Saturday, 25 February 2017

NEWS FEED: Dr. Peter Phillips answers the ‘age’ question + New Tracks & Records opening in MoBay + JN project fuses schoolwork and dancehall

TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL: Columbia University professor Dr. Christopher Emdin (right) might be on to something via his Math and Science-meets-Dancehall brainchild, aimed at improving student performance (retention and application) in these core subjects at the local high school level, while reaffirming the notion that learning can be fun and effective when knowledge is combined with contemporary tools and styles. Jamaica National and, indeed, the Education ministry, have endorsed his proposal, launching a “Science Genius” project dubbed “Dancehall Ed” at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston earlier this week. Through the programme, Grade nine students and their teachers islandwide are invited to submit videos creatively conveying aspects of Mathematics and Science through song. The participants will later compete in clashes, and the best 20 will earn a spot in the project. All submissions are due by February 28. Students will receive mentorship from top dancehall artistes (including Tifa, who was present at the launch). Individual and collective prizes will be awarded, including the upgrading of science labs. “This will enhance and complement the National Standards Curriculum,” notes Floyd Green, state minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information. “What is important is the undoubted power dancehall has to connect and impact our young people. So the question is, how do we use it for good? Almost as soon as you put on a dancehall song, and it’s catchy and creative, the young people grasp it. Imagine if they can do that with scientific theory.” 

GLOBAL BRANDING: By 2023, about 15 outlets of the Usain Bolt’s Tracks & Records chain of restaurants should be in operation globally. That’s the promise from hotelier and noted businessman Chris Issa who, in partnership with the KLE Group, is opening a new UBTR in Montego Bay in July. Set to employ over 40 people, the restaurant will bring to three the number of UBTR eateries doing business locally. “We are looking forward to creating an amazing experience for all our hotel guests, tourists and locals alike,” Issa says. “For the visitors, we will employ strategies targeting the cruise ship passengers and hotel guests through a combination of direct channels, tour companies and transportation operators.” KLE operates the original UBTR restaurant, located at Marketplace (along Constant Spring Road in Kingston). The first franchise outlet, owned by Joshua Jhamnani, opened in the bustling tourist mecca of Ocho Rios last December. 

YEARS WITHOUT FEAR: When it comes to selecting persons for positions of national leadership, how important is the matter of age? How young is too young? How old is too old? According to Dr. Peter Phillips who, at age 67, is weeks away from succeeding Portia Simpson-Miller, 71, as Opposition Leader and head of the People’s National Party, the age factor carries very little weight. “What is significant is not the question of age,” he tells the Observer’s HG Helps, “but what the person stands for – the policies, the programmes, the personal qualities of integrity and representativeness of the aspirations of the people. And that’s how I’m proceeding.”

CHAT ’BOUT: Dr. Peter Phillips on civic duty + Hardley Lewin on curbing criminality + PM Andrew Holness’ positive outlook

“There has been a general sense of hopefulness in the society, certainly as reflected in both the consumer index and the business confidence index. People are now saying we are going to invest again and we are seeing a kind of energy for future investments that we have not seen in a long time. There is actually hope that the country will grow and employment will increase.” – PM Andrew Holness reflecting on his JLP administration’s performance after one year in office and his optimism for future national growth and development

“When the time comes and one contests national elections, and the issue of prime ministership comes up, it is all about service, not reward, to the candidate leading the party. Indeed it is a notion of vision that needs to be revived in the country because democracy at its highest level is really about a population mobilized to exercise our civic responsibilities to govern ourselves.” – Waiting-in-the-wings PNP leader Dr. Peter Phillips emphasizing the importance of service over self in moving Jamaica into a successful new chapter 

“We’ve had difficulty getting students to the level that we want with Maths and Science over the years, and these subjects are critical components to the now economy and technology. So we have to find new ways. We’re happy that JN, as a private partner, has decided to try this new delivery, and the ministry endorses it.” – State minister for Education, Floyd Green, welcoming the launch of the Jamaica National-sponsored “Science Genius” project, aimed at improving student performance in Maths and Science by incorporating aspects of dancehall popular culture 

“We have not made maximum use of all the tools that we have to deal with this matter, such as proceeds of crime, in a targeted and sustained manner. The tools are there, and if we start to target the thing seriously, then we will see where we have some gaps and plug the gaps as they occur. Criminality thrives in a state of disorder. We see it everyday and we live in it, and we have to start tackling that. And it can’t be a flash in the pan and then abandoned. It has to be sustained.” – Former Commissioner of Police Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin adding his voice to the public outcry for more to be done to boost the fight against criminal elements across the island 

“I wish to thank the Laureus World Sports Academy for this award, and I want to thank the fans for continuing to believe in me and for their support. Believe in your dreams and do not think limits. Remember anything is possible. I was just a youth from Jamaica, and now I’m recognized as one of the greatest athletes in the world. It’s all about believing in your dreams and working hard.” – Usain Bolt accepting the Laureus World Male Athlete of the Year award in Europe recently, in recognition of his outstanding achievements on the track in 2016

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

MAGIC TOUCH: Colin Channer’s ‘obeah’ lecture riffs on stigma, time-honoured social practices and legislation

ON POINT: “It’s the different kinds of knowledge and different kinds of practices that make us who we are,” Channer insists.

