Monday, 29 February 2016

ELECTION NOTEPAD: Pearnel Charles’ longevity + the Holness’ dynamic duo + Simpson-Miller’s grace in defeat

In view of her party’s “shock” defeat to the Jamaica Labour Party at the polls last week, how does outgoing Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller feel about the outcome? “We have done our best. I hope and pray that what we achieved on behalf of this country will not be ruined,” the PNP leader said on Thursday night at party headquarters. “I hope those who succeed us will not throw away the gains made by the People’s National Party government.” Given the result (a historic 33-30 margin), Simpson Miller says she is keenly awaiting the recount of the ballots and regrouping with her team. “The fact is we are no quarrelling with anyone. This is Jamaica, and we have a responsibility. If anything, we are stronger than yesterday. This is a time for us to return to the drawing board.” 

Record-setting MP and one of the most enduring figures in Jamaican politics Pearnel Charles, who has retained his North Central Clarendon seat in Gordon House, recently spoke with an interviewers about staying the course in spite of his advanced age: he turns 80 this year. “When my mind and muscle can’t coordinate and I am tired, I will ask the people who elected me to serve to relieve me of the job. Nevertheless, if they say to me, Mr. Charles, we have found as more efficient person for the job, then I will step down,” the political veteran said. “When my people indicate to me that my time has come, I will go and tell them thanks for six terms in the Lower House, two terms in the Upper House, and two terms in the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation.” 

The Holnesses, who are set to become Jamaica’s First Family, are indeed a family for firsts. Having both won seats in the recent General Elections, they will become the country’s first Prime Minister and wife (Juliet)  duo to serve in the House of Parliament. For his part, Andrew Holness couldn’t be happier. “My wife is my greatest supporter in everything I do. She is with me in every single thing I do. So it would be good to have her in Parliament, but of course she is an independent woman, and she has won her seat in her own right,” the JLP leader says. “She also wants to serve but she has latched on to supporting me in achieving some of the goals that I have, and she has worked to do that for as long as we have been together – and we have been together for a very long time. So I am looking forward to having her in Parliament.”

Saturday, 27 February 2016

ON THE RECORD: Tesfa Edwards and crew set to heat up the Kingston stage in He Said, She Said

 BAD BOYS: Edwards (centre), with costars Matthew Boyd, Jakeme Clarke and Gemmar McFarlane.

Tesfa Edwards has sex on the mind these days. In less than a week, he and his costars will take to the Courtleigh Auditorium stage to present the some-like-it-hot revue He Said, She Said (Ellis International), series of skits laced with humour, gender/relationship dynamics and all kinds of grown-folks business – the kind of hot stuff sure to provoke thought and stir debate. The 36-year-old veteran actor (Bedroom Farce, House Arrest, Her Last Cry), who prides himself on taking an open-minded approach to sexual politics, spoke with TALLAWAH about why the show is a must-see, handling disappointments, and witnessing his career come full circle.

TALLAWAH: How did you initially feel about doing a production that so frankly deals with sex and relationships?
Tesfa Edwards: I’m fine with it. I’m not a prude. And it’s being tactfully done, not in an outrageous way, so I am good with it. The show has a series of skits and they all have to do with sex and relationship topics – masturbation, the woman not being satisfied, the man thinking he’s the don the bedroom, and things like that.

TALLAWAH: How come we don’t see more of these plays on the local scene?
Tesfa Edwards: I think people are afraid of dealing with these topics. The original title for the show was Too Much Sex, and actors were afraid of coming on board. People are afraid to push the button; they don’t want to offend anybody. So I think Blakka Ellis is a brave man for doing this show.

TALLAWAH: Who’s the character you’re playing in He Said, She Said?
Tesfa Edwards: I play several different characters, and I’m also the stage manager for the show. So I’m an active stage manager.

TALLAWAH: What do you hope Jamaican theatregoers take away from the experience of seeing the production?
Tesfa Edwards: I’m hoping that after seeing the show they will be a bit more open. Too many Jamaicans are afraid of expressing themselves sexually. Even some of my castmates were afraid of doing certain things in the show; they are still inside that box. So hopefully when [audiences] see the show, especially the women, they will feel more self-assured.

TALLAWAH: What’s next for your longtime crew, the Independent Actors’ Movement?
Tesfa Edwards: We are 13 years old now. For the past few years we have been doing the Anancy Chaptaz series, so that should be coming back this summer. That’s our main focus right now. Last year we did a season of Run Di Track on TV, and we might do another season because persons have been asking for more.

TALLAWAH: Has life brought you any major disappointments or regrets?
Tesfa Edwards: No, I have no regrets. And whatever disappointments I may have had, I see them as stepping stones.

TALLAWAH: When you reflect on your acting career, your journey to this point, what goes through your mind?
Tesfa Edwards: It’s like I was telling Scarlett [Beharie] the other day, doing this show I feel like my career has come full circle. In 2006, I first got to work with Ellis International for a production called One Night of Sunshine, with Rosie Murray, Deon Silvera and Bello Bell, and I was the only unknown in the cast. I was still in my 20s then. And now exactly ten years later, I’m working with Ellis International again. And I think this is their first major production since then. So I feel like I’ve come full circle as an actor. I’m happy about my career; I can’t complain. I enjoy being in the theatre, whether I’m on the stage or working backstage. 

> He Said, She Said opens at the Courtleigh Auditorium, New Kingston, on Friday, March 4.

