Monday, 31 July 2017

TOTAL PRAISE: UWI Master’s student wins 2017 National Gospel Song title

FRONT & CENTRE: Steele accepts the first-place trophy from Culture minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange at Sunday's grand finale.

SHAUGHNA-LEE Steele didn’t set out to win the National Gospel Song Competition. But as with many of her previous accomplishments, things just fell into place. “This competition was not part of my agenda. I wrote the song like two days before the audition. It wasn’t planned,” she confessed to TALLAWAH inside the National Arena on Sunday night, where the curtains came down on the 30th anniversary staging of the competition. “So I’m not sure how this happened, but I’m extremely grateful.

Knox Junior School educator Dannareo Fearon took second place, while Westmoreland native Dycinta Nunes-Holgate (aka Sister Althea) came third.

The 22-year-old Lee, who hails from Buff Bay in Portland, copped sectional awards for Best Musicianship and Best Performance, in addition to the first-place trophy that came with a $500,000 cash award and other attractive prizes. At present, Steele is pursuing an MPhil in Geography at UWI’s Mona Campus, having completed undergrad studies in the same area.

An alumna of Titchfield High, she is an active member of the Bybrook Gospel Light Apostolic Temple who has displayed her enormous singing talent via the JCDC National Festival of the Performing Arts, the Big Stage competition and the Children’s Gospel Song competition, taking home several medals and trophies. Sunday’s triumph is her biggest achievement to date.

Lee’s winning entry “Arise Mighty Warrior” is a fierce battle cry appealing to Jamaicans of all walks to fight the good fight. As for future career ambitions, Lee is taking the wait-and-see approach for now. She explains, “I don’t plan most of the time. I like to let the Lord lead me because entering this competition wasn’t planned. So I’ll just wait and see what happens. But I want to pursue gospel music in addition to my studies.” 

What are her thoughts on the current state of Jamaican gospel? “I think it’s growing,” she offers, without missing a beat. “We see people like Kevin Downswell who are bringing it to places, and I hope I will one day be a part of it.” 

> Award Worthy: 2017 Sectional Prize Winners 

Best Performance: Shaughna-Lee Steele, “Arise Mighty Warrior” 
Best Musicianship: Shaughna-Lee Steele, “Arise Mighty Warrior” 
Best Lyrics: Sister Althea, “Bawl Out” 
Social Media Award: Dannareo Fearon, “Order My Steps” 
Spirit of Praise Award: Derona Nunes, “God Is Real” 
Best Arrangement: Flavia Bradshaw-Beswick, “Centre of My Life”

Saturday, 29 July 2017

GOSPEL SPOTLIGHT: DJ Nicholas releases fourth solo album + Kevin Downswell wraps up ‘Realignment’ tour

TRUTH & TESTIMONY: Now that he’s based in the United States with the wife and kids, we don’t get to see DJ Nicholas very often, but whenever he does return to the island it’s always a for a worthwhile cause. This month brings the arrival of his latest full-length studio album, The Audiologist (his fourth solo release), which got a well-supported launch at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre in Kingston on July 21, with a raft of his gospel industry colleagues taking part. Earlier this week, the entertainer, known for his commanding timbre and life-changing testimony, was a guest on TV-J’s Smile Jamaica to perform tracks from the new album with his band. And on Tuesday, August 1 (Emancipation Day), the deejay (aka Nicholas Eccleston) will share top billing with a star-studded lineup at GoSplash at Sugarman’s Beach in Hellshire, St. Catherine. At the event, patrons will also be treated to performances by Chevelle Franklin, Ryan Mark and Grammy winner Tye Tribbett, among several other acts.

POWER & PRAISE: Kevin Downswell loves what he does so much that he’s always seeking out new channels to bring his music and message to the masses. Chapter One of his Realignment Tour which, in partnership with KFC and other sponsors, made stops in St. Mary and St. Elizabeth, culminated with a grand gospel affair at Jamaica College on July 22, with the likes of Rondell Positive, Prodigal Son and the JCDC National Gospel Song finalists adding their unique musical flavours to the praise party. The show was emceed by Ity Ellis, Basillia Barnaby Cuffe and Nadine Blair. On Monday, July 24, the award-winning crooner was the special musical guest at the National Dance Theatre Company’s performance of their 2017 season, in support of the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference, at the Little Theatre. It was a quintessential Downswell moment: reflective, vigorous and soul-stirring, as he delved into his catalogue to render hits like “Goodbye World,” “If It’s Not You,” “One Day” and “Stronger.”

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

SOCIETY, SOCIETY: NDTC puts on special performance for J’ca 55 conference delegates

MUSIC MEN: Ahead of the dance presentation, performances came from D-Burnz and Kevin Downswell (inset).

THERE was hardly a more fitting way to treat conference delegates to a slice of their beloved culture than with a special performance of the National Dance Theatre Company’s 2017 season of dance. And so it was that the NDTC’s 55th annual presentation drew a flock of attendees from the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference to the grounds of the Little Theatre on Monday for an evening of quality dance theatre, original Jamaican food, a bit of live music and connection.