COLIN Channer has a confession to make: he is a direct descendant of a Jamaican obeahman, but he grew up with a no-nonsense mother who was anti-obeah, anti-pocomania and anti-Rasta. That’s just one of the many brow-raising declarations the acclaimed author and college professor made as he gave the keynote address during Sunday’s instalment of Grounation 2017 at the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ), speaking on the topic “Healing in the Balm Yard: Mento, Obeah and Other Jamaican Folk Forms and Culture.”

Laced with wit, keen observations, laugh-out-loud anecdotes and provocative food for thought, Channer’s lecture took a multi-layered, inter-disciplinary approach, thoroughly engaging a packed audience that responded with a standing ovation at the end.

Channer opened the two-hour-long presentation with an excerpt from his bestselling novel Satisfy My Soul, whose title was inspired by the classic tune from Bob Marley, on whose vast body of work Channer is currently teaching a college course back in the States (“Bob Marley: Lyrics and Legend,” a literary exploration of his music). He also drew on the work of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Bongo Herman, Lord Sassafrass and Lloyd Lovindeer, among others, to better illustrate some of his points concerning roots and artistic identity.

Derek Walcott’s poem “White Noise” also came in for special mention, as Channer riffed on folk religion, kumina and jango, superstitions and West African-inspired traditions that will forever bind us to the Motherland.

But the crux of his presentation was a profound meditation on the controversial ‘use’ of black magic in the island, a practice that’s widely known yet regarded with much secrecy. “It’s a secret because it’s shameful, but it binds us to African spirituality,” observes Channer, who was taken to receive his first bush-bath, at age nine, from the peerless Modda Williams. “Jamaicans will say they don’t believe in obeah, but they deal with it on the down-low.”

Indeed, it’s a very complex relationship Jamaicans have with the practice that dates back to the slave plantation. But while Channer doesn’t glorify obeah, he feels all such practices that have endured with the centuries sprang from some necessity. “It’s the different kinds of knowledge and different kinds of practices that make us who we are,” he insists. “Jamaicans mostly use obeah as a prophylactic, for ‘just in case,’ but the stigma will never go away.”

For the record, the practice is illegal in Jamaica. But, according to Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewellyn (Channer’s “big sister,” who’s known him for years), it’s seldom pursued in the court system. “The law against obeah still remains on the books. But in my 30 years, I’ve never seen a case brought by the police. They really don’t pursue prosecution in it,” Llewellyn noted during the Q-&-A that followed Colin’s presentation. “You rarely see it prosecuted, but obeah is alive and well. It is something we get accustomed to, especially in the rural parts.” 

Meanwhile, Channer, who can remember being accidentally locked up in a fowl coop as a child, strongly believes the stigma attached to the practice in Jamaica might never lose that ‘taboo’ label. “I think the stigma attached to obeah is going to take a long time to go away, but part of that process of getting rid of the stigma involves the legislation that makes such a practice illegal,” he told TALLAWAH in a post-presentation interview. “Because obeah is illegal in Jamaica, our relationship with obeah is social. I think it should be presented as something neutral, something mystical.” 

> Grounation 2017 culminates at the IOJ this Sunday with musician Carlos Malcolm in conversation with Dionne Jackson-Miller.

PRIVATE LIVES: School of Drama serves up stirring, humorous mini-plays with 7X11

PEOPLE LIKE US: Reid and Reckord performing Man With Machete.

WHY are two grown, obviously well-off, women hitchhiking in the middle of nowhere at three in the morning? That question would no doubt cross your mind if you were part of the sizeable audience taking in The Runaways, one of seven short plays (mostly eleven minutes long) that comprised 7X11, put on by the School of Drama (Edna Manley College) at the Dennis Scott Studio Theatre on the weekend.

Cleverly penned by Sophie Aguille and directed by Pierre Lemaire, the piece engrossingly explored fractious family dynamics, pride and ego, and finding the courage to seize one’s freedom.

As it turns out, the younger of the two women (played by Dorraine Reid), curiously dressed in a black evening gown, is a housewife and mother (“I am not a prostitute!” she protests) fleeing the responsibilities at home that threaten to overwhelm and suffocate her. The older woman (portrayed by the imperious Grace McGhie) is a nifty broad whose son put her in a home for senior citizens called The Buttercups. She can’t stand the name of the place, much less its “ugly” facilities, staff and nosy residents.

The dialogue is fast and snappy, frequently humorous and offers a revealing peek at the souls of these two strong-willed women, armed with their travel bags and suitcases, who may be from different backgrounds but could be mother and daughter. Their next stop is anyone’s guess, but they’re certain of one thing: they’re getting away – far, far away.

Michael Reckord wrote and co-starred in Man With Machete, another highlight, which took an unflinching look at prejudice, the haves and the have-nots, the scourge of poverty and unemployment. Reckord plays a down-on-his-luck labourer going from door to door with his machete wrapped up in old newspapers.

He encounters a brash, stylishly attired homeowner (Reid), who tells him quite bluntly that she has no yard work for him. A fierce verbal tussle ensues between the two. He feels she’s being hard-up; she wastes no time putting him in his place. In the end, he leaves dejected; she walks away with a rude awakening about some of the frightening realities facing ordinary people outside her picket fence.