Friday, 26 February 2016

HOLNESS’ VICTORY DANCE: ‘How We Won the General Elections’

'PARTY' PEOPLE: “We will give you an accountable and responsive government,” Holness has promised his supporters.

The 2016 General Elections – the country’s 17th since the granting of Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944 – have come and gone, and Andrew Holness is on his way to Jamaica House. The Jamaica Labour Party president, who led his team to a historic 33-30 triumph over the Portia Simpson Miller-led People’s National Party (PNP) at the polls on Thursday, says his party won the keenly contested matchup because they listened to the cries and concerns of the Jamaican people and devised compelling strategies to address them.

“Our campaign was issues-based. We focused on the things that you told us were important to you. We developed plans around them, and we discussed those plans with you,” the charismatic politician noted in his victory speech in Kingston on Thursday night.

Did his attractive and well-publicized 10-Point Prosperity Plan – not to mention his headline-grabbing income tax proposal – convince and sway voters? It’s safe to conclude that it played a pivotal role, especially since it came so close to D-Day. Looking ahead, Holness is firm about delivering on those promises. “We intend to be faithful to those plans. We will grow the Jamaican economy,” he says. “We will give you an accountable and responsive government.”

In his own words, Holness wants the Jamaican people to be tough on him as he gets set to assume the prime ministership for the second time in his political career. “We know that the cost of victory is accountability. The cost of victory is the responsiveness of the Government that we will form. The cost of victory is to keep the commitments that we have made. We are under no illusions as to the ability of people to hold their government to account.”

So what Jamaicans can expect from the incoming JLP government, the waiting-in-the-wings prime minister makes clear, is effective change. “I make the commitment to you that your new government will not be government as usual,” Holness says. “We don’t take it that we have won a prize. We have been given stewardship of the country, and we stand to be held to account for our stewardship.”

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

LISTEN UP: Liberty Hall’s Sankofa 10 promises powerful discourse + Damian Marley soon to drop lead single from upcoming album

TAKING CONTROL: Maximizing his full potential through business ventures like the reggae-rific Welcome to Jamrock cruise occupies a lot of Damian Marley’s time these days. A hands-on businessman, he’s involved in practically every aspect of the planning process for the musical cruise, now in its third year. That includes, “choosing the talent, organizing the running order of the performances of each night, approving artwork for flyers, banners and advertisements and in general contributing ideas that add to the overall experience,” he tells YVA Nation magazine. And because the creative juices are always flowing, his music-making prowess never stops. “I am gearing up to release the first song from my upcoming album, which I am still in the studio working on,” Marley says. To keep him focused on creating another classic, he’s been listening to a lot of his own music. “As a musician, sometimes you can be influenced by other people’s music without realizing it,” he points out. “So honestly, I try not to listen too much while working on projects. My playlist is full of unreleased, untitled songs at the moment.”

RACE MATTERS: Every year, the King Street-based Liberty Hall puts on Sankofa, a symposium that tackles key issues of race and identity and Black consciousness, against the backdrop of Marcus Garvey’s legendary teachings. The last three stagings were international in scope. This year’s staging, Sankofa 10, will follow suit. The standard-bearer for their annual Black History Month activities, Sankofa 10 will not be held this month. Owing to the General Elections, it has been shifted to March 2nd. The Jamaica Conference Centre will play host. “We have invited over 350 people, including teachers and sixth-formers to the conference centre, where we will link with high-school students in South Side Chicago,” Liberty Hall curator and chief organizer Dr. Donna McFarlane tells TALLAWAH. “We will be exploring the theme of Black self-identity. What’s happening in the Black community? What’s happening in Jamaica? What’s happening in South Side Chicago? Different place, same issues?” Sankofa was conceived as Black History Month programme targeting, in particular, high schools and teachers colleges. Local and international scholars are brought in to interrogate a certain tops “beyond what Jamaican students today learn in text books.”

CHILD’S PLAY: Emprezz Golding ventures in puppetry and animation with kid-friendly series Ackee Walk

COLOUR MY WORLD: The inspiring new series explores identity and wellness, among other issues. Below, Emprezz Golding.

Emprezz Golding, one of the hardest working women in edutainment, is all about empowering Jamaican youth through her creative endeavours. For her latest labour-of-love project, the woman behind Café Africa and Talk Up Yout’, opted to combine the ever-reliable medium of television with the cool concept of animation to produce and present Ackee Walk, possibly Jamaica’s first ever puppet show, which has been airing on TV-J for the past few weeks.

According to Emprezz, the themes that the mini-production explores range from health and wellness to identity and Black consciousness. “It’s my passion project right now. With Ackee Walk I’m championing children’s rights and the need for Jamaican children to know their rights,” she explains. “There’s also an inclusion of young people born with disabilities because I feel they need special attention. We want to motivate and lift them up.”

To that end, Ackee Walk – with its vibrant storytelling, lush colour palette and catchy musical numbers – is a rousing blend of entertainment and education, with special attention to the overall Black experience. “It’s looking at both the Jamaican way and the Black way because we have to stay true to our identity as Black people and nurture the next generation from as early as possible.”

Ackee Walk, which is funded by UNICEF, packs ample insight and inspiring facts into each of its four-minute episodes that have been uploaded to the show’s YouTube page. Joining forces with Emprezz (creator and executive producer) is hubby Steven and Television Jamaica, who are co-producers. A talented team of youngsters, Emprezz reveals, has also been working with her on putting the show together.

