Wednesday, 29 June 2016

NEWS + NOTES: Eric Hosin appointed IAJ President + 8 Jamaicans earn Cuban scholarships + Simone Clarke-Cooper joins Supreme Ventures family

SIMONE'S LATEST AD-'VENTURE': The Simone Clarke-Cooper success story keeps evolving beautifully. The career journalist, television hostess and all-round media pro is the new Assistant Vice President for Group Corporate Communications at Supreme Ventures Limited. The company made the announcement of her executive appointment on the weekend. In the new post, Clarke-Cooper will assume responsibility for “nurturing strong network, increasing awareness and developing an enviable corporate image by developing and executing an effective communications and media relations strategy.” A veteran broadcaster who has made her mark at FAME FM, TV-J (Rappin, Smile Jamaica) and headed up corporate communications at Grace Kennedy Limited for quite a few years, Clarke-Cooper holds Bachelor of Arts and Master degrees in the field of media and communications from the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus.

CALLING THE SHOTS: As the newly installed President of the Insurance Association of Jamaica (IAJ), Eric Hosin has his work cut out for him. But he’s made it clear that he’s the man for the job. Hosin, who is the President of Guardian Life Jamaica, will put much of the focus on the reduction of insurance fraud and lobbying the government for the long overdue implementation of Phase Two of the Pension Reform programme, which is geared towards creating a greater incentive for Jamaicans to engage in retirement planning. Hosin, who also serves as President of the Insurance Association of the Caribbean succeeded Karen Bhoorasingh, President of Guardian General Insurance Company Limited.

THE CUBAN CONNECTION: “Cuba has offered and continues to offer cooperation, mainly in the fields of health and education, in countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean,” noted Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica, Bernardo Guanche Hernandez (right), as he presented scholarships to eight deserving Jamaican students, who will pursue medical studies in Cuba (for the 2016/17 academic year) under the Cuba-Jamaica Cooperation Programme. “Not only Cuban teachers have rendered their services in many developing countries,” he added, “but also many students from those countries have studied and graduated free of charge in Cuban universities.”






EMERGING VOICES: Local filmmakers go behind the camera to explore children’s issues with UNICEF

SHARP FOCUS: Blackwood's body of work includes short films like Bully (above), filmed for the UNICEF campaign.

Ras Kassa was a no-show (due to unforeseen circumstances), but the remaining two filmmakers put on a stellar presentation that more than made up for his absence. Inside the Spanish Court Hotel’s Valencia Suite on Thursday evening, a sizeable audience of film buffs and KOTE devotees (occupying every available seat) gathered for Director’s Cut: A Filmmaker’s Perspective that provided a splendid showcase for the blossoming talents of Kurt Wright and Gabrielle Blackwood, two standouts in the contemporary Jamaican film world.

The three filmmakers (Ras Kassa included) took part in this year’s UNICEF/Keep Children Safe campaign, turning in terrific short films that examine the theme of child abuse from the classroom to the domestic space to the wider community. While Ras Kassa opted to look at the gang violence angle (his film was, unfortunately, not screened), Wright and Blackwood struck a nerve with projects that delved into sexual abuse (Unspoken) and bullying/peer pressure (Bully) respectively.

Wright’s work in particular elicited strong reactions from viewers for its visceral take on manipulation and rape (there’s a telling shower scene), while Blackwood’s short, inspired by the real-life story of a Kingston-based high-school girl at the mercy of her cruel peers, was an even tougher watch. They say high school can be torture, and Blackwood’s work vividly shows evidence.

Since the films’ release in May (for Child Month), UNICEF has been hard at work getting them shown in primary and secondary schools across the island. And what better way to accomplish this than to partner with the Office of the Children’s Advocate? “We will be doing a film-in-schools tour to get these films seen in as many institutions as possible,” says UNICEF rep Allison Mitchell, who spoke at Thursday’s screening. “We really hope to further broaden the audience that sees these films and enter them in some competitions.”

In the meantime, Kurt Wright and Gabrielle Blackwood are two names that seem destined to remain on the local filmmaking radar for years to come. Blackwood, a 29-year-old CARIMAC grad, shot a thought-provoking feature called Denis (also previewed on Thursday) about a 46-year-old man’s battle with ALS. It’s still a work-in-progress.

Wright, a New York Institute of Technology alum (now in his early 30s) who has collaborated with everyone from Jay Will to Phase 3 Production’s dynamic team, is into edgier stuff (witness his Refn-esque The Pick Up) and got his feet wet behind the camera shooting music videos for local entertainers – his most recent efforts including Chris Martin’s breezy romantic jam “Is It Love” and the Franklin Town-set “Shotta” for NoMaddz.






CULTURAL EXCHANGE: Simon Bolivar Centre spices up its offerings with Latin dance, Spanish lessons

CLASS IN SESSION: Salsa dancing and Spanish lessons are now on offer at the Parade-based cultural centre.

