Wednesday, 30 September 2015

BOOK OF THE MOMENT: Grace Jones recounts her glam-and-glory days in I’ll Never Write My Memoirs

CHAPTERS OF HER LIFE: Jones' new book details her colourful, eventful journey to the top.

The one and only Grace Jones has always lived her life on her own terms in big, bold hypervivid colours, so no surprise that her first autobiography, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, is a candid reflection of all that – and way more. The diva spares no punches, dropping names and dishing up the years that saw her transformation from fresh-on-the-scene model to creative powerhouse to global sensation.

Ever since the blogosphere got wind of the tell-all, being released this month in hardcover by Gallery Books and co-written with author Paul Morley (Words and Music: A History of Rap in the Shape of a City), the buzz has been deafening. Clearly worth the long wait. And, so far, no complaints under the heading “Too Much Information.” 

According to online sources, Jones loyalists and the curious-minded are in for a royal treat – an unforgettable peek into the world of a woman hailed as disco queen, gay icon, game-changer and gender-bending iconoclast. In short, one of the world’s most recognizable artists.

How did a young girl who leaves Jamaica at age 12 and finds fame as a fashion model in 70s New York parlay these small early triumphs into a bonafide success story spanning stints that led up to Andy Warhol’s Studio 54 in its prime and towards becoming recording superstar, provocateur and the ultimate showgirl? (“I had no childhood,” Jones informs her readers, “I’m having it now.”)

For countless admirers, Jones remains a soul survivor like none other, and the book, racking up nearly 400 pages, allows us to witness some of those whirlwind experiences – in her own words. In these candid reflections, Jones tells us about lovers come and gone, her constant quest for the new and the next, and the free-flowing social circle of fashionistas, artists and musicians that helped fuel her electric energy.

Grace, now 67, addresses rumours new and old, her diva reputation (including the many movie roles she turned down), and even stirs some controversy as only she can, name-dropping with wild abandon. By all appearances, Grace Jones not only has a hit on her hands but a how-to guide for living out loud.

“Her reflections are a passionate reminder of the fabulous, decadent and manic coupling of life and art,” Kirkus Reviews proclaims. In one stroke, another reviewer manages to perfectly capture the rebel and the renegade. “I’ll Never Write My Memoirs follows this ageless creative nomad,” he notes, “as she rejects her strict religious upbringing in Jamaica, conquers New York, Paris and the 1980s, and lives to fight again and again.”

More Book News
> NATIVE SON: Marlon James among finalists for Man Booker Prize

web counter

Friday, 25 September 2015

CHAT ‘BOUT: Some of our favourite stars confess their secret ambitions

WHAT's your dream career? In honour of our 2015 Work & Careers Issue, we asked a few popular personalities to talk about the career paths they’d be pursuing in a perfect world. Here’s what they shared:

SHENNA CARBY, Mission Catwalk Season 1 winner and Season 5 (the All Stars Edition) contestant
“When I was younger, I wanted to become a bio-engineer because one of my dreams was to make artificial hearts and kidneys for people I used to hear about on the news. I wanted to combine doing what I love with helping other people at the same time. But that didn’t happen for me because the financing didn’t work out. I got into fashion designing because I decided to get creative instead. I found something I was good at and really enjoyed doing.”

JUNIOR WILLIAMS, Actor and businessman
 “I actually wanted to become a pilot when I was growing up. It’s a long story, but I thought a career like that would have made me better off. I wanted a top-of-the-line career. I was good in school, but I wasn’t fortunate or come from a privileged background, so I didn’t get to explore certain things.”

DELUS, Recording artist
“Creativity is my thing, so anything in graphics and video editing. When I’m writing songs my imagination goes into overdrive and a lot of those same images will end up in my artwork. I will pay somebody to design my stuff and edit the videos for a more professional look, but it’s something I also enjoy doing. I like to see stuff coming alive in front of my eyes.”

