Friday, 31 August 2018

CHAT ’BOUT: Quotables from Johnny Gourzong, Pamela Lawson, St. Jago High’s Damario Patterson, and more

“Principals are not extortionists. The dollar grind hits their funds, too. Their responsibility is to be accountable for all that the Government and parents contribute and to make sure, upon pain of losing their job, that no child is excluded from school because of poverty.” – Opposition spokesman on Education, Ronald Thwaites 

“We want to make [schoolboy] football even bigger than Champs, so we are going to be investing a lot of our money – and even money from Champs, if necessary – into football in such a way to ensure that the product is good.” – ISSA President, Dr. Walton Small 

“I am confident that we have the potential, but as people we need to regain our civility towards each other and to understand that you have to maintain law and order if you are going to move forward… I see a country that will be an outstanding nation in the world. We have the potential. We have shown it in so many different ways.” – Reggae Sumfest co-founder and new Order of Distinction honoree Johnny Gourzong 

“I urge Jamaicans, the media and well-meaning individuals to temper the sensationalism. Let not the many injuries and lives that have been lost over the years by dog attacks be in vain. Let us come together and responsibly learn from mistakes of other nations, implement a national strategy and amend our legislation to address this scourge on our society.” – Pamela Lawson, Head of the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 

“I aimed to get a perfect score, even though I was severely handicapped by not having an electronic device such as a laptop to work with. It required me to stay back at school very late sometimes.” – Future lawyer Damario Patterson (St. Jago High, 11 distinctions, 2018 CSEC Exams)

HEART TO YOURS: Song stylist Nickieshia Barnes pays tribute to Aretha, Bob and her roots

SING IT, SISTER: Barnes was this month's musical guest at the National Gallery's Last Sundays.

NICKEISHIA Barnes is an old soul and, she says, Grandma is to blame. “I grew up listening to a lot of 50s and 60s music because I grew with my grandmother who was a seamstress, and I would be putting on buttons with her while she played her music. A lot of Aretha, Sinatra,” she reflects. “So the smell of coffee brings me back to that place.” 

Her performances, too. Doing a splendid mid-afternoon gig at the National Gallery on Sunday, Barnes, clad in form-fitting all-black, launched into suite of vintage hits that always take her back to being by Grandma’s side. Barnes treated her audience to a tuneful rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman,” Grandma’s all-time favourite song, showing off her impressive vocal range and that penchant for making every song she performs her own. 

Aretha, who recently passed after a long illness, was an early inspiration. “When I first saw her, I was about six years old, and I was floored. This was a woman who looked like me and made me realize that I could dream it and it could be possible. A beautiful African queen like myself.” 

Barnes, a Rising Stars alum, is a very expressive songstress and song stylist, whose gorgeous voice and big, dramatic eyes reel you in. So when giving interpretations of “You Don’t Know What It’s Like” (originally penned for Nina Simone but popularized by Michael Bolton) or Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” you are riveted. She has presence, so her take on Adele’s “One and Only” is truly powerful stuff, full of earnestness and yearning. 

But Barnes also has great original music to her credit, with such gems as “Kisses in the Morning,” “Tra La La (In Love),” “Reach Out” and “Rock of Ages” among the highlights in her growing body of work. A daughter of Arnett Gardens, she loves her community and her reggae-culture roots. (“I’m a Junglist. I’m a fighter,” she says.) And in performing songs like Dawn Penn’s “No No No,” for example, she can’t resist making her own pull-it-up-selecta request, much to the delight of the attentive and appreciative audience. 

To that end, Bob Marley holds an extra-special place in her heart. She says that even now, well into adulthood, she is constantly in awe of his songs of freedom and love. “Turn Your Lights Down Low” (complete with the Lauryn Hill rap) works the audience into a sing-along frenzy. You can tell that it’s truly her favourite Bob Marley tune.

NEWS FEED: Marva Bernard shares plans for AFNA presidency + Colleagues mourn Easton Douglas + JCDC recognizes top Creative Writing entrants

>> Over 90 local writers were recognized during the recent awards ceremony for the National Creative Writing competition, held at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston. The cream-of-the-crop entrants picked up trophies, medals and other tokens for their outstanding submissions in the categories of essays, novels, plays, short stories and poetry. Collette D. Robinson was named Best Adult Poet and Best Overall Writer. Joseph Edwards, another top awardee, was named Outstanding Writer. Special Writer honours went to Nickashie Hardware, while Malachi D. Smith (Choice Writer) and Novelette Smith (Noteworthy Writer) rounded out the top-five finishers. Among the prize recipients: Dionne A. Brown (Best Junior Short Story Writer), Jeffrey Johnson (Best Intermediate Essayist) and Antoinette Henry (Best Adult Novelist). “These are outstanding amateur and professional writers who pour themselves into their creative works,” says the JCDC’s Andrew Clunis, “and [we] stand committed to honouring [their] effort by developing, showcasing and preserving their noteworthy works.” 