When the Simon Bolivar Cultural Centre was opened at North Parade, Downtown Kingston, in September 2015, it heralded the arrival of an institution that would foster the deepening of cultural ties between Jamaica and its Latin American allies, particularly Venezuela, whose government (under the Petro Caribe agreement) foot the bill to cover construction costs.

Months later, the Centre (opened Mondays to Saturdays, is doing much more than welcoming locals to learn about our relations with Latin America and Simon Bolivar’s life and legacy. The Centre has diversified its offerings to include an after-school programme for children, adult Spanish classes for beginners and intermediates, as well as salsa and merengue dance classes.

“We’re trying to appeal to a wide cross-section of the public and increase our visitation numbers, and so far the response has been encouraging,” explains Centre manager Nadine Boothe-Goodin, adding that they are committed to serving the community.

At the same time, she emphasizes, they want to rake in some revenue for the Centre, which falls under the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) umbrella. That’s why the introductory phase of these new offerings was free of cost but now they carry a fee. While the Latin dance classes cost $2,500 per month, it’s $8,000 per term to attend Spanish classes.

“When we just started, a lot of persons attended but since we added the fees, the numbers have dwindled. But things have been picking up quite a bit these past few weeks,” Boothe-Goodin points out, adding that professionals who work in the Downtown area are among their regulars. “Our aim is to market the Centre as much as possible and get more people to visit us regularly.”

Social media promotion is one particularly effective strategy that’s been pulling in visitors. On Monday of this week, the Centre hosted a front-of-house Open Day, complete with a sign-up campaign and attention-grabbing music. “These events give us the opportunity to interact more with the public,” the manager notes. “We are happy with the response, and as we market more and increase our activities, we are sure we will experience increased patronage.”

> For more info, visit the Simon Bolivar Centre at 10 North Parade, Kingston, or call 967-0378. Email: simonbolivarcentre@gmail.com






Tuesday, 28 June 2016

FRESH TRACKS: Hear these sizzling new tunes from Etana, Protoje, Dre Russell and Shaggy

> SHAGGY feat. JOVI ROCKWELL
“I Got You”
Her sudden departure from the entertainment radar a few years ago left fans wondering, ‘Where is Jovi Rockwell?’ Turns out the rebel child was on a self-imposed hiatus from the spotlight but still nurturing her talent. Now, she’s back, sounding bolder than ever, as she lends Shaggy some sturdy support on this peppery track that’s all about ‘grown-folks business.’ But what distinguishes the tune from Shaggy’s previous heatseekers is the funky old-school sample it draws on, combined with bouncy dancehall pop and a hefty dose of Shaggy’s trademark swagger. B+ [Take a listen]

> ETANA
“The Way I Are (Natural Woman)
“Love me for me, not just for what you see,” Etana declares on this radio-ready slice of groovy reggae-soul. Production-wise, the track marks a slightly edgy departure for the seasoned songbird but lyrically it’s quintessential Etana – a talented songwriter and virtuous woman who is all about self-acceptance, self-worth, warrior love and natural beauty – while imploring her sisters (and brothers) to do the same. B+ [Take a listen]

> ANDRE ‘DJ RUSS’ RUSSELL
“Weh Di Party At?”
From Usain Bolt’s Vybz Kartel remix to Darren Bravo’s “Champion,” Caribbean sportsmen have never been afraid of grabbing the mic to drop a few bars, letting the fans (and the world) know that their talents and interests go further than the playing field. Now comes Andre Russell’s “Weh Di Party At?”, a slinky, in-your-face track that meshes the worlds of dancehall and hip-hop. While Russell’s playful jam doesn’t hit us for a six, it’s respectable enough for a trip or two across the boundary. B [Take a listen]

> PROTOJE
“Glad You’re Home”
If there’s one thing Protoje has had going for him ever since he burst onto the roots-reggae scene, it’s his versatility – that alluring blend of consciousness, compassion and lyrical food for though and the occasional rude-boy lyrics for the ladies (“No Lipstick”, anyone”?). You get a bit of everything on this winner, a vintage-sampling instant classic about that “you-can-ring-my-bell” kinda love. As ever, the singjay’s clever wordplay and infectious melodies make you a believer. A- [Take a listen]






CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: Mutabaruka in ‘Sankofa’ + ‘Womanhood’ as art + Pantomime seeks fresh faces

THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE: On Saturday afternoon, TALLAWAH joined a handful of tastemakers and art lovers inside the Spanish Court Hotel’s pristine Worthington space for ‘Dimensions of Womanhood,’ a limited-run art exhibition celebrating femininity in all its guises, featuring sublime pieces by Gisele Gardner (gorgeous oils on canvas characterized by bold brush strokes) and Katrina Coombs (fascinating textile and hand-woven creations) juxtaposed with rigid studies in metal by Stefan Clarke. All three fine artists are products of the Edna Manley College’s School of Visual Art, who teamed up to showcase the inspired works that compelling evoke the strength, sensuality, fragility and adaptability of the woman. “The work here really speaks to their continuing development as artists,” one attendee was overheard saying in an animated conversation. Among the noted names who came out to support the artists were Dr. Veronica Salter, Ad-Ziko Simba, Annie Paul, Dr. Kim Robinson-Walcott and Petrona Morrison.