Ahead of the performance, guests mingled out in the yard and nibbled on fresh-from-the-pan jerked chicken and bread, soup, boiled corn, gizzardas, grater cake, sugar cane, Devon House ice cream – and washed it all down with (freshly chopped) coconut water and jelly and their choice of beverage from the well-stocked juice bar.

Amidst the fun, food and fellowship, the band on the stand, DMG (led by vocalist D-Burnz and ubermusician Djenne Greaves), offered groovy selections from the Jamaican songbook – a mix of standards and classics popularized by such icons as Bob Marley and Beres Hammond.

Among the famous faces in the crowd: Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith, Dr. Laura Tanna, Hillary Phillips, Oliver Clarke, Milton Samuda, Gina Hargitay and Earl Jarrett. Before the NDTC dancers took centrestage, gospel minister Kevin Downswell opened the show (close to 8:30pm), with a mélange of his biggest hits, including “Stronger” and “Goodbye World.”

Then it was time for the main course, with the iconic company dipping into their celebrated repertoire to present such spirited works ad Rex Nettleford’s “The Crossing”, Marlon Simms’ “Beres on Love” and “Gerrehbenta,” Nettleford’s timeless classic and perennial crowdpleaser.

ISSUES & ANSWERS: J'ca 55 Diaspora Conference zooms in on the national conversation

WEIGHING IN: Jarrett (left) in conversation with Minister Daryl Vaz at the conference.

FOR Janet McLean Carless, nothing compares to the pleasure of coming back home to Jamaica, in spite of the myriad social ills hampering progress. The Pennsylvania-based travel agent is among the hundreds of foreign-based Jamaicans who’ve flown in for the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference, which is currently examining key national issues at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Downtown Kingston. Carless welcomes the return of the conference after a two-year hiatus, chiefly because it allows patriotic, overseas-based Jamaicans to come home and have their say in how things are being run.

“A conference like this is very important because we need unity in making Jamaica stronger and helping to solve the major problems facing the country,” she told TALLAWAH, during an interview Monday evening at the Little Theatre, where JN Bank and the NDTC hosted a cocktail reception and special performance of the dance company’s 2017 season for conference delegates.

Carless, a certified air-travel specialist who runs Jan Mack Travel and Tours, hopes the conference fulfils its maximum potential, when it comes to spotlighting problems and generating solutions. “I hope that we Jamaicans who live abroad and have returned home for the conference will get a better understanding of the issues. We get our information from news websites, but being here we get a better sense of what’s really happening,” she said. “The crime situation impeding the growth of Jamaica is a big issue worldwide, and people here need to be aware of what is really keeping the country down, because the international public is keeping a very close eye on us.”

Last held in 2015, the Jamaica Diaspora Conference takes place every two years. This is the seventh staging, having been started in 2004. Among the issues explored so far in sessions at the 2017 conference are crime and justice, health, education, immigration, human capital and economic growth. “All of the sessions so far have been informative,” offered Janice Miller, the high commissioner to Canada.

Chair of the organizing committee, Jamaica National’s Earl Jarrett, says an event like the Diaspora conference is not just a great medium for issues and answers, problems and solutions; it offers opportunities for networks and alliances to be formed. “My hope is that by the end of the conference, people would have connected. Already, we see a number of task-forces being created. People are creating networks and bonds of friendship to benefit Jamaica,” Jarrett told TALLAWAH

He expressed optimism for the future growth of the conference. “For one thing, I’m pleased with the turnout,” he said. “We had over 1,300 registered participants, and my hope is that the nature of the conversations that we have at these conferences will continue to have a real sense of purpose.”

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

BEST OF THE ’FEST: 10 Memorable Moments at Reggae Sumfest 2017

RIDDIM UP: Stephens delivered a showstopping performance that connected with concertgoers.

The 25th anniversary staging of Reggae Sumfest (put on by Downsound Entertainment and Red Stripe) lived up to expectations, delivering two nights of electrifying performances and non-stop party vibes that left the thousands of patrons feeling good. Here, TALLAWAH highlights 10 of the festival’s bonafide watercooler moments: 

Best Male Performance: Richie Stephens & the Ska Nation Band 
Refreshing and full of sonic blasts from the past, Richie’s lively 40-minute stint with the 20-piece Italian band made the vintage and the modern come together in exuberant, pitch-perfect harmony. Delivering classics from the ska era, a few of his own well-loved hits and choice Italian cuts (a stellar “O Sole Mio” included), the showbiz pro, bandmates and dancers, whipped the crowd into a jubilant celebration bolstered by timeless “foundation music.” 

Best Female Performance: Queen Ifrica 
“You know that Queen Ifrica is not an entertainer; ah war mi come fi war.” That said, the militant, barefooted lyricist ignited the venue with her signature mix of hard-hitting rhetoric, social commentary and the big tunes that have made her a fixture on radio playlists and won her legions of fans. She called for renewed respect for national heroes like Miss Lou and challenged the “Black Woman” to reclaim her rightful place on the throne, before closing off with her latest call-to-action gem “Climb.” 

