Wednesday, 22 November 2017

NEWS FEED: 23-year-old Jelani Munroe named Jamaica’s newest Rhodes Scholar + JWN Foundation steps up its anti-child abuse efforts

TAKING ACTION: The J. Wray & Nephew (JWN) Foundation was started in 2012 to spearhead programmes that contribute to nation-building. Five years on, the non-profit entity remains staunchly committed to its mission, even embarking on brand-new initiatives. Last week, the foundation hosted its inaugural fundraiser geared towards raising much-needed funds to support the fight against child abuse and violence against youth and children. Complete with a silent auction, panel discussion (moderated by Dr. Carolyn Cooper), film screening (the short films Shoot the Girl and Silent Hearts were shown) and a gate-prize draw, the fundraiser was a solid success, drawing a huge turnout to the Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston. “This is the beginning really, raising funds to support child development projects and to protect our children from violence. This event is the first for the foundation, but we would like to do more. I think it has exceeded our expectations,” said Wray & Nephew Chairman Jimmy Lawrence, who pledged to strengthen collaboration with entities like the Child Development Agency (CDA). “It’s a start, but most importantly, it’s about engaging people in this worthy cause because we see protecting our children as one of our top priorities.” Their philanthropic efforts also encompass education, as to date the JWN Foundation has provided over 100 scholarships to needy students across the island.

THE CHOICE: “Relieved” and “thankful” is how Jelani Munroe sums up his reaction to copping the prestigious honour of becoming Jamaica’s newest Rhodes Scholar. Munroe, 23, bested an eminent field of contenders for the scholarship tenable at the UK’s Oxford University in 2018/19 academic year. The announcement was made at King’s House last week by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen. A past Campion College head boy, who went on to complete (with honours) a Bachelor’s in Economics and Public Policy at Stanford University, the overseas-based Munroe plans to pursue an MPhil in Development Studies at Oxford. What gave him the edge over his rivals? “He’s full of energy, dynamism and we believe he will really make an impact on Jamaica in the years to come,” says Peter Goldson, secretary of the Rhodes Scholar selection committee. “They’re exceptionally outstanding, both the oversea-based candidates and those from UWI, but Jelani was just that much more outstanding from the rest of the field. He is clearly someone who is intelligent and thoughtful, and he’s concerned about helping the less privileged in Jamaica.”

> Sound byte!
“Crime affects social stability as well as discourage domestic and international investment. At the firm level, it introduces uncertainty and inefficiency in the production process, as it imposes a cost on firms, as well as limits the production time. These constraints create increased costs and uncertainty in the business environment and adversely impacts the country’s competitiveness.”– Dr. Wayne Henry, Director-General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ)

SCENE & HEARD: Tanya Stephens’ colour power + Massive support for Hall-of-Famer Richard Byles, Dahlia Harris hosts World AIDS Day launch, and more

UP FRONT: Nov. 16, Kingston. Ahead of delivering the keynote address, health minister Dr. Christopher Tufton (right) was snapped, alongside the National Family Planning Board's Andrea Campbell and AHF's Dr. Kevin Harvey taking in the proceedings at last Thursday’s press launch to announce activities set to mark World AIDS Day (December 1). “We Have the Right to Health: Keep the Promise, Don’t Turn Your Back on Me” is the theme for World AIDS Day 2017. (Photo: National Family Planning Board)

SETTING THE PACE: Nov. 16, Kingston. A woman who wears multiple hats with easy-breezy finesse, the impeccably dressed Dahlia Harris (pictured here with the NFPB's Diana Thomas-Campbell) made a delightful emcee at Thursday’s World AIDS Day press launch at the Courtleigh Hotel & Suites in New Kingston. In addition to a march from Mandela Park to Emancipation Park and a youth expo and concert later in the evening, planned activities to mark World AIDS Day 2017 include a song competition and a visual arts competition. (Photo: National Family Planning Board)

DISTINGUISHED GUESTS: Nov. 13, Kingston. Richard Byles’ long-awaited induction into the PSOJ Hall of Fame, as the 25th outstanding Jamaican so honoured, brought out some of the biggest names from the public and private sectors (several of whom joined him on stage to share in the moment) last Monday night at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston. (Photo: PSOJ)

SHOCK VALUE: Nov. 12, Kingston. Scores of her loyal fans flocked to the Macau Lounge recently to catch a live performance by Tanya Stephens, who upped the drama with a riot of punk-rock pink hair, as she reeled off the hits, old and new, from her vast and diverse catalogue. (Photo: Skkan Media)

IN THE FRAME: Nov. 12, Kingston. Designers, artisans and lots of craft purveyors had their goods on display at last week’s renewal of the MoDA Market at the Worthington, Spanish Court Hotel, where plenty of glorious sights and lots to buy kept the shopaholics occupied.(Photo: Skkan Media)

ENCHANTED WORLD: Stella Maris’ rousing 24th season delivers ample flourish and fantasy

IN MOTION: As ever, the talented dancers brought lots of energy and emotion to the Little Theatre stage.

