Tuesday, 24 September 2019

WORLD CLASS: Skylark Negril Beach Resort named among best new hotels on the planet

PARADISE FOUND: The Westmoreland-based property has achieved global recognition.

AFAR Magazine, one of the top travel mags in the business, recently put together their first-ever Stay List, a compendium of the Best New Hotels in the World, “extraordinary places that connect with their destinations and the people who live there.”

The Skylark Negril Beach Resort (skylarknegril.com) made the list, which is comprised of 27 new global hotspots for travellers.

“The appeal of this beach-side resort in the Jamaican town of Negril is reflected in its name, which in island slang means ‘to laze about.’ The retreat is the ideal place to do just that,” raves the magazine, whose network of editors, staffers and contributors personally vetted each of the hotels on the uber-exclusive list.

The visitors say they couldn’t get enough of Skylark’s “relaxed beach bungalow feel that attracts an artsy, social crowd,” the property’s “colourful bedrooms, set around a palm-shaded courtyard” and the “white-and-blue canopied beach chairs on Jamaica’s iconic Seven Mile Beach.”

Skylark is the only Caribbean entry on the list. And it’s in excellent company, alongside such fabulous hotels as The Lindis (New Zealand), Ryse (Seoul, South Korea), Montage Los Cabos (Mexico), Paramount House Hotel (Australia), Isla Palenque (Panama), Heckfield Place (England) and Hotel Lutetia (Paris, France).

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Q-&-A: Ackera Gowie gets candid about her challenges, her true passions and the single life

GOAL ORIENTED: "I call this period of my life investing in sowing seeds," says the 24-year-old St. Mary native.

FROM overcoming financial challenges prior to finishing her tertiary education to copping the 2018 Miss Jamaica Festival Queen title to launching an eco/youth project with national impact, Ackera Gowie’s life has been filled with trials and triumphs. But now she’s stronger and wiser – and looking forward to all that life will send her way. In addition to working with the group initiative One Team JA, Gowie (who holds a Bachelor’s in International Relations and Public Sector Management from UWI Mona) is the manager for Digicel Rising Stars alum Diel, a budding fashionista and a single lady keeping her eyes on her goals. 

TALLAWAH: How did the past year change your life? 
Ackera Gowie: It was an absolutely amazing year. Before I entered Festival Queen, I was enrolled at UWI, and I was having some serious financial challenges, and I thought I wouldn’t get out of that situation. The opportunity came to enter the competition, and so I took up the challenge. I’m so glad I did. Taking home the crown to St. Mary was a huge honour because it had been 33 years since the parish last won it. I felt a bit of pressure, but the experience reassured me that you’re valuable and you can be successful regardless of your past struggles and challenges. You don’t have to be defined by your past. 

TALLAWAH: You’re such a gorgeous girl. Have you ever considered entering Miss Jamaica World or Miss Jamaica Universe? 
AG: When I won, so many people came up to me with that idea! It’s something I might consider, but it would have to be Miss Jamaica World (Laughs). 

TALLAWAH: Congrats on the success of your first project, EcoMoney, which is concerned with boosting that entrepreneurial spirit in young people. What expansion plans do you have in mind for it? 
AG: I plan to continue it; it’s a lucrative project idea. The idea is if we can equip our young people with the necessary skills and resources then Jamaica’s future will be in safe hands. It combines my three passions: young people, the economy and the environment. 

TALLAWAH: Let me get nosy here. Is there a leading man to share your success? 
AG: I’m single at the moment – and not looking (Laughs). I call this period investing in sowing seeds. Anything that will propel me to the next level. 

TALLAWAH: What’s your advice for the new Miss Jamaica Festival Queen? 
AG: I would tell her to take some time for herself and think about what she wants to do over the course of the year. Get a team together and partner with corporate brands. And just breathe and have fun. Enjoy every moment of it.

