Saturday, 28 December 2019

THE TALENTED MISS WRIGHT: 2019 Festival Queen Khamara Wright on being a history-maker, her long-term plans and how cooking changed her life

THE NATURAL: "I'm a creative person," shares the 23-year-old, who hails from St. Catherine.

PUT Khamara Wright in the kitchen, and she’s immediately at home. “I started cooking when I was about eight because I sued to help my mom, Donnette, prepare meals. And I also helped my grandmother. So that’s where it started for me,” says the reigning Miss Jamaica Festival Queen, a sous chef and social activist who has put this early culinary training to life-changing use. “I’m a creative person; I love being creative in the kitchen. It’s definitely a passion. “

Her favourite dishes to prepare are traditional Jamaican delicacies like mackerel rundown and ackee and saltfish. I ask her about one day opening her own restaurant. “That’s part of my long-term plans, but first I want to get settled in my career then take it from there,” she says, sounding cautiously optimistic about what the future holds.

A daughter of St. Catherine, Wright firmly believes Jamaican authorities need to make vast improvements to the kind of assistance currently available to farmers and other stakeholders in the agriculture sector. “I am absolutely 100 percent on board with initiatives like the ‘Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow’ campaign,” she states emphatically. “It’s a great way to keep the income in Jamaica, while improving resources and creating opportunities for farmers.”

Which brings us to her planned national project. “It had to be something in line with my profession. It’s called ‘A Time to Eat’ and the aim is to help showcase and promote more indigenous Jamaican food items and raise the level of creativity in the preparation of Jamaican dishes.” 

Charming, intelligent and full of spunk, Miss Wright is the very definition of a young queen. A history maker in addition to being a high achiever, she’s the first young lady from St. Catherine to cop the title since Dahlia Harris’ triumph almost three decades ago. 

“It’s surreal but I’m proud that I was able to take the crown back to [my parish] after 29 years,” says Wright, whose favourite books include the John Maxwell bestseller What Successful People Know. “Now I’m a cultural ambassador for Jamaica, which comes with a little celebrity status that I wasn’t prepared for. But slowly I’m getting used to it.”

Monday, 23 December 2019

POWER PLAYERS: Longtime squash rivals Chris Binnie and Bruce Burrowes bring intensity and passion to the sport they love

GAME TIME: Burrowes and Binnie play nice ahead of taking the court.

LAST Friday night at the Liguanea Club, as two of Jamaica’s titans of squash reignited their long-standing rivalry, Bruce Burrowes had overwhelming crowd support behind him, but Chris Binnie had a greater reserve of stamina and endurance on his side.

In the end, Binnie prevailed after three sets (11-6; 11-4; 11-3) to cop the All Jamaica Open Men’s A title for the ninth time. Local squash fans will agree that when Binnie and Burrowes go head-to-head on the court, you’re in for an entertaining, high-adrenaline affair. As Binnie tells us, their “friendly” rivalry started from they were kids.

“We grew up playing together, so we’ve been at it for year. Every time we play against each other, it’s intense but it’s like old times,” says Binnie, who turned 30 this year. “We continue to push each other. He definitely pushes me to play better and better, and it’s good for the sport.”

Burrowes has nothing but superlative praise for his fierce and worthy opponent. “Chris really is a top-class player. He’s certainly earned his keep at the top of the ranks. He’s done Jamaican squash proud and I’m honoured to call him a teammate and friend.”

The fearless duo, along with two other local standouts (Lewis Walters and Tahjia Lumley) represented Jamaica at the recent World Squash Championships, which kicked off in Washington DC on December 15.

Jamaica Squash Association president Chris Hind is confident the guys will do well. “Only 24 teams were invited, and Jamaica is among those 24 teams, and that says a great deal about the quality of squash we’re playing,” Hind tells TALLAWAH.

As for the boys’ rivalry, he sums it up as two great athletes playing some of the best squash of their lives. “Bruce is an excellent player. It’s just unfortunate that Binnie always comes out on top whenever they meet in the final,” the president adds, chuckling. “Binnie is a professional, a solid competitor, and I hope he gets into the top 50 in the world.”