THE Stella Maris Dance Ensemble specializes in telling stories that weave Afro-Caribbean realities with themes and heart-and-mind concerns that echo universally. Very often, the result is spell-binding dance theatre that delights, provokes thought and, for the most part, satisfies. Witness their recent 24th season, which offered seven solid works (remounts and brand-new pieces) that consistently drew resounding applause from the sizeable audience.

There were four new works on the programme. Special guest choreographer Dr. Kemal ‘Kibon’ Nance (of the Berry & Nance project) supplied the movement for “Manifesto,” a lengthy but enthralling piece (about negritude, manhood and freedom), boasting several movements and moods. With its nice blend of male and female energy, the piece saw the dancers (somewhat resembling Japanese martial artists) making the Berry & Nance choreography, driven by live drumming, entirely their own. In the end, it was something fresh and exciting for Stella Maris that was well executed.

The spirited singing of Nina Simone buttressed the attitude-laden “Nina Here I Come” (choreographed by Abeldo ‘Tokie’ Gonzalez), featuring three dapper young men (Mr. Red, Mr. Green and Mr. Blue) cavorting with a sexy young miss (Naomi Blackwood), who gave the men a run for their money. Gonzalez also brought “Exchanges,” a work that starts out as a linear piece for four pairs of female dancers but quickly takes on new dimensions with lots of twirls, dips and aerial leaps. 

Artistic Director Dr. MoniKa Lawrence won raves for “Baka Beyond,” an out-of-this-world fantasy dreamscape (complete with acrobatic stunts mid-stage), whose ending feels a tad anticlimactic but, visually, it’s a fantastic flourish.

There’s no finer example of terpsichorean storytelling by the Stella Maris Ensemble than their signature crowd-pleaser “Liza” (2002), Lawrence’s brilliant ode to the kind of coming-of-age experiences most Jamaican girls face. But the genius of Lawrence’s choreography is the fusion of humour and drama that further enlivens the piece. 

In the meantime, we also enjoyed her remount of 1998’s “Where is Maria?”, a haunting piece centred on choices and consequences, rebirth and healing. Equally gorgeous lighting design and costuming made it all the more appealing. 

And what can we say about H. Patten’s “Gye Nyame (Except God),” a hyper-rhythmic fusion of African sensibilities, bare-chested male dancers, a touch of wild abandon and Roshaun Fender dancing up a storm as the intriguing Mask Man. At its best, the work employs aesthetics and elements similar to those that make Rex Nettleford’s “Gherrebenta” such a triumph. As with much of Stella Maris’ repertoire, it’s about strength and resilience, spirituality and tradition and how a compelling story arc can elevate the dance into rousing art.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE ‘QUEEN’: Singing sensation Kristen James spreads her wings and lands the role of a lifetime

THE KING & I: James in costume as the Biblical heroine, opposite Johnson, who calls her "a professional."

YOUNG outstanding talents like Kristen James seem pre-destined to find remarkable success in the performing arts. While two of her aunts are former members of Father HoLung & Friends, her mother and another aunt formed part of the now defunct singing group The Emmanuel Sisters. While getting her education at one of the best institutions in the land, Immaculate Conception High, James joined the school choir and the rest, as they say, is history.

Choral singing alongside intense academic pursuits became her life. It comes as no surprise that her awesome vocal abilities, not just her rich musical pedigree, helped secure her a spot in the Father HoLung & Friends family, where she’s been for the past three-and-a-half-years, growing as an artist and getting lots of coaching. She’s already worked her way up to principal cast member.

In 2015, James won the role of Bathsheba in King David. Last year, she held her own as Neferti in Moses. This year, she was a shoo-in to take on the coveted title role in Queen Esther – and she got the part. “It makes me nervous, very anxious, but honoured that it was offered to me. I had to make every effort to live up to it and put myself in her shoes and try to embody the role. I really had to put myself in the frame of mind to carry a show,” shares the 22-year-old performer, whose intense preparation saw her spending countless hours holed up in her room memorizing lines and “singing anywhere I could sing” to learn the lyrics and melodies for the big show-stopping numbers.

Playing a Biblical heroine in one of the most buzzed-about shows of the year, James is quick to add, was a much welcome learning experience. “I had to really understand who Esther is. Her whole purpose is service to her God. She’s fearful but she stands up for her people. She didn’t know if she would survive, but she decided that this is what God called her to do so she had to pick herself up and do God’s will,” James explains. “And I think I did justice to that.”

Her leading man Stephen-Rhae Johnson (playing King Xerxes, who falls for Esther’s charms) is a fan. “Kristen is a professional, and I love that. I take the stagecraft very seriously, and I like to work with people who do. She takes it seriously,” he tells TALLAWAH. “Her voice is strong and melodic. She put lots of work into the role. She’s an excellent actress, plus she’s a nice person.”