ON THE SCENE: Foodies assemble for 2019 launch of Jamaica Food & Drink Festival

EVENT organizers, sponsors, government officials, culinary industry reps and foodies galore gathered at the Life Yard eco village in Downtown Kingston on September 11 for the launch of the Jamaica Food & Drink Festival (now in its fifth year), which kicks off on October 26. Below, highlights from the well-supported event.

PARTY OF FOUR: Island Grill’s Thalia Lyn and friends were happy to be front and centre at the festival’s launch party.

MAIN (DIS)COURSE: Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) Executive Director, Dr. Carey Wallace, brought greetings on behalf of the tourism ministry.

SERVICE WITH A SMILE: Super-chef Colin Hylton, always looking the part, put in an appearance.

MISS MANNERS: The guest list included fierce leading ladies like Sagicor’s Alicia Moulton-White

KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL: Culture minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange was also in the mix. 

FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED: Style star and social-scene regular Valon Thorpe represented for the guys.

TABLE FOR THREE: Of course, Gary and Tina Matalon (with a lady friend) were in attendance.

Monday, 16 September 2019

SOCIETY, SOCIETY: From Russia with Love; Of Becca, Dexter and Mr. Seaga’s grave…

>> These days, members of the jet set are on cloud nine, as it’s been announced that plans are being finalized for new flights out of Russia and South Africa to Jamaica. According to the tourism ministry, these latest developments could lead to as much as a 10.2% growth in the overall revenue generated for the sector in 2019. But that’s not all. As of December 2, LATAM Airlines will commence service between Lima, Peru and Montego Bay, with up to three flights per week. Meanwhile, Russian airline Pegas Fly is so excited they will be using bigger jets for their Jamaican trips, possibly increasing passenger load to Montego Bay to 500 persons per trip. We feel special! 

>> Whatever celestial province the late Noel Dexter has travelled to – what a music they are now enjoying! The celebrated musicologist, composer and University Singers artistic director, who crafted some of the most delightful and patriotic selections in the Jamaican Songbook, will be greatly missed. He was in a league all his own. 

>> On another note, surely Mr. Edward Seaga’s grave at National Heroes’ Park will be given a proper tombstone like the other burial spots. It cannot remain like that. It’s an eye-sore compared to the other icons’ graves on the property. 

>> And speaking of the departed, legendary journalist and commentator Tony Becca has been posthumously inducted into the Caribbean Media Association Hall of Fame. No one is more deserving of such an honour than Mr. Becca whose writings on everything from cricket to Caribbean identity truly took us beyond a boundary. 

>> The corporate scene has bid farewell to Ricardo Nuncio, who has left Red Stripe to return to Mexico to take up another assignment. His successor, Luis Prata, has very big shoes to fill.

CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: Jean-Paul Menou gears up for his School of Drama directing debut

I HAVE A ‘DREAM’: As a speech and drama lecturer at the Edna Manley College, Jean-Paul Menou is always looking for fresh opportunities to engage his students. This semester he’s getting to challenge them (and himself) in a creative and exciting way: by mounting a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, his directorial debut for the School of Drama. “I’m excited about it because I’m getting to expose my students, particularly my first years, to Shakespeare. It’s one of his best plays in my opinion. And it’s not a tragedy, so it’s not heavy,” he tells TALLAWAH, seated in his upstairs office on campus. Menou, who has earned renown as quizmaster on Schools’ Challenge Quiz, is not one to take creative liberties with the Bard’s work but, as an enterprising director, he is thrilled about trying a thing or two with the classic text. “Over the summer, while I was working on the script, I was thinking of translating it from old English to modern-day English to make it easier for my students,” says Menou, who just started auditions for casting, “but I was worried about losing the essence of the work. So what I decided to do instead is put together a glossary with the script.” Ah, the lengths some teachers will go for their students. The production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens at the Dennis Scott Studio Theatre in mid-October.