>>How much longer can Chris Binnie go? 
Known for his intense, Navy Seal-type training sessions, Binnie is fitness personified. But, by his own admission, the body has its limits. “If you want to be great at your job, you have to be practising day in and day out. But as an athlete, by the time you get to 35, 36, 37, that’s when things start falling off,” the Sportsman of the Year nominee and perennial national champion, points out. “Most squash players peak by the time they get to age 28, but I definitely have about three more years in me.”

PROUD TO BE JAMAICAN: Toni-Ann Singh receives the keys to the city of Kingston

FEELS LIKE HOME: Singh accepting the keys to the city from Mayor Delroy Williams during Saturday's concert at Emancipation Park.

IT was a homecoming tribute fit for a queen: a raft of top-class entertainers sharing the stage inside New Kingston’s Emancipation Park on Saturday night to put on a celebratory welcome-home concert for Toni-Ann Singh, who recently became the fourth Jamaican to win the coveted Miss World crown.

Sitting up front next to Miss World committee team leader Julia Morley, her parents Jahrine Bailey and Bradshaw Singh, and culture minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, Singh beamed from ear to ear (occasionally tearing up) as emcee Debbie Bissoon introduced performances by the likes of Jermaine Edwards, Lila Ike and Richie Stevens, who all gave solid accounts of their reputable talents as they serenaded and entertained our Miss World before a large and attentive audience.

Also hitting the stage: Kevin Downswell (who did a neat medley of his gospel hits), the Ashe company (taking us on a rhythmic journey of indigenous Jamaican music through the decades), talented young storyteller/poet Ngozi Wright (who won vociferous applause for her piece “Toni-Ann Wins”) and songstress Kimiela ‘Candy’ Isaacs, who opened the show earlier, showcasing splendid vocals as she rendered “Girl on Fire” and the spiritual “Without You.”

The evening climaxed when Miss Singh was invited on stage (alongside her parents, Miss Morley, Minister Grange, Kingston’s mayor Delroy Williams and Miss Jamaica World pageant holders Weston Haughton and Dahlia Harris) to be officially presented with the keys to the city of Kingston.

She was overcome with emotion. “I’m so grateful for all the love,” she said during her response, giving thanks for the overwhelming support here at home and abroad. “I think you’ll get tired of me saying it, but ‘Thank you.’”

Singh’s four-day itinerary also included visits to her birth parish of St. Thomas and local women’s centres, dinner with the Prime Minister and courtesy calls on the Opposition Leader and the Governor General.

Friday, 20 December 2019

TALLAWAH MOMENT: Jamaica’s Toni-Ann Singh crowned Miss World 2019

SITTING PRETTY: Singh, 23, says she is both "humbled" and "honoured" to win the coveted the crown.

On Saturday, December 14, Toni-Ann Singh wrote her name in the history books when she became the fourth Jamaican to win the coveted Miss World crown. Singh is 23 years old. The coronation took place inside the Excel Arena in London, where over 100 gorgeous and talented young ladies vied for the title as Miss World had its 69th staging.

The three previous Jamaicans to bring home the crown are Carol Joan Crawford (1963), Cindy Breakspeare (1976) and Lisa Hanna (1993).

Of course, Singh was overcome with emotion and was filled with gratitude as she basked in the once-in-a-lifetime moment. “My Jamaica, sweet Jamaica. My heart is filled with love and gratitude. Thank you so much for believing in me. You pushed me to believe in myself,” she shared on social media. “I am not only honoured but humbled to be the 69th Miss World. Thank you to my family and friends. The love and support you poured into me allows me to pour into the world.”

A major homecoming ceremony is being planned to celebrate Singh’s triumph.

CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: Spotlight on some standout 2019 supporting actors and actresses

BLUE NOTES: Deer, with Glen Campbell in Patrick Brown's Straight Jacket.

THIS week we continue our rundown of the performances and productions that left a lingering impression on us in 2019 with the supporting players.


