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

Friday, 30 August 2019

TALLAWAH BOOK CLUB: Three outstanding Jamaican men release powerful new books

>> Editor’s Pick! 
Jamaican politicians almost never publish books while in office. Dr. Christopher Tufton is among the rare exceptions. Ian Randle Publishers recently released State of Mind: Politics, Uncertainty and the Search for the Jamaican Dream, in which Tufton (our current health and wellness minister) offers a firsthand account of competitive party politics and domestic governance, while offering a view of contemporary Jamaican politics rarely seen. Packing 228 pages, the book also charts Tufton’s own journey in the public service, highlighting such repeat stints as cabinet minister and deputy leader of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). 

TRANSFORMATION & SUCCESS: “My very early years produced nothing remarkable. I was a rather dull child until it was discovered that I had poor eyesight. This [discovery] turned my whole world around, and I became an avid reader and an academic,” reveals Prof. Errol Morrison. Such jaw-dropping admissions are in ample supply in his new autobiography Growing Tall, Pursuing Excellence. Released by Pelican Publishers, the inspiring book invites readers to reminisce with the Jamaican stalwart as he charts his rise from such modest beginnings to becoming a noted professor of endocrinology, President of the University of Technology (UTech) and a member of the Order of Jamaica. 

WORD TO THE WISE: Everyone from Prof. Elsa Leo-Rhynie (“powerful”) to Lt. General Rocky Meade (“a template for daily living”) have been raving about Reflections for Living and Growing, a compilation of the writings of Rev. Dr. Webster Edwards. “The central theme of the book is that we are living in a world that is good, that it is an exciting time to be alive, and that life is to be celebrated,” says the Princeton University alum and World Council of Churches scholar. “This is the brightest period in the intellectual development of humankind, and there is a measure of latent goodness permeating the world, just waiting to be discovered.”

ON THE SCENE: Highlights from Huawei’s Seeds for the Future ceremony + Jesse Royal gives a helping hand + B’day celebrations for Beenie Man, Usain Bolt

HEAD OF THE CLASS: Aug. 22, Kingston. China-bound undergrads were the toast of the Huawei Seeds for the Future departure ceremony, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston last Thursday. The 16 students have been awarded internships and will participate in a two-week programme at Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen, China, from September 4 to 21. (Photo: Skkan Media)

ON MESSAGE: Aug. 22, Kingston. Technology minister Fayval Williams was among the speakers at the ceremony for the Huawei Seeds for the Future initiative, now in its third year. The programme selects top college students to go to China for an internship devoted to training future ICT professionals. (Photo: Skkan Media)

CATCHING UP: Aug. 22, Kingston. Moses ‘Beenie Man’ Davis was the man of the hour, as his Boom-sponsored birthday festivities took centrestage at Jangar’s, drawing support from celeb friends like Zachary Harding(Photo: Skkan Media)

HIS KIND OF FOLKS: Aug. 24, St. Andrew. Also celebrating an August birthday, Usain Bolt and friends partied at Devon House’s Fridays at the Devon, to mark his turning 33. (Photo: Sleek)

FOR THE PEOPLE: Aug. 27, Kingston. Roots-reggae rocker Jesse Royal put in some charity work earlier this week, hitting the road to meet and greet residents on the WATA Hydration Tour. Talk about walking the walk! (Photo: Sleek)

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

THE WRITE STUFF: JCDC honours outstanding entrants at Creative Writing Awards; St. Elizabeth’s Rohan Facey cops top honours

AHEAD OF THE PACK: Facey collects his Best Overall Writer Prize from JCDC Commissioner Kenneth Shaw at the ceremony.

BEFORE a sizeable audience at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel’s Talk of the Town perch one recent Monday evening, St. Elizabeth-based poet and playwright Rohan Facey secured a hefty prize haul as the curtains came down on the 2019 Jamaica Creative Writing Competition.

In addition to gold and silver medals for poetry, and a couple of merit awards for his plays, he received class awards for having the most outstanding submissions in Junior Poetry and Intermediate Poetry, plus the most coveted award of the evening: the trophy for Best Overall Writer, which comes with a cash prize.

Short-story writer Nordia Grant of Kingston & St. Andrew took second place (Outstanding Writer), Collette D. Robinson, also from Kingston, was awarded Special Writer (or third place), with Kenneth Gant (Choice Writer) and fellow St. Catherine native Britney Smith (Noteworthy Writer) finishing fourth and fifth respectively. 

Each year, the Jamaica Creative Writing Competition, organized by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), presents gold, silver, bronze and merit awards to the most impressive participants (in the categories of poetry, short stories, novels and essays at junior, intermediate and adult levels), with the crème de la crème earning trophies, gift baskets and cash incentives. 

This year, nearly 630 entries were submitted for the five categories, with participants sending in work from all 14 parishes.

