winchester Road-based property that has functioned as an animal shelter and veterinary clinic for well over 25 years. That partially explains why it has come as a shock that their days at Winchester are numbered. It’s been well-publicized that the Supreme Court has given the JSPCA until November 30 to vacate the property after the government took them to court, claiming that the property is of value and needs to be developed.

As a result, a great deal of Lawson’s time is being spent on the hunt, intently searching for a new home spacious enough to cover their needs and the services they provide, chief among them taking in animals in desperate need of proper care. “I look every day. Not a day goes by that I don’t look for somewhere for us to move to,” she tells TALLAWAH, sitting in her office chair, her brow creased with worry. Then she makes it clear that the fight with the government is not a new development. It’s just that now the Supreme Court has gotten involved and the final say in the matter has been issued. 

“We’ve been fighting the government for almost seven years now,” says Lawson, a tall an athletic-looking woman with luminous brown skin. “I’ve always understood the need for the property. It’s a valuable piece of land and the country is struggling to be viable. So I see where they’re coming from. We just haven’t been able to find somewhere suitable to move to. The matter finally went to the Supreme Court and they gave us until November to find somewhere or we will be evicted.”

The JSPCA has been in operation in Jamaica since 1903, established with kind support from the then governor’s wife. Their shelter and clinic at Winchester Road, as noted earlier, is over a quarter-of-a-century old, and today houses over 100 dogs and scores of cats who are cared for by a staff of approximately 30 persons, who work seven days a week and on public holidays.

As Lawson explains, the single most important aspect of their operations is the running of the clinic. “Everything that the JSPCA does, whether it’s paying salaries, caring for the animals, or footing the bills – that money is generated by the clinic,” she points out. “If the clinic doesn’t generate enough money then we run into trouble. Ninety percent of our funds come out of that clinic. We are constantly struggling to find that balance.”

But behind every cloud there’s a silver lining, and the passion for what they do, the lives they are saving and the people they are inspiring keeps them going. From going into schools to promote animal welfare and animal-rights education to investigating cruelty cases to conducting free islandwide clinics (the next one is in September in St. Elizabeth) to collaborating with NEPA to rescuing about 2500 animals every year, the work of the JSPCA remains crucial.

And it’s not just about the animals. “We help the police on certain operations, we do work in conjunction with the JDF, sometimes at no cost. So tell me that what we’re doing is not important?” Lawson says. “Lots of people owe us money, but that doesn’t mean we should turn them away. I’ve granted orthopaedic surgery free of cost. Sometimes we do a barter kind of arrangement because they’ve demonstrated how much they love and care for their animals.” Citing a memorable example, Lawson recalls the carpenter who provided a few hours of work to cover his bill. Then there are the volunteers who come in regularly, including dozens of college-bound kinds fulfilling their community-service requirements.

As we take a walk to the back of the property, we spot a female staffer in a blue shirt lathering up one of the small dogs. Lawson stops and admires the sight. “Their new home,” Lawson hopes, will go a long way in enhancing the services they currently provide. “I’m optimistic. I’m looking forward to it, having a permanent home and not having to worry about things like the threat of eviction,” she says. “We want to provide better quality service in an environment that’s comfortable for both staff and animals alike, and comfortable for the people coming in. I’m optimistic.”

> GET INVOLVED: To learn more about the work of the JSPCA – and how you can help – visit

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Friday, 28 August 2015

MAN ON A MISSION: With a fast-rising media empire changing the game, Garth Walker is serious about business

GAME CHANGER: "I'm a big supporter of entrepreneurship," admits Walker, 39, pictured below with Davis and wife Kimisha.

Ask Garth Walker to name the business titans, whether living or late, that he admires the most, and he’ll quickly reel off names like Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, William Mahfood and Glen Christian. “Those are my three idols in business,” he says. He pauses for a beat then calls to mind the late CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs. “When [Steve] was about to launch the iPad, several of the people around him were skeptical and though that he should do a survey first. But he said to them, ‘How can I do a survey about something that people don’t know about?’”

Walker took Jobs’ observation to heart and has been tweaking and applying it along his journey as a businessman ever since. But, he readily agrees, that analogy can’t necessarily work in every situation. You have to tailor it, depending on what you’re dealing with.”

By all indications, Walker is a man who subscribes to the school of thought that promotes taking a leap of faith every now and again. Like the moguls he’s mentioned above, he knows a thing or two about the rewards that can be had by not shying away from risks. That’s easily one of the reasons his Wealth Magazine/CME empire continues to flourish so inspiringly, most recently through the successful rollout of Business Access TV, a well-timed and much-welcomed addition to the media landscape, adding a touch of diversity to an already densely populated field.