NICOLE AIKEN-PINNOCK, Sunshine Girls skipper
“Because I like fashion so much, I always fantasized about operating my own clothing store. I like to dress up and I like when people, especially the ladies, look nice. So that’s where the vision came from. Fashion makes me happy; it gives you a different feeling. I haven’t given up on that dream. Maybe when I get rich enough I’ll finally be able to start that business.”

web counter

LOOK WHO’S TALKING: Dorraine Samuels + Ity & Fancy Cat + Wykeham McNeil + Alan Magnus + PM Portia Simpson-Miller, and more

THREE’S COMPANY: Sep. 19, Kingston. Minister with portfolio responsibility for Tourism and the Environment, Dr. Wykeham McNeil, (centre) shares a light moment with RJR stalwarts Dorraine Samuels and Alan Magnus at the Palisadoes Strip, where the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) hosted their 22nd annual beach clean-up last Saturday to mark the 30th International Coastal Clean-up (ICC) Day. Over 2500 volunteers turned up to lend a hand. (Photo: Skkan Media)

CROWD PLEASERS: Sep. 19, St. Ann. Emcees Ity & Fancy Cat, who are gearing up to launch the eighth season of their hit comedy show on TV-J, brought the jokes to Ocho Rios last week as they hosted the JN Loan-A-Palooza road show, which drew hundreds of residents from St. Ann and neighbouring parishes – and featured performances by fly girls CK and Tifa(Photo: Skkan Media)

GETTING ACQUAINTED: Sep. 17, St. Andrew. Picewell Forbes, the new High Commissioner-designate of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas to Jamaica last week made a courtesy call on PM Portia Simpson-Miller at Jamaica House, where the PM congratulated him on his new assignment, noting that her administration welcomes the opportunity to deepen the relationship with the Bahamas. (Photo: OPM)

WOMEN OF SUBSTANCE: Sep. 8, St. Andrew. Meeting with newly appointed Country Manager of the World Bank Office in Jamaica, Galina Sotirova, PM Portia Simpson-Miller expressed gratitude to the World Bank, on behalf of the Jamaican people, for their continued support via special projects and technical assistance in a number of different areas “at a time when we’re operating in a tight fiscal space.” (Photo: OPM)

FLOORING IT: Sep. 8, Turks & Caicos. A member of the NBA-certified coaching staff speaks with a group of young basketball players who were taking part in the Digicel Jumpstart Clinics at the Graceway Sports Centre recently. The clinic hosted coaches from the NBA to help train some of the island’s best basketballers – a batch of about 50 – who got tips and techniques on how to improve their on-court skills. Said a Turks & Caicos rep, “Our partnership with the NBA has created something special for our young people as they now have a chance to further develop their talents.” (Photo: Digicel)

web counter

Thursday, 24 September 2015

LONDON CALLING: Outstanding student actors to reap life-changing benefits of Shakespeare Schools’ competition

CENTRE STAGE: Members of the Campion Collerge cast performing their winning version of Macbeth, which heads to the UK in 2016.

Few Jamaicans have had the good fortune of visiting Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Members of Campion College’s drama club will have that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to treasure when they embark on a tour of the United Kingdom and participate in the Shakespeare Festival come next year.

The St. Andrew-based school won the inaugural Jamaica Shakespeare Schools’ Championship at the Little Theatre in Kingston on the weekend, and as the winning school they will jet off to the UK to join up with the Royal Shakespeare Company and tour with their production of Macbeth, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of the world-famous English playwright and poet. 

Campion emerged king of the hill on Saturday after a long day of performances at the Little Theatre, featuring the competition’s top seven schools vying to finish as one of the judges’ top two, who moved on the grand finals held in the evening. For the prize package, which included a shiny new trophy, Campion’s clever urban version of Macbeth faced off with an entertaining and multilayered spin on The Merchant of Venice performed by a vibrant cast of Kingston College and St. Hugh’s High students.