>> Marva Bernard has been elected President of the Americas Federation of Netball Associations (AFNA). “My objectives are to build on what I have inherited to make [the sport in] the region better than I found it,” says the former Netball Jamaica president. “Umpiring, coaching and administration are critical areas for further development. According to insiders, Bernard’s involvement was crucial to the success of the recent inaugural staging of the AFNA High School Championships, hosted in Kingston. 

>> Former parliamentary colleagues, friends and bereaved relatives are mourning the death of Easton Douglas. The former MP for South East St. Elizabeth, permanent secretary and Chairman of the National Housing Trust died on Sunday after a long battle with cancer. He was 81 years old. “Easton Douglas has etched his place in the history of Jamaica,” says PM Andrew Holness. “His legacy is one of sacrifice, dedication and service for the development of Jamaica and its people.”

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

INTO THE WILD: Alpha connects with a riveting story of danger and a boy’s determination

ON THE ALERT: Keda and his friend face a stern survival test in the new movie.

BY the standards of his fellow tribesmen, Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a softie. His thoughtful mother worries about him constantly because, according to her, he leads with his heart and not his spear. His father, however, shows him tough love. “Life is for the strong. It is earned, not given,” he tells the boy, who refuses to kill to eat. 

But Keda soon learns that living in that world you really don’t have a choice. 

The teenager is the central character in the deeply engrossing new drama Alpha, the latest in a long line of brutal survival films (including Cast Away with Tom Hanks and this year’s Adrift with Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin) that are as compelling as they are cringe-worthy. 

When he joins his father and the other men on a dangerous hunt for food for the village, Keda’s eyes are opened. After a savage attack by a wild beast leaves him near the bottom of a steep cliff, his father and the others have no choice but to abandon him to make it back home before more lives are claimed. A great snowstorm is fast approaching. 

Keda miraculously survives the fall and finds the strength to get up. But now he faces the toughest test of his life. 

Forming an unlikely bond with a wolf abandoned by its pack, Keda toughens up. Through merciless wilderness heat and blinding snow, fending off attacks from ravenous hyenas and other creatures, Keda and his new buddy must fight to stay alive.

You feel his pain and are reminded that in certain cultures, these are the kinds of rituals, initiations, youngsters face to prove their manhood and gain acceptance among their people. 

Writer-director Albert Hughes expertly ratchets up the intrigue, and the sharp 3D visuals and frequently stunning cinematography pull you into the story. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

NEWS & NOTES: 19-yo Emily Maddison wins Miss J’ca Universe crown + ISSA secures $168M deal with new football sponsors

GOLDEN GIRLS: Outshining 23 other contestants, Emily Maddison was crowned Miss Jamaica Universe before a supersized Jamaica Pegasus audience in New Kingston on Friday night. Kadejah Anderson copped second place, while Kayla Smith finished third. Maddison, a 19-year-old Campion College graduate, won four of the sectional prizes: Most Photogenic, Best In Evening Wear, Best in Swimwear and Most Popular on Social Media. The award for Most Improved went to Denesha East. Annecia Morgan copped the Runway Star prize. Smith (the third-place winner) won the People’s Choice Award and Lanae Gillette was voted Most Congenial. 

‘FRESHHH’ START: Following a glitzy launch at the Terra Nova Hotel in St. Andrew last week, ISSA has officially announced that corporate giants Wisynco and Digicel are the new title sponsors of the DaCosta Cup and Ben Francis Cup and the Manning and Walker Cup schoolboy football tournaments respectively. The combined sponsorship is $168 million over three years. As such, schools have the opportunity to collect prize monies amounting to over $3.5 million across all three competitions. Associate sponsors include SportsMax and KFC. The new-look 2018 season kicks off on September 8 with an opening ceremony at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, Catherine Hall, in St. James.

Monday, 27 August 2018

BEAUTY OF THE WEEK: Actress Trishana Wright talks empowerment, sex scenes and healthy living

MAD ABOUT YOU: Wright gives costar Rolando Fagan the silent treatment.

“I love seafood,” says actress Trishana Wright, enjoying some post-performance downtime at the Phoenix Theatre in New Kingston, where she’s co-starring in her first play, Sugar Daddy, and earning raves for her breakout role as ambitious good girl Kysan. Wright also loves her pasta, balanced meals and lots of water to keep her sharp and looking fly-girl fly.