Best Stage Props: Spice’s queen-size bed and ladies-in-waiting 
The dancehall vixen and queen of surprises opened her set by being transported centrestage on an enormous bed surrounded by robe-clad females. For a live rendition of “Under the Sheet,” you have to bring the boudoir to the people. 

Most Stunning Backdrop: Stephen Marley 
Concert audiences always enjoy appealing visuals, and the 7-time Grammy winner served up a dazzling feast throughout his set, showcasing strong, hyperchromatic imagery (African lions, landscapes, abstracts) that served to elevate the roots-rockin-reggae sounds that he and his band delivered. 

Best Outfit: Beenie Man 
The king of the dancehall has a wonderful relationship with his stylist (he’s a keeper!) because he’s never less than impressively turned out for his headline-making appearances. The grey-and-black three-piece he chose for his Sumfest performance was next to flawless. Your eyes never grew tired following him up and down the stage as he worked and worked the look. Show off! 

Best Ego Moment: Beenie Man 
“I shall not be moved.” That was more or less Beenie’s firm response when he got the wrap-up signal from stage manager Worrell King in the early hours of Sunday morning. The Doctor went on to complain that he was initially informed that he would have graced the stage at around 4:00am, but he didn’t go on ‘till after 7. “I have 187 songs,” he said, “and I want to perform at least 50 for the people.” 

Best Fireworks Display: Sean Paul 
By his own admission, it’s been too long since SP has given a major performance at home, having been touring the globe for the past 3 years! He brought the curtains down on his high-energy show with a round of pyrotechnics that lit up the night sky for a few minutes, exemplifying his determination to make his long-awaited Sumfest return a truly memorable one. 

Most Outstanding Young Act: Chris Martin 
Has Christopher Martin grown a few inches? It seems so, but what’s absolutely certain is that his stagecraft has taken on thrilling new dimensions. He was among the most well-received acts on Night 2, working with a band of all-white-clad musicians to deliver the crowd-pleasing hits – from “Cheater’s Prayer” and “Paper Loving” to “Magic” and “Big Deal.” 

Best Love Song Performance: Jah Cure’s “Unconditional Love” 
Mr. Alcock has recorded dozens of tracks that speak to matters of the heart with the requisite heft, but none packs the emotional punch of “Unconditional Love,” a sweeping reggae-soul anthem that hasn’t lost its power. Closing out his hugely enjoyable set on Sunday morning, the singer and his competent background vocalists blessed the crowd with a vocal climax that was nothing short of spine-tingling. 

Best Dancing Side-show: Ding Dong and the Ravers 
You have to prepare yourself before Ding Dong and his crew hit the stage. The audience’s young and young-at-heart patrons lost themselves in the blizzard of dancehall moves (and the songs that popularized them) during a sweat-inducing set that showed why Ding is still king when it comes to modern dancehall excitement.

LIVING ON PURPOSE: Gospel star Rondell Positive opens up about lessons learned, family life and his brand of reggae worship

IT SUITS HIM: The 39-year-old entertainer and family man finds a place among today's leading men of J'can gospel.

IT’s almost half-past noon on this sunny Tuesday in the city when Rondell Positive’s urgent, man-on-a-mission steps announce his arrival inside the lobby of the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. Dressed in a denim shirt, jeans and shades, he walks with purpose and his words are drenched in purpose. So we are not surprised to discover, mid-way our hour-long conversation on the deck overlooking the glistening pool, that it’s his favourite word.

More importantly, it’s part of a power principle that guides his life – including that burgeoning career as one of the new-generation leading men in Jamaican gospel. “It has been an amazing journey so far. I am not one to complain. I understand purpose, so I count everything as a blessing. I love God, and I am called to his service,” he confides in a speaking tone that epitomizes seriousness.

His serious tone confirms the fact that, at age 39, with an increasingly successful music ministry that’s taking him places, the man-on-a-mission title perfectly suits Rondell Positive. “My main goal in life right now is to get every person I meet to understand their purpose. It’s what I was given to deliver to mankind, so the aim of my music is to influence people to find and fulfil their purpose for being here,” he emphasizes.

By all accounts, he’s off to a solid start, lacing concert crowds at home and abroad with powerful messages and a fiery brand of reggae worship that’s made hits of such singles as “More than a Conqueror,” “Keeping Me Alive” and “Not Afraid,” his collabo with Kevin Downswell. “My style is called reggae worship because I’m a Jamaican who does worship with reggae flavour. Worship is supposed to be a lifestyle; it’s supposed to transform people’s lives and give them a direct connection with God,” explains the entertainer, who lists Buju Banton, Donnie McClurkin and Bob Marley among his influences.

Rondell Positive’s story is a fascinating study of contrasts and transitions. A St. Thomas-by-way-of-Portland native, he’s worked as a schoolteacher employed at the Morant Bay Primary School. He left the College of Arts, Science and Education (CASE) in 2000 with a Diploma in Education and went on to Mico for further teacher training.

In the intervening years, he began honing his craft. Answering the call, he went into full-time ministry in 2015. “Music is my main focus; that’s why I’m still here,” he confesses. In the same breath, he readily harks back to his days working out of the Jermaine Edwards-led Island Worship camp, going on to release his debut CD, Sticks Nor Stones Reggae Worship in 2012. The low-key album, he says, received great feedback from secular-world listeners.