In the meantime, Emprezz Golding, whose popular youth-empowerment TV series Talk Up Yout’ has morphed into a cultural touchstone, was among the speakers giving motivational pep talks to the high-schoolers who turned out in their numbers at the recent National Career Development Expo at the Knutsford Court Hotel.

In the spirit of entrepreneurship and mental stimulation for coming-of-age Jamaicans, Emprezz says it’s an event she heartily endorses. “I think events like [this annual expo] stirs the creative mind. The different workshops and motivational speeches resonate with them, giving them that drive,” she insists. “For the future, one of my major goals is to do a career-related TV show.”

> Catch episodes of Ackee Walk on Saturdays at 10:30 am on TV-J or watch them online via YouTube

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

THE TALLAWAH INTERVIEW: Singing Melody opens up about his hit reality show – and putting family first

TRUE COLOURS: The singer flashes a smile while flanked by wife, Ruby (left) and Marion 'Lady Saw' Hall. Below, The Hardweares share a tender moment; Rehearsing with the band.

Many Jamaicans first got to know Singing Melody as a talented crooner whose piercing vocals are as distinctive as they are arresting – and as frontman of the male quartet LUST. But, over the course of the past 12 weeks, we got to see the 47-year-old (né Everton Hardweare) in a whole new light – as husband and family man – thanks to the CVM-hosted reality show The Hardweares, which just concluded its successful debut season. At the recent wrap party, on the terrace overlooking the crystal swimming pool at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, TALLAWAH chatted with the singer-songwriter-turned-reality star about putting his story out there, why The Hardweares is no vanity project, and being an inspiration to Jamaicans at home and abroad.

TALLAWAH: The curtains just came down on Season One of The Hardweares. What was the high point for you? 
Singing Melody: The best part of doing The Hardweares is really just seeing the result of it and what it really means to a lot of people. We bring back that old time vibe, where the home is happy, a home that is filled with so much love and prosperity. The family coming back together and staying together. You see the arguments and the fuss and the fight and all of that. But The Hardweares is just a clean product that brings back that whole family vibe.

TALLAWAH: There was a lot of talk about you building your dream home, as one of the highlights of Season One. Did the whole Andrew Holness/Big House saga feel familiar to you?
Singing Melody: People have never come at me like that or come at my family like that because they know us. They know that we are hardworking people. And Andrew Holness is the same thing. He’s a very hardworking man who has been working all his life. So now he wants to build a home. It’s a proud thing to do, and as Jamaicans we should look to uplift Jamaica and put ourselves at a standard where people can look at us and say this is a successful nation. You shouldn’t wait until somebody becomes successful then you want to tear them down. That doesn’t shed a good light on Jamaica. 

TALLAWAH: There are those who feel that reality shows are nothing more than vanity projects for the rich and famous to flaunt their good fortune. How do you respond?
Singing Melody: For us, it’s a totally different thing, because as you heard in the story from my wife earlier, I really didn’t want to be a part of [the show] if it was going to be something like that. When even 12-year-olds come up to me to say how they watch the show and feel inspired by it, it brings out a certain kind of upliftment. People have gone back to the days of being inspired something positive. And you would have noticed that the show is not shown a lot because it’s not just about the house. The house is just the main attraction for us to invite people to come in.

TALLAWAH: How far do you think the series can go?
Singing Melody: So far we’ve gone into the United States. But we still need a bit more support from [local sponsors]. It’s a very expensive show to do, so you know we’re coming out the pocket doing everything on our own. So we’re looking for help, for sponsorship. The show is not just about my family; it’s about Jamaica. To show Jamaica in a better light.

TALLAWAH: Which Jamaica’s reality show would you tune in to watch?
Singing Melody: Maybe my friend Richie Stephens’ because he has a good story to tell, in terms of where he is coming from and what he has contributed to Jamaica – the music, family life – even being a part of charity like what we do. But some people don’t want to go on camera. You also have a man like Tony Rebel who has contributed a lot and have something to talk about. And I think that would inspire a lot of young people to find themselves and realize that they can make it. 

TALLAWAH: After 10 years of marriage, how do you and Miss Ruby keep the flame of your relationship burning so bright?
Singing Melody: We enjoy doing things together. And when she’s inspired, I am inspired. So I support her 100 percent in whatever she wants to do. Sometimes it hurts me and it hurts us in the long run, but we enjoy taking chances. She was one of the executive producers on my last album that opened at number five on the Billboard reggae chart. We work together as a family and we join each other on our ventures to make them successful.

TALLAWAH: Let’s talk music. Do you have more fun as a solo artiste or as a member of the group LUST?
Singing Melody: Both. Last week I was in Atlanta for Red & White Affair, a Valentine’s special, then I was to meet up with the group for a performance. But we didn’t get to perform due to negligence of the promoters. I still did my show my Atlanta. I had a lot of fun doing it. And joining my brothers on stage is no different. It’s the same kind of energy.

TALLAWAH: The last time I saw the group, you were rocking the Catherine Hall stage at Reggae Sumfest in MoBay. What’s next for you guys?
Singing Melody: We are constantly working. We have shows coming up, like a Mother’s Day event here in Jamaica. We also have upcoming events in the United States, Canada and Barbados, and so on. We are recording as well, working on new stuff for this year.

TALLAWAH: Do the upcoming General Elections interest you?
Singing Melody: Anything to do with Jamaica I have great interest in it. I think that every voice must be heard because that’s how we make change. I don’t believe in sitting down and expecting change to come. I think all of us, but especially our young people, must get up and let their voices be heard regardless of which direction you wanna go because that’s how democracy is; we gotta share our opinion.