We hastily concur. Not only does James bring conviction and emotional precision to the complex part, she uses her multi-octave range to stunning effect. Where does this confidence come from? “My confidence I definitely built up while going through high school. I excelled in a lot of leadership roles. I think I’ve always been a natural leader, but I honed those talents while at Immaculate,” says James, who went on to enroll at UWI Mona to read for a first degree in Actuarial Science before switching to Economics and Statistics. She’s currently in her final year on a part-time basis. “I did a lot of experimenting at UWI,” she admits, with a laugh, “but I did find my knack, which was Statistics.”

This charming girl, clad in a lovely leopard print dress, smiles and laughs a lot as we chat inside the National Arena ahead of a scheduled 2pm performance. She sees a career as a financial analyst in her future. “My passion is numbers. I love math, so that would be the career for me,” says the devout Catholic, who looks up to Hollywood leading ladies like Kerry Washington, Angela Bassett and Viola Davis.

A city girl through and through, she lights up when talking about her big, arts-loving family (grand-dad was a calypsonian) that’s “always been very supportive.” They encouraged her love of the performing arts, which led to stints with Wolmer’s Dance Troupe (Artistic Director Barbara McDaniel is a family friend) and Praise Academy of Dance and a six-year sojourn with the Tony Wilson-led Company Dance Theatre.

Father HoLung & Friends is home now. “I love being on stage – singing, dancing, embodying the character. After I finish UWI I want to go to Canada to do my Master’s in Econ, but I really don’t want to leave the group,” says James, who favours honey and lime for voice care, does regular exercise and takes her one-a-day vitamins. “It’s the biggest platform I have to evangelize and minister. So I’ll stay connected to them, even if I go abroad.”

> Playing Favourites: Kristen shares her pop-culture picks
Musicians: Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran
Food: Pasta and Mac & Cheese
Movies: The Conjuring and the Harry Potter series
Books: The Twilight series and The Fault in Our Stars

GOOD MEDICINE: The truth about chest pains + Banishing varicose veins + An exciting new pain-relief product

> In his demanding line of work, Dr. Edwin Tulloch-Reid has to do a lot of chest pain evaluations, assessing the quality, intensity, duration and exact location of the discomfort. His advice for Jamaicans? Pay attention to chest pain; never dismiss chest pains. “If left untreated, chest pain is something that can lead to heart attack and other life-threating conditions like pulmonary embolism. Most times it’s muscular and acid reflux-related or it can be something that is coronary-related. The doctor has to make sure to rule out certain things and take steps to make sure the patient is safe,” Dr. Tulloch-Reid told TALLAWAH following his informative presentation on ‘Pain in Cardiology’ at Sunday’s well-attended Dr. Ena Thomas Memorial Lecture & Symposium at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston. “Oftentimes, people are experiencing chest pains and don’t come in. They stay home and drink mint tea. Some think it’s because of gas, so they stay home. If it’s a new pain, a pain you never experienced before, go see a doctor right away. Be aware of how dangerous it can be and how quickly you can die. So both the doctors and the patients have to be more aware and more vigilant and don’t just dismiss it.”

> Are there any at-home remedies (or ‘treatments’0 to turn to when dealing with unsightly varicose veins, in the hope of preventing such conditions as Chronic Venous Insufficiency and Deep Vein Thrombosis? Guyanese-born medic Dr. Zwade Marshall, now Director of the Pain Centre of Augusta (Emory University), heartily recommends “conservative leg elevation in the evenings, compression socks and inflammatory medications.” But what’s the primary cause of varicose veins? “It’s largely due to genetics. That’s the number one thing,’ said Dr. Marshall, who gave the guest lecture at Sunday’s symposium, now in its 44th year. “Other causes include standing-up professions and having a history of deep vein thrombosis.” For those who can afford the price, venous ablation is an effective treatment option. “For most of my patients, it’s covered by insurance,” Dr. Marshall points out. ‘The cost for treatment is US$1200 per vein.” 

> Made in India! 
Algic-P comes highly recommended by its manufacturers. Combining aceclofenac and paracetamol tablets, it guarantees reduction of inflammation, restores mobility and provides superior and rapid pain relief. In other words, it’s ideal for doctors to recommend to their patients suffering from arthritis flare-up, post-operative pain, fractures and dislocations and other conditions. “The combination of aceclofenac (with its peripheral effect 0 and paracetamol (with its central effect) will give better analgesic efficacy than individual drugs, with less incidence of side effects,” manufacturers MSN Laboratories, based in Telangana, India, advises. Algic-P was among the pain relief medication showcased at Sunday’s 44th Annual Dr. Ena Thomas Memorial Lecture at the Jamaica Pegasus. Ask your doctor about Algic-P today.

Monday, 20 November 2017

#YOUTHQUAKE2017: Which Jamaican young achiever do you admire the most?

Nominated by RenĂ©e McDonald, choreographer/law student 
“I’m really proud of him. He started [the bag company] Bresheh, which has been doing extremely well, and he’s also been giving a lot of motivational talks, especially to young people. I just find him extremely inspiring.” 