In addition to the rib-tickling The Glasses (with Jean-Paul Menou and Elizabeth Montoya-Stemann), Aguille also contributed It’s Raining, a droll piece featuring two men (Menou and Marvin George) in a job-interview waiting room trying to break the ice. Noted dancer-choreographer Patrick Earle showed off his burgeoning acting chops opposite Camille Quamina in Apologies by Teixeira Moita, who also penned Mime, which paired Lemaire with Janet Muirhead-Stewart. 

Reckord later took an unorthodox, almost absurdist, approach to his dialogue-free piece 2 Newspapers and Some Funny Furniture, with Lemaire, Montoya –Stemann and Neila Ebanks offering storytelling through a series of poses. 

Taking cues from the Brian Heap-led University Players, who originated the concept locally with 8X10, the School of Drama’s 7X11 brought together faculty, past students and friends of the institution for a (single) weekend of well-staged, occasionally experimental but consistently minimalist theatre that never failed to intrigue, enlighten and engage. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

PLAYING WITH FIRE: ‘Fifty Shades’ sequel entices but hardly satisfies

BE MY SOMEBODY: Dornan and Johnson rekindle their flame in this scene from the recently released sequel.

WHEN Fifty Shades Darker opens, Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) and Christian (Jamie Dornan) are at the gallery, taking in an art show and renegotiating the terms of their “relationship.” It’s been a while since they last laid eyes on each other. “No rules, no punishments and no more secrets,” they agree. Deal. Before long, they are all over each like white on rice, enjoying the here and now and the endless possibilities. Until, of course, trouble arrives.

As it turns out, certain elements from Christian’s past – spurned former lovers included – refuse to stay in the past, threatening to destroy what he’s trying to build with Ana, the feline kryptonite that’s got him hooked. But when Christian decides to pop the question of all questions, what will her answer be? Hearts will be broken, big secrets will be hurled out into the open and lives will never be the same.

That’s the basic set-up of this emotionally charged sequel to the film version of EL James’ monster literary hit Fifty Shades of Grey. For the most part, it connects, laced with passion, ego and some of the steamiest sex you’ll see on the big screen this year. In other words, it’s packed with the stuff young audiences crave.

Directed by James Foley, working with a screenplay by Niall Leonard, Fifty Shades Darker traverses that line between erotic drama and revenge thriller without taking any sides. It falls short of the depth we were anticipating, but the ending sets things up for a thrilling next instalment where, hopefully, things will improve.

Christian, the billionaire, and Ana, the budding manuscript editor, can’t get enough of each other. They do it everywhere – from his lavish master bedroom to his special toy-filled playroom to the restaurant elevator. For Johnson and Dornan, theirs is an electric chemistry and their on-screen coupling feels urgent and primal.

Under Foley’s tasteful direction, these attractive young leads are very alive, very comfortable with each other, making the relationship, its nuances and contours, very accessible for the viewer.

A strong supporting cast is along for the ride – including Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock, The Dead Girl) as Christian’s genteel mother, Grace, and singer-actress Rita Ora as his vivacious younger sis Mia. Then there’s Eric Johnson, appearing as Jack Hyde, Ana’s demanding boss at the publishing house where she works, and a tough-as-nails Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential) as Elena Lincoln, a will-not-be-ignored vixen from Christian’s past who has warning words for Ana. 

Steamy but short on substance, Fifty Shades Darker is a mildly satisfying sequel. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

MAN OF THE MOMENT: From TV to theatre to film, Kevoy Burton stays in the picture

ALL GROWN UP: “I feel like I’m being pushed to amp it up and realize my full potential,” shares the actor/TV host, now 25.

KEVOY Burton doesn’t back down from a challenge. But nothing could prepare him for tackling the complex role of Glenmore Watson, a born-and-bred country boy who, after spending time in the UK, returns to his native Jamaican village with a British accent, a wife-to-be on his arm and a new attitude. But he took to the role like a trooper and, it’s safe to conclude, he nails it.

“I don’t have much in common with him, so it was hard finding similarities between us,” the 25-year-old actor says of playing the ambitious chap, having a chat with TALLAWAH by the entrance of the Phoenix Theatre in New Kingston, where his new show, Country Wedding, is now playing to packed houses and rave reviews. “In terms of what he’s going through with his family, I’m not used to that. I’ve known my father all my life, and my family life is not as chaotic. So I pretty much had to dig deep to find something to channel to play the role. It’s probably the toughest character I’ve played so far.”

This coming from a performer who hadn’t touched the Kingston stage since 2012’s Back-A-Yard, which also saw him collaborating with writer-director Dahlia Harris (pictured below) and veteran leading lady Deon Silvera. So how was it returning to the stage after a five-year break? “It wasn’t an easy transition,” Burton admits, laughing. “I’ve gotten used to television and the softer kind of expression. Now I can’t whisper anymore. I feel like I’m being pushed to amp it up and realize my full potential as an actor.”

From all appearances, Burton, who is of medium built and stands at five-nine, feels very much at home before the cameras. He has the presence and likeability for it. His lead role on the teen drama series Real Friends aside, audiences have been getting to know him as a member of the Schools’ Challenge Quiz family, co-hosting TV-J’s SCQ Access (a preview show) on Mondays and the review show that airs on Saturdays, opposite his brother-from-another Burchell Gordon (at left).