In the play, Wright has to grapple with mountains of stress (thanks largely to Kysan’s trifling boyfriend Jermaine), but in real life, the actress has a simple formula for keeping the stress at bay. “I believe in confronting the problem, no matter what it is, and trying to handle it as best as possible. But if it’s not something I can deal with, I just leave it alone,” says the 23-year-old up-and-comer who earns her nine-to-five as a quality assurance analyst.

Sugar Daddy is an action-packed erotic drama, which means nudity and sex. How does one prepare for a sex scene for live theatre? Wright blushes. “There is no specific way to prepare,” says the actress, who has to shed her clothes and her inhibitions for a red-light moment with co-star David Tulloch. “I forget about the audience. I try to motivate myself and tell myself, ‘You’ll be good,’ because I know I have to deliver and be ready to play my role.” 

Thankfully, she’s working with a team of supportive cast members. “We are a family. We motivate each other backstage. We’re always praying and laughing and just enjoying the experience.” 

As she tells TALLAWAH, Wright, a Kingstonian, is a ghetto girl born and raised, but she long decided that where she’s from was never going to define her. 

“I’m getting to experience different levels of myself. I don’t believe in settling for less than the best,” says the young woman who graduated from Convent of Mercy Alpha Academy in 2013 and excelled at the 2016 World Championship of the Performing Arts in Los Angeles, taking home silver and bronze medals. 

“You just have to believe in yourself and invest in yourself and know that you were born to be great,” she says. 

A huge fan of Taraji P. Henson and the Fifty Shades of Grey series, Wright is excited by the endless possibilities that await her. “I see me going as far as I can go,” she admits. “There’s no limit. They say the sky is the limit, but I feel like I’m soaring above the sky right now.”

THE FLORIDA MATTER: Grange, Miller and what the Jamaica Tallawahs really need

TEAM SPIRIT: Fans flocked to Sabina Park last week to show their support for the home side.

THINGS were going swimmingly well for the Jamaica Tallawahs, who enjoyed a six-wicket win over the Kieron Pollard-led St. Lucia Stars at Sabina Park on August 15, as action heated up in the Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) Twenty20 tournament.

The team then left Sabina Park for Lauderhill, Florida, to face the Guyana Amazon Warriors and the Trinbago Knight Riders. Clearly, such a move was not in their favour – playing these “home games” outside the Caribbean. No one has said it better than first-time team captain André Russell, who did not mince words in lamenting the decision to have his side play these home games outside the Caribbean.

According to Russell, the kind of support and home-crowd energy that they get at Sabina Park is frustratingly absent in Florida. But why are the Jamaica Tallawahs playing home matches outside the Caribbean in the first place?

Team CEO, Jefferson Miller, has some answers. “I live in Lauderhill, and there are a lot of Jamaicans in Lauderhill, so we are just giving them the opportunity to see the Jamaica Tallawahs in action,” Miller recently revealed in response to queries from journalists. “That is the only reason we are playing games in Lauderhill and no other reason.”

But certainly Miller has heard the complaints and concerns from players and fans alike about this Florida venue! “I have heard a lot of things,” Miller says, “but I just want people to know that we will always be the Jamaica Tallawahs, and we will always play games in Jamaica.” 

Sports minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange has been asked to weigh in on the matter, which continues to dominate headlines and radio call-in programme discussions. Everybody loves the Jamaica Tallawahs, Grange concedes, but the Florida decision is one that’s due for review. 

“Cricket is more than a game for Jamaican and Caribbean people across the world. There is a special fondness for cricket, and therefore I understand the attempt by the franchise-holders to satisfy fans in Jamaica and in the Diaspora by playing some home games at Sabina Park and others in Florida,” Grange says. “This is still a new way of doing things, and I expect that the administrators will review and make the necessary adjustments in the interest of the franchise.” 

In a nutshell, the Jamaica Tallawahs need a playing ground that provides home-turf advantage and, by all accounts, Lauderhill is not working out.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

BLESSED BE THE PEOPLE: The Parables thrills with stunning visuals and show-stopping musical numbers

PASSION & POWER: The rousing show uses Biblical examples to teach certain truths.

The Parables (Father HoLung & Friends) 
Director: Greg Thames 
Cast: Leighton Jones, Hanief Lallo, Carlos Henry, Daniel Dailey and Rohan Jacques (et al) 
Venue: Little Theatre, Kingston 

IF nothing else, The Parables proves that Father HoLung & Friends do not need a big budget or parting-the-Red-Sea spectacle to put on a great show. Full of rousing musical numbers, highly commendable acting performances and appealing visuals, their latest theatrical production is an enthralling, entertaining smash that’s all the more remarkable for its utter minimalism, a surprising simplicity. 