Nominated by Dr. Winston Dawes, consultant surgeon/former JFF president 
“When you look at who he was in 2011, when he went to the Youth Games and never medalled – I think he took on too many events – to where he is now, you see how he never stopped. He came back and became a champion. Then he was on top and fell during a crucial race. He came back again to win gold at the Olympics.”

Nominated by Marcia Erskine, PR woman extraordinaire 
“He had his trials and tribulations, but he rose above them. Athletics is not an easy business; it certainly takes a lot of hard work. And we have to appreciate all that he has achieved by sticking with it.” 

Cover girl SHANTOL Jackson 
Nominated by Dahlia Harris, playwright/producer/TV host 
“Her breakthrough in film was nothing short of amazing. And she has been doing excellent work in theatre. So she is my pick for sure.” 

Nominated by Orville Hall, Dancin’ Dynamites judge 
 “He sings, he acts, he can dance. Very outstanding and prolific young man. I like his humility. He was a student of mine at EXED Community College, and since then I have seen his growth. With the movies he has done and the songs he’s putting out, we now see him embodying all that he has learnt.”

MAKING PROGRESS: Jamaica only 5% away from completing first step in UNAIDS programme

ON MESSAGE: Stigma and discrimination and ensuring equal access to health services for all areas in need of improvement, says Tufton.

TO further bolster the fight against HIV/AIDS globally, UNAIDS has devised a three-step programme – 90-90-90 – for stakeholders at the national level to implement. Each of the 90s holds special meaning.

The first 90 means that, nationally, ninety percent of those who are infected with the HIV virus will know their status. The second 90: ninety percent of those who have been identified as positive will go on medication and anti-retroviral medication (ARVs). The final 90: ninety percent of those who are on meds will be virally suppressed to prevent them from passing on the infection.

According to the National Family Planning Board (NFPB), Jamaica is five percent away from achieving the first 90 of this global objective. This is welcome news for health minister Dr. ChrisTufton, who delivered the keynote address at a press launch for World AIDS Day at the Courtleigh Hotel & Suites in New Kingston on Thursday evening. “Retention in care remains the major challenge along with viral suppression rates. In order to achieve the global 90-90-90 targets, significant investments must be made in improving retention care, scaling up ART coverage and improving viral suppression levels,” the health minister said.

Tufton cited some sobering statistics. At present, Jamaica has an estimated 29,000 persons living with HIV or 1.6% of the adult population. Of that estimate, 85% have been diagnosed. Adolescent deaths resulting from HIV continues to rise despite declines in other age groups.

As the Minister points out, challenges persist in spite of valiant efforts. “While there are significant gains, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to retain the successes and streamline the programme more effectively, given the fiscal space that we operate in,” he said. “We are challenged to develop critical interventions for adolescents and creating the linkages to treatment and care, psycho-social care and support. Stigma and discrimination are also areas that need improvement as well as maintaining human rights of individuals and ensuring equal access to health services for all individuals.” 

This year, World AIDS Day (December 1) is being observed under the theme “We Have the Right to Health: Keep the Promise, Don’t Turn Your Back On Me.” Activities planned to mark World AIDS Day 2017 include a song competition, a visual arts competition and a national youth expo to be held inside Emancipation Park. 

* The National AIDS Spending Assessment estimates that the total spending on HIV and AIDS-related activities in Jamaica was $US15.1 million for the April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015 fiscal period. 
** Since the introduction of Anti-Retroviral Therapy in 2004, reported AIDS-related deaths have declined by 64%. UNAIDS estimates that the number of new HIV infections has declined by 45% since 2005.

FULL HOUSE: Something Fishy blends clever comedy and domestic drama with laugh-out-loud results

INVENTING THE CARTERS: Harriott (right), Burger and Jarrett sharing scenes from the play.

IF nothing else, Something Fishy delivers further proof that family life gets messy, marriage is anything but easy and it takes real work and commitment to create mutually beneficial relationships. 

On the upside, this domestic comedy-drama, penned by veteran actress-turned-playwright Angela Jarrett and helmed by veteran actor-turned-stage director Andrew Brodber, has fireworks, strong performances and loads of humour that elicit the big laughs. On the downside, some scenes are perilously overlong and as a result the pace sometimes drags and the action occasionally sags.

But Something Fishy is satisfactorily entertaining and insightful and will prompt couples whose marriages are on the rocks to take a closer look at the possible factors lurking behind the cracks in their once perfect unions.

Impatient mechanic George (Wesley ‘Burgerman’ Burger) and fragile schoolteacher Pam (Karen ‘Tiny Winey’ Harriott) are a middle-class couple desperate to have their first child. But in spite of numerous trips to the doctor and other alternatives, Pam is unable to conceive, yet the doctors tell her she is “perfect”; nothing is wrong with her reproductive system. Is George the problem? He refuses to take the blame. He shies away from medical check-ups and refuses to drink the chainey roots his wife has bought for him, for “enhancement” purposes. Something’s got to give. Consequently, they bicker non-stop.

