Saturday, 25 November 2017

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.

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