In crafting this 47th anniversary show, what HoLung and ace director Greg Thames have done is draw on a handful of New Testament parables and other popular Biblical lore and elevate them into anecdotal narratives charged with empowering lessons for today’s generation. So the retelling of a story like The Rich Man & Lazarus explores not only ugly human nature; it also teaches endurance and forgiveness. 

Also highlighted is the healing of blind Bartimeus, the driving of the demons from the possessed boy, the return of the prodigal son and, most dazzling of all, a show-stopping showdown between Moses and Pharaoh, played with great menace and heft by Hanief Lallo. 

But at the centre of all the action are three brethren on a soul-searching journey of truth: the newly healed Bartimeus (Daniel Dailey), a man named David (Leighton Jones) and money lover Bigga (Carlos Henry). 

The show’s second half, meanwhile, brings a mélange of stirring, popular tunes that Father HoLung & Friends have delivered in their sold-out productions over the years, with such highlights as “Praise Him,” “Building a House,” and “I Will Serve You,” beautifully rendered by an all-male quartet. 

Marcelle Thomas’ creamy alto is a delight as she performs the solo “Feed the People” and Rohan Jacques is in his element as he takes the lead on the big choral numbers, which climax with a sprightly, bring-them-to-their-feet version of “The Lord is My Shepherd.” Musical Director Wynton Williams deserves mighty kudos for a job well done. 

In the end, The Parables (boasting some gorgeous costumes and inventive choreography) is a well-lit and winning blend of updated Biblical drama, humour, simple striking visuals and lush choral harmonies. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

NEWS FEED: Hilary Beckles pays tribute to Naipaul + Ronald Thwaites weighs in on Reid’s CXC argument + Jason Hall appointed Ambassador to Mexico

>> Thwaites: ‘CXC is not perfect but…’ 
The recent suggestion by Education minister Ruel Reid that Jamaica should move away from the CXC model of external examinations has raised more than a few eyebrows. Opposition spokesman Ronald Thwaites does not agree with Reid. The CXC model has its shortcomings, Thwaites argued in a recent op-ed, but it still has its place. “CXC is not perfect. Jamaica pays too much for its services, and the standard of some examinations is not as high as it needs to be if more of our graduates are to be world-competitive,” Thwaites notes. “But we must stop dissing institutions of our own creation in the wrong-headed effort to show ourselves to be innovative.” According to recent reports, Jamaica has seen a 3.8 percent increase in CXC passes, when compared with the 2017 results. 

>> Jason Hall to be Jamaica’s man in Mexico 
Former Deputy Director of Tourism Jason Hall has been names Jamaica’s Ambassador-Designate to Mexico. Hall is set to replace Sandra Grant-Griffiths, who has been reassigned to Kingston as chief of state protocol. Hall, who holds a Master’s degree in Marine Policy from the University of Wales (and also studied at the United World College of Southern Africa), has extensive work and travel experience that has taken him throughout the Caribbean, Africa and Europe. Fluent in Spanish, Portuguese and French, he previously held management roles at Supreme Ventures and Jampro.

>> Beckles on Naipaul: ‘He was magisterial, very special’ 
Hailing him as the St. Paul of Caribbean civilization, Prof. Hilary Beckles says the late V.S. Naipaul was in a league of his own, as he chronicled the peaks and valleys of Caribbean realities. “In many respects, Naipaul was the all-seeing inner eye that witnessed inconvenient truths daily brushed under a mountainous Caribbean rug. [He] was very special in every sense,” the UWI Vice Chancellor said, paying tribute. “For more than half-a-century, the master scribe was magisterial in pursuit of his mission. All who read and heard him, marvelled at his intellectual insights, though his panache for pinching the raw nerve extracted fury from a few.” The British-Trinidadian literary legend, who won the 2001 Nobel Prize for Literature, recently passed away at his home in the UK. He was 85 years old.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

SPORTING GIANTS: Usain Bolt outlines priorities for training stint with Mariners + Chanderpaul and Holding to receive UWI honorary degrees

ALL-TIME GREATS: Legendary cricketers Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Michael Holding; new President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Justice Adrian Saunders; businessman Kenny Benjamin, musician Monty Alexander and pop icon Grace Jones are among 17 outstanding Caribbean nationals who will be conferred with honorary degrees by the University of the West Indies (UWI) at their graduation ceremonies in October and November. “As is tradition, the honorary graduands represent a cross-section of eminent people in the arts, sciences and other fields,” says UWI Chancellor Robert Bermudez. The schedule of graduation ceremonies begins at the St. Lucia-based Open Campus (on Oct. 13), at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados (Oct. 20), Trinidad’s St. Augustine Campus (Oct. 25-27) and at Jamaica’s Mona Campus (Nov 2-3). Each ceremony will be streamed live allowing friends, family and well-wishers to view the proceedings.