With her mom miles away, Pam has no one to turn to but nosy neighbor Juliet (Jodian Findley, hilarious), a firecracker with a peppery tongue and a serious begging addiction that gets on George’s nerves.

But nothing can prepare George for the arrival of Lorna Lannaman (Jarrett, with great comedic timing), a 10-year-old big baby who moves in after Auntie Pam adopts her from the Comfort Children’s Home. In no time, Lorna takes over, torturing Uncle Georgie, her play-time donkey, ‘blackmailing’ him when she catches him doing something bad behind Pam’s back. Lorna must have her way and her antics will leave you in stitches. 

Pam’s dream is for everyone to get along and live as one big happy family but what plays out is a series of events that puts an explosive spin on domestic bliss. 

Funny and well-told, in spite of its flaws, Something Fishy is a comedy that works. Its packs the laughs and valuable life lessons. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

Saturday, 18 November 2017

GOOD NEWS: IMF recommits to being “an important partner” in the region + New contest for investigative reporting on HIV open to journalists

FISCAL FORECAST: International Monetary Fund Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, doesn’t beat around the bush. Since 2000, she notes, growth has stalled in many Caribbean countries like Jamaica, and overcoming these challenges will require decisive policy decisions. “The IMF’s ongoing policy discussions with our Caribbean partners are essential for us to find creative solutions to the region’s economic challenges, often unique to small states,” said Lagarde, who is in the island to meet with heads of government and policymakers (including PM Andrew Holness, above) for high-level talks. “For instance, the IMF is shepherding dialogue among various stakeholders to find solutions for the risks from the withdrawal of correspondent banking relationships.” To this end, she says, the IMF is more committed than ever to playing its supporting role. “The IMF has been an important partner in the region in many forms – regular ‘health checks’, economic surveillance, financial support, capacity building. The annual high-level Caribbean Forum provides a platform for regional leaders to discuss relevant policy issues. I look forward very much to participating with Caribbean leaders and other key stakeholders in the region’s future.” The sixth High-Level Caribbean Forum culminated with the launch of a new book, Unleashing Growth and Strengthening Resilience in the Caribbean.

THE BIG STORY: One hardworking Jamaican journalist will win an all-expenses paid trip to Fort Lauderdale to participate in the International Reporting for an AIDS Free World workshop, which is among the activities being planned for the Florida AIDS Walk and Music Festival, set for March 17-19, 2018. According to the National Family Planning Board (NFPB), the aim is to recognize Jamaican journalists who are committed to investigative reporting on HIV-related issues. Participants are being asked to submit their print/electronic articles, YouTube documentaries, blog posts and vlogs and short stories that will be published/broadcast/uploaded between January 1 and February 28, 2018 on such topics as prevention of new HIV infections, access to quality HIV care, stigma and cultural barriers, and spreading awareness. All entries must be emailed to by March 1. The winner will be announced on March 5. For more info call the NFPB at 968-1629. 

> Sound byte!
“The Government must now proceed to take the necessary steps to safeguard the viability of our assets, even as we recognize value and appreciate the support provided to this country by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.” – Minister Andrew Wheatley responding to news that the Holness administration intends to purchase the 49% shares in the owned by Venezuela state-owned oil company PDVSA

INCREDIBLE LEGENDS: Media fraternity mourns passing of RJR’s J. Lester Spaulding + J’ca Musical Theatre Company bids farewell to late Chairman Doug Bennett

CURTAIN CALL: The Jamaica Musical Theatre Company (JMTC) is the venerable institution it is today, thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of one man, Doug Bennett, the pioneering Chairman who passed away on October 30 and was laid to rest following a thanksgiving service at the University Chapel, Mona, on Friday. David Tulloch is among the theatre practitioners who have been paying tribute to him. Earlier in their careers they came under Bennett’s sway and readily admit to owing him a debt of gratitude. “I can safely say that if it wasn’t for Doug Bennett, I wouldn’t have had the experiences in musical theatre that I have had. I gained a lot of knowledge that I’ve brought into my adult life. He was like a mentor to me, and I’m happy to be a part of the legacy that he has left behind,” Tulloch told TALLAWAH in a post-service interview later on at the Phoenix Theatre. Tulloch’s involvement with the JMTC in recent years, under Bennett’s watchful eye, has seen him co-organizing their annual concerts and directing productions like the acclaimed At the Barricades in 2015. Still going strong at age 88 at the time of his passing, Bennett helped usher the JMTC (and its sibling the Jamaica Junior Theatre Company) into its most successful chapter, highlighted by such triumphant and memorable shows as Aida, Cats, Pan, Nesta’s Rock, The Wiz, and many more. Bennett received the Order of Distinction in 2014. 