When Rondell Positive thinks of his artistic growth since then, it gives him pause. “I’m grateful, for what is happening for me now has been 10 years in the making. There’s a consistent level of God’s presence in my work,” notes the Titchfield High old boy. “My aim is not to please man. I want my music to provide them with empowerment and solutions for their problems. But at the end of the day, if you please God everything else will fall into place.”

This father of three – all daughters (16, 14 and 11 months old) – has been happily married to Lotoya for the last 15 years. He calls her his “partner in purpose.” Much of his downtime is spent bonding with the wife and kids at their Morant Bay home, reading and testing out his football skills. But the current state of Christian ministry, via Jamaican gospel music in particular, is never far from his thoughts. “Presently, what I see happening in gospel music, I’m loving it,” he offers. “It’s at a place where it can get better.” 

For him, the work continues. “Purpose Calling” is the new single up for promotion; there’s a 2018 album in the works and more mega-concert appearances to come for the rest of 2017. In fact, he was a featured act on Downswell’s recent Realignment Tour, and near the end of our interview a call came in from Glory Music head honcho, Tommy Cowan, about an upcoming engagement. 

“I want to be touching new lives every day – helping a ghetto youth realize that there’s more to life than carrying a gun and helping a young lady know there’s more to life than glamour,” Rondell says, looking forward to the long and rewarding journey that’s to come. “In life I see success even in failure, because you either win or you learn. You never lose. And that’s the approach I take. Slowly but surely I’m gonna reach my destiny.”

BOLT ON THE MOVE: The superstar sprinter posts a season’s best in Monaco, attends charity auction in London

WORK IN PROGRESS: “Every run is always good for your confidence. The better you run, the better you execute, and it helps you be more confident. I was pleased to go under 10 seconds. I think I executed pretty well,” the World’s Fastest Man told reporters in Monaco on the weekend, after posting a season’s best 9.95 seconds to win the Men’s 100M dash at the IAAF Diamond League Meet. But Bolt does concede that his performance was hampered by flaws. “It wasn’t the best race, but I don’t think the coach will stress me too much. As long as it’s a win, I’m going in the right direction. And it’s under 10 seconds, so that’s a good thing.” These pre-London meets, Bolt emphasized, form part of his work-in-progress report. “These races are for me to train and practice to see what I need to work on before I get to the [World] Championships,” said the double sprint world-record holder, who is on the cusp of retirement. 

THE WORLD’S GREATEST: Modern track-and-field owes a debt of gratitude to the power duo of Usain Bolt and revered coach Glen Mills for bringing a whole new dimension to the sport. Members of the Jamaican Diaspora the world over have consistently paid tribute to the world’s greatest living sprinter and his coach for their contributions and achievements. Last week, Britain’s The Voice newspaper put on a charity auction at the Dorcester Hotel in London, where Bolt and Mills were the guests of honour presented with special citations. The charity event raised over 30,000 pounds after guests bid on some highly coveted items, including a pair of Bolt’s spikes that fetched 10,000 pounds. (The proceeds will benefit projects to be undertaken in support of the new and emerging generation of Jamaican athletes.) The Voice shindig also provided a chance for Bolt and Mills to reflect on their fruitful years-long partnership. “Coach is a father figure and best friend. He’s more than a coach, and I’m very grateful he’s in my life,” Bolt said during a sit-down with The Voice’s Joel Campbell. “He’s taught me more than just track-and field, and I will forever be thankful.” 

Saturday, 22 July 2017

SHOW ME THE MONEY: Superfunny and smartly acted, The House rules

TAKE A CHANCE: Ferrell and Poehler play a couple of risk-takers who start an illegal casino.

WHEN ace comics Amy Poehler and Tina Fey join forces for screen projects (Mean Girls, Sisters, SNL, the Golden Globes), the results are consistently and endlessly funny. Simply put, they have a formula and a rapport that works. Poehler brings that same winning chemistry to her comedic partnership with Will Ferrell (also an SNL alum) in The House, one of the cleverest big-screen laughfests you’ll see at the cineplex this summer.

Plot-wise, it’s a bit thin on the meat, but the two leads – veterans at the top of their game – imbue the material with such irrepressible verve and hit-the-spot punchlines that in no time you’re completely sold.

Directed by Andrew Jay Cohen (who co-penned the script with Brendan O’Brien), The House follows Scott (Ferrell) and Kate Johansen (Poehler), a close-knit couple whose brainy daughter and only child Alex (Ryan Simpkins) has just received her acceptance letter from Bucknell University. Cue the confetti. But when her scholarship falls through (the town council wants to construct a pool instead) and her parents can’t come up with the money otherwise, desperate times call for desperate measures. 

The Johansens decide to go into business with the unlikeliest of partners – a sloppy Messiah lookalike named Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) whose bombshell wife Raina (Michaela Watkins) just left him for obvious reasons. But Jesus cleans up nice. They decide to transform a home basement into a secret gambling hotspot, complete with Las Vegas-style attractions to entice the big spenders in their suburban town who can keep a secret. 