KEEPING TRADITION ALIVE: Celebrating 75 years of artistic excellence in 2015, the LTM National Pantomime solidified their landmark status as the longest-running theatre company in Jamaica producing top-class and wholesome family entertainment. In keeping with tradition, the LTM is again on the hunt for fresh faces, stage-ready new talents who can sing, dance and act well. The Company has announced that it is now accepting applications from those interested in participating in their audition process to become members. Age-wise, you must be at least 20 years of age and reside within reach of the Corporate Area, but the Pantomime Company is not recommended for full-time students. Application forms can be accessed via their website, www.ltmpantomime.com, or by contacting 926-6129.

12 YEARS A SLAVE: Who knew Allan ‘Mutabaruka’ Hope was such a compelling actor? The cultural icon and controversial radio-show host truly impressed the large audience that descended on the Redbones Blues Café in St. Andrew last Saturday evening for a screening of Sankofa, a tragic and darkly entertaining feature film (directed by the Ethiopian Haile Gerima), in which Muta gives a memorable performance as a rebellious and strong-willed slave learning the power of community while experiencing the horrors of slavery. At its core, though, the movie (shot in Ghana and in Duncans, Trelawney) is about a vain Black American model who is spiritually transported back to a Caribbean plantation, where she is in for a rude awakening. There’s lots of spiritualism, black magic and island spice in the film that courted controversy upon its release back in the day, owing to its dark subject matter. But with its solid cast (Muta, Kofi Ghanaba, the late Reggie Carter, et al) and an unyielding meditation on the slavery experience and attitudes towards our horrific past, it’s an important film that’s as powerful as it is provocative.






50-SECOND FILM REVIEW: Independence Day 2 serves up loud, brassy entertainment

STRONG SUITS: Goldblum (left) and Hemsworth in a scene from the film.

“That is definitely bigger than the last one,” notes Jeff Goldblum’s David Levinson. The eccentric scientist is referring, of course, to the massive spaceship that’s just arrived to unleash mayhem and havoc on earthlings. Two decades earlier, Planet Earth managed to stave off a serious alien invasion that threatened to forever alter life as we know it and now they’re back, so we are bracing for war again. Will we be as lucky this time around?

That’s the basic gist of Independence Day: Resurgence, director Roland Emmerich’s bold, brassy, big-budget sequel to the film that helped cement Will Smith’s status as a major action hero. But while Vivica A. Fox makes a cameo appearance, Smith is nowhere to be found in this super-loud, reasonably entertaining follow-up. 

Instead, we are introduced to their courageous son Dylan Hiller (played with enormous assuredness by newcomer Jessie T. Usher) who, along with a team of space cadets, including Liam Hemsworth’s Jake, are tasked with taking the fight to these unwelcome extraterrestrial guests. Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, William Fichtner and Sela Ward (as the tough-as-nails US President) round out the main cast.

From ground zero to the depths of outer space, what a bumpy and explosive ride audiences are in for. But then again we expect nothing less from one of the most highly anticipated popcorn flicks to come along in years. In a nutshell, Independence Day: Resurgence may not evoke the timeless, edge-of-your-seat thrill of its predecessor, but it’s certainly the most bombastic cinematic feast we’ve had all year. Tyrone’s Verdict: B






Saturday, 25 June 2016

CONCEPT TO REALITY: School of Visual Arts’ final year show full of creative energy and vibrant imagination

THEIR OWN CREATIONS: Anthony Cookes (above) and Nicole Lyon are among the talented student artists whose pieces are featured in the show.

You can say this for the students of the Edna Manley College’s School of Visual Arts: they know the meaning of resourcefulness. Taking in the school’s 2016 Final Year Exhibition (currently on view through the end of the month), you constantly marvel at the clever, innovative use of a variety of mediums to craft bold works of art that tell powerful, sometimes amusing, but always interesting stories.

From exotic woods to cartridge paper to fabrics and textiles to plastic and metal, everything gets used. As such, the exhibition, which spreads across the school’s many departments and disciplines (taking you to many different rooms), is a splendid showcase of young artistic talent in bloom.

When it comes to printmaking, kudos to the likes of BFA students Shantel Mason, Nicole Lyon and Alex Thinstead for their brilliant execution of concepts exploring ideas, ranging from Jamaican proverbs to gritty social realities. In the area of animation, we caught a supercool video presentation by Jenille Brown, who is obviously a standout in her Visual Communication class. The art education students (like Alwaine Reid), meanwhile, produced truly informative and eye-catching creations targeting viewers of all ages.

But the major highlight for us, though, was Anthony Cookes’ “Seven Vices,” a print-and-sketch tapestry that offers a sly meditation on the seven deadly sins, as laid out in the Bible. Using the fictitious story of the seven members of a church as his inspiration, Cookes vividly captures how the indulgence of these vices (sloth, lust, greed, wrath, envy, gluttony and pride) can come back to destroy you when least expected. In short, it’s brilliant, haunting work from Cookes.