ON WITH THE SHOW: Celebrating another milestone year, Father HoLung & Friends (the beloved ghetto priest is turning 80) are bringing back Isaiah this season. The mega-musical, which revisits the Biblical narrative, plays at the National Arena (including school shows) September 25-29 and October 2-4. Once again, the prolific Greg Thames is bringing his directorial brio to the table, transforming Father HoLung’s vision into a theatrical spectacle. Wynton Williams (Musical Director), Paula Shaw (choreography), among other, are expected to reprise their roles in the crew. As for the actors involved, Stephen-Rhae Johnson, L’Andre Saddler and Jodi Palmer are set to lead a massive cast.

LET THE COUNTDOWN BEGIN: It’s that time of year again when we turn our attention to the performers and productions generating awards season (Thespy, Actor Boy) buzz. And I’m happy to report that, from my vantage point, the categories are shaping up nicely. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be doing the usual breakdown (Best Shots, Possibles, Long Shots) as we work our way up to the big announcements in January. Stay tuned. Exciting times are ahead…

HOUSE FIRES: Intriguing plot, strong cast brings It Stops Here to satisfying end

POWER OF TWO: Murray and Chambers head up a solid cast of players.

It Stops Here (Whirlwind Entertainment)
Director: Andrew Roach
Cast: John Chambers, Rosie Murray, Rae-Anna Murray and Peter Heslop
Venue: Jamaican Shopping Club Theatre (Green Gables), Kingston 

A lot of the abuse that takes place in the domestic space is because of enablers. Sadly, too often mothers are guilty of this. 

Witness the scorching new stage dramedy It Stops Here, in which a matriarch (Rosie Murray as Duchess), who has a narcotic relationship with money, enables the physical abuse of her daughter (Rae-Anna Murray as Olive) at the hands of a wealthy and powerful married man (John Chambers as William Gillespie), who serves as their personal ATM once he’s getting what he wants. And what he wants is total control of Olive’s life.

With an oblivious wife at home, William sets up his mistress in a swanky uptown apartment and keeps the money flowing. (Duchess, of course, is not complaining.) But William is a brute, one with a violent temper and an acute case of paranoia. (Olive is cheating on him with whomever she is having a phone conversation.)

Because of this he repeatedly puts her in her place with a couple sharp slaps or a chokehold. One time, after a particularly explosive episode, he practically leaves her for dead. 

A vagrant (Peter Heslop as Roy) then enters the house, steals her two cellphones and discovers her body out cold on the floor. Leaping into action, he ends up reviving her. So thankful for being sent a saviour, Olive shows her gratitude by offering him a place to shower, a change of clothes and some money.
But when Roy returns to the apartment a few days later, a super-drunk William turns up and the ensuing sequence of events is not pretty. Even more hilarious, when Roy and Duchess come face to face, their meeting sparks a blast from the past that blows the whole story wide open.

Written and directed by Andrew Roach, who knows how to deepen a plot (despite a hefty serving of melodrama), It Stops Here benefits tremendously from the committed performances of the strong cast, particularly John Chambers (consistently robust) and Rosie Murray, who disappears into the juicy role. 

Intriguing, in spite of its shortcomings, the play will resonate with anyone who has ever paid a price for the selfish desires of others – and the courage it takes to bring about your own survival. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

>> Interview: John Chambers talks art and life

Friday, 13 September 2019

REAL TALK: Ikaya shatters the notion that women are the ‘fairer sex’

BAD GIRL: The songstress sparks an open dialogue with her new video.

LET’S face it: we are living in a brave new world, where the disparities in opportunities for men and women are disappearing fast. Especially in the wake of #MeToo, the gender wars are locked in a toe-to-toe battle. A deadheat. 

Wither the damsel in distress. Say hello to the fearless female. She’s hungry. She has a competitive gleam in her eyes. She’s taking over – from the boardroom to the criminal underworld.

On the heels of movies like Widows and The Kitchen comes a provocative new video from reggae-soul songstress Ikaya that turns on its head the argument that some behaviours, lifestyles and practices are just for men.