GAME PLAN: Usain Bolt had his first day of training with Australia’s Central Coast Mariners on Tuesday. The session was followed by a press conference for eager journalists to get their questions answered. Bolt was utterly candid as he shared his thoughts and outlined his priorities. “The first day of training is always the roughest, but it felt okay, and I’m ready to work. That’s why I’m here,” he said. The sprint legend, who has already done stints with football clubs in South Africa and Europe, is very clear about what he wants to accomplish during the trial run that is set for an indefinite period. “I’m just trying to get over the first hurdle, pushing to get a contract,” he explained. “I’m very cool under pressure, but I know I have to work on the basic skills. I’m not setting any standards; I just want to push more to be better.” Bolt, who also celebrated his 32nd birthday on Tuesday, has been named an ambassador (alongside Grammy winner Sean Paul) for the recently launched Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator programme.

PICKING THE RIGHT GIRL: Miss J’ca World franchise-holders shaking up the traditional formula

GIRLS WITH VOICES: Salmon (centre) emerged best in show at Monday's talent parade.

ON Monday night, Miss Hilda’s Wine Jelly, Shanique Salmon, earned the gold medal and an automatic spot in the Miss Jamaica World Top 10, following a triumphant, heartfelt rendition of Adele’s “When We Were Young,” which won the talent portion of the annual beauty pageant. The Phoenix Theatre played host to the event, which drew a full house. The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel will host the grand coronation show, scheduled for the night of September 1.

Salmon’s runners-up were Amaya Lewis (Miss Autocraze) and Tamaya Henry (Miss Absolute New York), who won the silver and the bronze respectively.

What audience members enjoyed on Monday night was a first in the history of the beauty pageant. According to co-franchise holder Weston Haughton, the public had never been invited to see the talent performance segment of the competition. While Haughton and business partner Aston Cooke do not intend to completely change how the competition has been run, they are keenly interested in shaking up the formula, putting their own unique spin on things.

“We will be having the usual five fast-track events before coronation night, but there will be no swimwear segment on coronation night. That’s a brand-new change,” Haughton tells TALLAWAH. “We’ll still have the beach beauty contest, but no swimwear will be included at the finale, and that’s the first time that’s being done.”

For the record, Haughton likes seeing their new ideas come to life. “It’s also the first time,” he shares, “that the girls are getting to perform in a theatre to show off the talent.” 

And there’s more for the road leading up to September 1. In addition to the usual courtesy calls on the Governor General and other dignitaries, the girls will pay a visit to General Foods supermarket for a brunch with June Wong and her team. Sandals MoBay will provide the setting for a Miss Jamaica Top Model competition. Kool FM will host the ladies for some recording sessions. 

Outreach and community projects are also in the works, highlighting the pageant’s core theme of ‘Beauty with a Purpose.’ “It has to be a way of life for the ladies,” says Cooke. “We’re seeking to find a young lady with a passion for service and a love of country. So we’re looking for a very special young lady.”

GOOD NEWS: CXC passes jump 3.8% + PIOJ reports favourable growth in J’can economy + J’ca hosting ‘Water’ conference in October

WATER IS LIFE: Jamaica will host the 27th annual Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA) conference and exhibition from October 8-12 at the Hilton Rose Hall in Montego Bay. Over 40 regional and international delegates and participants are expected to attend the five-day event, which is being held under the theme “Climate Resilience: Innovation and Partnership for Sustainable Water and Wastewater Development.” PM Andrew Holness will deliver the keynote address. 

>> The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) says the local economy grew by an estimated 1.8 percent for the April to June quarter, when compared with the same period last year. “Indications are that the pace of economic growth will continue to strengthen during the remainder of 2018,” says PIOJ Director-General, Dr. Wayne Henry. “The forecast for the financial year 2018/19 is that growth is projected to be within the range of 2-3 percent.” 

