Friday, 30 June 2017

MEASURE OF A MAN: Captain Horace Burrell hailed as patriotic son and game changer at massive thanksgiving service

WALK THE WALK: Pall bearers, led by Simoes and Horace Reid escort Burrell's black-green-and-gold-draped casket at Wednesday's service. 

IT was only fitting that René Simoes, the coach who guided Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz to their historic qualification for the FIFA World Cup in France in 1998, was among those delivering tributes at the thanksgiving service to mark the passing – and salute the life and legacy – of Captain Horace Burrell, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president, whose relentless drive and determination played a pivotal role in making the World Cup dream a reality. The service was held on Wednesday inside the National Arena.

“He was a natural leader, a visionary and football lover and a good son to Jamaica. This is how many will remember him,” said Simoes, who has fond recollections of Burrell making the trip to Brazil and convincing him to come to Jamaica to work with the Boyz. For Simoes, Burrell ranked among the most intriguing people he’s ever encountered.

“Those who had the privilege of being in Captain’s inner circle knew he was a man of first class and enormous kindness. He was not a perfect man, but he was top of the line,” recalled the thickly accented soccer icon, who was also a pall bearer at the funeral. “My family and I have heavy hearts, but his friendship will always remain with us.”

On June 6, Captain Horace Burrell, at age 67, lost his battle with cancer and drew his last breath in the United States, where he was being treated. Dr. Tiphanie Burrell-Piggott, his first-born and only daughter, and son Romario, were by his side during those final moments. “He taught me how to be a proud Jamaican man. He believed that anything worth pursuing was worth pursuing relentlessly,” Romario told the rapt congregation. “I owe it to him to never stop chasing my dreams, and we owe it to the Captain to never stop chasing ours.”
Game-changer, nation-builder, philanthropist, sports administrator par excellence – just a few of the superlatives cited as the glowing tributes flowed inside the Arena. While former Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller remembered her cousin as “a giant of our times” whose commitment to football enriched the game in the region, Sports minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange (pictured above with Simoes) called him “a patriot” who was determined to take Jamaican football to the highest level. CONCACAF’s Victor Mantagliani, meanwhile, acknowledged “his extraordinary passion for the game.”

It bears repeating that Captain Horace Burrell was a man of achievement. He founded the Captain’s Bakery in 1995 and went on to establish Captain Aviation Services in 2008. He occupied the JFF presidency from 1994 to 2003 and again from 2007 until his death earlier this month. While the Jamaican government has bestowed on him the National Order of Distinction (Commander Class), FIFA has honoured whim with their prestigious Order of Merit.

During Wednesday’s thanksgiving service, officiated by Rev. Adinhair Jones, Wilmer Jackson and Al Miller, PM Andrew Holness read the First Lesson, followed by Opposition Leader Dr. Peter Phillips, who delivered the second. Musical tributes came from Ken Boothe, Carlene David, Ashé, Dwight Richards, the JCF Choir and Ernie Smith, among others. An offering was taken up to benefit the Jamaica Cancer Society and the Reggae Girlz.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

INNOCENCE LOST: Tacius Golding drama troupe connects with hard-hitting Blood and Trapped

REBEL SPIRIT: The student actors brought ferocious energy and conviction to the stage.

TEEN suicide, domestic abuse, sexuality, peer pressure. Issues that today’s youth population has to grapple with don’t get any realer than these, but too often they are swept under the rug. The award-winning Tacius Golding High School drama troupe shines a blinding light on these matters and sparks an open dialogue with their gritty and gripping experimental production Blood/Trapped, which provides vivid examples of the psychological damage and other long-term effects that can result when said issues go unaddressed or unresolved. 

It’s fast-paced, relentlessly energetic theatre that proves that the 13-member ensemble, under the guidance of their courageous writer-director Webster McDonald, deserved all those accolades they took home from the National Drama Finals this year and in 2016. 

In its exploration of the often dark and difficult subject matter, the production draws on choral performance, monologues, improv and an interrogative slant. In one scene, a bullied young girl uses a knife to experiment with self-cutting, much to the ire of her ferocious mother; and in another sketch, an abusive father drives fear into his defenseless young daughter. Throughout the two-hour show (split into halves devoted to Blood and Trapped respectively), we also encounter broken families, victims wallowing in pity and self-hatred, and predators licking their lips. 

As for the performers, these are outstanding student actors whose maturity and stage presence belie their teenage years. At the same time, the blend of choreography and chanting, innovative lighting design and minimalist staging goes a long way in providing audiences with a visually appealing feast that complements the compelling messages. 