The video reintroduces the entertainer as a tough cookie, the leader of an all-black-clad, gun-toting female posse giving new meaning to “sexy badness” (as the song is called). Ikaya and the girls inhabit the roles so well that their performances transcend role-playing. These girls are depicting a reality many of us don’t care to face: anything that men can do, no matter how dangerous and terrifying, women are matching.

As the video attests, the gangstress world is real. (Fathers, hide your sons!) Society frowns on women in certain roles, so it’s not yet a mainstream phenom. But, rest assured, it’s coming. 

“Thug life” and “menace to society” will soon be gender neutral. And by the time that happens, a woman will be occupying the Oval Office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Blame it on climate change. A new day is dawning.

5 THINGS I’VE LEARNED IN LIFE: Schoolteacher and actress Natoya Lee on faith, family and always being true

STRENGTH OF CHARACTER: "I try to be my authentic self at all times," Lee says.

AS a schoolteacher (returning to the classroom at Naggo Head Primary this month), one of Natoya Lee’s favourite on-the-job activities is writing jingles for her young students to better understand the concepts. As an evolving woman (now 40), Lee herself is constantly on the learning curve, savouring valuable lessons that straddle the worlds of her personal and professional lives. Here, the mother, church choir director and emerging actress talks about what she’s learned: 

1. The Key to a Happy Marriage 
You can’t do it on your own; it takes both partners. And a lot of prayer (Laughs). You can’t be selfish in a marriage. And it’s also true that communication is crucial. 

2. Keeping the Faith 
Friends are great for support. For me, constant communication with the Lord is also important. Having a supportive group of people who watch out for you helps; people you can be accountable to and to cheer me up when my spirit is down. 

3. Family Life 
Being by yourself gets lonely, so I’m glad I have my daughter and my mom, who are just towers of strength. When I retreat from the world, I know I can go home and they are there to help me take a load off, especially after a hectic day. 

4. Staying true to you 
It’s not the easiest thing sometimes. There are expectations of you, and sometimes if you are not careful you will lose sight of the fact that you are more than the expectations. I try to be my authentic self at all times, and that’s why people are drawn to me. 

5. Being a Jamaican woman 
I have pride in that (Laughs). I love my hips and my full figure. I love that I am a Caribbean woman.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

GOOD MEDICINE: A taste for red grapefruit / How to beat a migraine / Blackberries on the local market

STRANGE FRUIT: Where in Jamaica can you get blackberries to purchase? 
Farm-fresh blackberries are on sale in Kingston at Butcher Block, Shop A7 at Upper Manor Park Plaza – and in the Second City at The Steakhouse on the Bay, located at the Montego Bay Yacht Club. Call 876-383-3746 for more information. 

HEAD STRONG: How to manage your migraines 
1) Know your triggers: They vary by individual and can range from extreme heat and exercise to sugar and alcohol. 
2) Keep a consistent schedule: When your sleep is irregular, you’re more prone to migraines. 
3) Control stress: Relaxation therapy, yoga and meditation can help. 

OUT OF THIS WORLD: Are there red grapefruits in Jamaica? 
One red grapefruit is said to contain about half your daily recommended dose of Vitamin A – a nutrient key to skin and eye health – which is more than 25 times the amount found in white grapefruit.

NEW MUSIC REVIEW: Hear these fresh tracks from Maxi Priest, Sevana, Lila Iké and Sean Paul

>> Maxi Priest feat. Shaggy – “I’m Alright”
These two entertainment legends first worked together on the smash hit “Close to You.” Nearly two decades later, their chemistry feels as fresh as ever on this funky, repeat-worthy duet (off Maxi Priest’s upcoming album) that’s all about surrendering to the magic of melodies, riffs and harmonies. When Maxi declares, “My heart beats to the music,” you have to believe him. [A-]

>> Sevana – “Nobody Man”
We’ve always had a certain respect for strong, independent women who speak their mind. Sevana fits the bill, and on this feisty, mid-tempo jam, the fast-rising singer-songwriter and talented vocalist comes across as a sister who knows her worth and refuses to settle for less than the best. What’s more, she emphasizes, you can’t put a price on class and self-esteem. [B+]

>> Sean Paul feat. Squash – “Life We Living”
Creating a chill vibe, Sean Paul and Squash trade rhymes on this smooth, mid-tempo club banger that references everything from seductive senoritas to high grade and champagne to treating every day like a holiday. It’s easy to envy these big spender who are clearly from the YOLO school of thought. [B+]

>> Lila Iké – Where I’m Coming
From With her breakout hit “Second Chance” and her guest spot on Protoje’s “Not Another Word,” bonafide rising star Lila Iké put reggae lovers on notice. She’s back with this rootsy gem about substance over hype and keeping it real with yourself and others. A melodic fusion of honour and humility. [A]

Monday, 9 September 2019

THE OTHER SIDE OF: David Tulloch on being grateful, cinema classics and the power of music

BON VIVANT: Tulloch shares a few of his favourite things.

NO rest for the talented. Each season of Jamaican theatre brings a production that David Tulloch either wrote, directed or stars in. This month, the relentless achiever opts for the latter, appearing in Pit to Pulpit as the insufferable senior pastor Rudolph Baton, an old man who loves SpongeBob Squarepants and a good argument. Herewith, a quick snapshot of what Tulloch enjoys. 

One thing that always cheers me up: Music. No matter what kind of mod I’m in, some kind of music can always make me feel better. 

A book every Jamaican should read is: The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner. 

These days I’m most grateful for: Life. It’s a rough time; so many people are dying. You have to be happy to be alive. 

If I could invite any three famous people to dinner, I’d have over: Jesus Christ, our current prime minister Andrew Holness and Michael Lee Chin. 

The last time I laughed out loud was: Tonight, while on stage. 

My all-time favourite movie is: I have several – the Ten Commandments, Angels & Demons and Ben Hur, to name a few. 

My idea of perfect happiness is: Having peace and peace of mind. 

The secret talent I wish I had: Being a ventriloquist (Laughs). I’ve always wanted to do that, especially on stage. Getting a puppet to talk.

>> Review: Spotlight on Pit to Pulpit 

Monday, 2 September 2019

COMMUNITY BEAT: News + Notes from Negril to Morant Point

CLARENDON: Ahead of last month’s staging of the Denbigh Agricultural Show in Clarendon, the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) hosted its annual AGM at the Denbigh Showgrounds, where the wide-ranging discussion touched on national food security and the increasing importance of the ‘Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow’ campaign. While JAS president Lenworth Fulton made the revelation that Jamaica’s import bill for food “continues to rise and is presently at US$0.9 billion,” Opposition spokesman on Agriculture, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, estimated that “sixty percent of the food we eat is imported.” Clarendon’s Custos, William Shagoury, observed, “A country that cannot feed itself is no country at all… We need to be able to produce enough to feed ourselves.”

TRELAWNY: This summer, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) joined forces with the Trelawny Parish Library to empower youngsters, aged 4-15 years, “to make environmentally conscious decisions.” Attracting sponsors like the National Baking Company, the programme drew dozens of participants to the Falmouth-based parish library, as well as the branch libraries in Clark’s Town, Wakefield and Duncan’s. The kids were exposed to issues centred on pollution, marine and terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity. Books on Jamaica’s flora and fauna were also given to the participants. 

ST. ANDREW: On the night of Friday, August 9, fire of unknown origin destroyed dormitories at the Jamaica National Children’s Home, the place of residence for 41 boys and girls, who are wards of the state. Exemplary corporate citizen Sagicor Jamaica has leaped to their aid, donating $1 million to go towards rebuilding efforts. “We hope that this will see to some of the immediate needs of the children… and we look forward, in the weeks and months to come, to seeing how we can be of assistance,” says Sagicor Group CEO, Chris Zacca. “If they are Jamaican children, they are our children.”