>> When compared with the 2017 results, there’s a noticeable 3.8 percent increase in passes by students who sat the May/June CSEC Exams. According to the Education ministry, a total of 63, 428 candidates were registered to sit the exams. Of the registered candidates, 93.9 percent sat the exams. Seventy-eight percent obtained Grades One to Three. At the same time, when the average attainment rates for Maths and English were compared to the 2017 results, there were noticeable increases of 4.5 percent and 2.9 percent in passes respectively.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: Newbie actress Kimberly Gray hosts EduSummer programme for innercity kids

ALL MY CHILDREN: Over 40 kids participated in the summer programme, which Gray (seated, back row) hopes to stage annually.

GROWING up in Torrington Park, a tough, down-on-its-luck community in Kingston, Kimberly Gray saw how financially challenging it is for inner-city parents to send their kids to summer school or enroll them in summer programmes. That, in part, prompted her to launch EduSummer.

Recently wrapping its debut staging (July 9-28) in Admiral Town, the programme combines sports, reading corner, painting, the performing arts and other fun activities to provide the more than 40 kids with an experience steeped in life-changing edutainment.

“When I came up with the idea I didn’t know how people would respond to it, but the response has been overwhelming. I got about 45 kids to enroll, and we had an awards ceremony at the end,” says a delighted Gray, who also managed to secure some financial backing from the Member of Parliament, Mark Golding.

At 21 years old, Gray, who exudes the glam and charm of a young Carlene, has regular flashbacks to the pageants and plays she used to enter, put on in her home community to offer talented youngsters the opportunity to shine. Fast-forward about five years and, in addition to paying it forward with this summer programme, Gray is embarking on an acting career.

Viewers of this season’s must-see erotic drama Sugar Daddy are left in stitches as she burns a hole in the stage with her portrayal of the ‘cheeky’ Moya, the kind of vixen who epitomizes sugar and spice, the naughty and the nice. “Moya is a bad girl because of her experiences. She’s strong and I like that. I like to be in control, even in relationships,” says Gray, who is a past student of St. Andrew Technical. 

Appearing in her first commercial theatre production has nudged her out of her comfort zone, she readily admits. Now, she wants it all. “In the next five to ten years, I see myself doing a lot more big theatre productions. I want to travel and hopefully perform in places like Vegas and Paris,” she says. 

But, for now, she’s channeling her energies into the sassy character, an underwear line that she recently started, and the summer programme. “For December, I’m thinking of doing another programme,” Gray says, “to help the kids who will be doing PEP next year.” We see motherhood in her future.

NEWS & NOTES: Dr. Garth Anderson is new JTA president + Lennox Channer appointed NHT Chairman + Bolt and Sean Paul named CCA ambassadors

>> Olympic sprint legend Usain Bolt and Grammy winner Sean Paul are the ambassadors of the recently launched Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator programme. In their new roles, the Jamaican icons will be using their star power to promote the call for climate-smart action in the region and globally. The programme, endorsed by the World Bank and the IDB, was launched on August 9 at the UWI Mona campus. It brings together more than 26 countries dedicated to promoting climate-smart action and making the Caribbean the world’s first climate-smart zone.

>> Among the highlights of this week’s 54th annual Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) conference at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa in Montego Bay is the installation of Dr. Garth Anderson as the new JTA president. Current principal of Church Teachers’ College in Manchester, Dr. Anderson succeeds Georgia Waugh Richards. Already, Dr. Anderson has a successor, as veteran educator Owen Speid has been tapped as President-elect, waiting in the wings to assume the top job at the end of Anderson’s tenure.

>> Lennox Channer is the new Chairman of the National Housing Trust (NHT). Channer brings vast corporate-world expertise to the job, having served such companies as Caribbean Broilers, Digicel and the National Commercial Bank. Current Vice-President of Accounting at the Jamaica Broilers Group, Channer holds a BSc from UWI Mona and an MSc from the University of Florida. “I do intend to continue the great work of my predecessor [Dr. Nigel Clarke],” Channer says. “I am well aware of [PM Holness’] vision and charge to the NHT to build more houses, and I take the charge to build more houses.” For the 2018/19 financial year, the Chairman reveals, the NHT will be spending over $30 billion on housing projects.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

TALLAWAH BOOK CLUB: K. Sean Harris’ latest, VCB’s inspiring debut, plus summer reading picks

NATURAL MYSTIC: Reggae Superstar is K. Sean Harris’ 28th book, and it’s just as intriguing and page-turning as the best entries in his popular canon. It’s about Jomo Jacobs (aka Jah Buds), a rising singer and songwriter burning with ambition. But he must overcome some harsh socio-economic realities on his quest to become the next Bob Marley. “I’m a fan of music, so I had a lot of fun developing these characters,” Harris tells Book Club. “It’s really me exploring my perception of the music business on a deeper level and making use of my little inside knowledge as to how things really work behind the scenes.” Not to toot his own horn, but the prolific author is quick to assure his diehard fans and newcomers to his literary world that Reggae Superstar “has all the trappings of a K. Sean Harris story” – intrigue, suspense, drama, sex and valuable life lessons. “I hope it serves as an inspiration not just for those who want to enter the music business,” says Harris, who already has two more juicy novels on the way, “but also anyone who needs a little motivation in the pursuit of their dreams.” 