TALLAWAH: When all is said and done, what do you consider your greatest achievement?
Singing Melody: My greatest achievement is getting love from people, from the fans. If you can get people on your side, then everything else will fall into place.

Monday, 22 February 2016

BLACK HISTORY SPECIAL: Cool advances in technology moving Garvey’s Liberty Hall into a modern era

PROUD LEGACY: McFarlane, centre, and members of the Liberty Hall staff. Below, visitors making use of the resources. 

The sea of green-and-white-clad primary-school students, practically blocking the entrance to the museum, shouldn’t have taken us by surprise on this sunny Thursday afternoon in downtown Kingston. After all, local schools are in the happy grip of Black History Month, and this is Liberty Hall, the Marcus Garvey landmark prominently situated at 76 King Street.

According to current director and curator of Liberty Hall, Dr. Donna McFarlane, it’s during this time of year that the property draws its largest crowds. “During Black History Month we host a lot of tours, from in the morning all the way back to evening,” she tells TALLAWAH. “We have hundreds and hundreds of children coming in almost daily.”

The people-friendly Liberty Hall that everybody now enjoys when they pay visits to learn about the life and work of Marcus Garvey didn’t start out as this appealing, technologically advanced cultural centre. Today, the enormous building houses the Garvey Multimedia Museum, a multimedia computer centre, the Garvey Research and Reference Library and a museum shop. In short, what’s on offer is a significant educational, social, cultural and intellectual centre – a living, breathing monument to Jamaica’s first National Hero.

It’s come a long way. Back in 1923, the property was established as the headquarters of the Kingston division of the Garvey-founded Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). It served as a multipurpose facility that housed admin offices, a laundromat, a job placement service and even a co-operative bank. For a while, it was the centre of Garvey’s operations.

After years of ownership battles that went all the way to the Supreme Court, in 1987 the property was purchased by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust and plans were made for its reconstruction as a historical site. Pooling ideas and resources, the culture ministry, the Friends of Liberty Hall, the Jamaica National Heritage Trust and the Institute of Jamaica restored Liberty Hall to its former glory. The newly refurbished building was officially opened to the public in October 2003.

Inside, the green-and-white-clad students (who we later learn are from Ensom Primary and Marlie Mount Primary) are paying keen attention to their young female instructor, who is giving them the kid-friendly version of Garvey’s philosophies. They hang on to her every word, responding as a lively chorus to her questions.
Garvey’s larger-than-life portrait stares back at you from quite a few paintings on the walls. His teachings, in book format, look out from glass-made display cases. There are quotations of his (on posters) that you scribble into your notebook to memorize later. The rooms are dimly lit but the computer screens provide ample lighting. Inspiration is all around. Inside Liberty Hall feels like the kind of study/mini library you add to your perfect dream home.

“Liberty Hall has established itself within the community as a source of inspiration, and for that we are very pleased,” McFarlane says. “I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve been open for 12 years now, and that we serve the community around us first and all others after.”

And because there’s always room for improvement, the next phase of the modernization of this national landmark is in the works. “Soon the museum will be completely redesigned to include more interactive elements,” the curator notes. “We now have eight touch-screens, all of them dealing with the life and work of Garvey. And we also have a collection of films about Garvey that we show.”

But by June of this year, there will be more on offer. “The museum will be enhanced with a few more touch-screens and devices that will share facts about Africa, which Garvey preached a lot about – facts that students and visitors may not have learned elsewhere. We’re hoping to have all this done within the next few months, so it should be very exciting.”

For a man who was all about the Motherland, liberty and advancement, we think Mr. Garvey would have approved.

SHOW TIME: Crowd-pleasing performances, star power bring a spark to 2016 Youth View Awards

CENTRE STAGE: Ding Dong and Ravers Clavers accepting the award for Best Dance Group. Below, Chris Martin and Pia Mia rock the crowd.

Which other local event can bring together Freddie McGregor, the ladies of Intense, Kevin Downswell, Busy Signal and Ishawna in the same room on the same night? Only the Youth View Awards. Every year, this pop-culture spectacle, fuelled by unbridled youthful energy, wins you over with its combination of sizzling musical performances, party vibes and appearances by A-listers and popular public figures hailing from the worlds of music and sports, media and fashion.

The YVAs cast a wide net and deliver a splendid production that remains the core of its appeal. This year’s staging, on the eve of its tenth anniversary, was no exception. Just one quibble: quite a few of the winners in the show’s first half were absentees. Some were (fashionably?) late arrivals, popping up later on. I am not going to tell you that Dexta Daps (Favourite Musical Collaboration) and Vershon (Breakthrough Artiste of the Year), who both gave notable performances, are among them.

In any case, the highlights at the 2016 YVAs, which rocked the National Indoor Sports Centre for close to four hours on Saturday night, were plenty. Olympic champ Usain Bolt, who was unavoidably absent, took home the award for Celebrity Role Model. Popular disc jock ZJ Chrome picked up three trophies (Favourite Local Producer, Top Party Selector and Favourite Radio DJ) while incarcerated dancehall kingpin Vybz Kartel copped two awards – for Favourite Local Male Artiste and Best Dancehall Artiste. The red-hot Spice (also a no-show) won for Favourite Female Local Artiste.
Beenie Man was named Male Fashion Icon (Ishawna won the female equivalent); Beres Hammond copped Favourite Vintage Artiste; Miss Kitty took home Favourite Media Personality, while Sean Paul earned Favourite Local International Artiste. Ding Dong and his Ravers Clavers crew swept two of the dancing categories, while Best Dance Move went to Aji for the “Aji Bounce”, popularized by Bling Dawg, who won Favourite Music Video. Favourite Gospel Artiste went to Kevin Downswell.