THE MEASURE OF A MAN: Jamaicans from all walks have been saddened by news of the passing of J. Lester Spaulding, the stalwart whose name was very often mentioned in the same sentence as the RJR/Gleaner Communications Group, the media titan that he led as Chairman to its present perch as one of the leading media brands in the English-speaking Caribbean. Spaulding died at hospital on Friday morning after ailing for some time. He was 76 years old. The tributes have been pouring in. The Media Association of Jamaica (MAJ) hailed Spaulding for his “instrumental and dedicated work in the advancement of print and electronic media in the Caribbean.” His legacy, the MAJ said, will continue to impact the work of media houses across the region. The Broadcasting Commission called Spaulding “a shrewd manager” who had a “stellar career in media administration.” His passing, the Commission said, has left a void in the media fraternity. A former Chairman of the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) and a former director of the Caribbean News Agency (CANA) – playing a pivotal role in its establishment – Spaulding was inducted into the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) Hall of Fame in 2011. The Order of Distinction (Commander Class) is among his many honours.

FOR KING & COUNTRY: Tuneful, powerful Queen Esther is a worthy addition to HoLung’s triumphs

THE PLOT THICKENS: Councilmen discussing the Jewish problem; James and Johnson holding court.

ABOVE all, Queen Esther reaffirms Father Richard HoLung’s knack for putting a fresh spin on Old Testament lore, complete with stirring music, a visually stunning mise-en-scene, and crowd-pleasing verve.

The production, now playing at the National Arena in Kingston, is a worthy addition to his large and ever-growing body of work. Aside from the solid, believable performances, the show’s strongest assets are the lighting design by Nadia Roxburgh (which makes P.J Stewart’s set truly a sight to behold) and the musical score, for which HoLung teamed up once again with frequent collaborators Jon and Wynton Williams.

A few months ago when HoLung promised that the production would deliver music smelling of flavours from across the Caribbean, he meant it. Father, who has been penning hymns and praise songs for the regional Catholic Church for years and has a great ear for melody, hasn’t lost his mojo. The commanding blend of voices, beautifully rendered solos and hyper-rhythmic instrumentation go a long way in making this one of the most ear-gasmic shows in recent memory.

With admirable vocal skills and emotional intelligence, young Kristen James steps into the title role and delivers. Her remarkable singing will deeply impress you. Stephen-Rhae Johnson (sharp, commanding) is King Xerxes, the tough Persian ruler who finds that he has a soft spot for the beautiful, virtuous Esther.

But their love story (and Esther’s journey to womanhood and selfless heroics) is a mere fraction of what the story – helmed by co-directors Hugh Douse and Greg Thames – captures. Audiences should brace for some brutal stuff, exploring such themes as persecution, conspiracy, betrayal and killing of the innocents. At the height of the action, Persians seeks to exterminate the Jewish population – and the king, accused by his subjects of being indecisive in such matters, is made to feel the pressure. 

James and Johnson are not the only ones who shine in their roles. Leighton Jones gives a bravura turn as the vengeful advisor Haman, while Rohan Jacques, a robust baritone, is effectively cast as Mordecai, the lowly carpenter who adopts Esther as an orphan, finds favour with the king and becomes Haman’s sworn enemy.

Sparks fly and tempers flare but love, honour and devotion to king and country conquers all. Our only quibble? The dialogue occasionally falls flat. But that takes nothing away from the Queen Esther's overall success. 

The costumes are gorgeous (especially the royal wardrobe) and the talented actors wear them stylishly well. But it’s the music that’s really the thing. Highlights include grand numbers like “Our Eyes Are on You Lord,” “Okay, Okay,” and “Rejoice My Soul,” which brings the show to a triumphant close. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

Friday, 17 November 2017

OUT & ABOUT: Alia Atkinson + Kimala Bennett + Peter Lloyd + Kamila McDonald + Dr. Leighton Wynter + Stephanie + Kelissa + Floyd Green

LIFE SAVER: Head of the Department for Anaesthesia at the Mandeville Regional Hospital, Dr. Leighton Wynter, makes a point to CHASE Fund CEO, Billy Heaven, about the new state-of-the-art medical equipment, valued at $4 million, which was donated to the hospital by the CHASE Fund, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Mandeville and Church Teacher’s College. (Photo: Mandeville Regional Hospital)

IT TAKES TWO: Nov. 12, Kingston. Fast becoming a ‘power couple’ – touring the globe and swapping cool ideas – singer-songwriters Stephanie and Peter Lloyd stepped out in support of Tanya Stephens as she headlined the Kingston leg of the 2017 Appleton Signature Nights concert series at the Macau Lounge. Past headliners of the islandwide series include Romain Virgo, Tarrus Riley and Christopher Martin(Photo: Skkan Media)

MY FAIR LADIES: Nov. 12, United States. Exuding that trademark liberating energy, fitness maven Kamila McDonald (right) is all toned muscle and radiance as she shares the frame with songstress Kelissa at the well-supported Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival in South Florida on the weekend. (Photo: Skkan Media)