>> Be sure to pick up a copy of Veronica Campbell-Brown’s inspiring new tome, Inside Out: Activate the Power Within You. Why was it important for her to write this book? “I wrote Inside Out to help people get a deeper meaning in their lives and just to find fulfilment,” the sprint icon says. “Life is not always easy, but when life knocks us down we have to be mentally tough to keep working at being successful.” 

>> Also new in books: Check out the buzzworthy new titles from Fabian Thomas (New Thought, New Words); Shelley Sykes-Coley (Chat ’Bout: An Anthology of Jamaican Conversations) and Rachel Manley (The Black Peacock). 

>> STAR TALK: What are you reading this summer? 
“What I’m reading right now is Recantations by Loretta Collins Klobah. She was at Calabash in 2012. This is her latest collection, and she is killing it,” shares fellow poetess Millicent Graham….. “One of the books I just finished reading is Origins by Dan Brown. And I’m now on to Across the Nightingale Floor by Liam Hearn,” says prize-winning stage director Greg Thames, currently helming Father HoLung & Friends’ The Parables.

THE BEAUTY PAGE: Charming stone jewelry, soothing castor oil, scented soy candles, and more

>> Set the mood with your own customized scented soy candles from IllumiScents. Businesswoman Ramona Stephenson-Myrie boasts that her candles deliver an impressive range of scents and designs to suit every taste and occasion. Bonus: they burn longer and brighter than the average scented candle. At the moment, operations are primarily based online, but Stephenson-Myrie and her team are now looking to partner with distributors to take IllumiScents into homes, hotels and offices islandwide. Find them on Instagram at illumiscent_candles or call (876) 318-3330. 

>> When it comes to healthy living, Kelly Moxam lives by a simple mantra. “If it’s something you wouldn’t use on your skin, you shouldn’t put it in your body,” she says. That’s the kind of sage advice she’s been sharing with the dozens of Jamaicans who’ve discovered her beauty line, Buttonwood, which has been on the market for just over a year now. “These are natural, home-made products,” the savvy businesswoman says of the line that includes creams, lotions and body butter. “They are free from preservatives and other harmful chemicals, and that is something we feel very strongly about – ensuring that during the manufacturing process we don’t use any preservatives.” Since Buttownwood’s debut, Moxam has done a few pop-up shops and mounted booths at expos – and she delivers islandwide upon request. 

>> Carissa Joelle did her homework. “A lot of Jamaicans love castor oil because of the health benefits, but they don’t like it heavy and sticky,” says the first-time entrepreneur who is busy promoting her relatively new brand, Authentic by Carissa Joelle, which offers “a lightweight version of Jamaican black castor oil. Not sticky and 100% Jamaican.” With plans afoot to jump-start an online store, she says the public response has been encouraging. “It’s been very positive. People can use the castor oil for various purposes. You can use it in your hair and even on your beard,” she says, with a little laugh. 

>> In person, Dominique Vendryes appears as a young hippie earth-mother. But further investigation reveals that she’s actually a talented acoustic musician-turned-jewelry designer. She’s been crafting and peddling her pieces for five years. Deeply spiritual, she believes body adornments should convey a deeper meaning. “People are searching for something deeper and they often make that connection through exotic jewelry,” says the 20-something artist/artisan, who not only sells rings, bracelets and necklaces made from charming stones and woods – her bounty also includes spiritual tools and pendulums. “I recently added some wood you can burn like incense,” says Vendryes, whose favourite pastimes includes collecting beach and river stones, shells and seeds and feathers to work her creative magic.

HELLO, GORGEOUS: Jamaica’s 25 Most Beautiful People (The Men)

JAMAICA is known the world over as the land of reggae, island beauty (wood, waves and water) and fine Black men. These terrific 10, who hail from the worlds of sports and television and the arts, are the most sterling examples of the moment.
With just the right blend of charisma, humility and machismo, our hunkiest top athlete continues to steal hearts and set the trends among his stylish brethren.

A magician with the racquet, this squash-playing phenom cuts a dashing, handsome figure off the court, opting for winning suits that are equal parts edge and elegance.

