Thursday, 30 November 2017

QUOTES OF THE WEEK: Richard Byles calls for economic ‘vigilance’ + Ronnie Thwaites skeptical about NIDs + Gleaner editor on Jamaica’s regional ties, and more

André Wright, Opinion Pages Editor, Gleaner Company 
“[PM Andrew] Holness must be commended in his ambitions to deepen Jamaica’s economic ties with Dominican Republic… Perhaps the Golding report on Jamaica’s future relationship with CARICOM has not been unveiled because it reinforces Mr. Golding’s sometimes icy apathy towards the regional bloc, in contradiction to Mr. Holness’ rhetoric on broadening its footprint.” 

Donovan Stanberry, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries 
“From a nutritional and health standpoint, eating what you grow makes sense. It is something that we have to keep preaching, because not only are we killing ourselves slowly with the sugars and salt from these imported products but there is also the crisis of low coverage of health insurance. I think in Jamaica, we have done extremely well in the last 14 years to reverse that – not only from the standpoint of people’s psyche being changed gradually but also from the standpoint of the supply side in terms of increased agriculture production and the fact that we have been able to do that against so many odds.” 

Mike Henry, Minister of Transport and Mining 
“I must point out that there is no way we can improve the [mining] sector without taking steps to diversify and arrest the value-added components that have seemingly eluded us over the years. The time has come for players to pull up their socks, lift the standards, organize their operations to maximize returns and go for the growth that beckons.” 

Rev. Ronald Thwaites, Central Kingston MP 
“As it is, state propaganda notwithstanding, the national identification system will not work. It has been condemned to needless skepticism and resistance by the very interests proposing it. In scholastic philosophy, as in politics, there is a huge difference between the id quod (the purpose itself) and the modum quo (the way in which that purpose is affected). The latter will often negate the good of the former.” 

Richard Byles, Sagicor and Red Stripe Chairman and 2017 PSOJ Hall of Fame Inductee 
“Today there is considerable confidence in the economy and with good reason. All the macroeconomic indicators continue to be positive and the table is set to see greater growth. In an environment like that, we have a tendency to forget how we got into the debt trap and how important it is to remain vigilant.”

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

SKANKIN’ SWEET SUCCESS: Chronixx gets his first Grammy nod, kicks off Chronology Jamaica Tour this weekend

NATURAL HABITAT: With a Grammy nod and and end-of-2017 tour about to kick off, the reggae star is on a career high.

WITHOUT a doubt, Chronixx is a shoo-in for a spot among Jamaica’s top five men of the year. From selling out shows on tour and teaming up with Lauryn Hill and Nas to dropping his acclaimed debut album, giving provocative TV interviews and gracing the pages of GQ, the reggae superstar experienced one of the most memorable years of his personal and professional lives.

The icing on the cake came on Tuesday, when the 25-year-old recording artiste copped his first nomination for Best Reggae Album for the fast-approaching Grammy Awards.

Chronology, a melodic triumph laden with roots-reggae riches and compelling food-for-thought, is in very good company. Also nominated this year are Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley for Stony Hill, J Boog (Wash House Ting), Common Kings (Lost in Paradise) and Morgan Heritage (Avrakadrabra). 

The 60th Annual Grammy Awards is all set to kick off the 2018 music calendar with a bang on the night of January 28 inside Madison Square Garden – a welcome change of scenery from the ceremony’s regular haunt of the Los Angeles-based Staples Centre. Superfunny comic and actor James Corden will host the ceremony to be broadcast live on CBS. 

Rap kingpin Jay-Z, who released 4:44 to glowing reviews, leads the pack of awards contenders with eight nominations, including bids for Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Rap Album. Kendrick Lamar is another strong candidate for multiple wins, thanks to the success of his latest CD, Damn, which scored seven nods. Bruno Mars, who got the party started this summer with 24K Magic, follows closely behind with six nominations. 

Meanwhile, Chronixx fans are getting in line for tickets for his eagerly awaited Chronology Jamaica Tour, a two-night concert event. On Friday, December 1, Mas Camp comes alive with performances by the freshly minted Grammy nominee and special guest Protoje, among others. On December 2, they make the trod to the west for a show at Pier 1.

PARADISE FOUND: German organist Gabriele Schenkel looks to set down roots in Jamaica

HOME & AWAY: “I fell in love with your country from the first time I came here,” offers the ace musician, pictured below with Jamaican organists attending one of her workshops.

THE virtuosic organ-playing that Downtown-based Kingstonians heard coming from the Kingston Parish Church around lunch time last Thursday afternoon was courtesy of Gabriele Schenkel, a German instrumentalist who has fallen madly in love with Jamaica and eagerly wants to set down roots here, to make the island her permanent home base. But for now, she it’s a home away from home. She moves back and forth between the Caribbean and Kiel, Germany, where she’s originally from.