Since its July 12 launch – and racking up about 50 days on the air – the channel has pulled in viewership numbers of well over 280,000, he tells me. And the channel is yet to go islandwide. Guided by their slogan, ‘Serious about Business’, Business Access TV’s appeal, it seems, rests not only in its unique offerings but the dedication and passion being poured into it. “It’s not a financial channel. It’s a news channel with heavy business content, but it caters to a wide cross-section of people. It has something for everyone,” Walker, the Managing Director, explains. A strategist by nature, he always has the bigger picture in mind. Hence his intention to go the distance with the channel. Jamaica today, tomorrow the Caribbean and the rest of the world. “In the region there is no station dedicated exclusively to business,” he observes. “So what we plan to do is build up in Jamaica, go islandwide and then expand to the wider Caribbean to deliver regional content.”

To say the least, it’s been quite a journey already. With business partner Leighton Davis sharing the workload, in 2009 Walker brought the now popular Wealth Magazine to the local newsstand. A couple of years later they followed that up with the launch of Wealth Magazine Business Access, a weekly television newsmagazine aired on local TV, with half-hour episodes combining fresh lifestyle content, social swirl and features on the business sector’s movers and shakers of the moment. “These are inspirational products that are not just about what’s happening in the business community. We want to show people how to go about attaining wealth, which is something that we all think about at some point or another.” Educate, Inspire, Empower is the motto.

One sunny morning in August, TALLAWAH pays a visit to the New Kingston offices of Business Access TV, a trip that reveals a hardworking team obviously committed to relentless expansion. The phones are ringing off their hooks and newshounds like Kaneal Gayle are on their feet, darting from one cubicle to the next. Though the admittedly huge financial losses the company has suffered is never far from his mind, Walker says the capacity to create jobs and deliver a first-class product that’s about to change the game is all worth it. “It’s a very labour intensive business that we’re in, but production is not cheap and labour is not cheap,” he insists. “But we’ve employed about 29 people for the channel alone.” A team, he points out, that includes producers, cameramen, drivers, sales personnel, and the list goes on.

A devoted family man, who’s been married for almost a decade now (with two kids, ages eight and five), Walker also considers himself an ardent supporter of enterprise on a whole. “I’m a big supporter of entrepreneurship,” he puts it, seated behind an expansive work desk. “I believe if you have an idea you should pursue it. And as far as I’m concerned, Jamaican businesses need much, much more government assistance to compete regionally and internationally.” And growth is what Walker is all about. That and building his brand.

He’s very clear about his objectives, and that clarity of purpose coupled with diligent effort help explains why he’s so successful at what he does. At the same time, balancing his heroic workload with an active social life matters deeply to him. “You know the saying, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?’ I live by that. As hard as I work, I also like to have a good time. And because of the kind of work that I do, I have to be out there a lot on the social scene and on the business scene promoting the magazine and the channel,” explains the businessman, whose studies have taken him from Jamaica College to Miami’s Nova Scotia Eastern University to the University of New Orleans, where he completed a Masters in 2004. “Business Access is a new channel and a growing one, so the owners have to be out there keeping it relevant so as to get viewers to watch and advertisers to advertise.”

At 39, Garth Walker is game-changer who has a lot going for him. He has a media empire that’s ambitiously on the rise, the respect of his peers and, to make his detractors even more jealous, he’s on all the fabulous guest lists. Even so, as he sharpens his business instincts and looks to the next five years and beyond, his primary focus rests on a singular goal. “I don’t have my eyes on anything else but taking Business Access to the next level. Five years from now I want Business Access TV o be the go-to channel in the entire Caribbean, like how Sandals is the number one hotel chain in the Caribbean,” he says. “That’s my main goal right now – to make Business Access number one in the region.”

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Thursday, 27 August 2015

STEPPING UP: Jhaniele Fowler-Reid talks about going back to school, lessons from Sydney, and what the future holds

ON THE BALL: Fowler-Reid in action for the Sunshine Girls inside the National Indoor Sports Centre.

Fresh from a bittersweet experience at the exhilarating World Cup of Netball in Sydney, Australia, ace goalshooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid is about to embark on a new journey, ticking yet another item off her bucket list: pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Guidance and Counselling, at the Mico University, no less, where she’ll join fellow Sunshine Girls stars Vangelee Williams and Nicole Dixon on the collegiate squad. As she gets ready to hit the books, TALLAWAH rang up the 26-year-old St. Hugh’s High alum to talk about her future plans, what went wrong for the Girls in Sydney, handling disappointment, and the road ahead.