McDonald and his red-and-black-clad performers give voice to countless victimized youth with Blood/Trapped, which rips and roars but also provides its own road-map to healing – and the priceless reminder that there’s a light at the end of every tunnel. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

CULTURE VULTURE: Lorna Goodison for WLI fundraiser + JCDC presents Best of Festival series + The Phoenix Awards take centrestage

BUILT TO LAST: It’s been 18 years since David Tulloch started Probemaster Entertainment, the production company through which he’s produced some of the finest stage plays local and Diaspora-based audiences have witnessed in the modern era. To celebrate the milestone, Tulloch and his team will host a small prize-giving ceremony – The Phoenix Awards – at the Phoenix Theatre (Haining Road, New Kingston) on Monday, July 3, commencing at 7pm. Probemaster will be honouring key industry players with awards and other tokens of gratitude. Casting an eye over the last decade and a half, Tulloch feels his professional life in theatre (coupled with the evolution of Probemaster) has grown leaps and bounds. “I can definitely chart growth. I used to have to beg for benefits [for my shows], now people call me for benefits,” the playwright-producer tells TALLAWAH, citing just one example. “It’s overwhelming when you think about it, but I’m humbled and grateful for the support and all of God’s mercies.” 

WOMEN ON A MISSION: TALLAWAH’s June cover star, Lorna Goodison, wasn’t kidding when she told us that she has packed schedule for the rest of the year, given all the projects she wants to embark on as she settles into her three-year tenure as Poet Laureate. In July, Goodison is teaming up with the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) to raise funds for kids with kidney disease. The WLI is putting on a fundraiser, dubbed Tea & Tales, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on (Sunday, July 9), with Goodison (who will read from her acclaimed body of work) and songstress Della Manley (who will render selections from her repertoire) as the headliners. For tickets call 960-3170 or 960-5308. 

GOLD STANDARD: Every year, there are highlights aplenty in the JCDC Festival of the Performing Arts, especially among the crop of entries that make it into the National Finals. To this end, the JCDC is treating Jamaican culture lovers to the Best of Festival 2017, a performance showcase spread across five nights, featuring the year’s top performers and performances. Patrons can expect non-stop entertainment when they take their seats inside the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre to catch the best of music (Tuesday, June 27), drama (June 28), traditional folk forms (June 29), speech (June 30) and dance (July 1). Showtime nightly 7pm.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

STAGE LEFT: Brace yourselves for Heist + Introducing Crystal Fletcher + Oliver and Volier as ‘frenemies’

CATCH THEM IF YOU CAN: With summer on the horizon, it’s an exciting time for Jamaican theatre. And no premiere is more highly anticipated than Heist, Maya Wilkinson’s Tallawah-winning short play that’s getting the full-length production treatment. With Wilkinson serving as writer, director and producer, the play (which got a lively launch at the Jamaica Pegasus Gardens recently) features a 16-member cast (!) bringing to life a story mainly centred on two thieves (Desmond Dennis and David Crossgill), who break into a museum under the cover of night to steal a painting. The events that unfold are bound to have patrons rolling in the aisles when Heist runs at the Philip Sherlock Centre, UWI Mona, from July 21-30. Visit for ticket information, etc.

RISING STAR ALERT! One of the hottest young talents to watch on the local theatre scene is Crystal Fletcher. The 21-year-old St. Hugh’s High grad, who landed her breakout role in David Tulloch’s multiple award-winning Not My Child last year, is beyond thrilled that she’s already getting to share the stage with such heavyweights as Rosie Murray, Donald ‘Iceman’ Anderson and Leonie Forbes, who had some sage advice for the starlet. “She told me to observe and to take note of different personas, so that when I get a character to play I have those experiences to draw from,” shares the warm and intelligent Computer Science undergrad (University of Technology), who hopes to land film roles as her career blossoms. Recently seen causing all kinds of ruckus in Fabian Barracks’ Wah Sweet Nanny Goat (alongside Renae Williams), Fletcher says she makes it her duty to encourage those her age to come out and experience live theatre more often. “I think more and more young people are becoming aware and more involved in the arts,” she reflects. “I encourage my friends to come and see a play as opposed to going to the movies, because we should be doing more to support the arts in Jamaica.”

BACK IN BUSINESS: What a laugh riot is in store for theatregoers when they settle into their seats to catch the grand ‘reunion’ comedy Frenemy, starring the ultimate dynamic duo – Oliver Samuels and Volier ‘Maffie’ Johnson – who’ve been industry colleagues and real-life pals for over three decades. Rehearsals are well underway for the play, which opens for previews this Friday, June 30 at the Jamaica Shopping Club Theatre, Cargill Avenue, Kingston.