And you could say the same for the exhibition as a whole. A must-see show, it reflects a spirit of vibrant imagination and utter creativity, with a hefty dose of intellect, reminding us that the School of Art continues to do its job (one it takes very seriously) of producing outstanding artistic talents, who will go on to take their place among the next generation of the Jamaican and Caribbean art world.






WHEN IT HITS: Sonic power, bands galore deliver the goods at Fete de la Musique

MUST BE THE 'MUSIQUE': Established and emerging acts got their shine at this year's event. (below) Small and company.

Apparently, Jamaica’s French connection, at least through our cultural association with the Alliance Française in Kingston, has been bolstered by events such as the fast-growing Francophone Film Festival (held every March) and initiatives like the annual Fete de la Musique, which has been around since 1982!

Recently renewed with splendid, tuneful results, it is a live music bash with a power-packing punch. From rootsy reggae to jazz and swing to rock-fusion stylings, Musique delivers an unforgettable mélange of sounds, largely delivered big-band style. Hosted this past Sunday at Lady Musgrave Road’s India House, the 2016 incarnation assembled a mix of established and emerging acts, who brought rhythmic verve and highly commendable artistry to the main stage.

Taking us to musical seventh heaven were Seretse Small & Friends, an aggregation made up of such veterans as guitarist Maurice Wilson, Desi Jones (the drummer extraordinaire), Adrian Hemans (on keys) and crooner Harold Davis (also jamming on keys). Their take on Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” was full of melodic instrumentation that truly put the sizeable audience in the mood to groove and swoon. 

Later raising the tempo and switching up the pace, Davis brought his remarkable vocal skills to a rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon,” a slice of righteous jazz-swing fervour that had Yvonne McCalla-Sobers dancing up a storm front-of-stage. The piece deserved the resounding applause that greeted it at the end.

The band’s lush musicality continued with a fascinating treatment of Toots & the Maytals’ “54-46,” which felt a bit dub-heavy, but Small’s masterful command of the material (his spiky guitar riffs stealing the spotlight) went a far way in making the performance another clear winner.

Seretse Small & Friends were a tough act to follow, of course, but Rebel Nation, led by competent lead singer Minori (a songstress with brassy contralto vocals) did their absolute best to make a solid impression. Their uplifting pieces “No More Worries” and “Keep Working” scored high marks.

Meanwhile, a succession of crowd-pleasing bands followed, the best of the lot being Earth Warrior and the Earth Sounds Band, Kamau Ihmotep and company and vibrant young Rastafarian Royal Blue and his backing band, a solid unit made up of recent School of Music graduates. It’s worth mentioning that with so many bands emerging from that institution of late, events like Fete de la Musique offer great opportunities for much-needed exposure.

Overall, Fete de la Musique 2016 was a musical extravaganza with a lot going for it – high energy and crowd-pleasing party vibes, sonic power and a touch of artsy French living.






Wednesday, 22 June 2016

GOSPEL SPOTLIGHT: Pastor Ryan Mark on love, relocating his church, and touring with Kevin Downswell

THE BRIGHT SIDE: "When you go the extra mile for people, it makes a difference to them," Reynolds says of growing his church.

These days, embracing change comes as naturally to Pastor Ryan Mark Reynolds as breathing. After a decade of making gospel hits and releasing albums under the stage name Ryan Mark (aka The Chosen Prodigy), this multifaceted artist, minister, husband, father and entrepreneur has decided to devote the lion’s share of his time to growing his church, Pure Heart Ministries International which, after two years and counting, is attracting followers from all walks of life. And Pastor Reynolds couldn’t be happier. TALLAWAH rang up the superbusy preacher and family man to talk about his many blessings – and what’s next.

TALLAWAH: Pure Heart Ministries started out at the Theatre Place on Haining Road in New Kingston, but now you’re located on Half Way Tree Road. What’s most appealing about the new location?
Pastor Ryan Mark: It’s more central and we have easy access to the location. We also have more space available to hold more services. It was a smooth transition [moving from New Kingston to Half Way Tree Road], and the congregation has been growing steadily.

TALLAWAH: Making the transition from recording artist to preacher and church founder, what did you have to give up?
PRM: Music had to take a back-seat and has been for a while. I think I’ve given music fair enough time. Ten years, and I’ve been a pastor for about two years. It’s time for me to put more focus on my pastoral ministry.

TALLAWAH: How does a young pastor grow his church?
PRM: One of the main ways is really through love. You show them love and the people respond to it. A lot of people out there crave that kind of attention, and when you go the extra mile for people, it makes a difference to them. So the church has definitely been growing, with most of our members being young adults.

TALLAWAH: You’ve been on the road with Kevin Downswell all of this month, for the All The Way tour, celebrating his new album. What was the vibe like?
PRM: It was excellent. We had a good time. Kevin brings a great energy to gospel.