TALLAWAH: All the best with your upcoming studies at Mico. You opted to pursue a degree in Guidance and Counselling. Why that field?
Fowler-Reid: A lot of people don’t know that that’s the kind of person I am – a very caring and nurturing individual. I’m always looking out for others, so that’s one of the reasons why I chose that field. 

TALLAWAH: What are your post-university plans? 
Fowler-Reid: More than likely I will be pursuing a career as a counsellor, maybe work at a high school. It’s something I am passionate about so anything to do with that field would be fine.

TALLAWAH: Do you have other career-related plans in the pipeline?
Fowler-Reid: There are some other goals that I want to pursue after I’m finished with the degree programme, but right now I’m focused on my studies. I also want to give back to netball and the country by helping with the development of the sport in whatever way I can.

TALLAWAH: How would you sum up the Sunshine Girls’ recent sojourn in Sydney at the Netball World Cup?
Fowler-Reid: Honestly, it was a very good experience, a very good tour for the team. The type of energy and camaraderie that was in the camp was not displayed on the court. We did our best. We just did not get the outcome that we wanted, which was to bring home a medal and make the country proud. It’s just unfortunate. We are a young team, and I think we are heading in the right direction. We just need to go back to the drawing board, work on a few areas and correct our mistakes.

TALLAWAH: Some have been calling for the resignations of the coaches and for Netball Jamaica president Marva Bernard to step down. What’s your take on all that?
Fowler-Reid: I don’t want to comment on that.

TALLAWAH: But you have heard the criticism. Do you agree with what is being said?
Fowler-Reid: No, I don’t agree that they should resign. I felt that they did what they could, and they are good coaches. As I said, we just didn’t get the results that we wanted.

TALLAWAH: Have you spoken to any of your team-mates since you returned home?
Fowler-Reid: We always talk to each other. The energy is still there, but the [loss] is still fresh in our minds. So most of us are still feeling down. We really wanted to bring home a medal. It just didn’t happen for us this time.

TALLAWAH: Looking ahead, how do you hope to end 2015?
Fowler-Reid: For the rest of the year, I don’t have any major games, so I’ll get some rest and focus on my studies. I think my year will end well.

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Monday, 24 August 2015

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Jah Cure mixes flavourful riffs, reflective vibes on The Cure

RECORD TIME: With The Cure, the singer is bound to captivate and thrill his listeners.

Though he hardly has to prove a thing to industry colleagues or the loyal fans who’ve stuck by him through thick and thin, perhaps the most telling statement that Jah Cure makes with his new album, The Cure (VP Records), is that he doesn’t need to enlist a single guest collaborator to create a masterpiece. On the solid new release, which has climbed to the top of Billboard’s Reggae Album chart since its July 4 debut, the seasoned reggae-soul hitmaker delivers a listening experience that’s quintessential Jah Cure: melodic, soul-stirring and full of deep reflections.

This is the return of the lover man (“That Girl”, the R&B-tinged “Show Love”), the introspective, conscious singer-songwriter (“Life We Live”, “Corruption”), the soul survivor (“I Surrender”, “Still Remains”) and the supercool dreadlocked rudeboy (“Rasta”, “Set Me Free”). Unsurprisingly, most of these 13 tracks connect with the requisite emotional heft and have the potential to fare well at radio on their own – living up to Jah Cure’s reputable talent for crafting hits.

Among the other flavourful highlights is “Other Half of Me,” about growing old with The One, echoing sentiments like “Though the seasons change only true love will remain.” (After memorable chart-toppers like “Call on Me” and “Unconditional Love” it’s crystal-clear that the singer still has a handle on affairs of the heart.) With a title as vivid and self-explanatory as “No Friend of Mine”, a plaintive tune speaking to human nature and relationships gone sour, opens the CD on firm footing.

Every artiste worth his salt knows that one song or two among his favourites that he wishes he’d written. Jah Cure is certainly no exception. Having already covered tracks like (his impressive rendition of ) Asa’s “Jailer,” he gives John Legend’s “All of Me” a groovy, reggaefied update that goes down smoothly like rum cream on a balmy Saturday evening. And that’s not a far cry from how we feel about the album itself. Still at the top of his lyrical game, Jah Cure has given us one of his best offerings to date.