Friday, 23 June 2017

CHAT ’BOUT: Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange on plans for a National Sport Museum and what Jamaica 55 really means

UP FRONT: Minister Grange and colleagues enjoying the recent launch of the J'ca 55 celebrations in Kingston.

MINISTER of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, had all ears in Gordon House last week as she made her sectoral presentation, addressing the importance of investing in our athletes and sports’ continued and evolving role in national development. Below are five points from what Minister Grange had to say: 

“It’s a very competitive marketplace, but we truly believe that our athletes, and the impact of our cultural ambassadors on the world, primarily through music, have given us a tremendous comparative advantage. It is for us to convert that into measurable economic returns. One of the ways in which we will be seeking to do this is to go after major international sporting and cultural activities, to stage them right here in Jamaica.” 

“The group life and health insurance plan paid for by the Government as part of a commitment to secure the development and well-being of our national representatives benefitted 1,285 athletes as at the end of last financial year. It is imperative that we are able to continue the programme, and as such, the Government has developed a sustainability plan for the Athletes’ Insurance Scheme. This will be submitted to the Cabinet once the review has been completed.” 

“As a country, we continue to grapple with our seeming inability to convert the notoriety of our athletic prowess on the track into tangible economic benefits for our people, and the country at large. The debate rages on. Sports tourism is the buzzword these days.” 

“Other related activities scheduled for this fiscal year include workshops and training seminars on fabric restoration as well as digitization of artefacts. We are also focused on the establishment of a virtual museum as an initial stage of a museum establishment. Other related activities planned are the establishment of a museum foundation, among other critical strategies to ensure the vibrancy and sustainability of the museum project.” 

“As we prepare to celebrate 55 years as an independent nation, we are aware that we are still a young nation. But we have understood not to assess the power of our country by its chronological age or by its geopolitical size. Rather, we judge this country by the capacity of the dynamic forces that propel it onward, by the mystique that remains incomprehensible to so many, by the unwavering resilience of its people, by the national pride and recommitment to stand up for our rightful place in this new thrust towards national prosperity.”

LAND OF MY BIRTH: University Singers’ delightful 2017 season celebrates Jamaica’s rich musical heritage

FEELIN' IRIE: The choir's latest season overflows with songs jammin' to the reggae beat.

THE second half of a University Singers concert season performance is when they really get into their groove, unleashing a torrent of magic and melody (spanning reggae, folk, showtunes) that culminates in a delightful curtain-closer.

We got all that and more taking in their 2017 concert season (currently thrilling audiences at Mona’s Philip Sherlock Centre), an endlessly entertaining show that climaxes with a jubilant and fitting Jamaica 55 tribute.

Among local performing arts troupes who’ve stood the test of time, you can’t find a more patriotic group than the Singers who consistently explore our deep cultural forces in their repertoire with outstanding results. This year, the show overflows with tunes jammin’ to the reggae beat, while reminding us that, when all is said and done, Jamrock is truly a cut above the rest.

While the “Rocksteady Suite” (creatively arranged by Djenne Greaves) tackled romance, loneliness and island fervour via songs from era icons John Holt, Phyllis Dillon and Marcia Griffiths (among others), it was the “Sweet Jamaica Medley” that proved most unforgettable, fusing hits from Tony Rebel, Buju Banton, Popcaan and Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley.

Innovative choreography from Kevin Moore and regal dashikis contributed to the appeal of the folk segment, which included, as is customary, notable selections from the Noel Dexter songbook (“Fan Mi Solja Man,” “Dis Long Tim Gyal,” “Tief Tek Over Town”). The men took centrestage for “Half Way Tree” and “Daphne Walking” while the sopranos and altos stole the spotlight with their irie interpretations of “Good Advice (Treat Yuh Woman Right)” and “Lioness on the Rise.” 

As far as soloists go, Franklin Halliburton (doubling as musical director/conductor) was in splendid form, giving a rendition of Oscar Rasbach’s “Trees”, one of the bonafide highlights of the first half, which served up classical numbers, sacreds and some Negro spirituals. Dynamic divas Carolyn Reid Cameron and Althea McKenzie took us to church with their glorious duet “Ride the Chariot”, while Christina Walters shone as she led the powerful “Honour Honour.” 

Talented tenor Christopher Whyte, who arranged quite a few pieces this year, gave the audience goosebumps as he sang the lead on the moving “I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray,” making way for Ranice Barrett’s laudable take on “Ride on King Jesus.” 

Meanwhile, the choir’s treatment of “Seasons of Love” from Rent doubled as a touching tribute to their forebears (Nettleford, Dexter), which segued into the Kathy Brown-arranged “South African Medley,” a showstopping blend of harmony, movement and live drumming. In other words, a triumph.