Whether he’s sporting those rootsy locks or that neat buzzy cut heralding his fresh “Glory to God” chapter, Wayne’s all-around appeal makes him a man for all seasons.

The chipmunk smile, the adorable little laugh and, of course, the phenomenal talent continue to endear this speedy boy wonder to Jamaicans at home and abroad.
By far one of dancehall’s finest, the ladies find him irresistible and the fellas respect his lyrical flow. Simply put, Mr. Campbell is doing it and doing it well.

News flash: the TV-J anchor, spotted frequently on the arts and social scenes, is just as camera-ready and good-looking in person as he does delivering the nightly news bulletins.

A showbiz natural, Mignott has morphed into theatre’s young leading man of the moment, with a sizzling mix of award-winning roles, cool style and movie-star good looks.

Whatever Shaggy is on, it’s definitely working! The Grammy winner looks super-good at age 50-plus, and he shows no signs of slowing down. And, by all accounts, the fans still can’t get enough of their Mr. Bombastic.
The single people flock to his Sunday-morning services by the dozens – and it’s not just to hear him preach. The smooth Mr. Reynolds exudes the passion and power of a committed man of God, and it makes him all the more alluring.

This corporate-world dynamo – toned, trim and supertall – brings a striking mix of brain power and graceful masculinity. And that’s a winner in any playbook.

THE HOTTIES: We see you too!
Usain Bolt
Alwyn Scott
André Russell
ZJ Bambino

>> Jamaica’s 15 Most Gorgeous Women

FORWARD MOTION: NDTC steps into new era with youthful energy and renewed commitment to artistic excellence

BODIES OF WORK: The company's dancers are constantly being challenged to rise to a new level, says Simms.

DURING the National Dance Theatre Company’s just-concluded 2018 season at the Little Theatre in Kingston, Marlon Simms witnessed the premiere of his newest choreographed effort, “Acts of Hope,” a captivating, multi-layered piece performed by a 12-member cast. The robust work is a fresh addition to the internationally acclaimed troupe’s vast and ever-expanding repertoire, on the occasion of their 56th anniversary. But what’s more fascinating is that the “Acts of Hope” debut coincided with Simms’ ascension to the rank of Artistic Director of the NDTC.

Simms, now 41, has been with the company for years, rising to become principal dancer, dance captain and Associate Artistic Director, prior to assuming the top job when Barry Moncrieffe retired last December. Reflecting on his maiden season as AD, Simms is relieved that support for his work and the NDTC’s mission remains as strong as ever, especially as the new generation ushers the company into a new era.

“It’s wonderful to have the support and to see a younger demographic now experiencing the works of the NDTC. We’re building a new generation, but our core audience is still with us,” Simms tells TALLAWAH, standing inside the lobby of the Little Theatre one recent Saturday night. “And as we move forward we want to ensure that everybody gets to experience what the NDTC has to offer.”

To this end, the 2018 programme brought a rich diversity to the stage: seven bold new works (by choreographers Terk Lewis, Liane Williams, Neila Ebanks, Oneil Pryce and Jean-Guy Saintus, among others), selections from the active repertoire, and a handful of remounts. Choosing works for the annual season, Simms explained, involves a detailed process.

“We have an artistic team that meets and discusses the works, the local and international choreographers we want to invite, and we basically try to select works that are timeless,” shares Simms, a senior lecturer at the Edna Manley College’s School of Dance. “The aim is always to create a dynamic programme and to showcase Jamaican and cultural experiences and to engage choreographers who will expose the dancers to different styles and challenge the dancers to rise to a new level.”

Ricardo McFarlane has been working with the company in the capacity of stage manager since 2010. “I like the idea of seeing more young people coming to the fore,” he observes. “And it’s happening in all areas of the company – the management team, the dancers and the technical team.” 

With Ewan Simpson having moved on to new pursuits, veteran chorister Heston Boothe has stepped up as Acting Musical Director, arranging a droll and amusing suite of songs, “Donkey’s Tale,” for the NDTC Singers’ contribution to the new season. “It’s been interesting, but I have to admit that this new experience is drawing on all my training, everything I’ve loved about music since I first started out,” says Boothe, also well-known for his exploits with the JCF Choir and the University Singers. 

The NDTC, he says, is feeling the winds of change. “The company is obviously in transition, but we’re still at the teething stage of that transition,” he notes. “People are getting used to the changes and people are getting used to their new roles.” 

But Simms and Boothe both agree that the future of the NDTC, in this post-Nettleford chapter, must be centred on the twin ideas of renewal and continuity. “The company will continue to grow,” Boothe says, “and be the excellent international dance company that it has always been.”