THE BEAUTY PAGE: The best sunscreen for dark skin / Miss J’ca Universe beauties / Ce’Cile’s bold new moves

>> Question: If I have dark skin do I really need to wear sunscreen?
According to the experts, the answer is yes, especially if you want to avoid photodamage, like sun spots and wrinkles. But skin cancer from sun exposure is less of a concern for those with dark skin. As it turns out, melanoma is 20 times more common in white people than black people. “Melanin offers some innate protection from the sun,” explains Dr. Dendy Engelman, a New York-based professor of dermatology. “That doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind and never wear sunscreen. But do you need to wear SPF 100 every day? Probably not.” Try these: Among the new formulas designed to be invisible on dark skin are Urban Skin Rx DermShield All Day Sun Protection Mattifying Moisturizer SPF 30 and Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30.

>> Go Girls! 18 lovely beauties vying for MJU crown
This year’s Miss Jamaica Universe finalists, a bevy of 18 stunning young ladies, are gearing up to bring the heat and wow the judges and audience members on August 31, when the grand coronation show takes place inside the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel ballroom. The contestants are: Yanique Morgan (Miss Jamaica Postal Service); Terina Dryden (Miss D’Marie Institute); Aiysha Hemmings (Miss Curves); Iana Tickle Garcia (Miss Rose Hall Developments); Sasha Henry (Miss Eden Gardens); Jewell Baldie (Miss Trend Steppaz); Rochell Ravers (Miss Kingston Graphics); Christine Samuels (Miss Thirsty Spirits); Fesco Sian Connolly (Miss Black Radiance); Chevonne Beadle (Miss Heaven’s); Deidra Kelsey Jones (Miss Dunn’s); Christine Butler (Miss Bliss Bridal Boutique); Leah Hollingsworth (Miss Rixon OC Group); Toni Ann Lalor (Miss Loud Fashion); Imani Jenkins (Miss Ettenio); Umeko Chin (Miss ER Designs); Fiona DaCosta (Miss Apollo Taxi) and Annecia Morgan (Miss Dale Carnegie Training Institute). The winner will go on to represent Jamaica at the Miss Universe pageant, set for December 19 in South Korea.

>> Ce’Cile: New look, new attitude, new label
The evolution continues. “I personally think I’ve done 90 percent of my time as a dancehall artiste. I’m doing something else, but I still love dancehall so much that I have decided to start working with artistes and be a music exec,” Ce’Cile dished in a recent Gleaner interview, announcing plans to start her own record label as she embarks on a fresh chapter in her career. Mogul ambition is nothing new for the bombshell, who has been co-producing her own music for years, including her latest CD, Music + Magic, released in March. At the moment, she also has a children’s book in the works, along with plans for a clothing line. Says Ce’Cile, “I’ll never stop being an artiste. I love it. But I like when I can control what I do.”

NEWS FEED: CXC passes improve / Is Jamaica ready to leave the IMF? / Noel Dexter to be laid to rest Sep. 2

MR. DEXTER’S OPUS: Funeral arrangements are now being made for the late musicologist and composer Noel Dexter, who passed away last Sunday. In addition to original compositions, which have become staples in the Jamaican songbook, Dexter was perhaps best known for his work as Artistic Director of the world-famous University Singers, based at the Mona Campus. “He was the most humble individual that we’ve ever met. He was a great man, and when you were around him you knew you were in the company of greatness. He was a mentor, a friend,” former chorister-turned-current Singers director Franklin Halliburton noted in a Gleaner interview. While soprano Althea McKenzie hailed Dexter as a nurturer of talent, All Together Sing’s Michael Sean Harris said, “He’s really a part of the fabric of the Jamaican musical landscape, especially with the classical and folk music.” A man of many honours and awards, Noel Dexter was 80 years old at the time of his passing. The thanksgiving service has been scheduled for Monday, September 2 at the UWI Mona Chapel.

ON THE MARK: Of the Jamaican students who sat the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams in May/June, 89.3 percent obtained grades one to three, according to a preliminary report from the education ministry. English Language and Mathematics recorded percentage passes of 82.8 percent and 54.6 percent respectively, representing a 7.4 percent increase in English passes but a 3.2 percent decrease in passes for Math – when compared to last year’s results. Overall, according to the ministry, higher scores were recorded in 23 of the 34 subjects taken. A total of 33, 639 students from public schools were registered for CSEC this year.

STATE OF AFFAIRS: IMF rep Dr. Constant Lonkeng Nguoana says Jamaica is ready to manage its own affairs. “Jamaica has reached a place where we don’t need to be here all the time. We are taking the back seat, and Jamaica is in the driver’s seat,” he says. “With what Jamaica has achieved over the past six years, we believe Jamaica is ready to exit the IMF and run its own business.” Jamaica’s current programme with the financial organization is scheduled to officially come to a close in November. “When Jamaica exits the financial support of the IMF, there will still be that consultation; we will offer our advice through technical assistance and so on, but not the heavy monitoring.”