> INTERVIEW: Actor-singer Andre Bernard on legacy, linguistics and UWI Singers

Thursday, 22 June 2017

DASHING! TALLAWAH picks the 10 Best Dressed Men in Jamaica

TALK about Jamaica’s finest! The men who make up our Top 10 list of the island’s best dressed men are the living embodiment of taste and confidence, style and substance – and are just as, if not more, accomplished in their respective professional fields. They get it right every time. Here they are, in no particular order, a mix of eligible bachelors and relentlessly achieving go-getters. 

 As the reigning king of Jamaican gospel, he has a knack for lighting up concert stages, sporting ensembles that not only flatter his trim physique but perfectly complement his stagecraft and passionate delivery. Did we mention that the brother can sannngg

With those regal locks cascading down to his slender shoulders, this in-demand barrister and freshman MP can rock a fine suit like the best of ‘em, showing up for his Gordon House (and court) appearances dressed for success. We rest our case. 

Still the girls’ dem sugar after all these years! Moses Davis’ lyrical wizardry and song styling are legendary, but the dancehall kingpin has become synonymous with a blend of inimitable style and substance that befits his rank as the consummate headliner. Long live the king! 

It goes without saying that the World’s Fastest Man’s trophy case is not the only thing dripping with pure gold. Just check out his wardrobe choices, especially when he steps out for those glitzy gala ceremonies and A-list premieres and launches he’s always being invited to. Polished to world-record perfection.

Blessed with a super-stellar physique, the sub-10 king is ever turning heads and scoring high marks from style watchers who’ve long anointed him the sexiest Jamaican man alive. And that’s in large part to a fashion game that reflects impeccable taste and a healthy dose of assuredness. 

Next to the all-important cool factor, subtlety is the key ingredient in Mr. Gordon’s winning style, which he regularly kicks up a notch, whether he’s putting in day-time appearances or on the night shift. Casual or couture, refined sophistication or rude-boy edginess become him. 

You can say this for the iconic menswear designer: he never comes up short in the style department, ever cutting a sleek, GQ-ready figure that’s a welcome presence on our TV screens and at fashion shows and other festive occasions.

The Saint boss is not one to make his models outshine him. As such, he always brings a balance of maturity and playful whimsy to his ensembles, rocking outfits that hit the mark and often epitomize living-out-loud metro-glam. 

Even when he’s dressed down for a night on the town, this long-serving MP oozes an effortless style that’s both dignified and dangerously smooth. No surprise that he’s considered the ideal dance-floor partner and great company to shoot the breeze with. Versatile and charming. 

He might be the new kid on the block in corporate circles, but Reid’s fresh, dapper style easily matches that of the seasoned pro. A fast-rising star on the social scene (and Garth Walker’s Wealth 500 partner) he earns major points for showing the brothers how it’s really done.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

PLAYING HOUSE: Tulloch’s Wine & Roses is as amusing and thought-provoking as ever

ROSES ARE RED: Romance and heartache make strange bedfellows in the must-see dramedy.

DO cougars just wanna have fun? You might be left wondering the same thing after watching this season’s remount of Wine & Roses, the provocative between-the-sheets hit from David Tulloch, the playwright who never fails to leave a lingering impression or raise questions in his work that stay with you.

Last staged at the Pantry Playhouse a few years ago, with Rosie Murray and Fabian Barracks playing the secret cougar/cub lovers, Wine & Roses has lost none of its charm or brow-raising candour. If anything, its acute meditation on complicated adult relationships, pride, secrets and family ties feels more relevant than ever.

True, there are hiccups here and there, and the final moments feel a bit rushed, but it’s a show that entertains your socks off, thanks to a clever, resourceful director and a committed cast that trusts him entirely.

Angela Jarrett (very commanding) stars as Carol, a 45-year-old businesswoman who, when it comes to play time, likes her boytoys virile and full of vitality. Eighteen-year-old Jonathan (Ackeem Poyser, terrific) fits the bill, plus he’s attentive, intelligent and eager to please. But after six months, the relationship has hit a lull. Carol wants other things, but Jonathan is in love and desperately clings to her. His God-fearing, single mother Joyce Carter (a fired-up Terri Salmon) would have a fit if she found out about the affair.

And what’s worse, Carol’s temperamental estranged husband Edgar (Michael Nicholson in his most serious role to date) could re-enter the picture at any moment. And so he does, revealing a painful secret that’s been eating away at him for months. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Rodney Campbell, convincingly playing Deeko (a rough-around-the-edges mechanic and Jonathan’s go-to guy for advice), alongside Sabrina Thomas (appearing as Alicia, Jonathan’s boy-crazy schoolmate who wants him all for herself) round out the six-member cast.