TALLAWAH: You’ve seen first-hand his artistic growth. What makes him such a dynamic talent?
PRM: He is an exceptional minister. He’s come out of the box and expanded his musical ministry to give more variety. His music has more youthful appeal than before. He has both the young and old listening to him. You can definitely see where his music now has more appeal.

TALLAWAH: Happy belated Father’s Day, by the way! What do you and your baby girl talk about now that she’s growing up so fast?
PRM: She’s now seven actually, and I talk to her about everything I can. School, church, everything.

TALLAWAH: Fatherhood, music, pastoral ministry – what’s left for you to accomplish?
PRM: I think it’s time for me to just really put my stamp on my island of Jamaica. I want to be among those great leaders, and perhaps influencing government officials. I also want to put a positive spin on how people see Christianity, get more people interested and just impact Jamaica in a positive way.






Monday, 20 June 2016

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Ziggy Marley addresses global concerns, personal truths on solid new release

REPEAT WORTHY: The Grammy winner's latest surfs the genres of reggae, rock, funk and soul with splendid results.

Show of hands those who still enjoy vintage hits like “Tomorrow People” by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers. You are not alone. On Ziggy’s self-titled new album, diehard fans will find plenty tunes which would not be out of place on records from that era of the veteran singer-songwriter’s career.

Ziggy Marley is now a full-fledged, globally renowned solo superstar with a handful of Grammys under his belt, but on this sixth album of his, released via Tuff Gong Worldwide, there is marked emphasis on lyrics and concepts that hark back to his heyday, speaking to timeless themes (hope, humanity, prejudice) while addressing concerns both personal and universal. In other words, this is Ziggy at his melodic and nostalgic best.

Clocking in at 46 minutes, this is a brisk, enjoyable album laden with 12 solid tracks that surf the genres of reggae, rock, soul and pop with splendid results. By now you must have heard “Weekend’s Long,” the lead-off single that oozes a tropical getaway vibe. But never the superficial artist, Ziggy also uses the track to drive home the message of emancipating one’s mind and living life to the fullest. He continues this uplifting, empowering streak on cuts like “We Are More (Mi Amore)”, the call-to-action anthem “Start It Up” and “Better Together”, on which he preaches unity over strife.

“Only love can win the war,” he reminds us on the optimistic tune “Butterflies,” while tracks like “We Are the People,” “Love Is a Rebel” and “I’m Not Made of Stone” speak powerful truths of right over wrong and fighting for peace and prosperity. The self-explanatory “Marijuanaman” (this would not be a Ziggy album without some reference to the herb) and the lover’s spat “Ceceil” are fairly successful, but our hands-down favourites are the repeat-worthy “Amen” (about building bridges and keeping money in its place) and the heartfelt “Heaven Can’t Take it” (about standing up for the less fortunate), on which Stephen Marley makes a guest appearance.

From the beginning, Ziggy (the first-born son) has been the quintessential ambassador for the Bob Marley legacy, dabbling in everything from rootsy reggae to fashion to literature to cuisine. But releasing chart-topping albums has always been his forte, and it shows on this latest effort, which finds him spreading that ageless positivity message and staying true to his irie roots. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

> BEST TRACKS: “Heaven Can’t Take It”, “Butterflies”, “Amen” and “Weekend’s Long”






ON THE RECORD: Donnie McClurkin headlines Fun In The Son + Lady Saw hears ‘When God Speaks’ + Protoje treats fans to ‘Free’ EP

GUEST OF HONOUR: Kirk Franklin, Tye Tribbett, Mary Mary – they’ve all rocked the stage at Jamaica’s premier gospel festival, Fun in the Son, as international headliners. For the 2016 staging, organizers Glory Music have confirmed the appearance of Donnie McClurkin. The three-time Grammy winner, whose biggest hits include “We Fall Down” and “Stand”, will bring his powerful one-of-a-kind ministry to the stage at National Heroes’ Park on July 16. McClurkin is joined on the lineup by local heavyweights Papa San, Carlene Davis, DJ Nicholas, Rondell Positive, Judith Gayle and Kevin Downswell. “This year’s gospel festival is expected to be among the biggest ever,” Glory Music’s Tommy Cowan says. “And we look forward to the lives of many Jamaicans being transformed.”

FRESH AIR: Change is good. Just ask Marion ‘Lady Saw’ Hall, who’s been having the time of her life, ever since she gave up the dancehall world for God and gospel. “I’m not making the money that I used to, as I really have not been out there. But can I tell you how happy I am? I’m happier with less,” she recently told an interviewer. “Less is more than enough. I’m rich in spirit and strong in faith. The comfort that I’m feeling inside I’ve never felt before.” And just in time, too, as she gears up for the release of her debut Christian album, When God Speaks, slated for release on July 8. The 14-track album is led by first single “I Had Jesus” and includes other potential winners like “One Fire”, “Enemy”, “Room in My House,” “You’re Worthy” and “The Lord is With Me.” The deejay/songstress enlisted hitmakers and top-flight musicians like Sly & Robbie, Monty Alexander, Collin ‘Bulby’ York and Bobby Digital for the album, which is being released via her Minister Marion Hall label.