“We have a lot of fun doing the shows. This is our third season. He’s a very good friend of mine, and we have great chemistry. We both went to Ardenne and NCU, so we’ve known each other for years,” shares Burton, who never tried out for the Quiz team back in high school, opting instead for cricket and later the dramatic arts.

Still, it’s his on-screen work (film included) that established him as a young Jamaican talent to watch. Sure you recall his starring role in 2011 as a young boxer striving against the odds in Chris Browne’s gritty urban flick Ghett’a Life (opposite Chris McFarlane and Kadeem Wilson) and his brief appearance in Jeremy Whittaker’s Destiny as Mystic’s pilot boyfriend.

These days, the multi-talented star shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, he’s pressing the accelerator on getting out his dreams. When he’s not headlining TV shows or lighting up the stage, he works as an ad operations executive at digital media house Loop Jamaica and strives to be the best possible father to his one-and-ad-half year-old son, Kaleb. “Everything I do now is for him,” the proud dad admits.

Up next is laying the groundwork for Burgundy Management Limited, the talent agency he and Gordon decided to go into business together to establish. As Burton tells us, they have a big, top-secret project in the works that everyone will hear about in a few months. 

In spite of the impressive résumé and the exciting projects he has in the works, Burton wisely opts to play the modesty card. “I wouldn’t say I have achieved a lot. Life is okay. I’m still learning and I’m still growing as a performer,” he says. “I understand theatre a lot more now.” Where does he see himself in the next five, ten years? For one thing, expanding his horizons as an artist. “I want to become one of the best actors locally,” he says, “and one of the best hosts on TV.”

OLD STORY TIME: Amusing, nostalgic Country Wedding brims with vintage Jamaican spice

MAKING PLANS: Silvera, Johnson and Harris sharing a scene from the play.

Country Wedding (DMH Productions) 
Director: Dahlia Harris 
Cast: Volier Johnson, Shantol Jackson, Kevoy Burton, Dahlia Harris and Deon Silvera 
Venue: Phoenix Theatre, New Kingston 

DAHLIA Harris has always penned plays that are Jamaican to the core. The award-winning Back-Ah-Yard and Ole Fyah Stick leap readily to mind. But for her latest theatrical offering, she digs deeper, engaging with the opulent excesses of rural Jamaican family life and folklore, circa the 1950s, touching on the superstitious, some of the little-known customs and a few of the vintage traditions that still have their place. 

And that’s one of the most appealing things about Country Wedding, a nostalgic and rib-tickling comedy-drama that, in spite of its shortcomings, transports and teaches, making the new and the archaic, the young and the old, dance together, with a bag of laughs, a little song-and-dance and some timely social commentary thrown into the mix. 

It’s largely the story of Glenmore Watson (Kevoy Burton) and Bella Wendicott (Shantol Jackson), a pair of young lovebirds who arrive in Glenmore’s native Jamaican village of Grateful Valley, fresh from the UK, to find that the more things change the more they remain the same. 

Boasting an accent that’s unmistakably British, Glenmore is welcomed with open arms by everyone, including such relatives and family friends as do-it-all woman-ah-yard Nella (Harris), his stern uncle Aaron (Volier Johnson) and Mabel, played by the tireless Deon Silvera and best described as a woman on a ‘quest’, serving as our narrator/guide on this never-a-dull-moment trek to a part of Jamaica not often showcased in the performing arts. 

While Glenmore is showered with love, we can’t say the same for Bella, his future wife, who earns the ire of the people – and not just because of her ‘hoity-toity’ demeanour. She simply rubs people the wrong way. In her defence, however, Bella is somewhat misunderstood, coming across in certain solo scenes as an ambitious girl trying to escape a sad past. But, as Harris’ well-written script attests, the past has a way of catching up with you when you least expect it. And that goes for all the key characters in this show, who will remind you of someone you know. 

Will Mabel finally find what or who she is looking for? When will Aaron and Nella give up their scheming ways? Will Grateful Valley ever see better days? And, with wedding bells in the air, can Glenmore and Bella find that elusive happily-ever-after against all odds? 

This wouldn’t be a DMH production without a creatively designed set that comes alive under the bright lights. The mise-en-scene is especially resplendent in Act II, when the nuptials take centrestage, giving a fresh take on the idea of colour power. 

As for the actors, Jackson and Burton are terrific. With winning chemistry, they make a believable and attractive couple. Stage vets Harris, Silvera and Johnson fit snugly into their roles, showing the youngsters and newcomers how it’s really done. By newcomers I mean Dacoda Mitchell and the Jamaica Youth Theatre standouts who round out the auxiliary cast. 