The detailed set design (a split between Carol’s digs and the Carter residence), and the apt lighting, make strong contributions to the show’s overall success. 

Wine & Roses is populated by people who make interesting life choices that come back to haunt them and, as testament to Tulloch’s skills, they are well-crafted, believable characters that pull you into the story, taking you on a rollercoaster ride that, in spite of its flaws, amuses and provokes serious thought. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

ON THE SCENE: Ashanti rocks out at CFW, Johnny & Elva bring the funny, ‘Babsy’ gets crowned…

SETTING THE MOOD: June 17, St. Catherine. There’s never a dull moment when it comes to a performance by young veteran Romain Virgo, who headlined the most recent leg of Appleton’s Signature Nights, which took place at the Kaluga Kafe, where he had the patrons, the ladies especially, under his spell. (Photo: Skkan Media)

HAT TRICK: June 14, Kingston. Culture minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange is all smiles as she gets an impromptu ‘crowning’ moment during last week’s ceremony (at the Courtleigh Auditorium) to launch the Jamaica 55 celebartions, which are expected to bring the fireworks when Emancipendence arrives this summer. (Photo: Sleek)

LAUGH IT OFF: June 14, Kingston. Comedy pros (and cultural icons in training) Elva and Chris ‘Johnny’ Daley brought their bag of tricks to centrestage, as they handled emceeing duties at the recent Jamaica 55 launch at the Courtleigh Auditorium. (Photo: Sleek)

GOOD GOOD: June 11, St. Andrew. Grammy winner Ashanti was ready to par-tay, when she touched the Villa Ronai runway last Sunday night, sporting a high-glam fade-to-black look, to perform for the fashion crowd at Caribbean Fashion Week, unleashing the hits from her decade-plus R&B career. (Photo: Skkan Media)

RED CARPET READY: Decked out in their Sunday best, the very close-knit Cooper clan – Donna, Kingsley, Carolyn and Safia – came together for the shutterbugs as CFW 2017’s Gala Night kicked into high gear at Villa Ronai. (Photo: Skkan Media)

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

SHOP LOCAL, LOOK GLOBAL: JIE exhibitors grateful for exposure, applaud JMA’s visionary leadership

FAIR TRADE: A host of uniquely Jamaican products and services brought patrons flocking to the inaugural expo.

WHEN Cheryl Whytehead heard that the Jamaica International Exhibition (JIE) was having its inaugural staging in Montego Bay in June, she immediately recognized an opportunity to get some great exposure for her company, Devine Treasures. She jumped at it. “I’m glad I came. This has been a great opportunity for me to showcase the products to the tourists because my main goal right now is to take [my company] to the next level,” shared the businesswoman whose bespoke leather creations are all done by hand and include everything from sandals, clutches and bags to purses and wallets. 

The quality finish of her work speaks to the decade and counting she’s spent working in leather, honing her craft. What began as a batch of craft-shop items has blossomed into a stock whose pieces can be found in hotel gift shops all over the north coast. “I want to go global, but it’s hard to do it on your own. So events like these help to introduce you to people who are interested in carrying your products and may have connections to the overseas market. For someone like me, it’s also a great way to source raw material.” 

For three days, June 1-3, the exhibition hall at the Montego Bay Convention Centre was teeming with sellers and buyers making the most of these kinds of business opportunities, networking and forging connections to take their businesses up a notch. “I actually don’t have any complaints,” Selena Dyke dished to TALLAWAH, standing next to her father, Bruce, with whom she runs the Kingston-based Cool Roofs and Waterproofing Systems Limited. “We’re proud of what the JMA is doing for Jamaican businesses. It’s a fantastic experience. We were hoping to network some more, but there’s always next time.” [The JIE will next be staged in 2019.] 

The first-time event also drew gargantuan praise from large-scale entities like Rainforest Seafoods, whose team was kept busy sharing delectable samples (fish sticks, soup) to the swelling crowd when we passed by on the Saturday afternoon. “It’s the first year, and it’s definitely off to a great start. We are members of the JMA, and it’s a huge honour to be participating. I know it will get even bigger for [2019],” offered marketing manager Bethany Young, who was hoping to swap contact details with a few more buyers visiting from the States and Europe. “The international buyers would really help to boost our sales. That’s what Rainforest Seafoods would really like.” 

> MORE: Treasures aplenty, business opp’s anchor first-ever J’ca Int’l Exhibition

ON THE RECORD: Magnum queenpin Suspense riffs on ambition, independent women, and confidence over hype

THAT GIRL: "I want to use my music to encourage the ladies to be independent and look out for themselves," offers the 25-year-old new artiste.