Waterford High, Ardenne High, Glenmuir High, the American International School of Kingston and the Wolmer’s Trust completed the batch of seven contending schools, following the July eliminations, which showcased the productions of 17 schools from across the country.

Launched in February, the drama competition (a first of its kind for Jamaican schools and audiences) is the brainchild of British philanthropist Dr. Tony Sewell, CEO of Generating Genius, with endorsement and full sponsorship provided by the Jamaica National Building Society.

With the Campion College representatives heading on tour with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK in 2016, Dr. Sewell believes foreigners will get to see Jamaicans in a different light – in an artistic context, beyond our well-known achievements in track-and-field. But ultimately, he emphasizes, the students are the key beneficiaries. “We have a very strong and long history in theatre and the dramatic arts,” says Dr. Sewell, “and so this gives us an opportunity to support the sustainable development of theatre in Jamaica.” 

At the same time, both Dr. Sewell and the JN Foundation’s Dr. Renee Rattray are quick to draw attention to the competition’s long-term benefits on the lives of the young participants, many of whom say they now have a keener understanding of Shakespeare’s vision – and the power of the English language. 

“The reports from teachers and students indicate that this championship has been a turning point for many of them, particularly those students who never read a Shakespeare play before, or even acted in a play before,” notes Dr. Rattray, Director of Education at the JN Foundation. “So it is our hope that many of the students will continue to nurture the talent that has emerged throughout this championship.”

Read more:
> PLAY TIME: J'can students get a thrill out of shaking up Shakespeare

web counter

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

NATIVE SON: Jamaica’s Marlon James among finalists for 2015 Man Booker Prize

PAGE BY PAGE: The novelist's latest pageturner made Amazon's list of the best books of 2014.

For the first time in the history of the Man Booker Prize, a Jamaican author could walk away with the prestigious literary award. Maintaining its impressive run on the awards-season circuit, Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings has earned a place on this year’s shortlist comprising six authors and their acclaimed works (down from a longlist of 13). The winner will be announced in London on October 13.

According to chief judge Michael Woods, the writers who make up the 2015 list present an “extraordinary range of approaches to fiction,” hailing from different cultures and are themselves at different stages of their writing careers.

Joining James on the list are Anne Tyler (A Spool of Blue Thread, USA), Tom McCarthy (Satin Island, UK), Chigozi Obioma (The Fishermen, Nigeria), Hanya Yanagahira (A Little Life, USA) and Sunjeer Sahita (The Year of the Runaways, UK).

Arguably the most highly coveted literary award, second to the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Man Booker Prize was traditionally open solely to fiction writers from Britain. But now, for the second year running, it’s open to authors from any nationality as long long as their novel was published by a UK press.

Meantime, though she remains an admirer of his talent and growing list of achievements, UWI’s Dr. Carolyn Cooper tells TALLAWAH she prefers Marlon James’ first two books. “I think he’s an excellent writer, but I don’t like [Brief History] as much as his earlier work,” she says of the author, who has won critical huzzahs (and a large following) thanks to bestsellers like The Book of Night Women and his debut John Crow’s Devil. “But I’m proud of him and that he’s been nominated for this major international award as a Jamaican author.”

web counter

GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK: Literary giant, provocateur, humourist – Anthony Winkler takes his final bow

TERRIFIC TONY: The author in happier times. Below, with Annie Paul at the Calabash festival in 2010 (left) and Kim Robinson-Walcott at the IOJ in 2014.

“I don’t think much about my legacy. I just hope that when I leave this Earth they’ll say, ‘Well, he did his best.’”

So said Anthony Winkler in a 2014 interview with TALLAWAH, as he reflected on his legendary writing career and his mortality. As his life made clear, Winkler was not one who sought after fame or celebrity status. The author, who died at his Atlanta-based home in the United States on Friday, simply opted to give us compelling and memorable stories that rigorously examine Jamaican life in all its guises. He did his best? Winkler excelled.