And it’s a splendid reminder that, even with the emergence of talented young turks like Duane Stephenson and Nature, he still ranks among reggae’s most reliable stalwarts giving Jamaicans something meaningful to sing – and think – about. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+ 

> BEST TRACKS: "Show Love", "Set Me Free," "Rasta" and "No Friend of Mine"

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Saturday, 22 August 2015

ON THE RADAR: Fun in the Son heads to Haiti, returns to local scene in 2016

REACHING OUT: When the months of June and July came and went this year, and we noticed that Fun in the Son gospel festival was wholly missing from the entertainment scene, we knew we had to reach out to Glory Music to find out why. As head honcho Tommy Cowan (above, far right) tells TALLAWAH, the festival has done so incredibly well since its inception that the decision was taken to expand to Haiti, and that’s where the praise party will be held this year, come November. “We figured that there’s a genuine need in Haiti when you think of the harsh conditions that the people are faced with over there,” Cowan explains. “So it’s really an outreach programme to help the people of Haiti. It’s part of our bigger mission.” 

At the same time, it’s a continuation of work Glory Music started in Haiti when that devastating earthquake ravaged the mountainous country a few years ago. “That was a major turning point in our ministry,” Cowan recalls. “The people needed to hear the gospel and still need to hear the gospel after what they’ve been through.” Fun in the Son Jamaica, backed annually by title sponsors Jamaica Broilers, returns to the entertainment calendar next July, but in the meantime, the focus is on making an essential contribution to our brothers and sisters elsewhere in the region. “I wouldn’t say we are disappointed that Fun in the Son is not being staged in Jamaica this year. We just work with the plan. We strategize and make decisions accordingly.” Carlene Davis, Evangelist Andrew Palau, and a slew of top Haitian acts are among those who will deliver performances at Fun in the Son (the Haitian Edition) on Nov. 14. 

SHAPING UP: As far as well-anticipated annual events go, another glaring absentee some may have noticed is the blockbuster art-and-craft showcase the Liguanea Art Festival, which TALLAWAH has been reliably informed won’t be held this year. Without going into much detail, a spokesperson for the event told us last week that due to unforeseen circumstances the festival had to be cancelled but should return bigger and better in 2016. Last June, the festival received its largest turnout when it took over the Chinese Benevolent Association (CBA), pulling together a thrilling mix of visual artists and artisans, jewelry designers and ceramists to showcase their latest wares and interact with members of the public. 

TUNING IN: Having secured the exclusive broadcast rights for Jamaica, CVM-TV is set to become the sole local broadcaster of the hit game show Family Feud, which they will begin airing shortly. Hosted by Emmy winner and bestselling author Steve Harvey, the show’s episodes feature two families competing for cars and cash, while trying to come up with answers to a series of random questions. “CVM’s mandate is to bring fresh and inspiring content to our Jamaican audience,” says CEO of CVM, Shamena Khan. “We are proud to partner with Pavilion Entertainment to bring Family Feud to Jamaican television.”

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GOOD SPORTS: The latest updates on sprinting sensations Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Jaheel Hyde

AYE, AYE CAPTAIN: Leading Team Jamaica’s gold-hunting squad at this month’s IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing is a huge responsibility. Naturally, Asafa Powell has opted for the team-work approach. “My aim, with or without the captaincy, is to lead by example, showing them that what it takes can speak louder than any words you can say,” the 100M contender noted in a recent interview. “But I have always been there if they need to talk or if they need advice. And I will continue to be there long after [this championship].” Powell, who is co-captaining with fellow sprinting veteran Veronica Campbell-Brown, says positive vibes and high spirits in the team camp will play keys roles in their quest to bring home the medals. “The team is not necessarily the strongest we have had, but it’s pretty strong all around. And not only for sprinting but also in the field events and in the middle-distance events. Everyone’s attitude is great and that makes a huge difference in performance as well.” Celebrating his 12th year as a senior athlete for Team Jamaica, Powell will grace the track in the 100M and the sprint relay at the Aug. 22-30 champs inside the Bird’s Nest Stadium, Beijing, China. 
SAFE BET: Sprint hurdler Jaheel Hyde’s transition from schoolboy phenom to the major leagues got a solid boost this week when show-and-apparel giants PUMA inked a deal with his management team. Such a collaboration, his management feels, will greatly benefit Hyde’s pursuits as he balances sports with academics. “[He] will be pursuing tertiary studies at the University of the West Indies and will continue training under the watchful eyes of his coaches who have led him to three global titles, as he aims at Rio 2016,” a statement from the Garfield Coke Management Company informs. “He is looking forward to the continued support of all his sponsors, management team and fans, as he commits to excellence on and off the track as a pro athlete.” 