PRESENT PERFECT: Nov. 10, St. Andrew. Author and businesswoman Kimala Bennett presents a copy of her second book, The Young Entrepreneur’s Handbook: A Step by Step Guide to Starting a Business, to State Minister Floyd Green during a Waterfalls-hosted ‘Around the Table’ lunchtime discussion in observance of Youth Month. (Photo: Sleek)

EASY ‘A’: Alia Atkinson will need a bigger trophy case for all the accolades she’s been racking up this season. The swimming sensation couldn’t contain her glee as she graced the medal ceremony podium, after copping gold in the Women’s 200M breaststroke on Day Two of the FINA Swimming World Cup in Beijing, China. (Photo:

5 THINGS I’VE LEARNED IN LIFE: MoBay’s PJ Stewart talks creative challenges and longevity in showbiz

VISUAL POWER: Stewart (inset) is known for her stunning backdrops and strong finishes, like this shot from this season's Queen Esther.

“IT’s been absolutely amazing. I’ve done all sorts of things I never expected to do. I’ve had some wonderful opportunities. I couldn’t have asked for better,” shares 71-year-old creative artist and devoted family matriarch PJ Stewart. A trained mural designer who has worked on all sorts of projects (including playgrounds in England), Stewart’s artistic evolution continues to take fascinating turns. In addition to her exploits as a full-time painter and studio owner, now based in Montego Bay, she’s earned renown as the designer responsible for those dazzling set pieces that transform Father HoLung & Friends productions into eye-popping spectacles. She reminisces with TALLAWAH. 

Determination and Patience: “We used to do these show every other year until Father stepped it up to every year. The demand on your time is great. So determination and patience are definitely needed. You have to give the production the attention it needs. A lot of us have regular jobs, so time management is key.” 

Team Work in Show Business: “You have to attend a lot of meetings ad have exchanges where you can get a grasp of each other’s thinking. So the director knows what the set designer has in mind; the lighting designer and the choreographer know what the director expects. We usually meet in January for a show in September, but now we met like two months before.” 

Being a Woman in Design and Construction: “It’s not at all challenging for me in that regard. I haven’t noticed any discrimination. People are respectful. In this industry you are more engaged on your talents and skills than on your sex. It’s a small theatre world in Jamaica. The challenge for us doing Father HoLung productions is that there is no theatre space big enough; we have to use the Arena. We have no wires and gadgets hanging above the stage; so everything has to emanate from the ground.” 

Establishing life-work balance: “That can be a challenge. I’m now divorced but I have children and grandchildren who depend on me. I’m also based in Montego Bay, and I have a studio down there, where artists exhibit, and I have to keep that run and running. Working with Missionaries of the Poor you have a limited budget, so it’s like designing for maximum effect with very limited resources. But you get enormous help from the brothers who put in hours and hours of work.” 

Staying Power: “I have designed about 20 shows, but I’ve been working with Father for over 30 years now. It’s been fantastic. You get the opportunity to travel a lot. So far I’ve been to the Philippines, England, and the States. Usually we build half of the set to fold up and carry with us. I think being a part of this team has been the most extraordinary experience of my life.”

Thursday, 16 November 2017

ON HER MIND: Kaci Fennell reflects on her journey and sets her sights on more amazing triumphs

AT FIRST BITE: Kaci is happiest spending time in the kitchen and eating well.

I believe in divine order. It’s a key principle that guides my life and it has been steering me from one success to another – the latest being chosen to serve as foodie ambassador for Yello Media for this year’s Jamaica Food and Drink Festival.

It was an amazing experience to see how much the festival has grown over the years. It’s something for us to be proud of as Jamaicans. Yello and I had a remarkable partnership, which made the experience even better, and I’m not just saying that because I got to sample all the amazing food. The festival is something that the food industry needs, and I’m looking forward to its growth and supporting in any way I can.

I love food. I love to cook. I enjoy spending time in the kitchen. Cooking is one of my favourite hobbies, next to swimming and having a good workout. Nothing helps me to feel more relaxed. I need all the stress relief I can get because I’m about to make some significant steps towards achieving my career goals. I have a big announcement to make soon, and it’s about my “next job.” I can’t give too much away but it has to do with the media, and it’s a gig I’m very, very excited about.

For the most part, things have been going great since I won Miss Jamaica Universe and placed in the top five at the Miss Universe pageant. In addition to working with Yello, I’ve worked with KFC, Ting and Ocean Spray, and I’m hoping there’s lots more to come. After Miss Universe, I decided to take a year or two off to really centre myself and think about what I want to do next.

And a lot has happened since then. I got married and worked with a few charities, doing work that is important to me. I travelled a lot representing the brands and for personal enjoyment. When I was ambassador for Ting, I remember visiting London, Puerto Rico and New York, and it was just so interesting to see how people responded to Brand Jamaica. They can’t get enough. When you leave Jamaica, it really makes you miss home and appreciate your country that much more. I’m looking forward to representing the country more internationally and further broadening my horizons. 