TO earn a living and pay her bills, Shanekia Morrison works as a compliance officer at the Kingston & St. Andrew Municipal Council, but Jamaica knows her as Suspense, the lightning-rod deejay who emerged winner of the recently concluded season of Magnum Kings & Queens of Dancehall, the televised talent show and ratings powerhouse that’s given her the launching-pad she’s always dreamed of. 

On stage, the 25-year-old St. Mary’s College graduate (and doting single mom) combines the feisty energy of Tifa with the lyrical edginess of the original Lady Saw. But in person? She’s way more sugar than spice. TALLAWAH caught up with the chameleonic entertainer in Montego Bay recently to hear about her continuing rise to stardom, bouncing back from a near-fatal car accident, and her plans for the future. 

TALLAWAH: You seem to have a certain respect for independent women, which has won you a lot of female fans over the course of the past few months. 
Suspense: It’s never good when a woman can’t fend for herself and has to depend on a man and tolerate all kinds of disrespect. As a female, I want to use my music to encourage the ladies to be independent and look out for themselves as much as possible. I’ve been working since I was 16, and I still strive to be independent. 

TALLAWAH: Amen. Being a new artiste in the dancehall will send numerous challenges your way. What’s the craziest rumour you’ve heard about yourself so far? 
Suspense: Well, I haven’t heard anything seriously negative, but during the competition, they were saying that Rankin’ Pumpkin and I don’t get along, which is not true. We were competing to win. And people like to say I’m hype and arrogant, but it’s not hype; it’s confidence. There is a big difference. 

TALLAWAH: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome since embarking on a music career? 
Suspense: The biggest challenge so far was campaigning for support [during the competition] while working. And I had to be writing new songs every week and taking care of my five-year-old son [Tijaun Tobias]. And then I had an accident [a vehicular crash a month ago]. I was badly bruised and in a lot of pain, and I was worried if they were going to accept me when I [returned to the competition]. It was a very challenging time for me. 

TALLAWAH: You’ve certainly bounced back in fine style, earning respect from some of the veterans in the industry. Who are you dying to collaborate with in the studio? 
Suspense: I really want to work with Aidonia, as a male, and Spice, as a female. 

TALLAWAH: Speaking of dancehall vixens, Ishawna’s “Equal Rights” is still a hot topic in the court of public opinion. What’s your take on the hullabaloo? 
Suspense: I haven’t listened to the song in full, but from what I’ve heard she is extremely right. And I don’t think they should bash her because you have male artistes like Vybz Kartel and Alkaline who are singing about similar topics. I think people are taking it too seriously. She was having fun with it. 

TALLAWAH: So looking ahead, what do you ultimately want to achieve career-wise? 
Suspense: I want to keep writing my own songs. I also design my own clothes, and I’m hoping to launch Suspense Designs in the near future. I want to give back. I love kids, so I’ll be doing a lot of charity shows. But the main thing I want to do is get out there and build my brand.

Monday, 19 June 2017

CALL OF DUTY: Ambassador Richard Bernal on roots, service and writing things down

NATIVE SON: "In serving the public, it's important to document the experiencs," says Bernal, pictured below with Opposition Leader, Dr. Peter Phillips.

FOR Ambassador Richard Bernal, few things matter as deeply as serving one’s country and making a difference. It’s a principle that was instilled in him from boyhood. “Growing up, one of the first major lessons I learned was to have a sense of purpose and try to make a difference wherever possible. One’s life must be about contributing to national development,” shares the esteemed diplomat, who grew up in the Mona Heights area of St. Andrew and went on to attend the neighbouring University of the West Indies (UWI) in the late ’60s. 

“It was a privilege to go to university, and I felt an obligation to give back," he notes. "Growing up in Mona, it was the logical thing to go to [UWI]. It was a wonderful experience. Now I’m back there, trying to help the university go global.”

As you should be aware, Richard Bernal, whose work in the Foreign Service is legendary, now serves as the university’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Global Affairs, a post that draws on his love of academia and international relations.

Currently in his “young 60s,” his life and work seem to have come full circle yet continue to flourish. Like compatriot Prof. Stephen Vasciannie, not only is he one of the most accomplished and renowned ambassadors to ever represent Jamaica, his work has had profound impact regionally and in certain international circles.

Apart from serving as our main man in Washington and spending time with the Organization of American States (OAS), he’s done groundbreaking work with the Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM), among other bodies with ties to the Caribbean. He has fond memories of embarking on his “first formal engagement in diplomacy” in 1991, as Ambassador to the OAS, before “the mission broadened, because once you’re working for Jamaica the mission broadens.”

Best of all, he’s written extensively about his work and his experiences, becoming a sort of accidental author. “When I became Ambassador I knew about Washington, but there was next to nothing on the relations with Jamaica. I didn’t have any information on what my predecessors had done,” he remembers.