But in this town things don’t stay hush-hush for very long, and before you know it word gets out about the money-making enterprise, throwing the Johansens, their new ‘associates’, and their illegal business into a tailspin of cops, mobsters and one money-grubbing town councilman. 

With their expert timing and frequently deadpan delivery, Poehler and Ferrell do serious damage throughout this side-splittingly funny flick that also explores parenting choices, human relationships, power and greed within the space of 110 minutes. 

Cohen and O’Brien are talented comedy writers who know when to go for broke and when to pull back. That’s why, coupled with the sterling effort of its stars, the film hits. Superfunny and smartly acted, this House rules. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

Friday, 21 July 2017

CORE VALUES: The Yoga Angels talk about the transformative benefits of yoga living

ON TOP OF THE WORLD: “It’s a purification tool that gives me the opportunity to declutter and walk around as the light that I am,”  says Subhadra, now 46.

FOR the past 22 years, Sandra ‘Subhadra’ Griffiths has turned to yoga to boost her stamina, cure her kids’ aches and pains and help her evolve into a more driven and productive human being. To help others do the same and achieve that elusive life-work balance, in 1997 she started Yoga Angels International, her company that now has branches from Kingston to California, where they’ve established the City of Beverly Hills programme to get the schools involved. “It’s grown beyond what we’ve expected,” says Subhadra, who also trains and certifies yoga teachers, including fit, gorgeous daughters Radha, 27 and Kali, 12, who run the Beverly Hills programme.

The recent inaugural staging of Kingston Yoga Fest has been their biggest coup to date – a well-supported event (pictured below) that gave the 46-year-old mom, her girls and the rest of the Yoga Angels team a platform to spread their awareness message and woo new followers to the movement. On a golden Thursday morning, we sat down with Subhadra, Radha and Kali at Lady Musgrave’s CPJ Courtyard for an open and reflective talk on how the yoga lifestyle can significantly improve and transform your life.

“We live in a stressful society, but yoga lets us know that we don’t have to choose that life. We have the ability to choose something else,” explains Subhadra. She adds that those who enroll in release-the-peace classes Yoga Angels are taught how to make conscious eating choices and how to effectively de-stress. What’s more, instructors demonstrate how yoga’s healing techniques can help in curing everything from headaches, back aches and common colds to thwarting asthma attacks. “Most importantly,” Subhadra hastens to add, “yoga strengthens your nervous system and tremendously helps with digestive issues.”

For Subhadra, yoga lends clarity to the mind’s eye when it comes to life and work matters. “Nothing is permanent. I am what I am because what you believe matters,” she argues. “I don’t see boundaries, but it’s important that you do everything in moderation. I consider myself self-full, not selfish, because in addition to giving of yourself and your time, you have to learn how to receive. Learning every day and applying those lessons regimentally is crucial.”
“I think it’s the best thing you can get from it. How to make better choices,” declares Radha. She should know. “Because yoga has was introduced to me from so early, I know how to do better. I’m always checking myself. What am I learning? Am I living my life to the fullest? Because of yoga, it’s one of the words I’ll always revisit.” Yoga also introduced her to the philosophy of great thinkers like Abraham Hicks. “He teaches that as you become more focused, more disciplined and grow into your God-like self,” she shares, “you appreciate things more.”

Yoga’s athletic component can greatly develop your physical attributes and boost endurance levels. “Certain yoga styles are great for dancers, athletes and patients because the muscles are lifted and engaged. Lots of neurological workings,” Radha tells us. “Inside out. You gain a lot of strength in the core and upper body.” Subhadra concurs, drawing attention to the liberating energy she consistently gains. “It’s cleansed and purified a lot of my blockages, so I have more energy,” she reports. “It’s a purification tool that gives me the opportunity to declutter and walk around as the light that I am.”  

It all comes together here, bolstered by the fundamental necessity of proper breathwork. “You understand and appreciate the vital importance of having air flowing through your nostrils. You can’t do anything if you can’t breathe,” Subhadra emphasizes. How you choose to deal with the obstacles you face also comes into play. “Pay close attention to the choices that you’re making daily; how you decide to live, what you do with your energy. That’s why a mirror becomes so important because it provides you with a reflection of yourself.”

> To learn more about the work of Yoga Angels Intl, visit

Thursday, 20 July 2017

TALK OF THE TOWN: Portia Simpson-Miller is UWI’s newest distinguished fellow

The Portia Simpson-Miller success story continues to take interesting twists and turns. Now comes news that the recently retired PNP stalwart is all set to take up an honorary post at the UWI Mona campus, following in the footsteps of her idol Edward Seaga. “Our honorable distinguished fellow will be coming home to the UWI, as it enters the 70th year of service and leadership to Jamaica and the wider Caribbean,” reports UWI Vice Chancellor, Sir Hilary Beckles. The significance of such a lofty appointment is not lost on Simpson-Miler, who was recently feted by the PNP Women’s Movement at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston. “I look forward to the next part of my journey. I look forward to going to UWI,” she has said in response. Now heading into her mid-70s, Simpson-Miller will take up the post “in a few weeks” to do some research and commence work on her memoirs. 