Revealing a gift for spiky comedy, Shantol Jackson was a riot as the rowdy best friend in Ananda Alert… Sakina Deer gave yet another solid account of her versatility as a likeable headcase in Straight Jacket… Aisha Davis was a bonafide scene-stealer as a couldn’t-care-less nail technician in Special Cuts… Gracia Thompson poured on the maternal charm as the wise grandma in Ananda Alert… Karla Tulloch brought real power and poise to her role as a bishop’s first lady in Amazing Grace… As the long-suffering wife, Natoya Lee drew kudos for her terrific work in Pit to Pulpit, opposite Trishana Wright, who held her own as the loyal daughter caught between an embattled father and a bitter estranged sister… Meanwhile, Samantha Thompson delivered commanding work as a grieving church matriarch in Behind the Pulpit, while Renae Williams stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the boys in Yours, Truly.


A shoo-in for a nomination this year, Oraine Meikle brought the requisite conviction to his portrayal of a physically challenged dreamer in Special Cuts… David Tulloch was a crowd-and-critic pleaser with his energetic turn in Pit to Pulpit… Courtney Wilson could be the man to watch out for, thanks to his razor-sharp work in Straight Jacket… Andre Bennett was immensely convincing as the friendly neighbour with a dark secret in Ananda Alert… Earle Brown could return to the race this year for his brief but memorable part as a rival minister in Amazing Grace… In Behind the Pulpit, Miguel ‘DJ Rebirth’ Williams scored a solid breakout, playing a cool church brother sharing a tight bond with the new bishop’s husband, strongly played by Brian Johnson… Meanwhile, Stephen-Rhae Johnson gave a committed performance as the fun-loving business partner in Yours, Truly… David Freare did powerhouse work as Judas Iscariot in Jesus Christ Superstar, while Philip Clarke’s spot-on gardener/handy-man went from rags to riches in Feminine Justice.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

AT THE MOVIES: 21 Bridges has the grit and pace of an excellent cop drama

THE ENFORCER: Boseman plays a no-nonsense lawman in his latest film.

POLICE officers on the silver screen fall into one of two categories: first-class crooks or first-class champions of the law. In the must-see new drama 21 Bridges, you get a fascinating combination of the two.

Engrossing, stirringly told and strongly acted, the film (directed by Brian Kirk) explores power, justice, corruption, the scourge of crime and other weighty themes, while delving into one officer’s quest to clean up the messy New York streets.

Chadwick Boseman, in arguably his finest role since taking on the titular character in Black Panther, stars as Detective Andre Davis, a second-generation NYPD lawman who takes his work seriously. Following in his father’s footsteps two decades after his death, he’s excellent at his job.

He encounters one of his toughest cases yet when two strong-willed young men (Stephan James and Taylor Kitsch) find themselves on the run after a cocaine robbery goes horribly wrong and a total of seven cops are shot dead.

Branded as cop-killers, Michael (James) and Ray (Kitsch) are determined to get away, but with Davis and his female case partner (Sienna Miller) on their trail, their escape plan hits a massive brick wall. What’s more, Manhattan is put on lockdown to trap them. The night-long manhunt intensifies, the body count piles up, and the film (expertly paced) races along to a shattering conclusion. 

Above all, 21 Bridges demonstrates that while working cases, cops need a certain fearlessness. It’s beyond essential, and you dare not give away your trust foolishly. Boseman’s Davis could be the poster boy for honourable young officers everywhere who get sobering reminders of this every day, as they strive to do the right thing. 

But like his superior officer (played by J.K. Simmons), Davis is not one to back down from a challenge or get disheartened by disappointment. “In the line of duty,” he asserts, “sometimes you have to look the Devil in the eye.” Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

WOMEN ON TOP: Lois Walters becomes HRMAJ’s first female head / Honey Bun’s Michelle Chong wants growth for local SMEs / ‘Babsy’ Grange’s UNESCO job is all about service

GLOBAL ICON: For Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, being elected a Vice President of the 40th Session of the UNESCO General Conference brings an opportunity “to serve and ensure that the voices of countries from the Caribbean and Latin America, as well as small island developing states, are heard and will benefit from UNESCO’s work.” Convening every two years, the General Conference brings together UNESCO’s 193 members to decide on the policies and work of the organization. Grange’s appointment comes on the heels of her two-year stint as Chair of the UNESCO Committee on Conventions and Reparations. She is also Vice Chair of the Culture Committee of the Organization of American States (OAS).