Born in Kingston in 1942, Anthony Winkler emerged as a natural storyteller, going on to cultivate a voice as distinctive as it was original. Blessed with an incredible sense of humour, he specialized in tales full of morally conflicted characters and, more often than not, side-splitting island humour.

No surprise that the Cornwall College old boy won a large and loyal international following whose appetites he satisfied. In return, they helped make classics out of novels like The Lunatic, The Annihilation of Fish, and his debut offering The Painted Canoe, which, he confessed to TALLAWAH in our last interview, was his personal favourite of all his books.
Flash-forward a few decades later and Winkler devotees (and new fans) have added to their collections such notable titles as Crocodile, The Family Mansion and the historical epic God Carlos, which earned him the 2014 Townsend Prize. No stranger to winning acclaim and accolades for his work, Winkler was honored by the Institute of Jamaica last year with the Gold Musgrave Medal, ten years after he was presented with a Silver medal for outstanding contribution to the literary arts in Jamaica.

Let’s face it: there has never been a more fascinating Jamaican scribe than Anthony Winkler – the subject of controversy and admiration in almost equal measure. He was quite a character himself. To hear him recount the story of his expulsion from Cornwall Collage for “refusing to take caning” is to bear witness to a spirit of defiance. Dr. Kim Robinson-Walcott’s incisive Out of Order: Anthony Winkler and White West Indian Writing offers unshakeable evidence of his penchant for provoking thought and stirring debate. 

But when all is said and done, as Marlon James reminds us, Winkler as contemporary Jamaican novelist, was simply the best. “Every country (if she’s lucky) gets the Mark Twain she deserves,” James says, “and Winkler is ours, bristling with savage Jamaican wit and heart-stopping compassion.”

> IN HIS OWN WORDS: Read our 2014 interview with the celebrated novelist

web counter

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: Kidney Support Foundation steps up awareness campaign, fund-raising mission

RUN FOR LIFE: A wide cross-section of Jamaicans took part in Sunday's 5K to raise funds for kidney-disease patients.

More than 30 years after its inception, the Kidney Support Foundation of Jamaica keeps coming up with cool and resourceful ways to raise funds and bolster the fight locally against kidney disease. In the past, the not-for-profit organization attracted solid support for such events as its annual film premiere hosted by the Carib 5 Cinema in December, a Patient Day on the last Sunday in November, and a 5K Health Walk/Run every September in celebration of Kidney Month.

According to the KSFJ’s National Coordinator, Pamela Sutherland, the aim is always to do more. This past Sunday, the KSFJ joined forces with the Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica to put on a special 5K Walk/Run, which culminated at the Hope Road-based Police Officers’ Club, pulling scores of participants representing various fitness clubs, corporate entities, and the public hospitals’ renal units. At the event, TALLAWAH spoke with Sutherland and long-standing foundation member Errol Sinclair about what it takes to win the fight against kidney disease.

TALLAWAH: At present, approximately how many Jamaicans are battling kidney disease?
Pamela Sutherland: In the public sector, there are five hospitals that provide services and treatment for kidney patients. At the moment, the Kingston Public Hospital has about 200 patients, and each of the other four across the island has about 100 patients each. So that’s roughly 600 patients in all, in the public sector, that we know of. There are quite a few private dialysis centres across Jamaica that provide treatment for those who can afford it.

TALLAWAH: Fundraising aside, what’s the foundation’s major objective when it comes to helping kidney-disease patients lead normal lives?
P.S.: Right now a lot of them are without jobs, and many of the ones who do have jobs cannot work five days per week because of their condition. But they have needs like everybody else. So one of the objectives we’ve been working on is stepping up our appeal to corporate Jamaica to help provide employment for them.
Errol Sinclair: I think [the foundation] has been doing a fine job since we started in the 70s, but we need more volunteers. And that’s part of our mission now – to attract more volunteers and to spread the message. Part of the thrust is to get the education out and to get Jamaicans to understand the lifestyle that promotes kidney well-being.