STAYING THE COURSE: Like so many other professional pairings in sports, the coach-athlete relationship between Glen Mills and Usain Bolt has had to navigate its share of peaks and valleys, especially over the course of the past few years. But, as Mills tells it, it comes with the territory and they’ve been taking it all in stride. “The last two years have been challenging for both Usain and myself. Unfortunately, he has had a number of different injuries to overcome, which have affected his training and the number of competitions he has been able to compete in,” the well-decorated coach recently told journalists while preparing for this month’s IAAF Champs in Beijing. “But Bolt is a champion who knows nothing but excellence when performing on the world stage. We have been making a number of changes on the way he trains and have been getting results.”

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Thursday, 20 August 2015

CHAT ’BOUT: Sound bytes from Joan Gordon-Webley, Dr. Warren Blake, Ambassador Burchell Whiteman, and more

“Beijing is where our recent successes in track and field started. I know the foundations were laid long ago, but we really burst onto the world scene in a really strong way in 2008. So we have been looking forward to coming back to Beijing, and we expect good results as we did in 2008. One of the thrusts of this administration has been to broaden the scope of participation in these events, and I am quite happy to see that, especially in the field events, where we have placed a great deal of effort, that we have had significant successes.” – JAAA President, Dr. Warren Blake, waxing optimistic about Team Jamaica’s return to the Bird’s Nest Stadium for the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships this weekend

“We need to work on our concentration level because we are not concentrating right through a 60-minute match. When I went into the national programme I was going to work on concentration and the shooting especially, but I only spent three weeks. But if we had worked on those areas, we would have beaten them (the big teams). – Veteran netball coach Winston Nevers reflecting on the Sunshine Girls’ performance at the Netball World Cup in Sydney, Australia, where they finished fourth. 

“The players decided that they are now privileged young men and came through humble beginnings, so they want to give to others who seek to emulate them. Before we played against Mexico in the Gold Cup Final, the Special Olympics was all over the media, so we decided to contribute to these youngsters. The players will also be contributing funds to other organizations from money gained during the upcoming World Cup qualification games, starting next month.” – Reggae Boyz senior team manager, Roy Simpson, following a recent JFF-hosted presentation of $250,000 (in total) to three local organizations – the Glenhope Nursery, the Manning’s Boys Home, and Jamaica Special Olympics. 

“My hope is that as we go forward, there will be a more dynamic collaboration between the three critical universities in this country, bringing together a body of expertise in research and wisdom that can undergo training and preparation skills that will carry this country forward….. It is not enough to simply provide degrees that have value, but it is important that we become a place to which people look for the drive to build the economy and make the country a place of choice.” – Parting words from Ambassador Burchell Whiteman, who is demitting office this summer as President of the University of Technology (UTech) 

“The people of Jamaica have accepted the PNP more than the JLP. It turns me on that I will have a voice in a party and it won’t be ‘No dog bark after the leader talk.’ In the JLP that is how it is. I don’t want to be a part of that anymore.” – Former Executive Director of the NSWMA, Joan Gordon-Webley, whose application for membership to the ruling People’s National Party has stirred controversy

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Wednesday, 19 August 2015

NEW MUSIC REVIEW: Hear these fresh and radio-ready tracks from Prodigal Son, Ky-Mani Marley, Samantha J, and more

SAMANTHA J feat. Dej Loaf 
“League of my Own” 
The Little Miss Sunshine of bouncy dancehall-pop declares her independence and stadium status on this attitude-lade and repeat-worthy track, on which rising rap sensation Dej Loaf lends a slick verse. After putting the music world on notice with “Tight Up Skirt” before teaming up with the likes of Konshens and Omi, the sugar-and-spice songbird makes it abundantly clear that Sam is no one-hit wonder. [B+]. Take a listen
“We Are” 
Shottaz showcased the gritty side of Ky-Mani’s artistic gifts. His latest record, Maestro, showcases the conscientious musical side. Joining forces with a competent batch of producers and guest collaborators like Matisyahu and Gentleman, the seasoned hitmaker gets to address the heart-and-mind concerns he has for humanity while riffing on key social issues of the day. He waxes optimistic on this call-to-action jam that’s also a brilliant showcase for cool-and-conscious musical sensibilities. [A-]. Take a listen

“My Everything” 
Murphy, who is quietly one of the hardest working men behind-the-scenes in local gospel, delivers an appealing slice of modern gospel reggae that’s all about spiritual uplift and gratitude in the face of the myriad challenges that life throws our way. Equally appealing: the entertainer’s earnest vocals over a commanding beat and the lyrical flair to match. [B]. Take a listen