As for the top awards of the night, Ishawna won her second trophy for Young, Hot & Hype Female while the self-proclaimed Champion Boy, Alkaline, picked up Young, Hot & Hype Male of the Year. International guest performer, the teen sensation Pia Mia, got a rousing welcome that buoyed her performances of “Love Yourself” and “More than a Friend.” Chris Martin and Vanessa Bling also gave crowd-pleasing performances.

Emcees Bella Blair and Bambino (alongside voice-over announcer Debbie Bissoon) kept things moving at a jaunty pace. A bouncy performance by Dexta Daps, a testament to his versatility as an entertainer, brought the show to a melodic and high-energy close.

COOL RUNNINGS: Sagicor Sigma 5K combines a fun run and charitable giving

ALL ON BOARD: Members of the Sagicor team and event ambassadors share a selfie moment.

For Donovan Perkins, the most memorable moment at Sunday morning’s Sagicor Sigma Corporate 5K in New Kingston came when a few of the entertainers who were tapped to perform for the massive Emancipation Park crowd felt moved to make financial donations on the spot. “To see these artistes dip into their pockets and donate everything they had on them was a highlight for me,” Perkins, CEO of Sagicor Bank, tells TALLAWAH. “I think it shows how deeply moved Jamaicans are when it comes to supporting this worthy cause and playing a part in the fight against cancer and supporting cancer survivors.”

The entertainers, including dancehall heavyhitters Ding Dong and Popcaan (who both made US dollar contributions while on stage) represented a mere fraction of the turnout for this 18th staging of the Sagicor Sigma road race. The event pulled well over 20,000-strong to the streets of New Kingston – a merry multitude of men, women and children decked out in track suits and sneakers, shorts and tee-shirts, some proudly flaunting the logos of their respective companies, schools and clubs.

Observing the theme “Run for the Fun… Donate for the Cause,” this year’s staging raked in $43 million-plus dollars, thanks to registration fees and donations. According to Perkins, it’s the largest sum they have ever raised in the history of the 5K. How will the money be spent? “We haven’t worked out the details yet, but we will be giving funds to the Bustamante Hospital for Children and the Black River Hospital,” Perkins explains.

At least a dozen 5K road races take place in Kingston & St. Andrew alone each year, but there’s something about the Sagicor Sigma event that brings out a special kind of enthusiasm and joie de vivre among Jamaicans. By all appearances, this year’s staging certainly lived up to its slogan. “Whenever you do the Sigma run, and you complete the race, you feel like you win a million dollars,” offers Carlene Blagrove, the top female runner, who completed the distance in 23 minutes and five seconds. “I look forward to it every year. It’s awesome.”

A professional massage therapist and mother of two, Blagrove says running for the love of it is one thing but doing so in support of cancer survivors is added incentive. “I have two clients who are cancer survivors, and I know a lady who is a breast cancer survivor,” shares the 45-year-old, defending champion of the upcoming Melbourne Cricket Club 5K. “So for me it’s a worthy cause that I will always support.”

Like Blagrove, this year’s overall male champion, Kirk Brown (17 minutes and 15 seconds), says doing the Sagicor Sigma Run allows him to combine his love for athletics with lending his time and talent to a worthy cause. Plus, for Brown, a professional athlete, the event is an important yard-stick. “I’m hoping to make the Olympic team this year, so doing the race this morning allowed me to see where I’m at and where I need to improve,” says Brown, who has set his sights on representing Team Jamaica in the marathon in Rio.

Given the humongous turnout that overpopulated the Emancipation Park on Sunday morning, can the Sagicor Sigma Run get any bigger? “Well, that’s the aim,” Perkins says. “When you see a turnout like this of almost 30,000, you wonder where more people are going to be accommodated next year. But it’s a worthy cause, so we’ll figure it out. We welcome all the support.”

Saturday, 20 February 2016

WORK & CAREER SPOTLIGHT: Youngsters get life-changing counsel at National Career Dev. Expo

SHOW AND TELL: Emprezz Golding (pictured here with Nationwide's Miss Kitty at the expo) spoke about having 'an open mind' when it came to her career game plan.

“A lot of students are leaving school with no plan. Non-traditional careers are taking over, so what are the skills that will help you survive 10, 20 years from now? I’ve lived long enough to share my experiences with you.” So said keynote speaker and entrepreneur Gail Hudson, as she launched into a lively motivational talk that served as one of the highlights at Friday’s National Career Development Expo.

High-schoolers from in and around the Corporate Area turned out in their numbers at the Knutsford Court Hotel to partake of the freebies and life-changing information on offer at the event, now in its sixth year, thanks to a brilliant collaboration between the HEART Trust/NTA and the Ministry of Education.

Given the rapid ongoing evolution of the working world, the constant refrain that echoed throughout the hotel’s Blue Mountain Suite on Friday had to do with mapping out a career game plan that will stand the test of time. “A lot of the jobs are now mobile, but preparation and the right mental attitude will make you successful,” Hudson advised the students. “Make a list of at least ten things you’re interested in and plan how you’re going to do these things.”