TALLAWAH: So an awareness campaign is crucial.
P.S.: Absolutely. When you’re dealing with kidney disease it is important to understand the history of those infected with the disease and to help those affected like family members and members of the community.

TALLAWAH: For [Sunday’s] 5K Walk/Run, you partnered with the Pharmaceutical Society and a few sponsors. What’s next?
P.S.: In addition to putting on more fund-raisers, we want to partner with some corporate Jamaica companies to ensure that patients are employed because many of them are employable. Those able to work should be allowed to get jobs. We also want to acquire more dialysis units so that for those who are straining to cover their medical expenses their lives can be made a bit easier.

TALLAWAH: Mr. Sinclair, I’ve heard that for Patient Day, your all-natural retreat spot Tapioca (along the St. Andrew/St. Ann border) has hosted get-togethers for adults and children to enjoy a day of authentic Jamaican cuisine, giveaways, and more.
E.S.: Many of them tend to complain that they feel depressed and stressed out, so the fun day is one way for them to lift their spirits. This year feels like a new beginning. We have a national coordinator now to hold the fort together. But raising money is still our main goal because we want to do as much as possible to help the patients live normal lives.

> GET INVOLVED: To learn more about the  work of the Kidney Support Foundation of Jamaica, visit them at 22 Old Hope Road in St. Andrew, or contact them at  322-2905 or

web counter

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

PUTTING ON A SHOW: Jamaican students get a thrill out of shaking up Shakespeare

MAKING A SCENE: Student actors from Campion College performing their version of Macbeth. (below), accepting the winner's trophy from Dr. Tony Sewell.

Jonkanoo, stand-pipe ghetto living, Bobashanti Rastafarianism. These aren’t ideas one associates with the work of the legendary William Shakespeare, but the supercreative and extremely energetic kids who participated in the national finals of the inaugural Shakespeare Schools’ Championship in Kingston on the weekend didn’t shy away from bringing the outrageous, the curious and the downright hilarious to the stage as they did their best to Jamaicanize some of The Bard’s most popular works.

Unsurprisingly, the student actors (who collaborated during the preparation process with their drama and literature teachers and mentors like Leonie Forbes and Dr. Brian Heap) had a blast while putting their shows together and bringing them to life on the main stage.

“It was pretty interesting. The fun challenge was that we had to Jamaicanize the play without changing the words. It took us a really long time to get it right, but the hard work was worth it because we made it to the finals,” shares 18-year-old Romari Samuels, who played the title character, Antonio, in Kingston College and St. Hugh’s entertaining spoof of The Merchant of Venice, which won second place. “Shakespeare’s language is a bit difficult to comprehend but we a lot of doing it our way.”

While KC and St. Hugh’s scored high marks and won big laughs for their version of Merchant, Campion College brought the house down with their ghetto-fabulous update of Macbeth – complete with zinc fence, stand-pipe and area dons. Glenmuir High, meanwhile, gave Othello an urban-meets-thug life remake, the American International School of Kingston spruced up Henry V, Wolmer’s High (Boys & Girls) brought pizzazz to The Taming of the Shrew, Waterford High jazzed up A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while Ardenne High offered their own visceral and innovatively crafted version of Macbeth.

Sixteen-year-old Danaia Brown, who starred in Fabian Barracks’ Force Ripe at The Theatre Place earlier this year, was a bonafide scene-stealer as one of the three witches in Ardenne’s Macbeth. “I had never played something so dark and eerie before so it was fun getting into that frame of mind,” Brown says of getting to widen her range as a budding thespian. “At first it was difficult to lose myself in the role, but eventually I overcame the challenge. The experience was constructive for me as an actress.”
First-time actress and Grade 11 student Amelia Howell of Waterford High cherishes the experience of witnessing one of her favourite stories come to life – and being a central part of the action. “I loved the play and I love the character, so when I heard that Miss was going to let us perform it, I was so excited,” recalls the 16-year-old who played Titania in Midsummer Night’s Dream. “I have never done anything like this before in my life. I enjoyed the experience, especially when I heard the audience enjoying what we were doing.”