PRODIGAL SON (aka Prodi) 
“Go to God Again” 
What’s an embattled deejay to do after being raked over the coals for hopping between the spiritual and the secular worlds? Put pen to paper, of course. The former gospel heavyweight, who now goes by Prodi, spares no punches on this thought-provoking single, powered by a slinky reggae beat, on which he addresses everything from his controversial career moves to his fashion sense, which has gotten its share of heavy criticism. Clearly, Prodi has a lot to get off his chest. [B]. Take a listen

“Cry to Me” 
A third generation member of the world-famous clan, Skip Marley has now joined the family business. The talented teen makes a noteworthy debut with this beautifully written and stirringly performed tune that’s a memorable mix of soul and reggae, eerily evoking Bob classics like “Waiting in Vain” and “Satisfy My Soul.” Definitely one to watch, Skip is off to a solid start. [B]. Take a listen.

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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

BEAUTY OF THE WEEK: New Miss J’ca World sets the record straight on her ‘crowning glory’

I AM NOT MY HAIR: "I think everybody is entitled to express who they think they are," reflects Myrie, 24.

Natural beauty and newly crowned Miss Jamaica World, Dr. Sanneta Myrie, is a stunner in every sense of the word. Though her gorgeous and stylishly coiffed sister-locks represent a mere fraction of her appeal, people have hardly commented on anything else since she won the 2015 crown inside the Montego Bay Convention Centre on Saturday night. While the fair-skinned Myrie seems neither bothered nor distracted by all the chatter, she makes it clear that there’s much more to her than her conversation-starting ’do.

“I lock my hair because I identify with it. I am very much rooted in that Afro-centric nature, where we as Jamaicans [come from]. I think everybody is entitled to express who they think they are and dance to the beat of their own drum,” the 24-year-old medical doctor tells The Gleaner’s Janet Silvera. “However, I want people to see me for what I have to offer, which is my presentation, intelligence and charitable work.”

By all accounts, she’s the kind of girl who walks the walk. Living up to the ideal of beauty with a purpose, Myrie dedicates much of her free time to mentoring at-risk youth in Kingston’s volatile Craig Town community, a project she hopes to develop, thanks to this new platform. “I hope winning will enrich my story,” she says, “and will be a tool that inspires young people to be what they aspire to be, knowing that their dreams are valid in becoming greater versions of themselves.” Spoken like a true lady.

In addition to the dazzling and highly coveted crown, Myrie was awarded a University College of the Caribbean (UCC) scholarship, a Miss World wardrobe, cash and jewelry, among other cool prizes. Emerging the judges’ pick over 19 other worthy contenders, she will vie for the global title when she represents Jamaica in Sanya, China, in December.

As Myrie tells it, getting to rep the black, green and gold on an international stage is simply a dream come true. “Winning was something I had hoped for because I am very passionate about being an ambassador for Jamaica,” she says, “representing my country and putting our culture on display.”

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HOT TOPIC: Two former TV-J managers weigh in on the proposed Gleaner/RJR merger

VITAL VOICES: "It's in the public's interest for info in the media environment to reflect diversity of viewpoints," argues Osborne (left.) Forbes, at right.

The proposed merging of two of the country’s venerable media institutions: the North Street-based Gleaner Company and the ever-expanding RJR Communications Group has come as a surprise to many, who are giving consideration to the deal’s potentially far-reaching implications. Though the deal is reportedly still subject to regulatory and shareholder approval, that hasn’t stopped folks from weighing in on what has become a major hot-button topic on social media, the cocktail circuit and beyond. Waiting in The Sunday Gleaner this week, two former general managers who served Television Jamaica (a member of the RJR Group) with distinction – Kay Osborne and Dr. Marcia Forbes – added their voices to the conversation. Noted columnist and university administrator Martin Henry also shared his thoughts.

“The coming together of RJR and The Gleaner is a smart survival strategy when one examines international and local trends. Regarding the protection of democracy and media ‘voices’, regulators and the court need to be fully informed and objective in their analysis of the merger. There is no place for knee-jerk reactions. Clearly, though, there will be job losses. Workers who equip themselves for a more nimble and digitally driven media entity will win.” – Dr. Marcia Forbes

“This is the way of media in today’s world. Pushed by new cyber technologies and intense competition for revenue on the old platforms, traditional print and broadcast media have been scrambling to survive, including merging for synergies….. I think a golden opportunity now presents itself for more shared services like syndicated news and features among competitors. Independent content providers, some from the ranks of former or displaced journalists could find some new spaces opening up.” – Martin Henry

“All things considered, RJR’s acquisition of The Gleaner assures the populace of the continuity of media independence and of local control, which so far have well served the interests of the nation. Going forward, the populace and government need to be vigilant in ensuring that RJR does not abuse its consolidated power by reducing diversity of opinions, ignoring important interests, curtailing press freedom and choking off dissent. It is in the public’s interest for information on news and current affairs in the overall media environment to reflect diversity of viewpoints.” – Kay Osborne

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ON THE RECORD: Supersongstress Alaine sounds off on love, record deals, Rising Stars, and being a grown woman

LUCK BE A LADY: For the renowned singer and fashionista, the 'Heart' still rules.