HISTORY MAKER: Lois Walters has been appointed the first female president of the Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica (HRMAJ). Walters, the principal director of HR policy and information at the finance ministry, succeeds Karl Williams, who served as the body’s head since 2002. Walters says the appointment marks one of the highlights of her two-decade career in human resources and vows to help usher the organization into a prosperous new chapter, by providing “value-added services to our members, partners, associates and wider community, [to lead] to greater organizational growth and the development of human capital.”

SHE MEANS BUSINESS: CEO and Founder of the new-kid-on-the-block Honey Bun Foundation, Michelle Chong, says the foundation’s primary aim is to play its part in driving growth in Jamaica’s business sector, “paying special attention to SMEs and the creative industry because of its untapped potential for growth. “We will focus on why we are not progressing exponentially, what we must do differently nationally and how we can be more innovative than the world,” Chong noted at the recent launch at Devon House. The foundation’s first-year budget is $14 million, which will be spent on marketing, website development and administration.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

LIFE + STYLE: Shaggy’s ‘Virgin’ deal + Buju is ‘Roc’ solid + Spice gets her own talk show

>> Buju Banton – One Year Later: Roc Nation deal, album on the way
It’s been a year since Buju Banton returned to Jamaica after serving seven years in a US prison on drug-related charges. He’s been working at a near non-stop pace since then, embarking on his global Long Walk to Freedom Tour, dropping new singles, collaborating with everyone from DJ Khaled to Popcaan to Rihanna and just recently inking a deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation family. Looking ahead, the Grammy winner, in an interview with Rolling Stone, says the aim is to “do things differently and show that we can foster a unity in our people that can’t be emulated anywhere else.” The highly anticipated album is in the works, he confirms, but he’s in no rush to set a release date. “I’m without a plan,” he admits. “A plan – that is too much of a strong word. We’re working on a fellowship.” 

>> Spice’s talk show: ‘Fans will love it’
Deepening her relationship with Magnum Tonic Wine, brand ambassador for Jamaica and the Caribbean Grace ‘Spice’ Hamilton has launched a new web-based talk show, Spice It Up, which has already started to generate buzz. Available for viewing at MagnumHub.TV, the show (which has already featured guests like star batsman Marlon Samuels) will deliver “the very best in topical entertainment and social commentary,” as Spice interviews celebrities and other intriguing personalities. “I’m excited about the show. I have a lot to say, and anyone who that knows Spice knows I’ve never been shy or coy about anything,” says the Love & Hip-Hop star. “Spice It Up will feature some amazing, possibly controversial discussions that fans will love.” Season 1 will run for 13 episodes.

>> Hail to the Chief!: Shaggy teams up with Virgin Holidays
Orville ‘Shaggy’ Burrell has had quite a year: releasing a new album, starring in Disney’s latest incarnation of The Little Mermaid, touring the continents and weathering controversy over funds raised for the Bustamante Hospital for Children. Now comes news that the diamond-selling megastar is capping 2019 with a big new role: Chief Caribbean Officer for Virgin Holidays. His task is to ensure that visitors enjoy the best of the region while promoting this side of paradise to the world. He’s hit the ground running. “I’ve been checking on Antigua,” he said in a recent Instagram post, “but need someone to cover for me while I go on tour.”

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

MEN ON A MISSION: Usain Bolt launches ‘Mobility’ scooters in Japan / TechBeach’s Kirk-Anthony Hamilton hails new partners Google / PJ Paterson is UWI’s first Statesman-in-residence

MAN OF HONOUR: Jamaica’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Percival James Patterson, has been made the first ‘Statesman in Residence’ at the University of the West Indies (UWI). “This honorary title is reserved for very distinguished and prominent regional and international retired leaders who are willing to carry out a scope of work within the university’s strategic plan – and brings to the task the necessary budget and support system so as to be independent in their functions,” the university said in a release. In addition to this new office for Patterson, the UWI is also home to the newly christened PJ Patterson Centre for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy and the PJ Patterson Endowment Fund.