Campion may have won the inaugural competition, but their journey to the top was far from smooth. “A major challenge for us was that we had to switch casts and we already had very little time to work with. But we stuck with it,” explains leading man Dimitri Grant, 16, who played Macbeth. He credits a total team effort for the victory. “Working together we had our ups and downs but we pulled through,” he says. “We gave our best, which really helped us.”

Chief judge and Director of the School of Drama, Eugene Williams, had nothing but high commendation for the young performers. In his own words, he was beyond impressed by their efforts. “Their level of emotional intelligence and commitment and expressiveness was very admirable,” Williams reports. “They stepped up to the plate and did a really good job. This kind of competition is something I would like to see continue in the development of our students.”

web counter

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

LIFT EVERY VOICE: Jamaican Folk Singers deliver lively, refreshing tunes for 2015 concert season

WELL TUNED: The renowned choral group consistently brings depth and range to their performances.

If there’s one thing to be said for the Jamaican Folk Singers it’s that for a very traditional choral group, they know how to reinvent themselves with a modern twist. That’s among the first things that leaped readily to mind while taking in their 2015 concert season at the Little Theatre in Kingston on the weekend.

Brimming with time-honoured and indigenous Jamaican folk gems, ample humour, and some choreography to give the show added dimension, the performance was quintessentially Folk Singers – tunefully pleasurable with just the right amount of entertainment value.

Though the group’s courageous attempts at dramatization don’t always hit the mark, you can’t deny their effort to step outside the proverbial box, year after year, and bring something fresh to engage their loyal following.

As with any Jamaican Folk Singers recital, you get popular and catchy songs about Jamaica’s lush tropical landscape (“Mango Time,” “Mango Walk”), the healing wonders of natural herbs (“Elena”) and countless work songs that reaffirm the strength and resilience of our forefathers.

Among the many qualities that founder Dr. Olive Lewin embedded in the choir’s DNA is a deep and abiding appreciation for spirituality. As such, songs with strong Biblical themes and empowering messages also figured prominently in the performance, while recalling several of the greatest heroes the Old Testament, namely Daniel, Noah and King David.

Meanwhile, a stark meditation on revivalism and ritualistic practices highlighted the second half and gave the show added punch and visual power. The tunes flowed in quick succession – many you recognized (“By the Rivers of Babylon”, “It’s A Hard Road to Travel”, “If I Had the Wings of a Dove”), a few you were hearing for the first time.

And that’s one of the factors that continues to set the Jamaican Folk Singers apart from other local groups. Though they specialize in traditional folk, the depth and range they bring to their art is consistently refreshing and laudable.

web counter

Monday, 14 September 2015

IN THE MIX: Fresh Marley interview uncovered + What’s next for Omi + Morgan Heritage/Marleys on tour

I AM LEGEND: Leave it to Bob Marley to make a surprise appearance when you least expect it. The late reggae superstar is gracing the pages of the September issue of Ebony Magazine, in a world-exclusive, never-before-published interview (“The Lost One”), conducted by noted journalist-filmmaker Nelson George. In candid Q-&-A responses, the Gong reflects on everything from his provocative albums to the sociopolitical landscape in Jamaica to his thoughts on art, life and everything in between. As with most anything concerning Robert ‘Nesta’ Marley, the article is a must-read. The September issue of Ebony is on newsstands now. 