Hard to believe but it’s been more than 10 years since songbird Alaine Laughton has been thrilling us with her sultry voice and heartfelt/life-affirming tunes about relationships, self-worth, finding and losing love and being in a happy place. Which is an apt description for where she is on her journey today. At 36, the chameleonic singer and fashion-loving jet-setter not only has a terrific third album (Ten of Hearts) on the market, she’s on one of the hottest shows on local TV (Digicel Rising Stars) and has a growing international fanbase, which constantly remind us that her music is reaching the world and touching lives. As it should. And did I mention that she’s just coming off a successful European tour? As she gets to film the video for her latest single, “Don’t Walk Away,” in Los Angeles next week and pen hits for herself and industry colleagues, it’s worth remembering that for the most successful acts of our day – reggae’s finest among them – the work never stops. Here, the superbusy artist and down-to-earth homegirl has a gabfest with TALLAWAH.

TALLAWAH: From day one you’ve been the girl reminding us through song that love conquers all. But inquiring minds want to know: Are you the marrying kind?
Alaine: I believe in being happy with someone that I care about very much, and if marriage becomes a part of that then I’d be grateful. For me, having someone share your future with is wonderful, but being single and successful and happy can be just as fulfilling as well.

TALLAWAH: So what’s the deal, are you currently dating?
Alaine: (Laughs). I’m single. I’m where I want to be. I’ve been in love, been out of love. So I can write and singe about it from an honest place. Right now I’m enjoying being single, independent and just doing my thing.

TALLAWAH: What kind of Jamaican man lights Alaine’s fire?
Alaine: I like a man who can make me laugh. Someone who listens and cares about the things that I like. That’s very sexy to me. I’m used to being strong, very nurturing in my relationships but now I’m looking forward to being with someone with whom I can relax and just feel safe with for a change. And if he can cook, that’s a wonderful thing, as well.

TALLAWAH: “Favourite Boy” of your new album, Ten of Hearts, is such a gem, easily one of your best tunes. How did those lyrics come to you?
Alaine: Jordan from Chimney Records gave me the riddim and when I heard it I immediately started singing, “You’re my favourite boy, you bring so much joy to my world…” And it happens like that all the time. I hear something, and the lyrics and melodies starts to flow. That’s how I know I’m supposed to be doing this. This song just came so effortlessly. It’s a song about how when love comes it can be so incredible.

TALLAWAH: What’s your favourite jam on Ten of Hearts?
Alaine: I love “Sidewalk Hotel”. It’s a very emotional song. And “T.H.I.S”, which is a very heartfelt ballad that was produced by Shane Brown.

TALLAWAH: Your overseas fans, especially in places like Kenya, are not shy about proclaiming their love for you. On your YouTube channel in particular.
Alaine: Mi feel good (Laughs). The first time I went to Kenya it was the biggest shock; about 10,000 people came to the show and they sang every word, every lyric. That’s the biggest blessing. I went back to my hotel room and I bawled and I bawled. I went to Uganda for a concert about two years ago and there were 40,000 there; and 30,000 when I went to Tanzania. Africa loves reggae. And when I have those kinds of experiences it’s a just a jump-up-on-the-bed-and-bawl kinda feeling. It’s just God.

TALLAWAH: The 12th season of Digicel Rising Stars is heating up. Your second season at the judges table. What are you particularly excited about?
Alaine: It’s a better year. We have a better crop of talent. The women have really shown up this year, only two men are left, I believe. The girls are here to win and hopefully when one of them does win they’ll go on and have a vibrant career.

TALLAWAH: What about all about behind-the-scenes drama? Rumour has it that you can’t Anthony and Conroy. Is that true?
Alaine: Yes! They get on my last nerve (Laughs). It’s a great big family, with a very supportive team of producers. We’re friends and we really want the new talents to shine. As successful people in the industry we had someone give us a chance, open doors when we were starting out, and I think it’s so important to pay it forward and encourage the youngsters who are the future generation. Rising Stars is just a fun place to be. A positive energy pervades the set at all times.