Overall, Country Wedding is an enjoyable affair to which you’ll be glad you were invited. While it shies away from being a full-fledged musical (only a handful of tunes are performed), it delivers the pep and slice-of-rural-Jamaican-life appeal of a Pantomime, while retaining that entertaining edge you always get from a DMH production. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

GOOD NEWS: Ziggy Marley wins 6th Grammy Award + Mandeville Hospital honours 150 nurses + GraceKennedy launches MPay payment platform

WINNING STREAK: Celebrating with his wife and kids aside, Ziggy Marley’s fans were foremost on his mind following his big win at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, where he copped Best Reggae Album for the sixth time in his illustrious career. Ziggy’s eponymous latest album, which has spawned hits like “Weekend’s Long and “Amen” (performed during Sunday night’s telecast), bested a field of five worthy contenders, completed by Raging Fyah, Devin Di Dakta & JL, J. Boog, Soja and Rebelution, to bag the golden gramophone. Post-ceremony, the 48-year-old messaged his Twitter fam saying, “Giving thanks to the @RecordingAcad for the honour, my family, and all the artists keeping #reggae alive and well.” Meanwhile, Brit superstar Adele was the toast of music’s biggest night this year, taking home trophies for Album of the Year (25), Record and Song of the Year (“Hello”). 

TAKING CARE: “It is very critical that our nurses be recognized for planning, implementing and evaluating our health care nationally, regionally and internationally. This is particularly important in a time of complex changes in the health services.” So says Angella Thomas, Director of Nursing Services at the Mandeville Regional Hospital, which recently honoured 150 nurses with awards for their dedication and committed service. And because there’s always room for improvement, Thomas says other initiatives are currently being worked on at the hospital, but priority is being given to the training, recruitment and education of staff nurses to heighten the quality of health-care service they provide. 

CASHING IN: GraceKennedy always has the average customer in mind. No wonder they’ve brought on stream GK MPay, a cleverly conceived mobile payment platform launched at the Hope Zoo during last week’s Money Goes Mobile campaign. “We have been working on this for about six years,” reveals company CEO, Don Wehby. “The concept was that we needed to have financial inclusion as part of our offerings, from the GK Financial Group. So the jerk man right down to the man that’s selling coconut was an integral part of our eco-system in designing this product.”

COVER TO COVER: Three captivating new books in tune with the Black experience

A MAN OF THE PEOPLE: Michael Holgate creatively explored the legend of Marcus Garvey with his brilliant Garvey: The Musical in October, highlighting some painful truths in the icon’s life story. With his provocative new book, Jailing A Rainbow: The Marcus Garvey Case, Justin Hansford is following suit. At just under 100 pages, it’s a thin volume, but it packs a punch. Published by Miguel Lorne Publishers and Frontline Books, the text chiefly tackles Garvey’s infamous mail fraud case in the United States, shedding new light on the various players who helped to thick the plot. There’s J. Edgar Hoover, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who reportedly planted spies at Garvey’s meetings, perturbed by his success at energizing the Blacks. Ransford also puts under the microscope Julian Mack, the judge who presided over the case, and the numerous letters allegedly sent to the US Attorney General, calling for Garvey to be deported. At its core, Ransford’s book champions Garvey’s innocence, while celebrating his groundbreaking work with the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and the Black Star Liner shipping company. But, most important of all, it further elucidates his sterling contributions to the Black consciousness movement, a work that’s still felt to this day. 

PRIME SUSPECT: Crime fiction is a relatively unheralded genre in West Indian lit, but at least one contemporary author seems determined to change that. With his Ross Camaho Quartet Grenada’s Jacob Ross wants to deliver stories laced with “richly observed characters” and “fast-moving narrative”. The Bone Readers (Peepal Tree Press) is the first novel in the series, tackling family dynamics, retribution and secrets with life-altering consequences. Set on the small Caribbean island of Camaho, it follows rookie cop Michael ‘Digger’ Digson, who is determined to find out who amongst a renegade police squad killed his mother during a political demonstration. But another case soon captures the interest of this no-nonsense man-on-a-mission: a cold case involving the disappearance of a young man whose mother is convinced he has been murdered. At 270 pages, The Bone Readers (shortlisted for the 2017 Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year) bears testament to “persistence and the courage to survive,” while compelling reminding readers that “secrets can be buried but bones can speak.” 

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO: In The First Black Society: Britain’s Barbarity Time in Barbados, 1636-1876 (UWI Press), an exhaustive exploration of the brutal course of Barbados’s history, Sir Hilary Beckles details the systematic barbarism of the British colonial project, where the practice of slavery “reached its apotheosis.” A prequel to Beckles’ Britain’s Black Debt, this 320-page text is essential reading for anyone interested in Atlantic history, slavery and the plantation system and modern race relations.

REAL TALK: It’s time to bring back the Jamaica Music Awards (the Jammies)

GIVING THANKS: Ziggy Marley (with his kids) accepting the award for Best Reggae Album at Sunday's 59th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.

With awards season now in full swing, one can’t help casting a keen eye over the local entertainment industry and getting the feeling that something is missing: an awards show that celebrates the achievements of our most outstanding musicians of the past year.

True, we have the annual Youth View Awards (YVAs), celebrating its 10th anniversary with a star-studded bash at the NISC this weekend. But that’s for the kids. What about an all-Jamaican awards show for the grown folks a la The Grammys, which rocked Los Angeles this past Sunday night? 

TALLAWAH checks reveal that back in the day, Jamaica did have such an awards ceremony, The Jammies, recognizing excellence in the music industry. But it eventually fizzled due to lack of sponsorship. Times have changed. I’m certain, with the right pitch and the requisite push, the show’s resurrection, or rebirth for that matter, would attract some corporate backing.