And as Simpson-Miller packs her bags and heads to UWI, a successor is being sought within the PNP camp to fill her South-West St. Andrew seat in Gordon House. Current party leader Dr. Peter Phillips says an announcement will be made soon. So who will get the job? The much-touted former Kingston mayor Dr. Angela Brown-Burke or grassroots warrior Audrey Facey Smith, who currently represents the Payne Land division? May the better contender win. 

Meanwhile, people are saying the local papers should publish portions of Audley Shaw’s $8-million cellphone bill so the public can see for themselves. It other words, let the records show… 

We were hoping for a better result (a podium finish, that is), but were still proud of our U-21 Sunshine Girls, who took 5th place at the recently concluded World Netball Youth Cup in Botswana. New Zealand’s Kiwis are once again champions of the world, after defeating powerhouse rivals Australia in a nail-biting gold-medal showdown. 


1) When is Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce set to deliver her little bundle of joy? 

2) Has the latest strain of conjunctivitis (pink eye) reached your neck of the woods? Keep a sharp look out.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

TALLAWAH BOOK CLUB: Songstress and first-time author Stephanie on 5 books that made a difference

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Stephanie (right) cops an endorsement from singer Aisha Davis.

Books (intriguing, inspirational) rank high among singer-songwriter Stephanie’s greatest passions, falling somewhere on a list that includes her daughters, making music and family life. She has three libraries at home. Enough said. As she goes on a promotional blitz in support of her debut effort, Diary of the Scorpion Lover, the multi-talented diva sits down with TALLAWAH Book Club to dish about some of her all-time favourite reads: 

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell 
It’s about how different variables in life affect results; how different variables can led to different outcomes. It helps me in my music business, how I market myself and how I get people to respond to my music. 

Lessons in Truth by Emilie Cady 
I like reading books that intrigue me, especially the ones that are based on spirituality, and this one explores a kind of spirituality that I can relate to. It’s about the New Thought movement and the comparisons to established Christianity. 

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown 
I enjoyed it mainly because of the little nuggets it reveals about the story of Jesus Christ and how it connects the dots. I know I am late to the party, but I love learning about religion and delving into metaphysics and new thought teachings and how religion has unfolded historically. 

The Hathaway Series by Lisa Kaypas 
She’s an excellent writer, and I love how the storylines connect. She takes us on a wild journey of love, vulnerability and family. I highly recommend it. 

Martin Luther King: A Biography by Roger Bruns
I’ve always been interested in his story, what happened to him and what his contribution to Black history was. The author does a very good job bringing out all of that. I’m big on biographies and inspirational books, and this is one of the best I’ve ever come across.

GRACE & GRATITUDE: Forbes, Tulloch inducted into Hall of Fame at Phoenix Awards

POWER OF TWO: The honorees sharing a moment at the recent awards ceremony.

THEATRE icon Leonie Forbes and the David Tulloch-led Probemaster Entertainment have established a solid working relationship over the years that continues to bear fruit - most significantly with her recent back-to-back Actor Boy wins (For My Daughter and Not My Child) for leading performances, both directed by Tulloch.

Add to that her legendary stage and screen career that's simply matchless among Jamaican entertainers today. So Forbes was a shoo-in for Hall of Fame honours at last week's inaugural Phoenix Awards, put on to coincide with Probemaster's 18th year milestone. The event, a gala-style celebration complete with cocktails and performances, took place at the Phoenix Theatre in New Kingston.

"Acting for me is therapy, inspiration, challenge and purpose," Forbes told the packed house (who gave her a standing ovation as she both entered and exited the stage), reflecting on her artistic journey. "When I immerse myself and emerge from my make-believe world, I can smile at anything and anybody."

As fellow iconic actress Ruth HoShing (who read the citation) pointed out, Forbes' lengthy resume lists starring roles in dozens of stage and film projects (12 national pantomimes included) and a whopping eight Actor Boy Awards for acting, a possible record. And at 80 years old, this mother and grandmother of three is still going strong. Tulloch, the night's other Hall of Fame inductee, also continues to defy expectations and confound critics.

By his own admission, he's been tested and tried to no end over the course of the nearly two-decade long journey, as Probemaster's founder and chief principal. He knows all about endurance and survival.

Throughout the journey, Tulloch (who admittedly cashed in his insurance policy in 1999 to start the company) has remained focussed and nurtured as spirit of gratitude. "Eighteen years is a lot of entertainment," he gushed during his acceptance speech, where he also took time to touch on lessons learned. "When you fall you must always remember to get right back up because you were going somewhere when you fell."

As the night wore on, trophies, medals and certificates were handed put to key industry players, up-and-comers and folks (past and present) who've contributed significantly to Probemaster's success. TALLAWAH's Tyrone S. Reid was presented with the "Critically Acclaimed" award.