But the expo’s strongest asset was the wide-ranging and informative booth displays, with over a dozen local entities on show. Among them: the Jamaica Library Service, the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, the Registrar General’s Department, World Skills Jamaica, NCTVET, and the Jamaica Tourist Board. In addition to sound advice and career counselling sessions, the students and their chaperones were treated to massages and manicures that came as part of a demonstration package.

“Since 2011, we’ve been observing National Career Development Awareness Week to promote a culture of career development in Jamaica,” noted Erica Williams, who brought greetings on behalf of the HEART Trust. “Our main aim is to encourage more Jamaicans to think career and use labour-market information to their advantage. You have to know where the jobs are and where they will be. New jobs are coming in and old careers are going out of style.” 
For her part, when it came to motivating the youngsters in attendance, emcee Emprezz Golding shared her trajectory that has seen her developing and diversifying a brand that now includes a hit TV show (Talk Up Yout’), fashion (the Stanley & Emprezz boutique), cuisine (Café Africa) and, most recently, animation (the puppet show Ackee Walk). “I’ve always had 6, 7 jobs at one time,” Emprezz told her audience. “I didn’t come from anything, but I had love and an open mind.” 

Career counsellor Dr. Marcia Rowe-Amonde says an event like the annual expo remains crucial for motivating the country’s next generation of leaders. “Young people need to be inspired in planning their careers, so this kind of event has to be endorsed. It’s a way for them to get to know about the new and emerging careers and plan accordingly,” she tells TALLAWAH. “So we provide the kind of information that will help prepare them for what’s coming.”

'New and emerging careers - and how to get them - was a hot topic at Friday's expo.'

Friday, 19 February 2016

CHAT ’BOUT: Quotables from Lorna Goodison, Clyde McKenzie, PM Portia Simpson-Miller, and more

“We always referred to that tragedy as that thing that happened. The tragedy was so palpable. And some truly horrible things were said about that woman because she was a rhumba dancer. I thought about [Margarita Mahfood] a lot. She had a lot of things going for her. She came from a privileged background, and yet she still chose to be with Don Drummond. I would like people to think again as to why she chose to be with this man. I think, and from what I’ve heard, she had an intense and powerful love for him.” – Poet Lorna Goodison weighing in on the tragic Don Drummond/Margarita saga during last Sunday’s leg of Grounation 2016 at the Institute of Jamaica 

“The party has a very clear vision, and you will see that coming out in our manifesto and 10-Point Plan, as to exactly what we are going to do when we take over Government. There is an incredible sense of purpose in the party, as there was in the early days some dissonance about what exactly the party was about. I think we have resolved that now. We are all beginning to understand that what happened before is in the past. There is a recognition that the JLP has a chance if we work together.” – Opposition Leader Andrew Holness commenting on the status quo in the Jamaica Labour Party ahead of next week’s General Elections 

“Jamaica stands at the intersection of hope and history. We have laid the foundation for substantial and sustainable economic growth. The basis is being laid for First-World education and training. First-World level of job creation, business start-ups and wealth creation. Beyond the customary noise of exuberance of an election campaign, there is the national and international acknowledgement that, at long last, Jamaica is getting its social and economic house in order.” – PM Portia Simpson-Miller addressing the recent launch of the PNP’s 68-page manifesto at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel 

“Winning your first Grammy for Best Reggae Album is an exceptional accomplishment for you as a music group, but it is also a moment of great national pride for all Jamaicans at home and abroad. We celebrate this great success with you. For decades, our artistes and our musicians have taken Jamaica to the world stage, carrying our culture to the farthest reaches of the globe. So today I pay tribute to Morgan Heritage, all other talented Jamaican acts who were nominated in this year’s Grammy Awards, as well as the music pioneers who have laid a solid foundation for us to build this sector.” – PM Portia Simpson-Miller hailing reggae ambassadors Morgan Heritage in the wake of their recent Grammy win for Best Reggae Album 

“This win is a tribute to the hard work and a commitment to their craft, for which they which they have been known over the years. They have been around for a long time and have produced such a high standard of work. This might not be their best album, and they might not be as prolific as they have been in the past, but there is never sub-standard music from Morgan Heritage.” – Entertainment specialist Clyde McKenzie adding his voice to the chorus of praise for first-time Grammy winners Morgan Heritage 

“It is up to the authorities to punish the cheats, and they now need to step up and take action. All I can do is continue running clean and keep showing people that anything is possible.” – Sprint superstar Usain Bolt offering a solution to the ongoing doping scandals that have beset the sport of athletics 

“Don Drummond didn’t say much; he spoke through his horn. This was a man, a musician, a trombonist who produced a sweet kind of sadness to make us get up and dance. It’s an amazing thing about Don Drummond that’s difficult to explain. Just the feel, the vibe, the spirit of his music. It’s inexplicable. It can’t be written on the page. In photos he was always pensive. This is a man who lived inside his head. For me, he was a sociologist, a historian. He was everything we sent our kids to study.” – Founder of the Jamaica Music Museum, Herbie Miller, remembering the musical mastery of Don Drummond during Grounation 2016 at the Institute of Jamaica recently

EDITOR’S PICKS: What to See, Hear and Do this Weekend

SUPPORT The 2016 Youth View Awards (YVAs), which is returning to the National Indoor Sports Centre for a blockbuster presentation that will undoubtedly deliver fireworks and the kind of musical performances social media will be gabbing about well into next week. Amidst all the excitement though, emcees Bambino and Bella Blair will introduce presenters to hand out some awards. Who will take home Male Artiste of the Year? Young, Hot and Hype Female? Top Cultural Artiste? Best Gospel Act? Winners in these and many other categories will be revealed during Saturday’s ceremony that will be preceded by a red-carpet pre-show and closed off with a hip-hoppin’ after party. Expect appearances by, among others, Vershon, Vanessa Bling, Dexta Daps and this year’s international guest performer Pia Mia.