ON THE ‘ROYAL’ TIP: Royalty Free is the title of Protoje’s brand-new EP-style project, which comes on the heels of two potent singles – “Can’t Feel No Way” and “Glad You’re Home”. Working with a slew of noted producers and innovative graphic artist Taj Francis, Protoje has made the project available for free download on his website, protoje.com. An internationally rated reggae ambassador, the singer-songwriter, who repped the black, green and gold at the Coachella Music + Arts Festival in California a few months ago (and is heading on tour this summer), is known for such terrific full-length projects as The Seven Year Itch, The Eight Year Affair and Ancient Future.






GUITAR HEROES: Ace musicians Maurice Gordon and Seretse Small remember their instrumental, influential fathers

THE SCIENTIST: Unsurprisingly, music played a key role in cementing the bond that Seretse Small shared with his arts-loving parents, but more so his father Kenneth. “My mother [Jean] first played the guitar for me, but he was the one who influenced how I learnt to play the guitar. He used to play it for me to go to bed,” Small recalls, obviously tickled by the memory. As it turns out, Sir Kenneth was also heavily into the sciences and distinguished himself in the field from early. “He was a mathematician and a physicist, and everything that I have done has more or less been out of the basic principles that he gave me, in terms of the way I think,” says the renowned instrumentalist and educator. “He was a man who used his mind to change the world. When he was very young, he wrote a physics paper that literally changed the physics textbooks, and so I figured that you can use your mind to change the world.” So how closely does the Seretse Small today resemble the patriarch he grew up idolizing? “I think I’ve become the man that I always hoped,” he responds, “but I do aspire to aspects of his genius.”

THE DISCIPLINARIAN: Some kids have all the luck. Growing up, Maurice Gordon had not one but two influential patriarchal figures to look up to: his dad and his stepdad. When it comes to the firm disciplinarian streak that he’s inherited, he says he definitely picked that up from his biological old man. “He was a very disciplined and responsible man, and other than that he would just be there whenever a need came up,” Gordon tells TALLAWAH. “I spent a lot of time with my stepfather, but my father was the one who liked to play the guitar, and that’s where I got it from. That’s where it started for me.” By his own admission, becoming the man he’d always envisioned, drawing on his father’s finest qualities, is still a work-in-progress. “I still have some work to do with regards to that,” says Gordon, “because it’s an evolving process.”






Saturday, 18 June 2016

A GREAT START: Kingston on the Edge gets a rousing, arts-party kick-off at Redbones

ON SET: Winston McAnuff and his band take centrestage; (below) artist Inansi, left, and a guest share a close-up.

From day one, Kingston on the Edge has been about that spirit of artistic expression, creative freedom and bringing together the best of our local visual artists and artisans, indie musicians and culture lovers for a week-and-a-half of glorious activities. Every year the organizers manage to put together an eclectic mix, and this year is certainly no exception. The signs of a fantastic festival in the making were all over the opening-night bash held at the Redbones Blue Café on Friday night.

Heading over to Redbones via Braemar Avenue, you were greeted by a sea of motor vehicles, so you knew the turnout was enormous. And the patrons certainly got their money’s worth.

While Oliver Hill took over the courtyard to screen his film La Rumba Me Llama (Rumba Calling), an exhaustive look at the evolution of Cuba’s rock-fusion music scene, dynamic fine-art talents like Richard Nattoo, Shaundel Campbell, Inansi, Shawn Ashman and Anji Worton had their works on display all over the property – eye-popping creations full of colour and power that drew viewers from all angles. Nattoo and Campbell put on quite a show as they engaged a portion of the attendees with their live-painting demonstrations.

Inside the Redbones Gallery, meanwhile, a fabulous little art show was in full swing. Titled “Snapshots” (running until June 25), it assembles a diverse group of talents working in mediums ranging from painting to sculpture to photography. While Jermaine Morgan’s hyperchromatic pieces grab your attention upon entering the creative space, our prize for the mastery of subtlety goes to Michael Steffen, a 39-year-old German photographer, whose year-long sojourn in Jamrock comes to an end in August.

From simplistically beautiful Blue Mountain shots to haunting scenes from Lover’s Leap (St. Elizabeth) and Havana, Cuba, Steffens’ commendable and deeply inspired work tell powerful stories centred on Mother Nature’s grandeur and what a good eye can truly capture. (More on him in subsequent dispatches from KOTE 2016.)

Opening night closed on a roots-rockin-reggae high, with a batch of bands putting on a tuneful jam session with a difference. Best of the lot were vocalist Jermaine Blake and his One Drop Roots aggregation, who served up some hypnotic grooves (covers and original numbers); veterans Winston McAnuff and Fixi and the on-the-rise brothers of 6 Points, whose vibrant instrumentation is their forte; and The Free Willies, who are always in their element when they take to the Redbones stage.