“I like it here very much. I’ve been coming to Jamaica for 17 years. I fell in love with your country from the first time I came here, and I come back for holidays every year,” she tells TALLAWAH in her thick Deutschland lilt.

By all appearances, when Schenkel sets her mind to something, she pursues it doggedly. She’s serious about this living-in-Jamaica dream, so much so that she’s already invested in a slice of the paradise. Over a year ago, Schenkel purchased a piece of land in St. Mary. 

“I love the north coast,” she says of visiting the property that she plans to transform into a private sanctuary and retreat, away from the hustle and bustle of the big city and the familiar routine of her old life back in Europe. “If I get to live there forever, I’d be a very happy woman,” the 55-year-old musician adds, laughing.
We are standing inside the acoustic-rich Kingston Parish Church, where moments earlier Schenkel (alongside fellow musicians Rosina Moder, Peter Ashbourne and Alistair Petrie – and songstress Kimiela Isaacs) entertained a small but appreciative audience at the lunch-hour concert put on by the Institute of Jamaica. 

Schenkel gave a robust interpretation of Bach’s C Major Organ Solo, an organ solo by Hesse and a suite of compositions by the late Jamaican Samuel Felsted, who Moder told the audience (based on her ongoing research) was the first composer from Jamaica to headline a performance inside the Kingston Parish Church. So Schenkel, the honorary Jamaican, is following in fine footsteps. 

Since she’s been here, Gabriele Schenkel has composed a piece of her own, which she has titled ‘Eternity.’ “It’s about the number seven,” she tells us, “and the idea that out of many, we are one. I really want people to experience it. The first place I’ll be performing it publicly is at the Spanish Town Cathedral.”

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

REAL TALK: Where is the ‘Love’? Star-studded hurricane-relief concert shows it’s still alive and well

STRONGER TOGETHER: Singers Chris Martin and Romain Virgo make a show of brotherly unity while sharing the concert stage.

LAST Wednesday night, the Caribbean Love Now fundraising concert took over the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston. It was a resounding success, complete with a first-class entertainment package. It just goes to show what can be accomplished when hearts and minds come together for a supremely worthy cause. 

Joe Bogdanovich is fast becoming one of our favourite people – and is certainly one of the most intriguing Jamaicans of the year. He’s a businessman who has amassed considerable wealth and influence over the years, and what he’s making abundantly clear is that he’s committed to using that clout to do transformative work, not just in Jamaica but across the region. But, when all is said and done, it’s Jamaica that gets the credit. And I’m sure he’s cool with that. He doesn’t strike me as the fussy type. 

Meanwhile, I’m certain several of those reggae and dancehall megastars who gave of their time, talent and treasure to make the show the big success it was, had packed schedules but opted to make the extra effort to lend their support. In other words, we still have good people in the industry, in spite of the mass commercialization of the music. 

During the early hours of the concert on Wednesday night, the crowd was barely trickling in. But by the time the clock hit 9:00pm, and the likes of Carlene Davis, Toots Hibbert and Kevin Downswell graced the stage, there was hardly room for pedestrian traffic. That gave an awesome feeling. Everybody was there – from the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader and other public officials to public sector leaders, ballers and shot callers, and ordinary Jamaicans who wanted to be a part of this extraordinary moment. 

Those terrible hurricanes claimed numerous lives, destroyed homes and infrastructure, and forced many of our Caribbean brothers and sisters – some entire families – to start their lives all over again. We have a responsibility to help. As Bogdanovich said, we must help them rebuild. Fast. The Caribbean Love Now ‘Jamathon’ fundraiser and star-studded concert offered a sharp reminder that there’s life-changing power in team work – and what the world really needs now is ‘love’.

CULTURE VULTURE: Liguanea Art Festival returns for its 13th staging + Garfield Ellis wins Una Marson Prize + Davina Bennett ‘rocks the world’ at Miss Universe

CARIBBEAN QUEEN: When the curtains came down on the Miss Universe pageant inside Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas on Sunday night, Jamaica had secured its best finish at the annual beauty bash since the last five years. Our girl Davina Bennett was so impressive in her outing at the pageant that she was awarded the second runner-up spot (3rd place), right behind Miss Colombia Laura Gonzalez and eventual winner South African bombshell Demi-Leigh Nel Peters. The 66th annual Miss Universe pageant, which took place at The Axis (Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino) was hosted by blooper king Steve Harvey, with the likes of TV faces Jay Manuel and Ross Matthews and Trinidad’s Wendy Fitzwilliam serving on the judging panel. In addition to Jamaica, Colombia and South Africa, this year’s set of Top 10 contestants included Miss Brazil, Canada, Philippines, Spain, Thailand, Venezuela and the United States.

