Wednesday, 31 October 2018

LIFT OFF: First Man rockets you to the moon with laudable results

MAN ON A MISSION: Gosling gives one of his best performances as the history-making space pilot.

“THAT'S one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in July 1969 and uttered those words, the moment signaled the culmination of a decades-long mission by the United States – the American Space Programme – to become the first country to successfully complete such a mission, beating the Russians in what became known as the Space Race. 

Directed by Damien Chazelle (La La Land), with a script by Josh Singer, the engrossing new movie First Man compellingly captures the real-life events leading up to Armstrong’s triumph and the ripple effect it had on the world. 

Ryan Gosling, who has shown a gift for playing decent working-class types grappling with their toughest challenges, stars as Armstrong, offering a riveting portrait of grief (he loses his young daughter, Karen, to cancer) and quiet ambition (he becomes consumed with the idea of completing the mission). 

But he’s a bit of a loner, a man who loves to be alone in his own head. Consequently, he frustrates his devoted wife, Janet (an excellent Claire Foy), who frequently has to put her foot down when Neil’s work gets in the way of family time. Because of his work as an astronaut, she worries about him. It’s dangerous work. Pilots die. Funerals have to be attended regularly. During one simulation exercise aboard a test space rocket, faulty wiring leads to a massive fire in the cockpit, trapping three pilots who are burnt to a crisp. 

Unsurprisingly, in the months leading up to Armstrong’s lunar landing, the public outcry over the increasing number of deaths had one constant refrain: Is the space programme worth the cost in money and in lives? Houston, we have a problem. But NASA will not be deterred, and owing to the brilliant minds of the engineers, rocket physicists and scientists, man’s age-old dream of going to the moon was made possible. 

Chazelle’s style is spare; his touch very light. Gorgeously filmed, with some impressive special effects, the movie progresses at a steady pace. An ethereal, almost plaintive score accompanies the visuals, particularly those moments in outer space. 

Kyle Chandler, Ciaran Hinds, Corey Stoll and Jason Clarke put in appealing supporting work. 

A haunting mélange of history and tragedy, ambition and perseverance, First Man (based on the book by James Hansen) is, simply, testament of what can be achieved when man dares to dream. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

Monday, 29 October 2018

2018 NATIONAL HONOURS & AWARDS: Novlette Grant talks safety and society; Mazie Miller on making her mark; Mayor Homer Davis gives a ‘listening ear’

On Monday, October 15, the lawns of King’s House provided the setting once again for the pomp and pageantry of the National Honours & Awards ceremony, where over 120 Jamaicans were honoured for outstanding work over the years in their respective fields. TALLAWAH was in the mix and chatted with a handful of the fascinating people.

Mayor of Montego Bay, HOMER DAVIS (Order of Distinction – Commander) on his tastes in music:
“I’m an old school man, so you’ll find me listening to Peter Tosh, Bob Marley and U-Roy. But nowadays you have to listen to what the youths are listening to. There’s a new sensation called Rygin King. He’s a MoBay man, so I have to support the local talent. There is no hotter artiste for the youths right now than Rygin King.”

Former Deputy Commissioner of Police, NOVLETTE GRANT (Order of Distinction – Officer) on what motivates her:
“Life. If you’re living, what greater motivation can there be? You have to get out there and get things done. If you like helping people, then do that. Personally, what I want to see is our society become a more wholesome society – and people feeling a greater sense of safety. Not just physical safety, but a feeling that my society takes care of me.”

Jamaica’s favourite cook, Grace Kitchens’ MAZIE MILLER (Order of Distinction – Officer), on her greatest achievement:
“Being able to impact the families in terms of planning and preparing economical, balanced and satisfying meals to share. I’ve always wanted to carry on the legacy of my grandparents, who taught me that you need to feed not just your family but people who are in need.”

NEWS & NOTES: Deepening JA-China relations + Why the Reggae Girlz prevailed + Portia’s story on-screen

>> Reggae Girlz deserve our full support, says Holness 
According to PM Andrew Holness, the history-making Reggae Girlz have earned a place among the greatest Jamaican sports teams of all time. As the world now knows, Jamaica has become the first Caribbean country to qualify to compete at the FIFA World Cup – Men and Women – thanks to the Girlz’ splendid accomplishment. “The historic victory and qualification places the girls in the pantheon of the greatest teams of all time in Jamaica,” PM Holness has said. “This win symbolizes the culmination of years of hard work and dedication by the team and the management. I congratulate the team and the management on making Jamaica proud.” The prime minister also emphasized that corporate and public support for the girls on the journey to #France2019 is crucial. “I call on all Jamaicans to rally behind the Reggae Girlz,” he says, “and give them all the support they need.” 

>> New children’s hospital for MoBay 
Jamaica and China have inked a deal that will see the Chinese government providing approximately US$36.16 million in grant-support funding for the construction of the Western Children’s Hospital in in Montego Bay, St. James. The 220-bed facility will be situated on the compound of the Cornwall Regional Hospital. The vision is for the hospital to complement the work of the Kingston-based Bustamante Hospital for Children. Tian Qi, the Chinese Ambassador to Jamaica, says the collaboration marks another milestone in Jamaica-Chinese relations. “China and Jamaica continue to help and support each other under a framework of bilateral relations,” Qi says. “Our friendship and cooperation are [built on] equality, mutual respect and common development. Construction work on the facility is expected to commence in March 2019. 

>> Simpson-Miller docu-film now in pre-development 
A documentary on the life and legacy of Portia Simpson-Miller, Jamaica’s first female prime minister, is now in pre-development, according to filmmaker Lennie Little-White. “We hope to start the shooting in November, but for right now we’re doing a lot of the background work, the historical research,” he told TALLAWAH at the recent Peter Tosh Awards. “We’ll be interviewing several people because we want to include testimonials from people who know her. We’ll also be doing some acting to recreate her years as a child growing up in the country.” Simpson-Miller, a former TIME 100 honoree, retired from active politics in 2017. Little-White, renowned for his work with Mediamix and for such big-screen projects as Glory to Gloriana, has previously done documentaries on painter Barrington Watson and scholar Rex Nettleford. The completion of the Portia project is slated to coincide with next year’s observance of Black History Month.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

‘AH WAH DO DEM?’: Old-school vibes and new-school flavour make a thrilling mix in From Den Till Now

STYLE AH STYLE: Actors performing scenes from the hit dancehall musical.

From Den Till Now (Dance Xpressionz Productions) 
Director: Orville Hall 
Cast: Orville Hall, Shelly-Ann Callum, Stacey-Ann Facey, Kavaughn Scott and Rayan Robinson 
Venue: Phoenix Theatre, New Kingston 

WHAT do bruckins and Elephant Man’s “Summer Bounce” have in common? How about Kumina and QQ’s “Stookie”? There are surprising parallels between these two dance forms, which seem vastly dissimilar on the surface. But thanks to the research and investigative work of Orville Hall and his Dance Xpressionz team, you can only agree that “old time sinting come back again,” while watching their show From Den Till Now

The old school and the new school make a scintillating blend in the clever and rhythmic dancehall musical, which charts the evolution of Jamaica’s dance and music, highlighting the ska, mento and rocksteady era, such Africa-derived folk forms as tambo and revival, and climaxing with modern-day reggae and dancehall. 

It’s a fine piece of edu-tainment theatre, laced with humour, wit and the kind of nostalgia that thrills. The audience loved every minute of the production, written and directed by Hall and co-starring several graduates from the EXED dance programme and Dance Xpressionz.
The narrative centres on the fictitious, Downtown-based Xpressionz School of the Performing Arts, which is on the cusp of closing its doors due to lack of funds. They must raise $750,000 fast. When Principal Pulpit (Hall) informs the students of a Theatre Arts Challenge Quiz awarding $500,000 to the wining school, the enthusiastic students embark on a mission to prepare and to save their school from closure. They dive deep, researching the history of our dance and music, while planning a fundraising concert to demonstrate what they’ve learned and to raise more funds. 

With electric choreography, an eclectic soundtrack, era-appropriate costumes and the exuberance of the young cast, the show sizzles, as we journey with them through the years. Who wouldn’t enjoy reliving the plaid shirt/mesh merino/ rolled-up-pants-foot style of 80s dancehall, or Bogle’s (aka Mr. Wacky) ascension to the status of dancing king, long before Ding Dong was commanding partygoers with the “Shoulder Fling”? 

From Den Till Now takes the formulaic root as far as the plot goes, but they earn high marks for bold originality when it comes to execution, cleverly using relatable scenarios (area leaders and politicians; gangs and feuding girls) and everyday settings (church, tenement yard) to illustrate the earlier dance forms, creatively weaving them into the fabric of the story. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE: Paula Thompson finds fulfilment in the voluntary work of Freedom Ministry

KEEPING THE FAITH: "It's empowering," says Thompson. "People are getting a message from what we do."

ACCORDING to Pastor Cornelius Brown, the Freedom Ministry team is a multi-denominational family comprised of Christians who do not hesitate to give of their time and talent to make the mission a success. No one is more committed to this mission than Paula Thompson, who’s been with the ten-year-old group since 2010, rising to play principal roles in the ministry. “Finding people who will give of their time has been a blessing,” says Pastor Brown, “and Paula is one of those family members who has really been instrumental in our success, putting everything aside.”

Thompson is actress, organizer and chief script-writer, tasked with ensuring that the plays they put on for the annual DramaFest (now in its third year) are solid crowd-pleasers. “We come together and flesh out ideas, and then I am given the task of writing the dialogue. It’s not easy, and that’s why I think the inspiration is God-given,” she explains, speaking with TALLAWAH one recent morning at the Phoenix Theatre, where DramaFest 2018 takes centrestage this weekend with five plays – faith-based dramas sure to delight and provoke thought.

When it comes to her creative process, Thompson says she consistently aims to fully immerse herself in the story and the characters. “The writing is continuous,” she admits, “and the editing is continuous, but I enjoy it.”
Despite such successes to her credit as the hit My Wife’s Mother-in-Law (a play that deserves a wider commercial-theatre audience), Thompson comes off as a bit guarded about her craft. “For now my writing is just for Freedom Ministry. I don’t see myself going into commercial theatre at all. I think you should function in the area that you have been assigned. That’s when you set yourself up for conflict,” says a laughing Thompson, who holds undergrad and postgrad degrees in Management from UWI and UTech.

But humility aside, she is proud of the work Freedom Ministry has been doing over the years. “As a believer, you get to spread the gospel with this work, so why not go for it? Not everybody can be a preacher or an evangelist, so this is one way of playing your part,” she reasons. “All of the actors are volunteers who believe in the vision of Freedom Ministry.”

Ultimately, the team wants to transform the plays done at DramaFest into film to widen their reach. But, for now, it’s all about empowering their live-theatre audiences. “Our mission is to spread the gospel, empower and uplift persons. We want it to continue. We want it to remain, and with God at the helm it will,” says Thompson, adding that theatregoers are in for a real treat this weekend. “You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. Every emotion you can think of you’ll experience with these plays. They are about issues and struggles that people have to go through. They are somebody’s story, so we tried to make the stories full and rich.”

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

2018 NATIONAL HONOURS & AWARDS: Catching up with Yellowman, Alia Atkinson and Barbara Blake-Hannah

>> Yellowman still hopeful for a Grammy win 
For living music legend Winston ‘Yellowman’ Foster, being honoured with the National Order of Distinction is a welcome achievement, especially in the absence of that elusive golden gramophone. “We grateful for this one because we never win no Grammy,” he told TALLAWAH, mere moments after his appearance at the podium with Sir Patrick Allen. At 62, Foster says copping a Grammy for Best Reggae Album is still on his to-do list. “We’re still hoping for it because the work continues.” So what’s next for him professionally? “Right now I have a tour coming up,” he shared. “We’re going to do the US, Europe, some parts of the Caribbean and then Australia.” 

>> Alia Atkinson cherishes her blended family 
 Few things matter more to Alia Atkinson than spending quality time with her loved ones. “Usually my family is all over the world, so to have them all here feels pretty cool,” said the record-breaking swimmer, rocking aviator shades, a sleeveless peach top, pencil skirt and heels at King’s House, while surrounded by relatives from as far as Florida and Texas. What is she most looking forward to now? “Now it’s about popularizing the sport of swimming across Jamaica and spreading awareness and watching the new swimmers emerge,” she told TALLAWAH. Of course, she also wants to break more long-standing records. “Hopefully,” she said, with a tinge of modesty. “That’s always the plan.” 

>> Barbara Blake-Hannah at work on first essay collection 
Dawta of Jah is the working title of Barbara Blake-Hannah’s forthcoming book. “It’s a collection of essays on topics I’ve been exploring over the years – Rasta, reparations, ganja, societal issues. Essentially what I’m doing is compiling some of my best essays and blogs from over the years,” explains the iconic journalist and activist, whose previous releases include Joseph: A Rasta Reggae Fable and Growing Out: Black Hair and Black Pride in the Swinging Sixties. “I haven’t sought a publisher for it yet, but it could still be done this year.” What does this moment mean to her – receiving the National Order of Distinction among some of her most distinguished peers? “I’m kinda speechless, said Blake-Hannah, pictured above with Hubert and Jean Lowrie-Chin. This is a high honour. In my life I’ve received a few accolades, but this one, this occasion, is really humbling.”

Monday, 22 October 2018

SOCIETY, SOCIETY: Pulse magic, glitz and star power reign at Peter Tosh Awards

HONOURED: Mutabaruka (right) accepting the Bush Doctor Award from Copeland Forbes at the ceremoy.

WHAT: 2018 Peter Tosh Awards

WHERE: Rooftop Garden (Eden Gardens, St. Andrew)

WHEN: Thursday evening

GUEST LIST: Hilary Phillips, Sophia Max-Brown, Joe Bogdanovich, Lennie Little-White, Mutabaruka, Copeland Forbes, Dr. Michael Barnett, Pat Meschino, Ras Ivey, Kingsley & Romae, and more

Under The Stars: The al-fresco ambience, glamorous evening wear and easy-breezy vibe combined to lend the black-tie affair lots of charm and élan, later spiked with roots-rockin’-reggae flavour as the in-house deejay really got into his groove.

Let’s recall a great man: While guests sipped wine and champagne and munched on hors d’oeuvres, various speakers paid glowing tribute to Tosh during their time at the podium. Copeland Forbes, “the walking reggae historian,” recalled travelling to Africa with the reggae legend. “It was a great experience being around him. He was an educator and an inspiration,” Forbes said. “It was a great pleasure working with him over all those years.” Mutabaruka, meanwhile, hailed Tosh as a pioneer in the marijuana movement. “We appreciate that Peter Tosh did ah tell them ’bout ganja from long time, [and] most of what he was saying has come to pass.”

… And the award goes to: During the presentation segment (three awards were handed out), emceed by Tosh’ lovely daughter Niambi, the Steppin’ Razor Award went to conscious reggae crooner Bushman, who described Tosh as a musical influence in his youth. Mutabaruka was presented with the Bush Doctor Award, and Delroy Morgan, patriarch of the Morgan Heritage clan, received the Legalize It Award. Dave Rodney, a longtime family associate, collected the award on his behalf.

CHAT ’BOUT: Dr. Chris Tufton shares shocking mental-health stats; Floyd Green on special-needs PEP students; Babsy Grange salutes Ivy Ralph, and more

“Mrs. Ralph stands tall as a pioneer of the native Jamaican fashion industry. Whenever and wherever there is talk of the Jamaican fashion industry, the name Ivy Ralph must be called. She laid the platform for the success of several of our fashion designers.” – Culture minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange 

“As we have done with GSAT, we are very close to ensuring that the [PEP] exams are tailored to cater to our children that have been identified with special needs. We already have systems [where] we give our exams in Braille for children who cannot see; that our children who have difficulties in relation to speech patterns, persons are provided to work with them; for those who cannot speak English you should know that we provide translators and things of that nature.” – State minister Floyd Green 

“There is nothing that Government has banned that already does not have existing alternatives in the marketplace. It would be improper of the Government to push one alternative versus another. I think that through the public education campaign, it will come out as to the varying alternatives that are out there.” – Government senator Matthew Samuda 

 “Mental health in Jamaica is a big problem. The Mental Health and Homelessness Task Force Report suggests that four out of every ten Jamaicans at some time in their lives are challenged by mental issues. Therefore, while we pay attention to this kind of illness, it is better that we take a community-based approach. There is always a need to highlight the issue of mental illness and to address it.” – Health minister Dr. Chris Tufton 

“The Ministry of Education is now going to be part of the world cohort being measured under the Programme for International Student Assessment, which is an international body that measures educational performance in critical subject areas, in particular, Math. So it means that Jamaica will benchmarked internationally. So that is another step towards our human-capital development.” – PM Andrew Holness

GOOD SPORTS: Reggae Girlz book their spot for #France2019 + Fraser-Pryce grateful for her “village” + Sunshine Girls whip England Roses 3-0

>> Journey to France (Again!): History-making Reggae Girlz qualify for FIFA World Cup
The nostalgia is undeniable. Jamaica’s senior female footballers, the Reggae Girlz have qualified for the 2019 FIFA World Cup Finals (to be hosted by France), a feat that compellingly recalls the Reggae Boyz’ historic qualification for the 1998 World Cup, also hosted by France. The Girlz booked their spot after defeating Panama 4-2 on penalties in their CONCACAF encounter last week. Cedella Marley, who was instrumental in re-energizing Jamaica’s female football programme, culminating in this splendid triumph, spoke with BBC about the unprecedented moment. It’s a fusion of “nervous energy, determination and passion,” Marley said. “We were all screaming at the TV!” she recalled, sounding over-the-moon excited. “There is a saying in Jamaica that we likkle but we tallawah, and every little girl who has a dream now knows that it can be realized. Last night I did shed a tear.” 

>> It Takes a Village: Fraser-Pryce praises her support system
As promised by Sports minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, the Basil Watson-designed statue in honour of sprint queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was officially unveiled during a ceremony at Statue Park with PM Andrew Holness, husband Jason Pryce and baby Zion in attendance. Fraser-Pryce used the occasion to speak to the timeless importance of family support. “This day would not be possible without my village. As I stand here, I reflect on the resilience of a single mother who did the best she could with what she had,” the Olympic gold medallist noted. “I am thankful for the vision of MVP Track Club, mainly my coach Stephen Francis, manager Bruce James and agent Adrian Laidley – who told Jamaica and the world in loud tones that Jamaican athletes can train in Jamaica and be the best in the world.”

>> Progress Report: Sunshine Girls ace England test, head to Fast5
A sure sign of readiness for the upcoming Fast5 Netball World Series in Australia, Jamaica’s senior Sunshine Girls dismissed the England Roses 58-43 last Monday to win their three-test series 3-0 and bring the curtains on the highly entertaining 218 Lasco Sunshine Series at the National Indoor Sports Centre. The Jamaicans led all the way, with quarterly scores of 16-10, 30-21 and 46-34 before the final whistle sounded at 58-43. Match One ended 55-43; Match Two 58-39. The Sunshine Girls, led by inspirational skipper and top shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid had earlier defeated Caribbean rivals Trinidad & Tobago in two test 61-40 and 51-40. The Marvette Anderson/Winston Nevers-coached squad is stepping up preparations for next year’s World Championships being hosted by Liverpool, England.

Friday, 19 October 2018

NEWS & NOTES: AMCHAM Awards set for Nov. 8 + WOBA honouring Peter Ashbourne + Is Jamaica ready for Mike Epps?

>> 2018 AMCHAM Awards: Special recognition for Patrick Hylton, Robert Levy 
Two Jamaican men of distinction will be specially honoured when the AMCHAM Business & Civic Leadership Awards take centrestage at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on Thursday, Nov. 8. The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Robert Levy, long-serving Chairman of Jamaica Broilers, now celebrating 60 years of excellent service to Jamaica and the region. Patrick Hylton, CEO of NCB Financial Group, will receive the President’s Award. Put on each year by the Jamaican chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce, the awards recognize and celebrate inspirational leaders, as well as business and non-profit organizations for their vision, achievements and philanthropy. 

>> ‘Proud ah unnu’: Wolmer’s Old Boys honouring Sean Paul, Peter Ashbourne 
Four outstanding Wolmerians will be the toast of the party when the Wolmer’s Old Boys Association (WOBA) put on their annual fund-raising banquet on Saturday, Oct. 20, at the school’s Douglas Orane Auditorium. Fresh from receiving a gold Musgrave Medal at the Institute of Jamaica, Peter Ashbourne is now being honoured by his alma mater. Grammy winner Sean Paul, who continues to make strides internationally; Stephen ‘Frano’ Francis known for his work with Running Events JA and Commander John McFarlane, a former Acting Commissioner, complete the quartet. Says WOBA, “We remain proud that Wolmerians continue to contribute significantly to various fields – from the sciences and politics to religion and the arts – not just in Jamaica but across the world.”

>> Coming to the Stage: Mike Epps’ J’can appearance hotly anticipated 
One of the world’s most fearless comics and Hollywood stars, Mike Epps is set to bring his outrageously hilarious routine to the Jamaican stage, when he headlines a stand-up comedy special on Saturday, Oct. 27 inside the National Arena. As his fans know, Epps’ big-screen credits include All About the Benjamins and Next Friday, among other laugh-out-loud films. Opening acts at the eagerly anticipated show, being produced by OutBurst! Standup Comedy Series, include Leighton Smith, Tubeless and Dufton Shepherd. King of the dancehall, Moses ‘Beenie Man’ Davis, who recently welcomed his first child with lady love Krystal Tomlinson, will provide the after-party entertainment. Visit for details.

LET’S PLAY: A Star is Born remake has its flaws but ultimately shines

'ALLY' THAT GLITTERS: Lady Gaga mesmerizes costar Bradley Cooper in this scene from the 2018 remake.

SOMEWHERE in the uneven but ultimately satisfying new movie A Star is Born, someone says something about a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. There’s no better way to describe the metamorphosis of the film’s central character, a wide-eyed dreamer named Ally (convincingly played by Lady Gaga), who goes from restaurant server and gay-club performer to Grammy winner for Best New Artist. From wannabe to the real thing.

Bradley Cooper, who plays Jackson Maine, the rock star who discovers her singing in French in a club full of drag queens, also directs the film, a modern-day update of the classic, whose previous incarnations featured Janet Gaynor in the 1937 original, Judy Garland in the first remake in 1954 and Barbra Streisand in the second remake in 1976.

Before long, Jackson and Ally strike up a relationship. They become head-over-heels lovers. A good girl who still lives at home with dad, she eventually quits her restaurant job and gets immersed in his rock-star world (sold-out concerts, screaming fans), accompanying him on tour. Determined to cure her shyness, he brings her out on stage one night and they perform a killer rendition of “Shallow,” the kind of showstopping number you want to hear over and over again.

But Jackson has his demons – drugs and alcohol and self-destructive tendencies – that soon drive a wedge between them. Things take an explosive turn as Ally’s rise to solo stardom begins. With lavish photoshoots, an SNL appearance and a debut album in the works for Interscope, she morphs into a packaged pop star whose shining time has finally come. Jackson, meanwhile, comes off as the jealous, insecure boyfriend who can’t bear to see his girlfriend outshining him. It all gets very messy. 

A Star is Born (exploring artistry, approval and the meaning of success) is an entertaining and emotionally rich film that seems to lack a spark in the early moments. You keep waiting for it to reel you in. And when it finally does, with echoes of Crazy Heart and Country Strong, you are indeed won over. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

2018 NATIONAL HONOURS & AWARDS: Grace Jones honoured; Blake-Hannah, Yellowman among arts-community honorees

GRAND OCCASION: The OJ recipients (at centre) gather for photos with Culture minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, left, and Tourism minister, Ed Bartlett.

DUE to ill health, Harry Belafonte wasn’t on hand to be presented with the Order of Merit (OM) by Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen, but fellow entertainment legend Grace Jones was in attendance and was conferred with the Order of Jamaica (OJ) for “exceptional contribution to her field internationally.” Stepping out in a stylish black top, asymmetrical pattern skirt, hat and shades, Jones was in for resounding applause as she made her way up to the podium. 

The arts and entertainment community was very well represented among the large batch of honorees, as the 2018 National Honours & Awards ceremony took over the lawns of King’s House on Monday morning. 

For outstanding contribution to popular music and broadcasting, Winston Barnes was recognized with the Order of Distinction (OD) in the rank of Commander. Among the Officer Class honorees were the likes of Barbara Blake-Hannah (for her work in culture, public service and cultural heritage preservation), Joan Andrea Hutchinson (for contribution to the cultural arts), Johnny Gourzong (tourism and entertainment), Bob Clarke (broadcasting and entertainment), Sheila Rickards (dance and music), Mazie Miller (culinary arts), Dermot Hussey (promotion of Jamaican music) and Winston ‘Yellowman’ Foster for his decades in the music industry. 

Kingston College choirmaster Audley Davidson was among 20 individuals presented with a badge of honour for meritorious service. Renowned music man Donovan Dacres was one of 29 persons presented with the badge of honour for long and faithful service. 

Meanwhile, four stalwarts earned appointment to the Order of Jamaica (OJ) this year. In addition to Grace Jones, Guisseppi Francesco Maffessanti (construction/ social development), Godfrey Dyer (tourism) and Earl Jarrett (finance and public service) were also honoured. 

Monday’s entertainment package featured the Purple String Ensemble, singer André Shepherd and songbird Etana, who gave a stirring rendition of her hit “I Rise.”

Saturday, 13 October 2018

MODERN FAMILY: Dawkins’ Uptown Bangarang still provokes, surprises and entertains

AS GOOD AS IT GETS: Brown (Edgar) and Allen (Precious) having the talk; Below, Lowe in her element as Verona.

Uptown Bangarang (Basil Dawkins Productions) 
Director: E. Wayne McDonald 
Cast: Maylynne Lowe, Earle Brown, Chris McFarlane, Brian Johnson, Rachael Allen and Ruth HoShing 
Venue: Little Theatre, Kingston 

IN the end, family is all you’ve got. A fabulous revival of Basil Dawkins’ 2006 hit Uptown Bangarang, recently mounted for a weekend run at the Little Theatre, drove this point home. 

Gorgeously staged (the set design is a divine piece of architecture) and very well-acted (the six-member cast delivers), the show sizzles with its unflinching exploration of class and dignity, youthful angst and sexuality, morals and family values. 

It’s been a decade since we last saw this play and, to say the least, it’s lost none of its power to surprise, provoke and entertain, thanks in large part to a robust meditation on the dynamics of the modern family. 

With no shortage of relish and pizzazz, Maylynne Lowe reprises her role as the pompous, paranoid Verona Webster, a nut-case of a housewife (still reeling from a car robbery a year ago), who frustrates her husband Edgar (Earle Brown), a televangelist and aspiring politician, insults their ghetto-raised helper Precious (Rachael Allen) and earns the ire of their only son Abe (Brian Johnson), a headstrong teenager with a ganja habit and musical dreams. He can’t stand his parents, but he finds a confidante in Precious, who is quietly nursing her own ambitions and desire for a better life. 

Verona gets a jolt of reality when she flies to New York to visit her older sis Alma (Ruth HoShing) and what was supposed to be dream-house accommodations turns out to be cramped-apartment space, complete with Alma’s gigolo boyfriend Bobby Benson, a sweet-talker/con artist played by Chris McFarlane. 

Meanwhile, back in Jamaica, other shocking revelations come tumbling out into the open: Are Edgar and Precious carrying on an affair? Is Abe really gay? 

Dawkins skillfully weaves these plot points together while raising intriguing questions about what we as human beings truly value most in our lives. Director E. Wayne McDonald, a New York-based thespian making his Jamaican commercial-theatre debut, proves himself a fine director of a mixed cast, pulling strong performances from the actors. 

We particularly loved Lowe’s work (captivating, consistent and frequently funny); the nuances and tough-love style that HoShing brings to her portrayal of Alma; and the steely masculinity that drives Brown’s take on Edgar Webster. McFarlane and Johnson have their moments but, for the most part, their portrayals are surprisingly one-note. Newcomer Allen, in the meantime, shows incredible promise. 

Hugely enjoyable, Uptown Bangarang brims with humour and sobering reminders. At the same time, it immerses us in the goings-on of a family that you could easily recognize as your own. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

2018 SUNSHINE SERIES: Jamaica defeat English rivals 55-43 to take early lead in three-test series

ON THE BALL: The Jamaicans and the English continue their intense rivalry.

DESPITE a few less-than-stellar moments, Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls maintained their impressive run in the 2018 Lasco Sunshine Series on Thursday night, defeating the England Roses 55-43 to take a 1-0 lead in their three-test series, which resumes at the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston on Saturday.

The Jamaicans stamped their superiority from the get-go, taking early leads of 2-0 and 4-0 before the English girls managed to close the gap and equalize at 5-5. The visitors became even more aggressive in their plays, but the Jamaicans were in a no-nonsense mood and quickly pulled away with consecutive goals to take the score to 11-7, 12-8 and 16-11 at the end of the first quarter.

Jamaica’s careful ball possession and shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid’s goal-circle dominance continued in the second stanza, with Jamaica leading 18-11 and 22-15. By the time the tally reached 25-16, Fowler-Reid was on fire, with great support from goal-attack Shanice Beckford. Strong defensive work from Shamera Sterling and Stacian Facey also helped, as Jamaica raced to a ten-point lead at 28-18, and then 31-18 with three minutes to go in the half. The lob passes to Fowler-Reid, coupled with her accurate shooting afforded the Sunshine Girls a 35-21 advantage at the half-time whistle.

Shantal Slater came on for Fowler-Reid at goal-shooter, but England got more of the same treatment in a rather uneventful third quarter, which saw scorelines of 37-26 and 40-28 in favour of the home side. The English shooters gave Sterling and Facey some challenging work as the visitors desperately tried to reduce the deficit. Jamaica stayed in control, ending that quarter 46-32.

Fowler-Reid replaced Slater and Thristina Harwood (Beckford’s replacement) got her first taste of the action at the top of the last quarter. The England girls, unsurprisingly, looked hungry for a breakthrough and forced the Jamaicans into numerous turnovers. Several squandered opportunities by the local girls allowed the visitors to rally with several unanswered shots, bringing the score to 50-40.

Determined to maintain a wide margin, the Sunshine Girls refocused on the task at hand, maintaining their ten-point lead at 52-42 and 53-43. Kadie-Ann Dehaney came on for Sterling in the last minute of the match, as the Jamaicans re-established their dominance. At the sound of the final buzzer, Fowler-Reid sank a long-range shot to end the match at 55-43.

WOMAN OF THE MATCH: Jhaniele Fowler-Reid
A towering and dominant presence in the goal circle, the team captain led the home girls to victory with a masterful performance that further solidifies her status as one of the world’s top goal-shooters.

>> MATCH REPORT: Jamaica vs. T&T

Thursday, 11 October 2018

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: Peter Ashbourne and Mervyn Morris collaborating on ‘Mikey’ reggae opera

PREMIERE LEAGUE: Members of the 'Fortis' family at Wednesday's Musgrave ceremony at the IOJ; Above, gold awardees Morris and Ashbourne.

WHAT happens when you combine the talents of one of Jamaica’s leading musical maestros with the genius of a literary stalwart? A project that’s potentially a classic in the making. That’s precisely what Peter Ashbourne and Prof. Mervyn Morris are cooking up, having decided to merge their artistic gifts to craft a reggae opera based on the life and work of the late great Jamaican poet Mikey Smith.

Ashbourne is composing the music. Morris is supplying the libretto and lyrics. “It’s been an enjoyable experience. We’ve been working on it for over a very long period. I would be doing lyrics and Peter would be working on the tunes. I’m new to writing song lyrics, so they helped me a lot,” Morris tells TALLAWAH at Wednesday’s 2018 Musgrave Medal Awards ceremony at the Institute of Jamaica, where both men were honoured.

How did the collaboration come about? “Peter invited me to work with him on it because he knew that I knew Mikey, and that I had edited his work,” Morris reports. For his part, Ashbourne (whose wife Rosina Moder is also a contributor) felt Morris was the ideal collaborator. “When we came up with the idea, we knew he would be the right person to work on the libretto because he knows Mikey’s work very well,” says Ashbourne.

According to the musician, no premiere date has been scheduled, but he’s hoping the finished product can be given a grand-opening fanfare sometime next year. 

Coincidentally, Morris, his reggae-opera collaborator, received a gold medal at the ceremony on Wednesday for eminent work in the literary arts, while he was being recognized with the gold for distinguished contribution to music. “I’m very flattered, moreso because of the very good company I’m in,” Ashbourne says. “I’m always working on something, always doing something, so this is encouragement to continue the work.”

Dr. Basil Burke was also made a member of the rarefied company of Musgrave gold medallists. Silver medals were presented to pioneering dub poet Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, the 71-year-old Kingston College Chapel Choir and scientist Dr. Henry Lowe, who was unavoidably absent.

This year’s bronze recipients were contemporary novelist Roland Watson-Grant, bird-conservation expert Dr. Leo Douglas and legal luminary and art collector Prof. Oswald Harding, who was honoured for his vast and comprehensive collection.

Entrepreneur and scholar Arthur Williams III received the Youth medal.

2018 SUNSHINE SERIES: Jamaica wrap up Trini test with solid 51-40 win

PLAY MAKERS: The J'cans and the Trinis treated spectators to an exciting Game Two.

COMING off a 61-40 triumph in their opening match on Sunday, Jamaica’s senior netball squad, the Sunshine Girls, put on another largely impressive display to defeat their Trinidadian counterparts 51-40, as action continued in the Lasco Sunshine Series inside the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston on Tuesday evening. 

Playing before a lively home crowd, the Marvette Anderson/Winston Nevers-coached girls demonstrated that they are making commendable progress as they inch closer to the fast-approaching Fast5 World Series in Melbourne, Australia and next year’s eagerly anticipated World Championships in Liverpool, England.

With sharp-shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid getting a rest day, rising stars Thristina Harwood and Shanice Beckford led the attack for the home side, which started off shakily, as we trailed the Soca Girls before roaring back in the dying seconds of the first quarter to tie the score at 12-12 before eking out a 13-12 lead at the sound of the buzzer. 

With goalkeeper Shamera Sterling forcing Trini turnovers in defence and Beckford a workhorse for the attack (very accurate and consistent attempts at goal), the teams continued to trade goals in the second quarter. The score equaled at 16-16; T&T moved ahead 20-18; Jamaica reclaimed the lead 24-23 and, with two minutes remaining in the half, the scores locked again at 26-26 and 28-28 at the buzzer. 

An even more keenly contested match-up kicked off the second half, but Jamaica (with a new Beckford/Shantal Slater combination in the goal circle) managed to sneak away with leads of 33-31 and 36-32. We were up by five at one point (37-32), thanks to some brilliant manouevres by the centre-court players and interceptions in defence. The third quarter ended with Jamaica leading 42-33.

T&T fought valiantly to re-emerge in the final quarter, but the Jamaicans, despite numerous unforced errors and mid-court turnovers, held on to the lead, moving ahead 44-33 and 46-34. A smart decision was to take vice-captain Vangelee Williams off the bench and reintroduce her at goal-defence. With only five minutes left in the match, the Sunshine Girls kept their composure and held a 49-37 advantage. 

And with just three minutes to go, Harwood was summoned to replace Beckford in the attack. A 51-38 scoreline eventually became 51-40 at the final whistle. 

>> WOMAN OF THE MATCH: Shanice Beckford 
A smart, wily attacker who plays to her strengths. Very agile and very accurate with her attempts at goal, her on-court moves reap dividends for the team in the heat of battle.

The Lasco Sunshine Series resumes at the NISC with Jamaica facing England in three tests (Oct. 11, 13 and 15).

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

TALLAWAH BOOK CLUB: Lorna Goodison publishes Redemption Ground, her first essay collection

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Goodison 'grounds' her latest collection in the personal and the political.

STILL super-productive and at the height of her creative powers, Lorna Goodison continues to accomplish firsts in her illustrious literary career. Coming on the heels of her massive Collected Poems, the multi-prize-winning scribe has dropped her debut essay collection, the curiously titled Redemption Ground: Essays and Adventures, adding to an estimable and celebrated body of work that spans a dozen poetry anthologies, short-story collections and an acclaimed memoir, From Harvey River. 

Published by Myriad Editions, Redemption Ground finds Goodison interweaving the person and the political to explore themes that have captured her working life. “They are essays and adventures about poetry and my relationship with poetry and things that have happened to me as I’ve travelled,” the reigning poet laureate has said about the 224-page collection. 

Specifically, she zones in on her love of the written word and the arts, even as she examines such subjects as colonialism and its legacy, racism and social justice and the enduring power of friendship. 

What’s more, the author introduces readers to a vivid cast of characters and places, including a now-defunct Jamaican cinema, New York’s Bottom Line Club and a fascinating Black hairdresser in Paris.  

The book’s title, interestingly, is borrowed from one of the oldest markets in Kingston, Jamaica. 

Among the more interesting essay titles in Redemption Ground, you’ll find “For Derek Walcott,” “Nadine Gordimer Lecture” and “Hurricanes.” 

>> More Books: Marguerite Orane publishes Forget It: What’s the Point?