The team at JARIA does such an excellent job with the Reggae Month festivities each year. They could spearhead the planning and execution, in partnership with reps from the Ministry of Culture and Entertainment and those hard-working troopers at the JCDC. A total team effort, buoyed by some voluntary contributions, would certainly get the job done. Scores of young people, college kids in particular, would be willing to pitch in and help free of cost. 

Roots reggae, dancehall, reggae-soul, gospel, soca, alternative, even jazz. Our entertainers continue to churn out terrific sounds in these genres/sub-genres year in, year out, often via their own meagre resources and with little or no recognition for their efforts. 

What wonderful encouragement, the Jammies would offer to keep them productive and competitive, as they seek to challenge themselves creatively – especially the plethora of talented new artistes, taking cues from the veterans, who exude international appeal and have something meaningful to say.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

PEOPLE IN THE NEWS: Beenie Man cops YVAs Icon Award + Steven Gooden steps up to JSDA presidency + Elaine Thompson is a certified ‘Flow’ girl

SIGN HER UP: It comes as no surprise, given her phenomenal exploits at the 2016 Rio Olympics, that the endorsement deals have started to roll in for Elaine Thompson. The reigning Olympic 100M and 200M female champion has inked a deal with Flow to serve as a brand ambassador for the mobile giants. Other Flow ambassadors with a need for speed include Asafa Powell and Jaheel Hyde. “With all my commitments, I need technology that can keep up with me,” says Thompson, who recently anchored her MVP track club to a sizzling sprint-relay win at the Milo Western Relays in St. James. “Whether it’s training time, race time or personal time, Flow keeps me right on track.” In January, Thompson secured her first hold on the Sportswoman of the Year trophy at the RJR Sports Foundation-hosted awards at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.

THE ORIGINAL: Among Jamaican entertainers, Beenie Man is a man of many firsts. This weekend, he’ll add yet another accolade to the ever-growing list when he is presented with the inaugural YVAs Icon Award at the Youth View Awards, which is set to rock the National Indoor Sports Centre on Saturday night with a star-studded awards show and after-party. When the time came to choose the 2017 recipient of the Icon Award, the Grammy-winning hitmaker (né Moses Davis) was at the top of the selectors’ list. “The YVAs felt Beenie Man was more than worthy of the honour of being awarded the first-ever YVAs Icon Award,” the organizers said in a recent press statement. “Arts and culture being one of the many avenues the CHASE Fund supports, they are as equally excited as we are to announce this presentation to an artiste who has consistently carried his brand and Jamaica’s around the world.” With a career dating back to 1981 and a slew of albums (including last year’s Unstoppable) under his belt, Beenie Man is a past five-time winner at the YVAs, now in its 10th year.

MAN ON A MISSION: “Lobbying efforts will be continued on all matters relating to the securities industry to ensure an active role is played in the growth of the economy,” notes Steven Gooden, who now occupies the President’s chair at the Jamaica Securities Dealers Association (JSDA). “My focus will be on advocacy, the industry playing a role in advancing the nation’s economic agenda, market expansion and development.” Gooden, currently the CEO of NCB Capital Markets, comes to the presidency with seven years’ experience at the senior management level and a background steeped in unit trust management, private equity, corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions. The JSDA represents 16 securities dealers with offices throughout Jamaica and the Caribbean.

NEWS FEED: Women in Energy returns in March + National Gospel Song heats up + Int’l Schools Theatre Fest comes to Kingston

JAMAICA’S GOT TALENT: A year after Campion College triumphed as winner of the Jamaican leg of the Schools’ Shakespeare Festival, the International Schools’ Theatre Festival has partnered with another local institution to stage their event on the island. From Feb. 16-19, Hillel Academy will be hosting the 2017 International Schools’ Theatre Festival at the St. Andrew-based institution. According to the organizers, the festival has already attracted the interest of students and teachers from local and international secondary institutions. Lending their time and expertise to the laudable initiative, Edna Manley College faculty members, including Pierre LeMaire, Marlon Simms and Ouida Lewis will be presenting performing-arts workshops over the course of the four days. Each year, the International Schools’ Theatre Festival works with over 200 schools globally to develop and host drama festivals for students at the kindergarten level right up to Grade 13. Teachers are also trained via their prestigious International Baccalaureate Diploma Theatre Programme.

THE NEXT ROUND: As we previously reported, this year marks the 30th anniversary of the National Gospel Song Competition, and with auditions already completed, the elimination round is well underway. On February 10, entrants and judges met up at the Hollis Peter Lynch Hall in St. James. On February 17, the spotlight moves to the St. Mary’s Anglican Church Hall in Port Maria. March 10 brings another set of eliminations to the St. Mark’s Anglican Church Hall in Mandeville, before the action shifts to the Eastwood Park New Testament Church in Kingston on March 24. The grand finale, as is customary, will unfold during the summer, as the #Jamaica55 celebrations gain momentum. Singer-songwriter Marsha Jarrett, a 2017 World Championship of the Performing Arts contender, won last year’s competition with the high-energy entry “Send Up the Praise.”

GROW, BUILD, INFLUENCE: Can the women of JPS top last year’s mega-successful inaugural staging of the Women In Energy Conference? That’s the question on many people’s lips as the power company unveils the lineup of distinguished speakers and presenters who will grace the podium to bring messages of hope, inspiration and empowerment to, as will certainly be the case, a room full of young and young-at-heart career women. Once again, the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel is hosting the conference, slated for March 9-10. Leading the pack of local and international speakers is JPS’ dynamite CEO, Kelly Tomblin, and such teammates as Sheree Martin. Also in the mix: noted businesswoman Minna Israel, the ever-inspiring Dr. Nsombi Jaja and Olympian/philanthropist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. Women In Energy 2017 is being held under the theme “Doing Power Differently – Grow, Build, Influence.”

Friday, 10 February 2017

CHAT ’BOUT: Taming the crime monster + Making research more innovative + Holding our banks accountable

“We didn’t get here overnight, and our crime situation is not one-dimensional. There is no magic wand; there is no silver bullet, and there is no switch. We know it’s going to take the cooperation of all Jamaicans and the dedication of the security forces. And we are treating with the root causes rather than the symptoms.” – Minister of National Security, Robert ‘Bobby’ Montague, responding to the continued criticism of his ministry’s handling of the current crime situation in Jamaica

“If the banks are not able to recover the real cost of providing services from the persons utilizing the services, this could lead to unintended consequences such as increased inefficiency, restriction of services, reduced capital in the banking sector and lack of further investment in technology systems to improve service delivery to consumers.” – The Jamaica Bankers Association responding to ,proposed amendments to the Banking Services Act to increase customer protection via the regulation of fees and charges

“Nesta Carter, and to a lesser extent Jamaica’s entire programme, is being brought to shame and scandal by an action that is unjust in principle. Having listened extensively to almost all the discussions and analysis surrounding the issue, I find that, for the most part, the discussions have been charged with self-righteousness and emotionalism while missing the very essence of justice.” – Oral Tracey weighing in on the bigger picture surrounding Nesta Carter’s positive drug test that has stripped Team Jamaica’s male 4X100M team of the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medal

“The rules that govern copyright and intellectual property are becoming more complex, as technology and the world of publishing evolve. Because research is changing, it’s becoming more applicable and more relevant. Part of this is also the growth of what research is all about, because more and more students are doing research to be innovative, so there are researches around new products. People are interested in what their rights are and what they need to watch for.” – UWI Research Day Steering Committee Chairman, Dr. Denise Eldermire-Shearer, addressing a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on copyright laws and their impact on research

“Clearly, when anybody in the arts is acknowledged for the work they do, it’s a big deal, because there is no monetary reward in the arts. What you hope and pray for is that your work makes a difference in other ways. So when you get an award such as this one, it allows you to get more recognition, more prominence to do what you may not have been able to do otherwise. It gives you legitimacy and a stamp of approval that is so important in the arts. – Co-founder and producer of the Calabash International Literary Festival, Justine Henzell, accepting the 2016 Gleaner Honour Award for outstanding contribution to the arts in Jamaica

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT: Bob Marley Foundation empowering inner-city teens through annual One Love Youth Camp

ALL OF US: The motivational camp brought together at-risk teens and counsellors from inner-city communities.

One of the ways the Bob Marley Foundation is making a difference and contributing to a better Jamaica is through social activism and helping to groom the next generation of leaders and icons. That’s why, for the past three years, the foundation has been reaching out to at-risk youth, particularly those hailing from inner-city-based educational institutions, to take part in the One Love Youth Camp, in a bid to transform their lives.

From February 1-7, at the height of the annual festivities celebrating Marley’s legacy, some 50 kids and 30 facilitators took over the Tapioca Village retreat grounds (nestled on the St. Andrew/St. Mary border) for a week of rehabilitative and empowerment activities. In partnership with Ben & Jerry’s Ice-Cream and PYE Global - Partners for Youth Empowerment, the foundation hosted kids from such institutions as Denham Town High, Charlie Smith High, Haile Selassie High, Clan Carthy High and St. Andrew Technical, among others.

Activities ranged from group discussions, visual arts workshops and conflict resolution sessions to theatre arts, community building workshops and motivational talks. Among the facilitators and counselors was Aaron Nigel Smith, an educator and performing artist from Portland, Oregon, who believes well-run programmes such as the One Love Youth Camp deliver benefits that last a lifetime. 

“Creativity is important, empowering young people is important. That’s how we make the world a better place,” says Smith, who runs his own non-profit back in the States. “Not many people have access to this kind of outlet for personal development and creativity.”

 Seventeen-year-old twins Tia and Tika Campbell assure TALLAWAH that they made ample use of the camp’s offerings. “We learnt many different things, especially how people can work together to solve problems. The lessons were serious, but they made them fun,” share the Papine High graduates (currently enrolled at IUC), who were attending the camp for the second time.

Fourteen-year-old Ryece Wright also regaled us with tales of camp-life excitement and their learning experiences in the appealing all-natural setting. “We did some of the activities down by the riverside and that was fun. But what I enjoyed most was the group work,” shared the Holy Trinity High teen. 

Jacqueline Bryan, a trained social worker, says she has seen first-hand the remarkable impact the camp has had on the young people who’ve attended. “There is this one young man in particular who was so transformed by the experience that he participated again this year but as a mentor,” gushes Bryan, who teaches at Haile Selassie. “The camp rehabilitates them, makes them more focussed. And that’s our mission. It’s about the deliberate and intentional empowerment of our young people.” 