DEMAND & SUPPLY: “We’re still talking and trying to figure out how to push forward and do better things of the environment because that’s where it started. This is the future,” Usain Bolt recently told Reuters, referring to plans to boost the popularity of the environmentally-friendly Bolt Mobility scooters, which his team recently introduced to the Japan market. Offering safe, simple and sustainable transport solutions, Bolt Mobility has already been launched in England and France and hopes to “be operating on 40 university campuses in Japan by the end of 2020.”

POWERFUL PARTNERS: TechBeach Retreat co-founder Kirk-Anthony Hamilton feels their collaboration with Google to put on this year’s conference in Montego Bay from December 5-7 is a perfect match-up. “Google is without a doubt the world’s foremost technology company, impacting the lives of billions,” he says. “Given our overall ambition, we are incredibly excited about this opportunity to collaborate with the company and thankful to be delivering this significant milestone to the region.” Now in its fourth year, TechBeach Retreat brings together global leaders from the best tech companies in the world, while offering participants opportunities to connect with these leaders and influencers via a series of thoughtfully designed workshops.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

NEW MUSIC REVIEW: Hear these buzzworthy singles from Etana, Skip Marley, Morgan Heritage and more

Skip Marley feat. H.E.R 
“Slow Down” 
If you had any lingering doubt that Skip Marley heralds the second coming of his uncle Junior Gong, take a listen to his assured, grown-man delivery on this repeat-worthy after-hours jam, on which R&B sensation H.E.R’s smoky vocals offer terrific support. [B+

“Rock My Body” 
A versatile songstress who never shies away from embracing new styles in her musical expression, the Grammy nominee fuses groovy reggae with traces of electro-pop to treat fans to an infectious tune (off her new EP, Dimensions) about that jones-in-your-bones sexual attraction. Pure fire. [A-

“Till My Time Come” 
Evidently, one of the biggest lessons life has taught dancehall disciple Demarco is to live each day as if it’s your last. He delivers that timely message with a tight lyrical flow on this latest tune that’s as wised-up as it is potent. [B+

Althea Hewitt 
Making a solid comeback after a lengthy hiatus, singer-songwriter Althea Hewitt blends optimism and fearlessness on this radio-ready single, championing the joy and newfound confidence that comes with growing older and wiser. [B+

Morgan Heritage 
“Beach and Country” 
Jamaica as Caribbean paradise is a deep source of inspiration for musicians at ‘yaad’ and abroad. The Grammy-winning bandmates have much to smile ‘bout while channelling their passion and island pride into a groovy anthem that just feels like home. [A]

HOT-BUTTON ISSUE: Controversial valedictorian Waldane Walker lands in ‘big’ trouble

HEAD STRONG: Walker's valedictory speech has provoked thought and ruffled feathers.

LAST Saturday, valedictorian of the Edna Manley College’s 2019 graduating class, Waldane Walker, ended his “excellent presentation” with a stroke of fanfare, urging his fellow graduates to “big up unuh B.C. self.” People were beyond shocked. Did he just use an expletive? Clips of that portion of Walker’s speech went viral. Newspapers columnists and radio talk-show hosts have been weighing in. Is there a deeper meaning behind this most controversial incident? Was the youngster challenging the age-old establishment or was it just plain disrespect? Here, two noted commentators share their perspectives: 

> Mark Wignall’s take: “Some in the society believe [he] as radically stepped out of his lane and landed squarely in the crosshairs of a society always on the brink… Mr. Walker was too expressive for his britches… [and] some among us believe that his expressive words is another drag on a society that needs major lifting up… Walker loves the language [but] pulled away his restraints last Saturday…” 

> Donna Hope’s take: “Opinions are divided. Some see it as much ado about nothing. After all it is our language, they state. Others see it as a well-timed slap at the establishment. Yet others are angry. They perceive it as another slide down the morality barometer, another indecent insertion within a public and very official context. The dust is still settling but the jury is still out. I doubt things will change much for the status of Jamaican ‘bad words’ very soon. Every form of language needs its expletives. If these fall, others will, of necessity, rise.” 

TALLAWAH’S take: We’re all for freedom of speech, but it seems Mr. Walker got a little bit carried away (and in such a public setting!), being caught up in the heady euphoria of the moment. Still, it’s a forgivable offence.