WATCH Fifty Shades of Black, a laugh-out-loud parody of the 2015 erotic drama Fifty Shades of Grey (the film version of the worldwide bestseller). Since it is brought to you by the guys who released over-the-top comedic flicks like White Chicks and Scary Movie, it is best to approach Black with an open mind and a heightened sense of humour. With a cast led by Marlon Wayans (who co-wrote and co-produced) and Kali Hawk, the movie follows an inexperienced college student and aspiring journalist who meet a wealthy businessman, whose sexual practices put a strain on their blossoming relationship. In short, it’s a mix of gut-busting hilarity and cringe-worthy moments. Directed by Michael Tiddes, Black features can’t-miss cameos by Mike Epps, Fred Willard and Jane Seymour. [B-]

CHECK OUT Stephanie’s “Your Love” clip, the sexy music video treatment to her hit single of the same name. With its seaside setting, tropical getaway vibe and romantic sensibilities, the video (which features the sultry songbird frolicking with her Natty paramour) scores high marks for its appealing blend of simplicity, subtle sensuality and a nod to all things irie. This island girl is no stranger to tasteful, beautifully shot music videos; her clips for “Real Woman” and “Right Here” are winners too. But, by far, “Your Love” is her most captivating release to date. 


> What to read: Author and Independent VoYces founder Judith Falloon-Reid’s latest effort, The Silent Stones 
> What to listen: Reggae-soul crooner Chris Martin’s new jam, “Beauty to My Life”

THE WOMEN AND THE (CAMERA)MEN: Energy’s leading ladies join forces + Junior Dowie and Ray Chen gone in a ‘flash’

GIRL ‘POWER’: It is always worth noting when a group of Jamaican women come together in the service of common goal. That said, anticipation is slowly building for next month’s Women in Energy Conference, which is being spearheaded by the female powerhouses at the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS). Under the theme “Doing Power Differently,” the conference – scheduled for March 10 and 11 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel – will feature several dynamic speakers from home and abroad who will engage the audience on a series of power-related topics for them to “learn, connect and inspire.” What’s more, the conference will give rise to conversations, as these women in power prepare to utilize their voices to address challenges and opportunities in this important and evolving sector. Among the confirmed presenters are Minna Israel (right) the energy ministry’s Hilary Alexander, UTech’s Dr. Ruth Potopsingh, Paymaster’s Ambassador Audrey Marks, Jacqueline Sharp (Scotiabank Jamaica), Tanya Meck of the Global Strategy Group and, of course, JPS CEO Kelly Tomblin (left). To learn more and to get the full conference schedule, log on to

HIS CANDID CAMERA: In addition to some of the most breathtaking still life and island imagery captured by his incantatory photographic lens, Ray Chen will be remembered for his transporting book Jamaica: My 50 Years in Photography, which was launched at Devon House in March of last year. Chen, who lived to produce stunning and vivid images of our island culture as a career photographer, passed away in his adopted Canada on Feb. 7. He will be laid to rest following a memorial service at the Elgin Mills Centenary Chapel in Toronto this Saturday. Introducing his work to a wide audience via books was important to Chen, who also published Jamaica: The Land and the People (1984) and 1993’s Jamaica: The Beauty and Soul of the Land We Love. Chen is survived by his wife, Linette, their two adult children and four grandkids. “His legacy will be how much he worked throughout his career,” says Linette Chen, “to make sure he captured the true Jamaica.”

THIS MAN’S WORK: Junior Dowie won so many awards for photography from the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) that the body eventually named their Sports Photography trophy after him. That’s the kind of powerful impact Dowie had. The veteran cameraman, who headed The Gleaner Company’s photography department for several years, died earlier this week at the University Hospital after ailing for some time. Besides the multiple PAJ awards, Dowie was honored with numerous accolades throughout his 60-year career. Among the highlights: In 1992, the government of Jamaica made him a member of the Order of Distinction and in October 2005, the Institute of Jamaica presented him with a Silver Musgrave Medal for distinguished contribution to the arts in Jamaica. Funeral arrangements will be disclosed shortly. Dowie is survived by five children and two grandkids.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

CRITICS’S NOTEBOOK: Limited runs hampering local plays + 2016 Actor Boy Awards get a date + Introducing GiRL

FITS & STARTS: Last month, we lamented the brief run that the excellent little comedy-drama Same Difference (from writer-director-producer Dahlia Harris) had at the Karram Speid Auditorium, Merle Grove High, due to space shortage in the corporate area. But, alas, a silver lining. Thanks to rehabilitative work on the Theatre Place (now called the Phoenix Theatre), more audiences will get to see the play (starring Volier Johnson and Deon Silvera) as it is now set to enjoy a longer run that could last well into the Easter holidays.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the same can be said for Mama Take Me to Church, a faith-based domestic drama that ran for a few days at the Hope Road-based YMCA last week. The production, featuring legendary leading lady Dorothy Cunningham, above, (and produced by Andrew Roach) is yet another show local critics never got a chance to review due to its limited stint at the venue. All this only serves to underscore a point made by Johnson in a recent TALLAWAH interview that, given the dearth of theatre houses and art spaces in Kingston, producers will simply have to get more creative and resourceful when it comes to mounting productions that will secure sizeable audiences. Time have changed. You hope for the best, but it’s wise to expect the worst.