There’s so much I want to accomplish in the next five to ten years. Hopefully, by that time I would have established and developed a successful food business. I’m also looking forward to working in the media as a hostess. I want to become a mom. 

I want so much out of life. I’m happy and I’m excited about what the future holds. But, like I said, I believe in divine order. Whatever happens for me, I want it to be in alignment with the Universe. – As told to TALLAWAH Magazine 

>> Kaci’s Beauty Pick! 

“I love a good perfume. I’m using this Arabian oil that I got from Dubai. It’s the best.”

NEWS & NOTES: Press freedom, traditional media top CBU’s agenda + Les Brown Youth Institute has big plans for Jamaica

> Les Brown plans youth training, prison ministry workshops for next visit 
For Les Brown, the man considered the world’s best motivational speaker, Marcus Garvey was the world’s first motivational speaker is truth be told – a fearless leader and Black consciousness advocate whose firm Jamaican roots made him a force to be reckoned with internationally. Garvey’s teachings empowered Brown as a young man, and now he wants to pay it forward by giving empowerment talks to Jamaicans trying to find their place in the world. 

“I want to come back to Jamaica with the Les Brown Youth Institute to do a youth training event. I want to give them hope and share methods to carve out a future for themselves and how to reinvent themselves in this new global economy that we are in,” Brown said, as he addressed the scores of Jamaicans who attended his inspiring talk at the Jamaica Conference Centre recently. “We have to teach our young people methods and techniques for survival and how to see opportunities beyond entertainment. Let them know they can become architects and engineers. It’s our responsibility to create a community that fosters greatness.” 

On his return, Brown is bringing some of his children with him, including Leslie Jr. and Serena. “I have five boys and five girls. When the Lord said, Be fruitful and multiply, I took him seriously,” he quipped. “So we’re gonna come back to Jamaica to do this important youth training work.” Brown says he also wants “to visit some of the prisons to speak to some of the men.”

CBU to put out annual press freedom reports – Gary Allen 
As new President of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), Gary Allen’s role comes with a weighty mandate. Among the responsibilities he’s most eager to tackle include assessing how the union has been engaging its members and the wider public on critical policy issues like press freedom. “We have to ensure that the press freedom that we enjoy is not taken for granted. As a watchdog body, we will be putting out annual press freedom reports and keeping a close watch on the state of press freedom in the region, so that there’s no eroding,” Allen told TALLAWAH at the recent Devon House-hosted launch to kick off Restaurant Week 2017. The survival of traditional media has also zoomed into sharp focus. Says Allen, “AS we increasingly move forward with new technologies, we have to ensure that traditional media doesn’t get swamped by digital media.” 

Sound byte! 
“Jamaica has two main issues: a mindset and a skill-set problem, which of left unattended could signal the death of Jamaica’s development goal of being a strong logistics hub. That’s our problem. But its mainly the mindset that is troubling because this affects our leaders and, as the word says, a nation without vision perishes.” – Fritz Pinnock, President of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU)

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

NEWS FEED: Sean Paul, Beres among Jamathon headliners + David McConnell appointed SVL Chairman + Robin Levy moves to Credit Union League

TAKING CHARGE: Supreme Ventures Limited has a new Chairman. Noted businessman W. David McConnell has been appointed to the post, replacing Paul Hoo, whose much-publicized resignation came after a $2.9 billion share transaction resulted in Mayberry Investments calling for a shake-up of the SVL board. McConnell, who is the co-Managing Director of Select Brands Limited, a leading local wine and spirits company, has been welcomed into the SVL family. “We are pleased to have David as Chairman of the SVL board. We are confident that under his experienced leadership, the company will continue to grow exponentially,” says Ian Levy, who was Interim Chairman prior to McConnell’s arrival. “The entire company stands ready to support him as we work together for SVL’s success.” 

PREMIERE ‘LEAGUE’: Effective November 6, Robin Levy is the new Group CEO of the Jamaica Cooperative Credit Union League (JCCUL). He succeeds Glenworth Francis, who retired from the post after 28 years. Levy comes to the JCCUL from the Jamaica Stock Exchange, where he was deputy General Manager and General Manager of the Jamaica Central Securities Depository (JCSD) and the JCSD Trustee Services Ltd. A certified fraud examiner, risk manager and financial specialist, Levy holds a Bachelor’s from UWI Mona and an MBA in Finance from the Marist School of Business, based in New York. 

MUSIC FOR LIFE: Jamaican entertainers can always be counted on support a worthy cause. A massive star-studded lineup has been confirmed for the Jamathon hurricane relief and recovery fundraising concert, being produced by the Joe Bogdanovich-led DownSound Entertainment and Caribbean Love Now. Beres Hammond, Etana, Sean Paul, Jah Cure, Romain Virgo, Kevin Downswell, Assassin, Beenie Man, Christopher Martin and a host of others will grace the stage in support of the charitable cause. The concert is scheduled for next Wednesday, November 22, at the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston.