Thursday, 28 March 2019

CHAT ’BOUT: Mr. Crawford regrets … Mrs. Vaz claps back at detractors … Calabar board under fire

“It’s really sexist to believe that because I am a woman married to a powerful man that I would need him to run my constituency. The truth is, anybody who knows us will laugh at such a suggestion.” – East Portland MP hopeful Ann-Marie Vaz voicing objection to talk that she’s not a strong leader 
** 

“I regret it because it gave the enemies tools, weapons against me, and nobody wants to give an enemy a weapon against you. But I didn’t say that to suggest any ill intent. I was giving a speech and part of giving a speech – as they would not know because they don’t give any speeches – is that you entertain as well as educate and motivate.” – East Portland MP hopeful Damion Crawford eating humble pie over his “trick you” comment to East Rural St. Andrew residents 
** 

“If you see plastic bags being openly displayed by vendors it is a breach, and so they are liable for prosecution because we have come out of the stage of overlooking the breaches. We are now into enforcement.” – CEO of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Peter Knight, revealing that fines for breaching the new no-plastic bags rule are $50,000 under the NRCA Act and $12 million under the Trade Act 
** 

“Even if the [Calabar board] directly had no hand in the teacher being offered a buyout to quash the case, their actions precipitated the corrupt individual(s) who made that offer. One of the main concerns of education is for the socialization of moral principles. The board of Calabar needs to self-examine.” – Colin McDonald (CEO of Our Story Tours) in a letter to The Gleaner’s editor 
** 

“There is a serious problem of discipline and respect for authority at the school, which I attribute to a breakdown in leadership. The issue for me is not what occurred or the parties involved but, rather, why did these boys feel they could do this? Who made it okay for these things to happen? What has changed? One word: leadership.” – Calabar High old boy and former PTA president Paul Taylor pointing the finger at the school’s leaders for the recent hoopla on campus involving a physics teachers and members of the track team







Tuesday, 26 March 2019

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: First-time Actor Boy nominee Aisha Ritchie is a high achiever hiding in plain sight

BEAUTY & BRAINS: “Empower, inspire, motivate. I live by that personally,” says the 30-year-old.

WEARING the kind of power-red work suit that’s more than enough to brighten our day, Aisha Ritchie comes across as the kind of young woman who takes her work seriously but knows how to cut loose and have some fun. And in conversation, you discover that that’s precisely who she is. “I set very high standards for myself,” she explains. “I know what I want and I go after it.”

That kind of drive and passion spurred the former St. Hugh’s High head girl to not only complete a Bachelor’s (with distinction) in Economics at the University of the West Indies, but also a Master’s in Business Administration from the Mona School of Business.

The theatre is where she’s been having her fun. This season, the rising actress is causing all kinds of ruckus in Dredz Productions’ latest offering, Special Cuts, playing Lisa, a nail technician who goes into business with two former high-school friends. But Lisa’s happy-go-lucky approach to the world of work is not the best fit and soon sparks fly.

“The process of becoming Lisa was very challenging because Lisa is nothing like Aisha, so I had to do my research and find all the nuances that would make the character believable,” the actress confesses. “Honestly, I didn’t like Lisa, but I grew to understand her struggles. Playing this character was a good stretch for me.”

Ritchie, who works as an insurance underwriter with the Guardian Group, says the play’s core business-and-friendship theme is one that strikes a multi-octave chord. “A lot of issues can arise when you try to mix friendship and business, so I don’t recommend it,” she offers. “It can work if you mesh well. If you think you can work well together, fine. But if you realize that there’s going to be a problem, it’s best to try and prevent any situation from developing.”

Ritchie, who started acting at her church in Franklin Town, Kingston, prides herself on avoiding, as much as possible, all conflicts of interest in her professional life. She’s a managing partner (with her ‘brother’ Rashiem Shepherd) in Dredz Productions, which they started in 2014, but she strives to keep her artistic pursuits separate from the business side of things.

“It’s been good. I’ve been working with persons who bring different styles to theatre,” shares Ritchie, whose credits include last season’s One Blood, Undercover Craziness and Keith Ellis’ Friends Forever (2014). “I didn’t study drama, so I can relate to the whole learning process that comes with it.”

Now, buoyed by a lead-actress Actor Boy nomination for her work in One Blood, Ritchie is ready for more. “My ultimate dream is to be more recognized in theatre. I think there’s room for more young talents to make it in the industry and become as big as the Olivers and the Voliers. We need the continuity because that is important,” says the actress, who sports neat sister locks. 

What else is she looking forward to? The 30-year-old, a former member of the Mona-based University Chorale who is also big on volunteerism, is clearly a woman of many talents. “Another passion of mine is motivational speaking,” she says. “Empower, inspire, motivate. I live by that personally, and anything I do must be aligned with those three words.” 

>> Keeping it ‘Reel’: Aisha picks the 3 best Jamaican films 
* The Harder They Come (“Jimmy Cliff is just an amazing talent.”) 
* Better Mus’ Come (“Sheldon [Shepherd] is great, and I think [director] Storm [Saulter] did a good job.”) 
* Ghett’a Life (“It reflects real Jamaican life today.”)







CATCH THE BUZZ: Koffee’s journey hits a high note … UWI Press unveils new biography series … Saint’s Avant Garde design contest still nurturing fashion dreams

MUSIC: Gratitude is a must! Big things are happening for rising reggae sensation Koffee, who is on a fierce winning streak these days. The new artiste has tied with Sean Paul for the second most nominations (4) for the 2019 International Reggae & World Music Awards (IRAWMA), set for May 11 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston. Two-time Grammy winner Shaggy is leading the pack with 5 nods. Koffee, 19, is also sitting atop the Billboard Reggae Chart this week with her buzzy EP, Rapture, which has spawned singles like “Throne” and the crowd favourite “Toast.” And in the new big-screen horror-comedy Us (by writer-director Jordan Peele and starring Lupita Nyong’O and Winston Duke), “Toast” is among the songs featured. We’d be super-thankful for the journey too.

BOOKS: The University of the West Indies (UWI) Press is paying tribute to some of the region’s legends with the new Caribbean Biography Series. According to the publishing house, the series came about “to celebrate and memorialize the architects of Caribbean culture.” At the same time, readers are being introduced to individuals who have made “sterling contributions to the region in their chosen fields (the arts, politics, sports) and are shapers and bearers of Caribbean identity. Among the biographies done so far are features on Marcus Garvey (by Prof. Rupert Lewis), Earl Lovelace (by Funso Aijejima) and Derek Walcott (by Edward Baugh).

FASHION: Anticipation is rife for the Avant Garde Designer of the Year competition, which closed off submissions for the 2019 staging last week. According to head of Saint International, Deiwght Peters, who puts on the annual high-fashion contest, it continues to serve its purpose. “At its heart, the contest was conceived as a platform to challenge local designing talent to be bolder and bigger in their fashion ideas and to execute them with attentive precision,” Peters says. “It was always and remains the intention for us to identify and present emergent designers with the fantastic opportunity to bring their visions to reality.” Rico Vassell won Designer of the Year in 2018 for his unforgettable creation, Coral Essence. The competition is among the events scheduled for Style Week in May.







Monday, 25 March 2019

FIRST GLOBAL BANK SME SUMMIT: Jampro’s Ricardo Durrant, ReadyTV’s Chris Dehring and others empower entrepreneurs

TABLE TALK: Chris Reckord holding court; Durrant and Dehring having a convo during the break.

FEW events on the local business calendar are as ideal for young and emerging entrepreneurs as First Global Bank’s annual SME Summit, which brings together a bunch of pros and stalwarts from the public and private sectors to empower and provide sage advice for local business people who are looking to take their enterprises to the next level.

This year’s staging explored the idea of scaling your business. Among the main presenters was Jampro’s Ricardo Durrant, whose presentation spoke to scaling your business to increase output. He outlined three objectives (cost, cash and growth) that persons must “keep at the back of your head” while scaling.

Durrant is in favour of “buying in bulk” and “being strategic” with promotional endeavours. “Get persons to try your product because if they try it, they will buy it. Every person in your company should be a sales person,” he noted, adding, “Once your product is good and you know the market wants it, ensure you have that drive, that something, to pull you through. Being in business is something you have to have a passion for, because when it pushes you to the edge you’re either going to sink or swim.”

ReadyTV’s Chris Dehring spoke about having vision and an innovative mind during his presentation. Island Car Rentals CEO Michael Campbell highlighted the importance of treating your staff like family, and attorney Alison Peart (Ernst & Young) emphasized that integrity and compliance are key to creating value.

During a revealing chat with Mariame McIntosh-Robinson (First Global Bank CEO and President), hotelier Christopher Issa (the swanky new S Hotel) outlined the Three E’s (follow up with everybody, every day, about everything), 4 F’s (Farther, Friends, Fear, Focus) and 1H (you have to use your ‘himagination’) among the essential tools for succeeding in business. 

Head of Stewarts Auto Group, Jackie Stewart-Lechler, explained how sticking to purpose and giving back makes a big difference in her company. “We love this country bad, bad, bad. So we want to leave a little mark on it. Every year when we review our financials, we set something aside for charity, like building basic schools in the rural areas through our foundation,” she told the gathering. “Just to see the joy on their faces, we feel good. So it’s in our DNA to give back and build our country.”







AHEAD OF THE PACK: Shaggy, Koffee and Sean Paul top nominees list for IRAWMA ceremony

THE A-LIST: Grange, IRAWMA founder Ephraim Martin, and special honoree Joe Bogdanovich at the recent launch.

THE International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA), last staged in Jamaica in 2002, is returning to city Kingston for its 37th anniversary staging on May 11. The occasion is momentous for at least two reasons, as it coincides with the 50th anniversary of reggae’s emergence as a musical genre, and May 11 commemorates the date of Bob Marley’s passing.

“It’s a fitting tribute to the memory of the legend. Bob Marley wanted to die on Jamaican soil because if he died while travelling it would have meant something to him,” Culture minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange said, delivering the keynote address at last Tuesday’s media launch at the hosting venue, the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.

This will be the fourth staging of the IRAWMA ceremony on Jamaican soil, after stops here in 1991, 2001 and 2002. “The timing is great,” says Grange. “You have come home at a time when a lot of things are happening, but nothing happens before its time. We must celebrate our own industry and give as much support to people who are doing something for the music and the culture.”

This year, the organizers have chosen to recognize some 161 nominees in 41 categories, with nine special awards also to be handed out. Shaggy (5), Sean Paul (4) and Koffee (4) have the most individual nominations.

Lifetime Achievement Award honorees Tony Rebel, Boris Gardner and Mutabaruka will also be inducted into the IRAWMA Hall of Fame. Joe Bogdanovich (Entrepreneur Award), Beres Hammond (Reggae/Lover’s Rock Legend Award) and Grange (2018’s Person of the Year) are among the other special honorees.

Busy Signal, Chronixx, Damian Marley, Popcaan and Shaggy are vying for the coveted Bob Marley Award for Entertainer of the Year. 

>> Log on to irawma.com to see the complete list of nominees and to cast your vote. Public voting closes on April 20.







Friday, 22 March 2019

BEST IN SHOW: Vibrant imagery populate the International Reggae Poster Design exhibition

BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL: Roshane Taylor's "Chronixx - Reggae Revival" is among the highlights; (below) Sejas' winning entry.

AS we all know, Jamaica’s music has embedded itself in the global consciousness with matchless cross-generational appeal. Nowhere have we seen richer evidence in recent times than at the Art of Reggae exhibition, which is currently on view at the National Gallery of Jamaica.

The showcase brings together the best 100 pieces from the 2018 International Reggae Poster Design Competition, which drew submissions from countries as far-flung as Greece, Ghana, Finland, the UK, Australia and Poland, among others.

You are awed by the visually appealing creations (digital prints, abstracts, drawings, graphics, etc.) in professional and student categories. At its core, the exhibition highlights an impressive array of reggae iconography cleverly depicted with a bold, vibrant palette.

The all-conquering reggae lion makes multiple appearances – in works by Denmark’s Simone Bernini, China’s Huang Yang and Iran’s Mohammad Onookosari, who reminds us that “Reggae music is a symbol of coexistence and peace.”

Some of the genre’s most celebrated ambassadors are impressively immortalized. Highlights include Roshane Taylor’s “Chronixx – Reggae Revival”, Matisyahu portrayed as a mystical prophet/sorcerer by Poland’s Rafael Rola and Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley brought to life in a captivating painting by Monica Avile (Mexico).

The Bob Marley homages, in deep, moody tones, are plentiful, with offerings by Ernesto Jacobo (USA), Ilknur Karahan (Turkey) and Jacek Tofil (Poland), among others. Even the sound system gets its due, thanks to Germany’s Fonzo Moto and Portugal’s Ruben Pereira.
Fusing a clever concept with effective execution, the competition’s overall winner, Vinicio Sejas (Bolivia) outshone his rivals with a regal reggae lion viewing the world through an old-school cassette tape. It’s an iconic, memorable image – as one would expect from a series of works offering global interpretations of the reggae beat via artistic imagery.







PHOTO DIARY: Star power reigns at Buju Banton’s 'Long Walk to Freedom' mega-concert

LAST Saturday night, Buju Banton fans from across Jamaica, the region and numerous international destinations had their eyes glued to the stage inside the National Stadium as the Gargamel kicked off his long-awaited Long Walk to Freedom concert tour with a sizzling performance that people are still talking about. The supersized crowd was filled with folks from all walks, including some famous faces...

>> Crooner Tarrus Riley and his entourage were snapped enjoying the vibes.

>> New parents Krystal Tomlinson and Beenie Man made it a musical date night.

>> Miss Kitty flaunted her superwoman finesse in this stylish cape paying homage to the man of the moment. 

>> Reggae queen Marcia Griffiths was resplendent in royal purple as she graced the stage to join Buju for a duet.

>> Morgan Heritage’s Gramps Morgan also joined his fellow Grammy winner onstage for a rendition of their classic collabo, “The Lord’s Prayer.”

>> Floyd Green, who might be working with a new Education minister soon, as well as dancehall hotshot Sheldon ‘Aidonia’ Lawrence were also at the Stadium to see Buju’s historic comeback performance.

>> With new projects in the works, star boys Shaggy, Sean Paul, Machel Montano and others stepped out to show support for the Long Walk to Freedom tour kick-off.

(Photography: Sleek Jamaica)







Tuesday, 19 March 2019

KINGSTON CITY MARATHON: GC Foster’s Oshane McDonald, Finland’s Mari Kauri win inaugural event

WE DID IT! Winners McDonald and Kauri collect their prizes; (above) participants celebrate at the finish line.

PROCEEDS from Sunday’s successful Kingston City Marathon, the inaugural staging, will be donated to four local charities: the Alpha Institute, the Marie Atkins night shelter, Food for the Poor and Missionaries of the Poor.

Hundreds of participants flocked to the streets of New Kingston to be a part of history, as the event, formerly a half marathon (for six years) known as the Kingston City Run, found new life on a grander scale. The Jamaica Tourist Board, the Norman Manley International Airport, Lifespan and Caribbean Airlines led a raft of sponsors contributing to a well-executed staging to raise funds for cash-strapped charitable organizations.

GC Foster College senior Oshane McDonald emerged winner of the marathon, stopping the clock at 2 hours/52 minutes/44 seconds. Kemar Leslie was second, with Philip McCatty claiming the third-place spot. On the women’s side, Finland native Mari Kauri won in 3 hours/35 minutes/54 seconds. Aretha Martin took second, while Sonia Gayle came in third. 

“Running is like meditation for me,” said the 51-year-old Kauri, who works in purchasing and has been competing in marathons since 2004. McDonald, on the other hand, was doing a marathon for the first time. “It felt extraordinary to be going up against some of the best in the Caribbean,” said the 25-year-old who is now turning his attention to the upcoming inter-collegiate championships. 

The morning’s activities included booth displays and demonstrations, giveaways and a live performance by gospel minister Rondell Positive.







NEWS FEED: Major shake-up in Sagicor Group power structure … Paymaster J’ca appoints new GM … Reigning Festival Queen launches national project

NATURE & NURTURE: “We are no transitioning from a linear economy to a circular economy,” says reigning Miss Jamaica Festival Queen, Ackera Gowie, recently launching her national project, EcoMoney. Designed to turn non-biodegradable waste into profit through up-cycling, EcoMoney is aimed at pulling Jamaican communities together in an effort to preserve the environment while increasing youth-based economic development. “The overall mission of EcoMoney is to create partnerships between the private and public sector,” says the St. Mary native, “to engage communities and allow each citizen to play their part in the welfare of the whole human race.” Gowie’s national project is being sponsored by the national Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), Popeye’s, the Digicel Foundation, Excelsior and Lasco Money.

LEADING LADY: Nicolene Worthy-Donaldson is the new General Manager of Paymaster Jamaica, becoming the first female appointed to the post. Worthy-Donaldson leads “an all-female cast of senior manager” at the bill-payment company, which Ambassador Audrey Marks started two decades ago, before selling the controlling interest to the Digicel Group in 2015. Worthy-Donaldson has previously worked with such corporate entities as Digicel Jamaica, Lasco Financial Services, Intcomex Jamaica and Samsung Electronics.

A NEW PHASE: Sagicor Group Jamaica has embarked on major in-house restructuring. With the planned March 22 departure of Vice President (Risk Management and Compliance), Hope Wint, Danielle Davidson will take up the role of Chief Risk and Compliance Officer. Vice President (Group Marketing) Simone Walker is also headed off to new opportunities and will be replaced by Alysia Moulton White, who will take the lead in group marketing as Assistant Vice President. Senior executive Philip Armstrong will depart the insurance conglomerate at the end of May. And the search is reportedly on for an ideally qualified individual to fill the newly created position of Chief Information Officer. He/she will be responsible for leading the company’s drive to digitize its operations.







‘SHILOH’ REAWAKENED: Buju Banton’s euphoric mega-concert drew supporters from all walks

CROWD PLEASER: The Grammy winner giving a stellar performance on Saturday night.

IT seems all roads led to the National Stadium on Saturday evening. From multiple traffic changes in the Corporate Area to countless postponed events, it was as if the Pope was paying us a visit and nobody wanted to miss it. By the time you got to the Stadium complex, you were swept up in a euphoric Grand Gala type of energy.

Buju Banton’s mega-concert to kick off his highly anticipated Long Walk to Freedom Tour was a homecoming celebration like no other. A nation’s way of saying ‘Welcome Home’ to a beloved son. 

As we people-watched on Saturday night, it was largely a youthful, well-dressed crowd that came out to see the Gargamel and friends in concert. As patrons filed through the gates in their dozens, you took note of the couples, the singles, the all-male posses, the Rastas and baldheads alike.

The JUTC shuttled busloads of persons (mostly out-of-towners) from National Heroes’ Circle to the venue; tour bus companies transported their own busloads as well (adding to the large number of foreigners in attendance) and several VIP vehicles were seen getting the expected police escort. The place buzzed with excitement. These were people ready to be entertained.

The car parks were filled to capacity (Mas Camp was sea of SUVs, BMWs and other fancy models). Arthur Wint Drive, particularly the area around the Bob Marley statue, was converted into a lively marketplace, as everyone from jerked chicken vendors to the jelly man was determined to cash in on the action.

Non-ticket holders who wanted a Grandstand seat or a spot in the Bleachers made last-minute purchases from “sellers” who made their presence known with intermittent announcements. You couldn’t miss them. Thankfully, a heavy police presence prevented any vehicular pile-ups or mishaps. For such a huge event, there was a surprising absence of chaos and drama, at least from our vantage point.

After all, this momentous occasion was all about the music – and the not-to-be-missed opportunity of seeing a beloved reggae icon returning to the concert stage in front of a capacity home crowd. You want to be on your best behaviour. The vibe was nice.

As we paused by the main entrance to survey the landscape, we overheard a grateful vendor saying to somebody, “Ah di biggest show ever keep ah Jamaica.” And you know what? He could be right.







Friday, 15 March 2019

LIFE SAVERS: Leading equipment supplier Medical Link playing their part to improve healthcare in Jamaica

TESTING: Walker and Minister Dr. Chris Tufton try out one of the devices.

IF Lainsworth Walker has his way, Jamaica’s hospitals and medical centres would be equipped with the latest and most effective machines and other tools to save lives. That’s why for the second consecutive year, Walker and his team at Medical Link, a leading supplier and distributor of medical equipment in the region, have put on the Caribbean Medical Devices Exhibition (CME).

The two-day event brings together manufacturers from all over the world to display their newest offerings for the benefit of hospital administrators and other personnel. “We work with the hospitals, and we noticed a disconnect between the administrators and the clinical team. Members of the clinical team usually go overseas to attend conferences and seminars, where they are introduced to some of the best and latest equipment, but when they return home they don’t have those resources to work with, and it gets frustrating,” Walker tells TALLAWAH.

“So we figured why not put on a show here. Every year millions of dollars are spent on equipment, and then they work for like two months. So the idea is to put on the show and invite manufacturers to display equipment, so that administrators and doctors can come and see the equipment and test the equipment before purchase.”

This year’s exhibition (returning to the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, March 14 and 15) features manufacturers from Czechoslovakia, Germany, Ireland, Denmark, the United States and China.

Klaus Kanje, sales manager at David Medical, one of the Chinese companies, says the exhibition has been good for business. “This is our second time participating because last year was a great success, and we decided that this is a useful way to promote our products,” says Kanje, whose company supplies paediatric equipment. “All of the incubators and infant radiant warmers at Spanish Town Hospital were bought from our company. Medical Link is our distributor here and they have a great team to work with.”
In addition to incubators and infant radiant warmers, patrons (including nurses, doctors, students, members of the public) learned about cardioholters and cardio cards (by Nasiff Associates), blood pressure and blood gas devices, radiometers and foot sanitizers (by Infinium).

Walker, Technical Director of the 16-year-old Medical Link, says the CME is already showing signs of growth. “Last year we had it for one day; this year it’s two days and we’ve doubled the number of registered persons. We have people from Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Cayman and we also have some Cuban doctors,” Walker notes, adding that they’ve added seminars and workshops to the 2019 schedule, including a presentation on challenges in hospital administration.

Looking ahead, their goal is singular. “We want to see some of this equipment going into the hospitals,” says Walker, “so that healthcare can be better in Jamaica.”








Thursday, 14 March 2019

DANCING AH YARD: Samuels’ 56 East Avenue is an explosive, entertaining affair

'ENA' EVERYTHING: Reid is amused but Samuels is not in this scene.

56 East Avenue (OSE Productions)
Director: Oliver Samuels and Dennis Titus
Cast: Volier Johnson, Audrey Reid, Dennis Titus, Lakeisha Ellison and Oliver Samuels
Venue: Phoenix Theatre, New Kingston

EARLY in the funny new play 56 East Avenue, resident busybody Ena (Audrey Reid) proclaims, “This is a tenement yard. Everybody’s business is everybody’s business.” You see what she means. 

Sharing such a tiny communal space, the five residents hardly have the luxury of harbouring secrets. Consequently, the yard is a hotbed of conflict, fertile ground for meddlesome gossipers like Ena, a carry-go-bring-come extraordinaire, to thrive. 

Unsurprisingly, she is in constant scrapes and verbal clashes with the others – chiefly Mas Benji (Oliver Samuels, terrific), the 70-year-old landlord whose efforts to collect his monthly rent easily run up his blood pressure.

56 East Avenue is also home to Jah D (Dennis Titus), a devout Rastafarian who runs an ital food establishment in the community and Ena’s dream lover. Never mind that she is still shacked up with common-law husband Jeremiah (Volier Johnson), a hustler whose goods-for-sale are not always acquired by honest means.

Rounding out the solid five-member cast is Merdel (played by Lakeisha Ellison), a nice Christian girl pursuing higher education while holding down a steady job. Ambitious and well-liked by the men in the yard, she is the bane of Ena’s existence. Smartly, Merdel always takes the high road. Hard to believe, but Merdel, like almost everybody else, is concealing something dark from her past.

But this is 56 East Avenue, where nothing remains hidden for very long. And once the play hits its explosive climax, members of the audience will have to take cover. 

Envy, pride, dignity, karma – it’s all explored here with ample wit, wisdom and keen observations about Jamaican life then and now. A superior product to Frenemy, Samuels’ last offering, 56 East Avenue is a most entertaining place to be. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+








Tuesday, 12 March 2019

THE TALLAWAH INTERVIEW: Aisha Davis talks about bliss, her blessings and bringing a new character to life

SITTING PRETTY: "It took me out of my comfort zone," Davis says of playing Lisa in this season's Special Cuts.

WHEN Aisha Davis says there’s so much joy in her life that she laughs a lot, it isn’t hard to see why. First off, she’s back on stage (playing firecracker Lisa in the sizzling dramedy Special Cuts), she has a soulful new EP in the works, and lately she’s been seeing a hot younger man. But, as we promised, our lips are sealed. And don’t even bother asking how old she is. Here, the talented Miss Davis goes on the record, as she dishes with TALLAWAH at the Phoenix Theatre.

TALLAWAH: Your new play, Special Cuts, is about family, facing the mistakes of your past and friendships. What qualities do you most admire in friends?
Aisha Davis: Honesty. I like people who are genuine. I like good, positive energy and people who are just fun to be around.

TALLAWAH: So what’s your philosophy on dating and relationships?
 Aisha Davis: There has to be chemistry and, of course, physical attraction (Laughs). We have to communicate on some level. Trust in a relationships is also very important for me. Without those it won’t work.

TALLAWAH: Earlier this season you co-starred in What Goes Around. But the last time we saw you on stage you were starring in JMTC’s Dreamgirls. You were playing Deena. And that was over a decade ago. How does it feel to be back?
Aisha Davis: I was a bit nervous, to be honest with you, because it’s been so long! But it feels great. When I did What Goes Around, we had like two rehearsals, but my castmates were very welcoming, very helpful. It was also my first time working with Sabrina [Thomas], and it’s been fun. 

TALLAWAH: And you’re working with her again on this new show. What drew you to Special Cuts?
Aisha Davis: I loved the story. The process of bringing this character [Lisa] to life has been challenging but a great learning experience because there are so many sides to her. She’s a complex character, but I could relate to a lot of what she’s been through, like being abused. It took me out of my comfort zone.

TALLAWAH: Interesting. Speaking of your comfort zone, when was the last time you connected with L’Antoinette Stines and your L’Acadco family?
Aisha Davis: Oh, my. I was actually with them recently for orientation, as they welcomed the new members. I’m still a part of the family. I was a dancer with the troupe for 13 years, and I was also dance captain. Once a L’Acadco member always a member. And as long as L’Antoinette needs me to come in to help with a piece or maybe teach a class, I’ll make myself available.

TALLAWAH: You’ve evolved so much as a triple threat: dancer, singer, actress. What do you most want out of life now?
 Aisha Davis: As a recording artiste, it’s about getting recognition having put in the work. It’s a wide landscape out there, but I’m not competing with anyone but myself. I just want to do good music. But I do wish I had a team, an engine, behind me. And I guess that’s the major thing, the machinery to further push my music career.

TALLAWAH: Tell us about the EP you’re currently working on?
Aisha Davis: It’s called Cinnamon. I was hoping to release it in time for spring, but because of schedule constraints it’s been pushed back. But when it comes put you’ll love it. It’s a mixture of soulful and that nice groovy reggae vibe. Good stuff.

TALLAWAH: Sounds promising. How do you measure your happiness these days? What makes Aisha truly happy?
Aisha Davis: I’ve been blessed with an extraordinary life. I’ve had some wonderful people who have entered my life. Sometimes you can’t help but feel overwhelmed. But I’m very grateful. I try to stay positive; I laugh a lot. The Bible says, ‘Count it all joy.’ So even when something bad happens, you learn from it.








Monday, 11 March 2019

NEWS & NOTES: Media association elects new executive … More free Wi-Fi spots for rural J’ca … National Gallery accepting submissions for summer exhibition

ART OF THE MATTER: The National Gallery of Jamaica is now accepting submissions for the 2019 Summer Exhibition. The invitation is open to all artists resident in Jamaica, all Jamaican artists resident abroad, and artists of direct Jamaican parentage living abroad. Artists may submit up to two works for exhibition, and the works should have been completed within the last three years. Deadline for submission: Monday, April 8. The selection committee will be comprised of two local judges and one international judge. Entry categories include painting, drawing (pastel and watercolor included), original print, collage, photography, sculpture (including assemblage), installations, ceramic, fibre art, audio-visual, and performance. Visit nationalgalleryofjamaica.wordpress.com for more information. The 2019 Summer Exhibition opens on July 28 and will be on view through October 27.

MEET THE PRESS: Managing Director of The Gleaner Company, Christopher Barnes, has been re-elected Chairman of the Media Association of Jamaica (MAJ), which is led by a nine-member executive comprising representatives from six independently owned media businesses. The elected Vice-Chairs are Debbian Dewar (Grove Broadcasting/Irie RM) and Steve Billings (SunCity Radio). Rounding out the executive: Dennis Howard (Radio Jamaica), Claire Grant (TV-J), Keith Campbell (Public Broadcasting Corporation), D’Adra Williams (Zip 103 FM), Kenneth Grant (Nationwide News Network) and Danville Walker (Jamaica Observer). Andrea Messam (treasurer) and Shena Stubbs-Gibson (secretary) have retained their respective posts. The association has vowed to continue to fight the good fight. “The media landscape in Jamaica is fraught with issues which will erode the sustainability of the industry if not addressed through a collective effort,” the body said in a release. “A free and sustainable media is crucial for maintaining democracy.”

GETTING CONNECTED: The Universal Service Fund (USF) will be increasing the number of free Wi-Fi zones across the island, as part of a drive to facilitate greater internet access for Jamaicans. Kwan Wilson, the USF’s Director of Projects, says St. James and Portland are among the rural parishes now being targeted for new Wi-Fi sites. Secure, public hotspots are already available in high-traffic areas in Manchester, St. Elizabeth and the Corporate Area, allowing citizens to use the web at little or no cost for research, bill payments, educational processes and social networking, etc.








Monday, 4 March 2019

THE MEASURE OF A MAN: Two theatre stalwarts pay tribute to the late great Aston Cooke

IN MEMORIAM: Cooke was known was for his work with the Jamaica Youth Theatre and the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, among others.

THE sudden death, at age 61, of playwright, former JCDC Chairman, Miss Jamaica World co-franchise holder and noted cultural authority Aston Cooke has met with a wave of glowing tributes from esteemed colleagues and those who knew him best. Here, two of the theatre industry’s most important contemporary voices remember him. 

>> For David Tulloch, Cooke was a dear friend and mentor 
“Aston introduced me to theatre at the age of six. The production was Snow White & the Seven Dwarves. Then [we did] Schools’ Drama Festival at Wolmer’s Boys School. Since then, he became a leader, mentor and dear friend. I am going to miss him.” 

>> Basil Dawkins admired Cooke’s persistence and resourcefulness
“One of the most admirable things about Aston was the sacrificial way that, against much odds, he, along with Quindell Ferguson, kept Schools’ Drama Festival alive. If there was any job in theatre most thankless it was the effort to keep Schools’ Drama Festival up and running. And against those odds, and with very little resources, he did it. The Jamaica Youth Theatre, which came out of Schools’ Drama Festival, in a short time became a force to be reckoned with. I hope both organizations will grow from strength to strength in his memory. My condolences to his family and friends.” 

Our Farewell Tribute: TALLAWAH reflects on Aston Cooke’s life and legacy








NEW ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Rachael Allen makes the leap from drama-school grad to rising thespian

HEAD STRONG: Allen, 29, has always had a flair for the dramatic.

BACKSTAGE at New Kingston’s Centrestage Theatre on this warm and busy Wednesday night, Rachael Allen is reflecting on the time she’s spent, since graduating from School of Drama, finding her place in the local theatre industry. “It’s been a long and tedious journey for me,” she tells TALLAWAH, recalling some frustrating moments. “But I love theatre; I love performance art.”

What a difference patience and persistence makes. These days, Allen (who graduated from the Edna Manley College with a theatre-arts degree in 2015) is off to a promising start in her acting career. And we’re beyond impressed.

In addition to working with the LTM Pantomime Company for 2017’s Dapper Dan, she was cast as the feisty helper Precious in last season’s remount of Basil Dawkins’ Uptown Bangarang, earning a Thespy nod for Breakthrough Performance.

At the moment, she is performing for her largest commercial-theatre crowds yet, having landed a supporting role in Jambiz’s new musical comedy Romi & Julie, which runs until summer. “I’ve been a part of their workshop for a while, working with [director Trevor] Nairne,” she says. “And when they started casting for this show, I was asked if it was something I’d be able to do. I’m excited to see what it will lead to.”

At 29, Allen, who has performed in drama-school productions of such classics as Lynn Nottage’s Ruined and Oedipus by Sophocles, is the working mother of a nine-year-old daughter who attends Kingston’s Alvernia Preparatory, where Allen teaches dance classes. 

In conversation, she comes across as a remarkably intelligent young woman who wants to help other young and emerging talents get opportunities for growth and development. “Ultimately, I want to open an alternative academy to give options to students who may not by academically inclined,” shares the Immaculate Conception alumna, who also volunteers with Kingston Creative. “I’m also interested in art therapy, which can help introduce children with learning disabilities to normal society.”








Friday, 1 March 2019

2019 THESPIAN SPIRIT AWARDS: Winners' List

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE CAST
Belly Woman
Black Sheep
Case of the Ex
* Sugar Daddy - WINNER
Uptown Bangarang

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A LEAD ROLE
Jean-Paul Menou – The Owl & The Pussycat
Ricardo McFarlane – As He Watches
Jason Richards – Belly Woman
Rashiem Shepherd – One Blood
David Tulloch – Sugar Daddy - WINNER

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A LEAD ROLE
Samantha Brevett – Sugar Daddy
Dahlia Harris – Case of the Ex
Maylynne Lowe – Uptown Bangarang
Rosie Murray – The Innocence of Guilt: The Mary Lynch Story - WINNER
Nadean Rawlins – The Owl & The Pussycat

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Glen Campbell – Romi & Julie
* Everaldo Creary – Black Sheep  - WINNER
Rolando Fagan – Sugar Daddy
Kevin Halstead – All Aboard
Michael Nicholson – What Goes Around

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Alexandra Gregory – Case of the Ex
Ruth HoShing – Uptown Bangarang
Keisha Patterson – Romi & Julie
Sabrina Thomas – What Goes Around
* Trishana Wright – Sugar Daddy - WINNER

OUTSTANDING WRITER
Fabian Barracks – Black Sheep
Patrick Brown – Romi & Julie
* Orville Hall – From Den Till Now  - WINNER
Dahlia Harris – Case of the Ex
David Tulloch – Sugar Daddy

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE
Rachael Allen – Uptown Bangarang
Kevin Broomfield – Black Sheep
* Rolando Fagan – Sugar Daddy - WINNER
Donovan Stewart – All Aboard
Trishana Wright – Sugar Daddy

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR
Robert ‘Bobby’ Clarke – All Aboard
Pablo Hoilett – The Owl & The Pussycat
E. Wayne McDonald – Uptown Bangarang
David Tulloch – Sugar Daddy 
* Eugene Williams – Ti Jean & His Brothers  - WINNER

The LOUISE M. DUNK Lifetime Achievement Award: 
Franklyn ‘Chappy’ St. Juste