LITERARY GEMS: “It’s very important for us to unearth and encourage great Jamaican writing at home. It’s very important that we acknowledge writing that is valuable and not just valuable in tangible ways,” says Jamaican Writers Society president and Lignum Vitae Awards chairman Tanya Batson-Savage, on the occasion of this year’s awards presentation, which took place at the National Gallery last Friday. The top award going – the Una Marson Prize for Adult Fiction (valued at $500,000) went to Garfield Ellis for his latest novel Land We Love. Helen Williams copped the Jean DaCosta Award for Children’s Literature (which comes with a $250,000) cash incentive) for her book Lost in the Cockpit Country. There was no winner of the Vic Reid Award for Young Adult Literature (also valued at $250,000), but Dionne Brown’s story collection, Seventeen Lashes, was singled out for special commendation. Presented every two years, the Lignum Vitae Awards were established to encourage Jamaican writers at home, at all stages of their careers, to produce original, high-quality and outstandingly creative work.

SHOW & TELL: Jamaica’s single largest art-lovers extravaganza, the Liguanea Art Festival, returns to its new home (the Liguanea Plaza) for its 13th staging and to reaffirm its place as “the artbeat of Jamaica” this Sunday, December 3. As in years past, the scores of patrons (shoppers, collectors, et al) are in for a world-class fine-art exhibition showcasing paintings, drawings, sculpture, ceramics, photography and jewelry – and a host of art activities for the kids and the entire family. Among the dozens of artists and artisans (established and emerging talents) who will have works on view (and on sale!) are Laura Facey, Gene Pearson, Donnette Zacca, Charl Baker, Lennox Coke, Glynne Manley, Jermaine Morgan, Howard Moo-Young and Franz Marzouca. Visit to see the complete list of names.

VISUAL APPEAL: Company Dance Theatre delivers a stellar showcase on the eve of their 30th anniversary

MAGIC MOMENT: CDT's variety of movement and music, moods and textures, easily won over the large audience.

“THE Web” by Tony Wilson is probably the saddest dancework you’ll ever see performed on the Jamaican stage. Driven by the mournful strains of songbird Lisa Gerrard, the very elegiac work features ghost-like dancers losing themselves in the delicate choreography, as they explore grief, identity, sexuality, freedom and other ideas to heartbreakingly sorrowful effect. The costuming – female and male dancers dressed billowy black skirts with red strings – and the varied lighting by Nadia Roxburgh amplified the work’s overall appeal.

“The Web” was one of six pieces showcased during Company Dance Theatre’s thrilling 29th season (at the Little Theatre in Kingston last weekend), which proved that for a troupe on the cusp of entering its third decade, CDT still ranks among the cream-of-the-crop in the biz.

Wilson also dipped into the archives to remount “Silhouette” (2002), a jazz-club dancefloor offering, full of energy, slinky movement and lots of sexy shoulder attitude. We loved the loose-fitting sleeveless dresses, the neon-bright strobe lights and the infectious big-band sounds courtesy of Duke Ellington.

By contrast, Wilson’s “Journey” (2013), driven by master composer Hans Zimmer’s majestic score, featured the dancers alternately exuding gracefulness and a warrior-like energy, as the moods and textures, nuances and contours of the work manifested. By the time the climax came, their beautiful young bodies were all a-glistening with sweat under the bright lights.

While the agile Steven Cornwall delivered a stellar solo during “Journey’s third movement, the talented Rochelle Kamika was a seductively virtuous centerpiece for “Streams” (2005), a moody, transporting work centred on purity, cleansing and a sense of rebirth. 

The night’s other choreographer was Renée McDonald, a CDT alumna who has gone on to do amazing things on the international scene. She returned home this season to remount the girl-power smash “Divulgence”. It didn’t have the mesmerizing flame of the 2014 original (that was truly something else), but it still connected with its unbridled and simply exhilarating adrenaline quotient. 

We loved McDonald’s brand-new work “5Urge,” which boasts four females and a male making light work of the mercurial choreography. Subtly erotic to boot, the piece finds the dancers ‘getting acquainted’ and moving in sync, while making use of the ample stage space – in the end, giving new meaning to danger and the heart’s desire. 

McDonald is beyond talented. Her work is – consistently – living, breathing art, and “5Urge” is compelling testament. Wilson, the man who groomed her, must be one proud papa.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

GIVING WITH ‘LOVE’: Strong support, sizzling performances make C’bean Love Now fundraiser a solid success

CHEERFUL GIVERS: Bogdanovich (second left) is joined on stage by Holness, Grange and Robert Russell.