ON A ROLL: Anticipation is sky high for the arrival of Omi’s major-label debut album, Me 4 U, which is being released by Louder Than Life/Ultra/Columbia Records on October 16. What a year he’s been having. Lead-off single “Cheerleader (Remix”) was last week anointed Song of the Summer by Billboard, after the track spent several consecutive weeks in the #1 spot on the Hot 100 Chart. Meanwhile, “Hula Hoop” is the buzzworthy new single that’s already generating heat, with a video clip set to premiere before the end of the year. The fast-rising reggae pop star has been on a roll, but it remains to be seen if his recent spate of good luck can translate to record sales. 

FAMILY AFFAIR: There couldn’t be a more apt title for the Catch A Fire Tour that’s brought together the roots-reggae rockers of Morgan Heritage with Marley family heavyweights Stephen and Junior Gong (alongside third-generation up-and-comers Skip Marley and Jo Mersa) to blaze concert stages across the United States, from August 29 (in Philly) until September 27 (in L.A.). For Gramps Morgan, hitting the road and bringing the heat with the Marleys was something he and his siblings have always dreamed of. “We always spoke of the day when Marley and Morgan would tour together, sharing the same stage, night in and night out. Well, now the time has come and we couldn’t be more joyful to see this dream become a reality,” Gramps says. “To be on the road bringing this energy to the people is fulfilling on so many levels for us. Reggae music needed this love that we share to be presented on a stage such as this, and we are grateful to be part of the journey.” Morgan Heritage’s latest album, Strictly Roots, is their follow-up to the acclaimed Here Come the Kings, released in 2013.

web counter

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Alaine seduces, stirs emotions on terrific Ten of Hearts

AS I AM: True to form, the singer's latest combines melodic appeal and emotional heft.

“This is my third album, but it feels like my first.” So says reggae-soul songbird Alaine, in describing Ten of Hearts (Jukeboxx Productions), her latest studio recording that’s a melodic blend of soulfulness and sobering message, passion and pleasure principles and the art of living and loving in the age of Instagram and WhatsApp.

These days, the singer, who gave us previous offerings like “Sacrifice” and “You Are Me,” is a more grown-up and glamorous version of her talented self (check out the album cover), but at her core and, as Ten of Hearts attests, Alaine is still that wide-eyed optimist blessed with sensitivity and an easy laugh who holds fast to the age-old transformative power of love.

Her inner glow lights up tracks like the repeat-worthy “Favourite Boy,” on which she invites him to “come dance with me forever” and “Better Than This,” a warm and tender reminder of what some good love can do. Alaine’s labelmate Tarrus Riley is a natural fit on “Sugar High” (referencing queen bees, honey and sweet surrender); Dexta Daps proves he’s got the magic number on the up-tempo track “Number One”; while Dre Island expertly plays the rhythm-and-rhyme companion on “Like a Drum.”

Her fine songwriting ability aside, the disc is a solid showcase for Alaine’s deft and respectful touch when it comes to handling serious subject matter. She tackles the plight of the homeless with compassion and curiosity on the heartfelt jam “Sidewalk Hotel”, shares the touching story of a girl she calls “Suzanna” and reminds us of how life can take unexpected turns on “Make It Home Again”.

Testament to her versatility, Ten of Hearts also takes fun and surprising detours, like when she teams up Africa’s Mwalim Churchill on the jaunty “Wafula” and delivers memorable covers of the classic jams “Loving Feeling” (wonderfully reinterpreted by producer Dean Fraser) and Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” produced by Shane Brown.