Monday, 17 July 2017

NEWS FEED: TV-J acquires exclusive broadcast rights for IAAF World Championships

AHEAD OF THE PACK: For next month’s IAAF World Athletics Championships in London, Television Jamaica has secured the exclusive broadcast rights for Jamaica and the region, in addition to non-exclusive radio rights and internet streaming of the championships. As such, the station is taking a firm stance against any possible violation of this arrangement. “Please be advised that TV-J is the only station that has been granted these rights by the IAAF and there should be no unauthorized broadcast of any of the championships by any other television or cable provider unless authorized to use these rights,” the media house said in a print advisory that ran in the local papers on Sunday. “These rights also include internet streaming, pay-per-view, closed-circuit viewing and public viewing of the championships. All media platforms in Jamaica and regionally will be monitored.” The championships run from August 5-13.

SERIOUS ABOUT BUSINESS: Observing the theme, “#JADiasporaStrong… Make the Connection, Live the Experience,” the Jamaica Diaspora Conference is set for July 23-26 in Kingston. The conference, expected to draw mammoth attendance, will address everything from finance and investment opportunities and emerging entrepreneurial industries to community partnerships and development projects. Among the local and international speakers set to grace the podium are Dr. Julius Garvey, Michael Lee Chin and Foreign Affairs Minister, Kamina Johnson-Smith. “The conference will provide an opportunity for us to focus on how investment can take place and to celebrate what is good about Jamaica,” the minister points out. “It will also celebrate our business confidence levels and the ways in which Jamaica is ripe for investments.” 

DOLLARS & SENSE: As the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) moves forward in the post-Burrell era, the sporting body’s financial footing will be increasingly thrust under the microscope, due largely to that massive $300-million debt. Even so, JFF treasurer and Vice President, Garry Sinclair, waxes optimistic about the road ahead. “Given the state of our finances and the size of our finance department, I think we have done an excellent job of keeping creditors at bay, remaining a credible organization and institution, and filing all of the returns because there is a tendency when you have financial fortunes like ours to not comply with the reporting requirements. We are up to date,” he recently revealed to an interviewer. The key to greater financial stability for the organization, Sinclair is convinced, rests with the senior Reggae Boyz programme. “We will have to become more of a perennial contender for qualification to the World Cup – and indeed qualify for the World Cup,” he argues. “If the senior team gets better and gets to where we want them to go, we are not going to have to worry about financing.” span>

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Actress Rosie Murray talks Slice of Life, giving back, and being a survivor

TRUE STORY:  “I don’t feel older but I do feel wiser,“ Murray, 58, confesses.

THE proof of the pudding is in the eating. For award-winning actress Rosie Murray, such an idea is rooted in the literal and the figurative, given her awesome culinary gifts and the dozens of well-baked productions (on screen and on stage) she’s starred in since embarking on a life in showbiz back in the ’80s. The latest of the lot is Slice of Life: A One-Woman Show That Dishes Everything, her utterly candid two-hour solo adventure that recently brought the laughs and some food for thought to the Phoenix Theatre in New Kingston. On Sunday’s closing night, there was free bread pudding for everyone! The 58-year-old star (whose multiple hats also include veteran broadcaster) invited TALLAWAH to her cozy dressing room to dish about putting her stories out there and what she’s most looking forward to in the next chapter of her life. 

TALLAWAH: Congrats on the success of Slice of Life, a very amusing and enlightening show. You present your truth-telling with such candour. Have you always been this confident in speaking your mind? 
Rosie Murray: Yes, and it used to get me in trouble a lot. But now I’m being a lot more diplomatic because sometimes you have to just let go of certain things. And I think it shows a level of maturity when you can be honest about your shortcomings.

TALLAWAH: So that notion in part inspired the show. 
Rosie Murray: Yes, and what I include in the show is not even half of my experiences. What I really wanted to do with Slice of Life is show audience members some of the things I’ve been through, some of the mistakes I’ve made, so they won’t make some of those same mistakes. Slice of Life is also about survival. It came out of a need to talk about things, some of the things I’m including in the autobiography I’m working on. What amazes me most has been the response. I did the show on May 11 as a kind of birthday celebration, and [producer] Nadean [Rawlins] saw it, and said we had to do a longer run, and so we worked on it with [Owen] Blakka [Ellis] for this season. 

TALLAWAH: What was the most fun part of putting on the show versus the most challenging part? 
Rosie Murray: I think the most fun part was working with Blakka again; he and I go way back to the ’70s at School of Drama. And he knows some of my stories. The most challenging part was finding the right music, finding the songs that were right for the different moments in the show. 

TALLAWAH: Rosie, after 58 years on the planet, what has life taught you about success? 
Rosie Murray: That you must not allow success to inflate your ego, because once the ego takes over creativity goes out the door. You have to stay firmly rooted and grounded. Success has taught me to be humble and to be grateful for the talent I’ve been blessed with. 

TALLAWAH: For the record, you absolutely deserved that Actor Boy win for Not My Child. Brilliant performance. 
Rosie Murray: Thanks. That character was the most challenging I’ve ever had to play, and I have to give thanks to David [Tulloch]. He’s written some of the most complex but interesting roles that I’ve been able to play since I started working with him. He really pulls stuff out of you. 

TALLAWAH: What is your current state of mind? Do you feel older and wiser? 
Rosie Murray: As a person, you don’t really change. You just get rid o f the kinks over time. (Laughs). I don’t feel older but I do feel wiser. At this point, I want the next chapter of my life to be effortless and stress-free. I’m a single person now, so I milk the pleasures of my single life. 