He didn’t want his successors to fall into a similar trap. “I didn’t set out to write. I wrote mainly for my own clarification. I would write about the issues of my job. To understand a subject better, I would write myself a little note. Then that note would become a paper and then that paper might mutate into a journal article or a book,” explains Ambassador Bernal, whose civil servant father encouraged his childhood love of disappearing into a juicy read. “I read enormously as a child. Anything I could get my hands on. It’s the ultimate way of learning.” 
Bernal’s most recent book, Dragon in the Caribbean: China's Global Re-Dimensioning - Challenges and Opportunities for the Caribbean (Ian Randle Publishers), his third full-length publication (now in its second edition), grew out of his desire to learn about the history of the Chinese in the Caribbean. “I was reading about China and wanted to clarify some of the views. And I realized that nothing had been written about the Chinese and the Caribbean,” recalls the diplomat/author, whose previous publications have explored US foreign policy and trade and economic development. “So I wrote myself a little note, all in an attempt to better understand the subject.” 

For Bernal, it cannot be emphasized enough the need for today’s leading public servants to write things down. “The business of people in policy documenting what is happening is important,” he says. “So I urge policy-makers and public servants to write for the benefit of future generations. In serving the public, it’s important to document the experiences and let the editors bring the work to a higher level.” 

Meanwhile, what Ambassador Bernal is intrigued to tackle for his next book is a no-brainer. “Brexit. I’ve been following it up very closely,” he says, “and it could be the next thing I write about.”

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Triple threat Maya Wilkinson is passionate about theatre and poised for greatness

RUNNING THE SHOW: "I always knew this is where I'd end up," reflects Wilkinson, who proudly wears hats of writer-director, producer and graphics designer.

TRUE confession: visual art has always been among the great loves of Maya Wilkinson’s life. So much so that it partly inspired her new play, Heist, a very funny short comedy that has been transformed into a full-length commercial production, opening to audiences at the Philip Sherlock Centre, UWI Mona, for a brief summer run, starting July 21.

“It’s been a beautiful experience,” she says of fleshing out the story, centred on two bumbling crooks (played by Desmond Dennis and David Crossgill), who break into an art museum to steal a painting. “Art is therapeutic; laughter is therapeutic. And given the opportunity to laugh people will take it. We all want to let go of the problems of life, even if just for a moment.”

Heist comes to this latest reincarnation on a wave of critical praise and multiple accolades, including the eight awards it copped (Best Production among them) at the 2014 Tallawah Dramatic Arts Festival at Mona. But easily the most striking aspect of the new version is the swelling of the cast from three to 16. All men. And in addition to penning the updated script, Wilkinson is pulling double duty as producer and director.

We couldn’t help but wonder what it’s been like for Wilkinson, a soft-spoken rose, calling the shots on a set drenched in testosterone. Did she have to crack the whip? She lets out a hearty laugh. “It’s been challenging but a lot of fun. It’s working out better than I imagined,” she says of collaborating with the large ensemble (some of them pictured below) that features such heavyweights as Michael Holgate, Chris McFarlane, Everaldo Creary and Rodney Campbell, alongside younger, up-and-coming talents like Darian Reid, DuVaughn Burke and Kaleb D’Aguilar. “The balance in the cast is a plus. The guys are very professional, and the older and more experienced actors have been giving guidance to the younger cast members.”

Since embarking on the whirlwind jaunt of bringing this big-stage debut to life, Wilkinson herself has been the beneficiary of communal support and hard-earned wisdom. “The hardest part of putting the show together was finding the financial support. Getting assistance from the theatre community really helped, and it opened doors for me to get corporate support,” she says. “After we put the cast together, I got rehearsal space. And I’ve been getting a lot of guidance and advice.”

Yes, a lot of people want to see Maya Wilkinson succeed. At 26, she’s at the forefront of a new generation of Jamaican female theatre practitioners writing their own plays, commanding respect and making their presence felt. No doubt, the likes of Yvonne Brewster, Suzanne Beadle, Tanya Batson-Savage and Dahlia Harris are immensely proud. In fact, Harris (acting as emcee) was among those heaping praise on Maya, as she hosted a well-attended launch for Heist recently at the Jamaica Pegasus Gardens, where artworks by Charl Baker, Ikem Smith and Javier Dayes, among others, were on display, adding a very classy touch to the whole affair.
A few interesting facts about Maya Wilkinson: Her Guyanese parents, big lovers of the arts, migrated to Jamaica when she was three. She grew up in Wakefield, Trelawney, going on to attend Montego Bay High before enrolling at UWI Mona. In 2011, she was a finalist for the Miss Jamaica World crown and, in 2016, the JCDC named her Playwright of the Year at the National Creative Writing Competition. A graphics and multimedia pro, she holds a BA in Media & Communications. 

These days, the film world appeals to her, but nothing quite compares to the pull of the stage. “My first and truest love will always be theatre. Being in the moment is very magical to me,” says the writer-director, whose other acclaimed works include the award-winning short play Vessel, and who hopes to tackle the God mystique for her next major theatrical undertaking. 

But she’s in no hurry. Preparing to put on a crowd-pleasing show is full-time work that pulls on all her faculties and keeps her firmly planted in the moment. “I’m a bit overwhelmed and distracted by all this,” she confesses, laughing, surrounded by dozens of friends, colleagues and well-wishers at her launch. “I have done a lot of things outside of theatre, but I always knew this is where I’d end up. I hope I can keep at it and not be scared into abandoning it.”

50-SECOND MOVIE REVIEW: Wonder Woman’s mix of honour and heroics pack a punch

SECRET WEAPON: Gadot brings stunning physical attributes to the title role.

“SHE must never know the truth of who she is,” Queen Hippolyta cautions her sister Antiope (Robin Wright), in reference to her headstrong young daughter Diana (Gal Gadot), who insists on starting her training early to morph into one of the tough-as-nails Amazonian women that surround her on the gorgeous island they call home. Every day, she watches them with hawk-like fixation.  

Before long, Diana’s coming-of-age transformation into the warrior princess she was destined to become commences, and her evolution is the most riveting highlight of the action-packed and engrossingly spun Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster), who breathes full-bodied life into the script supplied by Allan Heinberg and Zack Snyder. 

Jenkins elicits string turns from her cast. Gadot, who brings stunning physical attributes and real commitment to the titular role, offers a star-making performance – work that only gets more nuanced when she joins forces with Steve Trevor, a spy for British intelligence (Chris Pine, terrific) and heads to London with him to face ruthless German soldiers and square off against a mighty archvillain in “the war to end all wars.” 

There’s never a dull moment. In a nutshell, Wonder Woman is a gorgeously filmed and entertaining mix of selfless heroics, ancient mythology meets the modern world, honour and commitment to sworn duty. Tyrone’s Verdict: A- 

> Also playing at the Palace Cinemas: 

ALL EYES ON ME: The Tupac Shakur story gets its latest cinematic telling with this gritty mix of rap, redemption and life in the ’hood. 

ROUGH NIGHT: Scarlett Johannson leads an oestrogen-spiked posse in this ensemble laughfest that gives new meaning to the morning after.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

THE BIG FINISH: Usain Bolt’s Racers Grand Prix spectacle in 5 scenes

OH, what a night! As expected, the JN Racers Grand Prix “Salute to a Legend”, in honour of soon-to-retire sprinting sensation Usain Bolt brought the fireworks, fan frenzy and grand festivities to the National Stadium last Saturday night, drawing appearances from PM Andrew Holness, Dr. Peter Phillips, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, Portia Simpson-Miller, Lord Sebastian Coe and a massive crowd, to witness a moment in history. TALLAWAH captures some of the highlights in 10.03 seconds.

TOGETHER AGAIN: Wellesley and Jennifer Bolt are the very definition of supportive parents, so they wouldn’t have missed their son’s grand finale for the world. Naturally, they were among the VIPs on hand to witness the showstopping moment and greet their golden boy after he crossed the finish line and the festivities began. 

FROM A GRATEFUL NATION: Hardworking Sports Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange has a congratulatory hug for the 8-time Olympic gold medallist, who will suit up in the black, green and gold for the final time at the World Championships in London in August. As the minister promised, a statue in Bolt’s honour will be unveiled in time for the championships. 

WE ARE FAMILY: Usain Bolt’s phenomenal success on the international scene is largely the result of serious collaborative effort. We love this priceless moment that captures the sprint double world-record holder bonding with Racers Track Club head coach Glen ‘The Guru’ Mills, agent Ricky Simms, executive manager Nugent Walker and masseuse Eddie Edwards

THE PEOPLE’S CHAMP: As is customary, Bolt immersed himself in the fan frenzy as a show of appreciation to the hundreds of supporters who filled the National Stadium to capacity to see their favourite track star do what he does best one last time. 

TURN UP THE MUSIC: The celebration would not have been complete without some sizzling live performances to bring the curtains down on a night to remember. Top local acts like Ding Dong (centre) and I-Octane welcomed the opportunity to be a part of the historical moment, paying tribute to a living legend who can never truly be replaced. 

>> Check out more photo highlights courtesy of Skkan Media and Sleek