> KOTE 2016 continues this weekend with events all over town. Here’s a look at the full schedule.






A SURE THING: Me Before You offers up a touching portrait of family and mortality

THE ODD COUPLE: Clarke (as Lou) and Claflin (as Will) sharing a scene from the film.

Fans of The Theory of Everything, the Oscar-winning story of Stephen Hawking and his devoted wife, will probably want to see Me Before You, a well-acted and emotionally charged tearjerker that introduces us to a wealthy young man in the English countryside (who’s given up on life after a road accident leaves him wheelchair-bound) and the heartbroken young girl who will do anything to save him.

A deeply affecting big-screen adaptation of the best-selling novel by Jojo Moyes, the film will resonate with anyone who’s ever paid a price for love. With echoes of The Notebook and The Bucket List, Me Before You wades deep into Nicholas Sparks territory but thankfully its emotional heft rings authentic and consistently so.

Emilia Clarke stars as Louisa Clarke, a good girl (if a tad goofy) from a struggling, respectable family who is laid off from her waitressing job at a toast-and-teacakes shop but lands a well-paying rebound gig when Camilla Traynor (Janet McTeer) hires her as a day companion/nurse for Will (Sam Claflin), her wheelchair-bound son.

Fed up with his life ever since the accident damaged his spinal chord and left him paralyzed from the neck down, Will is now perfecting the art of being a sourpuss. Misery loves company. (He subsequently loses his girlfriend to his best friend). But, motivated by the decent pay, Lou refuses to let Will get to her, and her persistence pays off. They soon strike up an adorable friendship which blossoms into ‘something new.’

Louisa is devastated, however, when it is revealed that Will had arranged, with Swiss ‘professionals’ no less, for him to die within six months. Desperate, Louisa and his loved ones hatch a let’s-cheer-him-up-and-change-his-mind-plan, but will their efforts be enough to save Will?

Me Before You is a sad little movie, but there’s lots of humour and touching moments to balance out the heavy dose of sorrow. Versatile actors, Clarke and Claflin, turn in solid performances, with McTeer (who we loved on TV’s Damages) just as strong, expertly playing the mother burdened by grief and guilt. (Charles Dance plays Steven Traynor, the steely patriarch.)

Offering a worthwhile trip to the cineplex, Me Before You is a memorable look at family, despair, longing and how two people, upon entering each other’s lives, are forever transformed by the experience. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+






GLORIOUS EVERLASTING: University Singers’ 2016 concert season delights and entertains

IN FORMATION: Spirituals, folk gems and operatic selections combine for a solid showcase.

A powerful Revival Bands Medley brings the curtains down on the 2016 concert season of the University Singers, inside the Philip Sherlock Centre, UWI Mona. Featuring the choristers clad in crisp white uniforms (with red and blue headwraps), the piece was wonderfully arranged by Andre Bernard, a super talent who’s been with Singers only a few years but is already showing the signs of a future leader. With such vivid imagination and commanding stage presence (he plays The Captain to Danielle Lee’s Mother), Bernard clearly has a lot to offer.

The Revival Bands Medley is chock-full of timeless Jamaican spirituals, hints of the Rex Nettleford aesthetic and the kind of infectious energy that tempts you to get up and join in the revelry. Audience members responded as expected, tapping their feet and grooving right along with the rousing song and dance playing out on stage.

The brilliant piece also underscores the University Singers’ commitment to delivering surprising and richly entertaining arrangements for their loyalists, while showcasing a fantastic blend of voices. Add to that a mélange of genres and moods that guarantees a diversely appealing show.

You get slices of opera (the spiced-up “Love is Like a Rebellious Bird” from Carmen; a sublime “Love’s Duet” from Mozart’s Magic Flute), spirituals and sacreds (the robust “Joyful Joyful”; a delicate treatment of “All Things Bright and Beautiful”) and even gospel, thanks to a vigorous take on Kurt Carr’s “If I Tell God,” fittingly choreographed by Kevin Moore, which ends the first half.

The second half is largely comprised of jaunty folk numbers, the lion’s share plucked from the vast Noel Dexter catalogue. The highlights are plenty, with such standouts as the dramatic “Hol’ De Man”, the domestic face-off “Dina Dina” and the lively “Tief Tek Over Town,” from the Barbara Gloudon-penned pantomime Reggae Son.

You don’t attend a University Singers performance and not expect to enjoy a delightful solo moment or two. Terrific tenor Roy Thompson oozed class and control as he tackled “Nessun Norma,” made famous by the late great Luciano Pavarotti; Kristal Morgan was brilliant taking the lead on “Woyaya” (from Sweet Honey in the Rock), while ace soprano Althea McKenzie put in showstopping work on the gorgeous “Rocking Jerusalem.”

As the choir welcomes exciting new additions to the family, stalwarts like Carolyn Reid-Cameron, Peter Allen, Kathy Brown and co-directors Franklin Halliburton and Heston ‘Pencil’ Boothe remain at the forefront of the fold, safeguarding a legacy that’s grown leaps and bounds and is taking this incredible, internationally acclaimed choir well into a vibrant new era.