ANDREW Holness prefers to let his money do the talking. While on stage at Caribbean Love Now on Wednesday night, the prime minister donated US$1,500 to the worthy cause, which is about raising direly needed funds to go towards rebuilding homes and infrastructure in hurricane damaged islands across the region, but especially Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, which were laid bare by the passage of Irma and Maria.

The star-studded fundraising concert, which drew an enormous throng of supporters to the National Indoor Sports Centre, also drew appearances from such government ministers and public officials as Opposition Leader Dr. Peter Phillips, Damion Crawford, Wykeham McNeill, Floyd Green and Culture Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, who pledged $100,000.

Joe Bogdanovich, the visionary and driving force behind the initiative, said he would donate US$15,000. The way Bogdanovich looks at the situation is simple. “It could have happened to any of us, so we want to help them rebuild fast,” said the DownSound Entertainment head honcho, who saw firsthand the massive damage during a helicopter tour of some of the badly affected area a few months ago. 

Video footage was shown during Wednesday’s action-packed concert, where entertainers from the likes of Grammy winners Beenie Man, Sean Paul and Toots Hibbert to standout talents Romain Virgo, Chris Martin, Kevin Downswell, Protoje and Jesse Royal delivered splendid performances. 

Freddie McGregor was magnificent as always, and Beres Hammond had to be called back onstage to deliver an encore. 

“I want to thank Joe for putting this together, and I want to make an appeal to everybody to give generously. The people in the Caribbean have been devastated by three hurricanes,” PM Holness noted while addressing the concert crowd. “This is a very good example of Caribbean people looking out for each other. Give as much as you can to help our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean.”

CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: Of Reggae Grammy nominees, the evolution of Jamaican dancehall and Reneé McDonald’s remarkable growth

THAT TIME AGAIN: Come next Tuesday, November 28, the latest crop of nominees who will vie for Best Reggae Album at the Grammy Awards will be announced by the Recording Academy. It’s anyone’s guess who will make the final cut, but the voters did have a solid bunch of releases to choose from, including several from the VP Records camp. Queen Ifrica released Climb, Christopher Martin dropped Big Deal and Jesse Royal put out Lily of Da Valley – to cite a few of the big names. Damian Marley’s Stony Hill, released on his birthday in July, could also emerge as a serious contender. Marley hasn’t been in the race since Welcome to Jamrock created history back in 2006, picking up two awards in one night. Then there was the hot-shot debut, Chronology, from Mr. Dread & Terrible himself (aka Chronixx). And we expect to see a few unfamiliar names on the list – those “international reggae artistes” who hail from other countries. To be considered for a nomination, albums had to have been released during the eligibility period – October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017. The upcoming Grammy Awards ceremony (the 60th awards show!) will be held on January 28 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. TV host and ace comic James Corden will emcee the ceremony to be broadcast live on CBS.

MAKING MOVES: Company Dance Theatre, Xaymaca, North America’s Alvin Ailey troupe – the number of performing arts companies that have been mounting works by Renée McDonald is on the rise. This comes as no surprise as McDonald (at just 20-something) is already displaying a genius for locating the statement-making art in choreography, producing works that not only move and captivate but also delight and instruct. Her latest offering, “5Urge,” the sole new work that the Tony Wilson-led CDT presented during their recent 29th season, continues her impressive track record, with its eloquent vocabulary, engrossing movement and tight flow. Simply unforgettable. Catching up with her after the show, we had to ask about the Alvin Ailey experience earlier this year. “It was really life-changing. I never thought that was something I’d experience so early in my career. I don’t know how to explain it,” she confessed, blushing uncontrollably. The work she presented clocked five minutes. Now she’s looking to turn it into a 21-minute offering. McDonald is a multi-tasker. At present, she is on her final lap at the Norman Manley Law School, looking to join her peers at graduation next year. But she is facing a dilemma. “I still haven’t decided whether I’m going to do choreography or do law full-time,” she admits. Why not do both? we suggest. “I might eventually do that,” she concedes, “But I really need to figure out my life!” Instinct tells us she’ll figure it out.

DANCEHALL REWIND: With their December stage production, From Den Till Now: Inna Dancehall Style, the Orville Hall-led Dance Xpressionz wants to highlight the evolution of Jamaican dancehall (and dance) culture over the decades, fusing movement, drama and other elements into an exhilarating and edutaining whole. “In reggae and dancehall, we have embraced different genres and styles from all over the world – Latin beats, afro beats, hip-hop. So a lot of the younger generation don’t know where the music is coming from. They think they have invented something new. They don’t take the time to study the history of the dancehall,” Hall observes. With From Den Till Now, DTX (now 16 years old) is talking them to school. The production opens December 8 at the Phoenix Theatre in New Kingston.

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 Renée 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