Packed with 14 tracks laden with soulful stylings, emotional heft, melodic appeal and substance, Hearts scores, quite easily, a perfect ten. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

> BEST TRACKS: “Better Than This”, “Don’t Walk Away” (feat J-Boog), “Sidewalk Hotel” and “Favourite Boy”

web counter

ON THE RADAR: Simpson-Miller’s tribute to Elizabeth II + Nominations open for Courtney Walsh Awards + New Ambassador to US appointed

WATCH THE THRONE: Three years after the observance of her Golden Jubilee on the throne, the Commonwealth of Nations recently paused to pay tribute to longest-serving British monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, on the occasion of the 63rd anniversary of her reign. Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller was among the heads of state issuing statements in salute to Her Royal Highness. “I extend best wishes on behalf of a Government and people who have never wavered in our love and respect for [the Queen’s] graciousness, sophistication, humility, charm and the dutiful manner in which she has carried out her royal responsibilities over these 63 years as sovereign,” Simpson-Miller noted during a September 9 event at King’s House, also attended by the likes of Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen and his predecessor, Sir Kenneth Hall. “Her Majesty the Queen has presided with dignity and an abundance of knowledge, wisdom, and great diplomacy.” 

PROUD TO SERVE: Jamaica’s got a new man in Washington. Ralph Thomas, the country’s recently appointed ambassador to the United States, will formally present his credentials to Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama on September 17 before officially commencing his duties. Thomas succeeds Dr. Stephen Vasciannie, whose tour of duty ended in July. 

PLAYING THE FIELD: Who will walk away $500,000 richer when the 2015 Courtney Walsh Awards for Excellence in Sports take place on October 15 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston? Nominations opened last week and will close September 18. Once again, Supreme Ventures head honcho, Brian George, is chairing the selection committee. "Sports is not just about winning and achieving great results on the field,” George says, “but should represent fair play, respect for others, respect for the rules, harmonious development and contribution to country."

web counter

WHEN A WOMAN’S FED UP: Danger and desire make a combustible mix in The Perfect Guy

SHALL WE DANCE? Lathan and Ealy get up close and personal in this scene from the movie.

If there’s anything trickier than knowing other people it’s knowing yourself. Just ask Leah Vaughn (Sanaa Lathan), a 36-year-old sistah with a high-powered job as a lobbyist who finds herself caught between two vastly dissimilar men on the ultimate emotional rollercoaster, which, in the aftermath, forever changes life as she knows it. That’s the basic premise of The Perfect Guy, a ferocious, moderately paced and very well-acted drama/thriller exploring intimate relationships, obsession and the love triangle with a salacious twist.

When Leah’s dating life with the hunky David King (Morris Chestnut) runs its course (she wants to settle down; he doesn’t) she decides to move on. A brief encounter leads to much more with the suave and charismatic Carter Duncan (Michael Ealy), an IT expert who specializes in “making people feel secure.” He woos her with sweet words, fine wine and nights on the town, and before she knows it she is falling head over heels for him, even bringing him to meet the parents (Charles S. Dutton and Tess Harper).

But, like they say, some things in life are too good to be true. And so the shocker: behind the well-cultivated veneer of charm, Carter is possessed of a violent streak that manifests at the most inopportune times, driving fear into Leah. It’s not the kind of thing she can handle, but when she tries to break it off with him, he becomes threatening and a heart-pounding game of cat-and-mouse ensues with deadly consequences.

When it turns out that the police (Holt McCallany plays Detective Hansen) can do very little to effectively protect her from Carter (who at one point leaves her a note, “If I can’t have you no one will”), Leah is forced to dig deep to muster the courage, and in the process discovers what she is truly made of.

A supremely competent performer who can move easily between working on the big screen (Brown Sugar, The Family that Preys) to doing live theatre (A Raisin in the Sun), Lathan proves that when it comes to inhabiting the drama queen onscreen that is where her real gifts are. Her performance is beyond mesmerizing.

Among the most accomplished Black actors of their generation, Ealy and Chestnut do their best to keep up, but in the end the movie belongs to Lathan, who transforms Leah into a pillar of strength (this is no damsel in distress!) and a heroine who solidly anchors the film, penned by Tyger Williams and directed by David Rosenthal – and featuring appearances by True Blood’s Rutina Wesley and Kathryn Morris.

Frequently jolting, a tad exploitative, but never less than entertaining, The Perfect Guy is an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

web counter