TALLAWAH: From radio to stage to screen, your star power is undeniable. What do you consider your greatest achievement? 
Rosie Murray: I would say just surviving through all of my challenges and maintaining myself. I’ve weathered many storms, but through it all I’ve maintained my core being.

TALLAWAH: And you’re still a force to be reckoned with. How do you move forward and keep your strength? 
Rosie Murray: I’ve decided I’m going to use my skills and craft in the latter years on some major projects. I want to do more Slice of Life shows, and I’m taking the show on the road. I’ve spent so many years working for people that now I want to do more for myself. I want to hone some young talents and help some young people through their storms. That’s what I crave now, wanting to share more and be there for other people.

> Review: Murray's Slice of Life hits the funny bone

PIECES OF ME: Murray’s hilarious, confessional Slice of Life brings out her storytelling prowess

FUNNY GIRL: The award-winning actress reveals some deeply personal truths in her show.

“EVERYBODY has a story and Rosie’s got stories to tell!” Rosie Murray makes this declaration early, as the audience settles in for the emotional rollercoaster that is Slice of Life, her frank and very funny one-woman show. And she more than fulfils the promise of that line.

Equal parts confessional and enlightening, Slice of Life pulls back the veil on the eventful life of a sister who has had her fair share of trials and tribulations, joy and heartache, but who has endured to emerge whole on the other side.

The best solo shows combine riveting testimony, lessons learned and other personal truths with humour and hubris. Rosie’s production, directed by former schoolmate and respected industry colleague Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis, is as autobiographical and richly amusing as they come. In other words, if you loved the style of Debra Ehrhardt’s Cock Tales, Rosie Murray’s Slice of Life is right up your alley.

Of course, she had to cram five decades into two hours, and so several aspects of her journey were omitted, but what she does deliver vividly shows us the girl she was, the woman she became, and the meaning of evolution.

Actress, broadcaster, telephone operator, sales rep, sister, mother friend – Murray has worn countless hats. She’s been the only ‘coloured’ girl at a British school; she’s interacted with prisoners at the General Penitentiary and collaborated with an undertaker when time came to pay final respects to her dearly departed mother.

She knows all about the lazy, hazy days of smoking weed, what it’s like to come face to face with a robber at the dead of night and, worse, having a stalker on your hands – arguably the most frightening part of her 20-year stint at JBC Radio 1, hosting The Friendship Club after hours.

But on the upside, she recalls getting pregnant at 29 (something she “had to do as a woman – even once”), the glorious time she spent as guest relations boss at the Wyndham, and her timeless passion for good music and deejaying parties.

She shares all these fascinating anecdotes and more with her good girlfriend Yvonne, who joins her on stage – (the setting is her Linstead kitchen and living quarters) – as she gets the ingredients ready for her world-famous bread pudding. It’s a personal touch that makes the show all the more appealing. 

In the end, Murray concedes that her life has been one big adventure, and if she had the power she wouldn’t change a thing. As she advises her utterly delighted audience members, “Any situation you find yourself in, ride that wave.” Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

> Interview: Murray on Slice of Life, giving back and being a survivor

ON THE RADAR: David Heron does Stallings’ Leonora + Peter Polack presents Jamaica, The Land of Film + Judith Falloon-Reid wins big with 70X7

PAGE: Peter Polack may be a graduate of the Norman Manley Law School who’s amassed vast experience in the judiciary, but he’s equally passionate about film, particularly the history and the evolution of the art form in Jamaica. With Jamaica, The Land of Film, his debut publication, he’s put together a comprehensive chronicle charting 100 years of Jamaica’s involvement in the film world, going as far back as 1910 ad highlighting numerous previously unpublished details concerning locations, actors and directors, etc. According to Polack, the depth of research and painstaking attention to detail brought to Jamaica, The Land of Film “will be of great interest to cinema aficionados and fans of Caribbean history alike.” 

SCREEN: Acclaimed author, entrepreneur and founder of the Independent Voyces literary fest, Judith Falloon-Reid, has scored her latest triumph, with her film 70X7 picking up the award for Best Inspirational Film at the Caribbean Lens Film Festival held in Hollywood, California, recently. Released by Barrivisions Productions, the company Falloon-Reid (pictured above with ABC Studios' Nne Ebong) established with her husband, 70X7 is a faith-based drama that shares the compelling story of a superstar singer who falls on hard times and faces an uncertain future. 

STAGE: Some guys have all the luck. Hard-working actor and playwright David Heron continues his good run on the North American theatre circuit, landing a pivotal role in the recent New York staged reading of Leonora, a new work from writer David Stallings, who drew inspiration from Henrik Ibsen’s classic A Doll’s House, giving it a Jamaican twist. Set in ’50s Jamaica, Leonora finds Heron in the role of Shamar Campbell, a banker of mixed heritage who is about to be given the boot. For Heron, the play is both an important new work and a refreshing creative challenge. “The issues of class, race and simmering social rebellion that now permeate the story,” Heron says, “give it an energy and dynamism that’s hugely exciting for me, both as an artist and a Jamaican.”