> The University Singers’ 2016 season is on at the Philip Sherlock Centre, UWI, from June 3 to 26.

>> INTERVIEW: Heston ‘Pencil’ Boothe in the artist spotlight






Wednesday, 15 June 2016

MADE IN JAMAICA: Exquisite art, gift-items aplenty at Edna Manley College’s new ArtStock shop

VISUAL POWER: High-quality pieces by artists like Margaret McGhie are on sale at ArtStock.

Since its inception, the Edna Manley College’s School of Visual Art has been producing high-quality artwork and craft items (created by its award-winning faculty and student body) that deserves to be showcased in not just exhibitions but in stores and gift shops across the world. Some years ago the seed of an idea was planted for the establishment of a gift shop on the school premises to provide an outlet for students and staff to have their impressive creations made available for purchase by the general public. That dream is now a reality.

On Thursday, June 9, a sizeable crowd turned up for the official opening of ArtStock by EMCVPA, a cozy little gift shop adorning the campus’ Arthur Wint Drive entrance. For the past few months, we saw heavy construction work underway at the school; now we know what was being built.

The finished product is an A-grade facility that resembles a mini gallery, a well-ventilated space showing off pastel walls and exquisite items on display at every turn. Inside, you find everything from brand-new ceramics, tony sculptures, vivid paintings, hand-crafted jewelry, newly designed tee-shirts and photographic gems by such masters as Donnette Zacca. Fine Caribbean art and gorgeous gifts perfect for every occasion. Throw into the mix other authentic and limited-edition pieces, DVDs and Edna Manley College memorabilia.

For Principal Nicholeen DeGrasse-Johnson, the arrival of ArtStock is a much-welcomed opportunity for the college to further augment its brand. “This business initiative will provide the [institution] with opportunities for enhanced revenue and increased visibility of our brand. It reflects the one-of-a-kind personality of the institution,” DeGrasse-Johnson noted, addressing the gathering. 

What’s more, ArtStock is a dream that has come to fruition, thanks in large part to generous sponsorship from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF). “It is essential,” the TEF’s Clyde Harrison notes, “that students have creative outlets like this.” 

The gift-store opening also coincided with the SVA’s 2016 Final Year Exhibition (populated by cream-of-the-crop student pieces), which is open to the public for the rest of the month.






LIFE SUPPORT: Observing World Blood Donor Day, Jamaicans urged to ‘share life, give blood’

CHEERFUL GIVERS: “[Blood donations] should be a normal and routine part of our lives,” says health minister Dr. Chris Tufton. 

They beamed radiantly as they joined health minister Dr. Christopher Tufton on stage for a round of photographs inside the Emancipation Park, forming a semi-circle around the main object of focus. The unveiling of the Donor Roll of Honour, an enormous plaque, was one of the highlights at Tuesday morning’s opening ceremony of Donorfest, an all-day blood drive and wellness fair in celebration of World Blood Donor Day, observed under the theme “Blood connects us all.”

The plaque bears the names of over 50 civic-minded Jamaicans who have donated 50 units (or more) of blood to the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS). Among those in attendance to share in the moment were Sonya Binns and Rev. Howard Gregory, the renowned clergyman. “I see it as part of my public service to make this kind of contribution. I have given more than that recognized figure because sometimes people just come and ask me, and I do it,” Rev. Gregory tells TALLAWAH of his blood-donating history. “So the units I’ve given towards this is actually more than 50.”

He’s now past the age limit, of course, to qualify as a donor (the appropriate donor age span is 17-60 years) but Rev. Gregory still exudes the aura of a cheerful giver. “I wish I could give some more,” he admits.

This is the kind of upbeat spirit of generosity that the health minister is urging more Jamaicans to adopt, as his ministry and its relevant agencies seek to increase national awareness. “I don’t think we can reiterate enough that donating blood is a way of helping the entire country. This is a critical component of our overall human experience,” Dr. Tufton emphasized during his address on Tuesday. 

Against the backdrop of the high volume of trauma cases, accidents and other emergencies, and blood-transfusion procedures that the island’s hospitals have to grapple with daily, the minister stressed that the need for blood is constant. “We shouldn’t have to wait until tragedies arise. “[Blood donations] should be a normal and routine part of our lives,” he said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), of which Jamaica is an active member, by 2020 all countries should have achieved 100 percent voluntary, non-remuneratory blood donation ‘compliance’. As such, the health ministry, Dr. Tufton pointed out, remains committed to reviving the blood bank advisory committee and is employing several initiatives to encourage more donors to step up, including the training of donor managers, the issuing of pledge forms and donor cards and more public education drives.

>> DID YOU KNOW: Blood donation is the ultimate life-saver in Jamaica’s hospitals? “Every two seconds someone needs blood,” reveals Dr. Angella Scott, Director of the National Laboratory Service.