Looking ahead, sports teacher Shanavaan Clarke sees the camp widening the net. “I think this camp can only get better if we get youths from all over the island to participate, not just the inner-city youths,” Clarke points out. Smith agrees. “I think by continuing to make it a youth-based camp, empowering and training Jamaican youth,” he notes, “it will serve its purpose.”

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

FIGHTING ‘SPIRIT’: The National Museum’s Budo exhibition reawakens a piece of Japan’s storied history

SHOW ROOM: War-time relics, swords and antlers are among the many items making up the eclectic display.

Who knew Japanese martial arts had such a fascinating origin story? Look no further than the National Museum of Jamaica’s new exhibition, The Spirit of Budo, which offers compelling proof of that Asian country’s enormous and enduring contribution to the world of combat and martial arts, war strategies and techniques.

It’s a travelling exhibition (under the auspices of The Japan Foundation), which comes to Jamaica after an eventful sojourn overseas, bringing a visual feast that truly transports you to another world, an oriental realm mired in rich history and the spirit of struggle and survival.

But there’s another way to consider this lavish showcase spread across multiple adjoining rooms: as a history lesson that will excite not only students and their teachers but anyone who’s ever wanted to learn more about this aspect of Japan’s multi-layered culture.

The viewer is treated to an eclectic assortment of forms and media (pictorial, animé, artefacts, vintage posters, information placards, video installations and even feature film) that create a spellbinding whole. 

Still, the display’s high notes are undoubtedly those war-time relics, well-preserved (some reimagined) and put on view in exquisite glass cases. Highlights include a series of han-dachi swords, kawai kabuto stag antlers, gunpowder cases, a surplus of bows and arrows, helmets and training items, including weights for the muscles and clogs for the feet. 

In this well-lit exhibition space, you sometimes feel as though you’re inside an international military museum taking in the numerous sights and sounds. But at its core, this exhibition has more to do with Japan’s singular and storied history that anything else. 

Fans of judo, kendo, karate and samurai folklore will certainly enjoy the video demonstrations and animé clips, not to mention, the footage depicting native Japanese schoolchildren and adults (amateurs and pros alike) learning the ropes and showing off their skills. 

The Spirit of Budo: The History of Japan’s Martial Arts will be on view at the National Museum of Jamaica, 10-16 East Street (Downtown Kingston), until March 18.

Friday, 3 February 2017

THE HARD PART: Ehrhardt’s revealing, superfunny Cock Tales enlightens and satisfies

PLEASE, PLEASE ME: Ehrhardt spins juicy, full-throttle entertainment in her must-see new show.

Men and women across the globe have countless names for that special part of the male anatomy. The johnson, the schlong, the woody, the buddy. Debra Ehrhardt likes to call it “the one-eyed snake.” In her new one-woman show, Cock Tales: Shame On Me, a frank, insightful and superfunny send-up of misadventures in the world of Tom’s Dick and Harry’s, the veteran writer-actress doesn’t skimp on the revealing stuff, taking us on a wild and bumpy ride that, in the end, lucidly explains why she has such a love-hate relationship with the penis.

She’s not alone. At the end of Wednesday night’s performance at the Jamaican Shopping Club Theatre in Kingston, dozens of women made a beeline for Debbie outside the theatre to tell her how much the show (directed by My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s Joel Zwick) resonated with them and made them hark back to some of their very own episodes with the sausage and meatballs – and the pleasure and pain which they’ve become synonymous.

Whether she’s reminiscing on her coming-of-age years in Jamaica with a mother and grandmother who never talked about sex (rebuking anything deemed even slightly immoral) or singling out certain men from her past for “special mention”, Ehrhardt takes such a delightfully self-deprecating approach to the subjects at hand that you can’t help but admire her courage and her ability to pepper her writing with wit and comedic élan. This is a woman with cojones.

We are introduced to naughty Uncle Steve, who enjoys a game of “show you mine, show me yours” up in a mango tree; the restless grandpa who leaves Grandma for Miss Ting, the Chinese lady next door; and Pastor White, who has a thing for nice little girls. By age 13, Debbie has been convinced that the way to a man’s heart is not through his stomach, but through his loins.
By the time our heroine moved to the States at age 18, she was more than a firm believer. During a train ride, she sits next to a man (a suit-and-tie with a copy of the Wall Street Journal) who offers to give her a peep-show. But nothing could prepare here for the elderly client in Connecticut (when she takes a job as a private nurse) who gives new meaning to the term “dirty old man” and proves that there’s life down there at 96 – Viagra not included.

Relating these tales and more (even throwing a brief marriage into the mix), Ehrhardt, under Zwick’s free-handed direction, spins juicy, full-throttle entertainment that gives you something to laugh about and ponder. If you’re a “prude,” then you’re certainly in for a rude awakening.

My only quibble is that the performance (clocking in at about an hour and 15 minutes, no intermission) could have been about ten minutes longer. Not that we’re complaining about the size, but we wanted more.

Still, Cock Tales is an immensely satisfying show that, like Jamaica Farewell, proves that Debra Ehrhardt, the solo performer, has spunk, spark and real talent. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+