THAT TIME OF YEAR: The big winners of this year’s Actor Boy Awards will be revealed when the prize ceremony takes place at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Monday, April 4. Now 22 years old, it’s the annual shebang where the theatre industry pauses to recognize the excellent work of the past year and acknowledge the crème-de-la-crème performers. The diligent Maurice Bryan, who is coproducing the show once again, tells TALLAWAH that the judges are currently finishing up their tallies so that the complete list of nominees will be ready for announcement come this month-end.

OOH, GIRL!: The performance that actress-singer Shanique Brown gave as Mario Evon’s opening act at Stages of Love on Saturday was one of luminous brilliance. Brown, who now goes by the stage name GiRL, was her usual jazzy-mellow self, channeling her inner neo-soul queen as she belted out tunes like original cuts “Check Fi You” and “Nobody Wins” – and breezy rendition of Laura Izibor’s breakout hit “If Tonight is My Last.” As an emerging talent, the twentysomething singer is still a work-in-progress. But soulful eloquence is what springs to mind when you hear GiRL, who tunefully comes across as the love child of Jill Scott and Anthony Hamilton.

FIRST LOOK: Usain Bolt gives exclusive deets on forthcoming I Am Bolt documentary

THE REAL THING: According to the sprint superstar, his upcoming film reveals all.

Five years ago Usain Bolt gave the world a rare but much-appreciated up-close-and-personal glimpse at his life as a world-famous athlete, thanks to a respectable little documentary called Fastest Man Alive. Now the multiple Olympic champ is ready to show us the real thing.

I Am Bolt, the long-awaited follow-up to Fastest Man Alive, chronicles the sprint icon as he puts in work to get ready for this summer’s Rio Olympics, which promises to be the big hurrah that brings the curtains down on his legendary track-and-field career.

According to the Jamaican speedster, I Am Bolt doesn’t skimp on the details. “I think you will see everything about me as an athlete and a person,” the 29-year-old tells Screen Daily. “Nothing is off limits, and the crew have already been following me everywhere I go. They started filming early last year and have been with me off and on since then.”

The filmmakers behind this avidly anticipated project are Gabe and Ben Turner and producer Leo Pearlman, who previously collaborated on Class of 92 (about football giants Manchester United) and One Direction: This Is Us (the box-off hit about the popular boy band).

Viewers will get to see how Bolt spends his downtime, as well as highlights from his dazzling exploits at last summer’s Beijing Summer Olympics. But the weight of the film will be centred on what goes into getting ready for a main event like Rio. “To win an Olympic gold medal takes a lot of very hard work,” Bolt says. “The movie will go behind the scenes and show the days when training is hard, when my body is hurting, when I have to skip other fun things to ensure I am ready when it counts.”

> The Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, take place August 5-21.

GOSPEL SPOTLIGHT: Meet the top 10 contestants in this year’s Jamaica Gospel Song Competition

THE MELODY MAKERS: Members of the group Kazak Ministry giving their all for a spot among the finalists, all gathered on stage (below).

The 10 finalists who will vie for top honours in the 2016 Jamaica Gospel Song Competition this summer have been chosen. Whittled down from 35 impressive semi-finalists, the top 10 were selected following a sing-off at the Louise Bennett Garden Theatre (Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre) on Ash Wednesday, February 10.

The terrific ten are as follows:

Derona Davis (Clarendon) – “Glory From This”
Omar Douglas (St. Thomas) – “Stop It”
Kazak Ministry (St. Ann) – “Live and Declare”
Marsha Jarrett (St. Ann) – “Send Up the Praise”
Jessan Nembhard (Kingston & St. Andrew) – “Thank You”
Sherlon Russell (St. Catherine) – “Jesus Lives In Me”
Triciana Simpson (Kingston & St. Andrew) – “When You Call”
Orville Sutherland (Clarendon) – “Silver and Gold”
Vitalyte (Manchester) – “Banking in Jesus”
Filicia Williams (Kingston & St. Andrew) – “Can You Reach Me”

Now that the final cut has been made, the terrific ten will now turn their attention to preparing for the journey to the grand finale, taking place this summer. According to organizers, the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), voice and industry-based workshops are being planned for the contestants. A live in-studio recording of the 2016 compilation album is also in the works, and the finalists are scheduled to give performances and participate in outreach activities across the island. All the highlights will be captured for a reality TV series that will air during the run-up to the grand finale.

Director of Marketing and Public Relations at the JCDC, Stephen Davidson, points out that, as in years past, the task of settling on a top 10 proved a tough job. “This year’s semi-finalists each brought something extra to the competition in their own unique way. It was hard for the judges to select the best ten. Almost everyone was a crowd favourite,” he says. “But [this competition] facilitates growth in the music industry and continues to provide opportunities both locally and internationally for a lot of persons who have entered.”

> 2015’s big winner Diamara Neil-Walker continues to impress on the local jazz and blues scene, making her most recent appearance at the Jamaica Pegasus’ Jazz in the Gardens series.

>> DID YOU KNOW: The Jamaica Gospel Song Competition was first held in 1987?