TALLAWAH: You’re just coming off tour. Again. How was it this time? What was the highlight for you?
Alaine: We did 16 shows, several countries across Europe. It was hectic. You go to sleep in France, wake up in Germany. But the highlight for me was Summer Jam. I was the only female on the show. Very nervous. But it went well. To have all those people screaming for you makes you realize that this is way, way bigger that you.

TALLAWAH: So Alaine still gets nervous before a show!
Alaine: I want to use the bathroom. I feel anxious. Even you’re rehearsed and well prepared. And then I hear my name called to go on the stage and the crowd starts roaring. And you’re asking yourself, ‘Are they really making all that noise for me? Who is this Alaine?!’

TALLAWAH: Let’s switch gears and talk a bit about the politics of the business. Pop icon Prince reportedly confessed to a journalist recently that being in contract with a record label was a lot “like slavery. I would tell any young artist Don’t sign’”. What are your thoughts on Prince’s revelation? 
Alaine: I had a deal in Japan at one time, and that went okay, but it’s probably not comparable to the kind of contract that Prince is talking about. My belief is that young people coming into this business should know who they are and who they want to be instead of being told who they are or who they should be.

TALLAWAH: You’ve been an independent artiste for a while now. How’s it been flying solo? 
Alaine: It’s expensive. A lot of pressure. I recently became part of the Jukeboxx family, where I’m being managed by Shane Brown. And I like it it’s a nice change. It involves a lot more strategizing and planning. And it works for me.

TALLAWAH: Which is extremely important. So how do you want the rest of your year to play out? 
Alaine: I have to give thanks that I’ve been able to continue pursing my passion for music for so long and still enjoy doing it. For the rest of the year, I just want to be happily surprised. It’s been a great journey so far, but I want more. Lots more happenings, so my music can reach more ears and touch more lives.

> WATCH THIS: Take a look at the video for Alaine’s groovy single “Favourite Boy”

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Saturday, 15 August 2015

CULTURE MARKET: High marks all around for new and improved Independence Village

WE ARE FAMILY: A trio of girl pals strike a pose at the entrance to the photography exhibition, one of the cool new additions to the Village.

What a difference a year makes. That’s precisely how Janet Barrett felt after making the rounds at the Independence Village at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre in Kingston last week. Like other patriotic Jamaicans who made the trip up to the Hope Road venue, Barrett was quick to notice the vast improvements, the multiple additions to the facilities and the vibrant energy all around compared to last year.

Craft vendors and corporate entities, cultural agencies and culinary establishments rubbing shoulders with JDF representatives and personnel from the Passport and Immigration Office – who all set up booths to interact and transact business with Jamaicans and tourists from all walks.

A kiddies’ village, a lavish photographic exhibition featuring Jamaican icons, vendors of fresh fruit and ground produce, and an enthusiastic sound system also added to the diverse fare on offer at this black-green-and-gold culture haven.

“I think everything we’re seeing is a step above what we saw last year. You can feel the difference,” Barrett noted, stopping by the National Library of Jamaica’s tent. “The surroundings are much neater and the atmosphere is just right. My only complaint is that it’s a bit too noisy here. You can hardly hear yourself when you’re having a conversation. But that’s a general feeling I have about fairs and events like these in Jamaica. The noise can be a bit excessive.”

For Gwyneth Harold Davidson (whose Young Adult hangout provided a cozy meet-and-greet spot for book lovers, chess enthusiasts, and those interested in the new adult colouring-book craze) seeing family members taking the tour together was one of the highlights for her. “Based on what I’m seeing a lot of groups have come out, a lot of families have come out. We need more events like these that allow families to spend quality time together and enjoy the culture together,” she told TALLAWAH.

Amina Blackwood-Meeks agrees, giving the organizers the thumbs-up for layout and attention to detail. She pointed out, “The facilities provided are very good, and it’s organized in such a way that vendors can share good service.” Meanwhile, radio and TV host Jenny Jenny also had high praises for the JCDC’s team while hosting Wednesday’s World Reggae Dance Championship Finals, at one point urging the crowd to put their hands together for the staff and “the idea of an Independence Village.”

Jewelry designer and vendor Maxine Stoney, who came all the way from Trelawny, added her applause for a job well done. “A little bit of everything is here, and that is ideal for an occasion like this,” said the Falmouth resident who, like Davidson, was making her debut at the Village. “I like the turnout. This week went well for me, so I’m planning to come back next year.” 

Read More:
RHYTHM NATION: See highlights from this year's World Reggae Dance Champs Finale

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