ON THE GOSPEL TRAIN: David Tulloch launches gospel music career with up-tempo track “Suffer the Loss”

TAKING THE LEAD: Tulloch currently has a great stage role and a pulsating single at radio.

AS his countless fans know, David Tulloch’s twin passions are theatre and music. Nothing brings him greater joy. Having won an enviable stash of awards for his work on and off the stage, it comes as no surprise that he’s now giving greater focus and deepening his work in the music business. What might be surprising to some is that he’s tapping into the gospel genre.

“Where I am now in my spiritual walk, the secular thing doesn’t interest me anymore,” shares the 38-year-old, a multiple winner at the Actor Boy Awards for Best Original Song and Original Score, and who only a few couple of months ago directed a local staging of the Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway smash Jesus Christ Superstar to critical acclaim.

“Ever since I’ve been doing theatre, I’ve been doing music,” he says, “but I never felt confident enough to step out and fully pursue music as a career. At this stage of my life I feel like I can now do that and give music a chance.” 

And he’s kicking off his gospel-industry exploits with the fiery up-tempo track “Suffer the Loss,” which has been getting steady rotation on daytime radio since its official release last week. Love FM’s Markland ‘Action’ Edwards even had him in-studio to discuss the inspiration behind the track, which he wrote, arranged and produced.

But “Suffer the Loss” is not Tulloch’s first or only gospel track. Apparently he’s been holding out on the fans, as he admittedly has enough material to fill an EP. Cuts like “Journey to God,” “My Jehovah,” “Do You” and “Amen” (which features supporting vocals from wife Karla) will delight listeners.

Meanwhile, choosing the gospel route also presented a way for Tulloch to responsibly acknowledge his role as the father of young children. “I always say if I was to stand up in front of a speaker box with my kids and a song of mine was playing what would I want them to hear,” he notes. “Thankfully, both of them love the song.” 

Seemingly blessed with the Midas Touch, Tulloch continues to attract noteworthy collaborators who enjoy working with him. To wit, he and Roy Rayon will release their joint track “Why We Love God So Much” before year-end.

Playwriting, film, musical theatre, award-winning original scores, a foray into gospel …. His countless fans are intrigued to see what the unpredictable David Tulloch will accomplish next.

CHAT ’BOUT: Dr. Chris Tufton on J’ca and the Ebola virus / Lennie Little-White on energizing Brand J’ca / Prof. Stephen Vasciannie on J’ca and Int’l Rule of Law

>> “Given the fragmentation of our current Jamaican persona, now is the time for Government, Opposition and appropriate state agencies to seize the opportunity to energize our people with a Brand Jamaica message that runs second only to the National Anthem. This should be a national effort that bubbles up across all 14 parishes and not just trickles down from Jamaica House or Gordon House. Let Brand Jamaica be a psychological call to energize every man, woman and child.” – Filmmaker and businessman Lennie Little-White in a recent Sunday Gleaner column 

>> “Jamaica believes in the rule of law. As a small island developing state, we have to believe in the rule of law because we stand to benefit from the application of the law to our international and national affairs. As part of that, Jamaica has declared itself an archipelagic state through the Maritime Areas Act, and this is an attempt to follow the [UN] Convention. Jamaica is keen to follow the Convention.” – UTech President Prof. Stephen Vasciannie delivering a lecture on International Rule of Law recently at the Jamaica Conference Centre 

>> “Given the relatively robust surveillance and infection prevention and control practices in Jamaica, the public can be reassured that the current emergency arrangements are in place to enable an appropriate response in the event of the introduction of the Ebola virus into the country. The ministry will also be ensuring capacities for readiness, which includes addressing stock levels of critical equipment and supplies, protocol for specimen and patient transportation and reporting requirements.” – Health minister Dr. Chris Tufton issuing a statement in response to a recent WHO declaration