Saturday, 31 October 2020

MAN IN THE MIRROR: Self-discovery and artistic zeal bring it home for Ashé’s Marlon Tomlinson

QUICK STUDY: “My ultimate goal, really, is to serve as a creative director for young artists,” Tomlinson says.

MARLON Tomlinson was searching. That’s how he explains the post-adolescent period of his life marked by a stark rebellious streak – wild red hair, manic life-of-the-party energy – that people came to associate with him. “I think I was using that period of craziness to define my role as an artist. But as you start to understand yourself you stop searching and you start honing,” he tells TALLAWAH

As he got deeper into his 20s, more knowledgeable about the world around him and more sure of what he wants out of life, he called off the search. He’s found his purpose, and what a personal transformation it has brought. “I’d say I grew up,” he admits in a masterpiece of understatement. “I’m now a proud loner.” Indeed, the laid-back, reflective and calm Marlon Tomlinson of today is a far cry from the wild child of a decade ago. 

You’ll get similar narratives from young artists across the Caribbean: they had some maturing to do in pursuit of their passion and purpose. On a deeper level though, what precipitated Tomlinson’s evolution was a deep desire to commence a fresh chapter in his life. He got it. 

At the Ashé Company, where he’s been working since 2010, Tomlinson wears many hats. “I’m an artistic executive. But I’m also a dancer, a choreographer, a singer and an actor. I want to master my craft to provide a range of services. My ultimate goal, really, is to serve as a creative director for young artists,” shares the Edna Manley College grad, who holds a BFA in Performance and Choreography. 

To wit, his Edna Manley College years were pivotal to his evolution. “It helped me get more grounded. I had to become a blank canvas all over again,” he remembers. “It was a big challenge for me. But by my third year I was getting A’s. It felt like for the first time I was finally able to express and be my true creative self.” 
Longtime colleague Ifidel Williams has witnessed Tomlinson’s growth up close. “When he just came to Ashé we used to laugh at him because he was really awkward,” Williams recalls. “He’s become the consummate professional; someone who is serious about an international career.” 

Tomlinson’s work at Ashé is two-fold: artistic pursuits and health-care/outreach. As a case manager in their outreach department, he helps young HIV+ persons get the help they need. “It is fulfilling. It’s like you’re a humanitarian,” he says. “My responsibility is to provide them with information and to assist them emotionally. It helps them get back to appreciating their self-worth again.” 

At the same time, he’s been building Brand Marlon Anthony. “Everything I do is deliberate and intentional. I’ve found my purpose, and I’m moving more and more in that direction. No distractions,” says the young artist, who took home a Prime Minister’s Youth Award in 2019 and has offered his dance/choreography skills to a range of local projects, including the Wolmer’s Dance Troupe annual season and music videos for such stars as Jada Kingdom and the African act Falana. His dream job? To join Rihanna’s creative team. “I want the opportunities to come,” he says. “It’s part of building my legacy.”

ON THE SCENE: OHJA Herb House officially opened… CBA treats Mandeville frontline workers… Birthday floral tributes for Sangster and Williams… New EU Ambassador visits J’ca House

GUEST OF HONOUR: Oct. 29, St. Andrew: As is the custom when a new diplomat is posted to the island, new EU Ambassador to Jamaica, Marianne Van Steen, recently paid a courtesy call on PM Andrew Holness at Jamaica House, where she was warmly welcomed with a gift and later spoke with the PM about multilateral issues. (Photo: Jamaica House) 

110 IN THE SHADE: Oct. 26, Kingston. Government officials (including PM Holness and Mayor Delroy Williams), civil servants and members of the public gathered at National Heroes Park for a floral tribute to mark the 109th anniversary of the birth of the late former Prime Minister Donald Sangster. (Photo: Ministry of Culture) 

RESPECT DUE: Oct. 26, Kingston. Also at Heroes Park, Culture minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange led a floral tribute in commemoration of the 108th anniversary of the birth of beloved cultural icon Ranny ‘Mas Ran’ Williams. (Photo: Ministry of Culture) 

HIGH GRADE: Oct. 23, St. Andrew. The official opening of the OHJA Herb House on Lady Musgrave Road drew appearances from reggae star Richie Spice and members of his team (among others), who posed for photo-ops, while congratulating the proprietors on a successful venture. (Photo: Skkan Media) 

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Oct. 15, Manchester. A team representing the Chinese Benevolent Association (CBA) recently treated staffers at the Mandeville Hospital to hot lunches, showing appreciation for their tireless efforts in the face of COVID-19 restrictions. (Photo: Southern Regional Health Authority)

Friday, 23 October 2020

HOT TOPIC: What’s next for Junior Flemmings?

ON THE BALL: The versatile playmaker, who has voiced support for the LGBTQ movement, is looking forward to moving on from the incident.

HE recently won the coveted Golden Boot Award for scoring the most goals (14) in the 2020 United Soccer League (USL) championship, but Junior Flemmings’ laudable achievement has become a footnote to the much bigger story: he’s been suspended from competing in the league for the remainder of his season contract, which expires on November 30. 

Following an investigation by league officials, the decision was made to suspend the Jamaican midfielder and Phoenix Rising star player over allegations that he referred to a San Diego Loyal opponent as a ‘b-boy’ during a Phoenix-San Diego encounter. 

The offended player, Collin Martin, who is said to be openly homosexual, filed a complaint. Flemmings has strongly denied that he uttered the Jamaican anti-gay slur. League rules strictly forbid the use of “foul and abusive language.” 

Flemmings and the Phoenix Rising camp have also been charged an undisclosed fine. “The results of the investigation from the USL [say that] they were unable to confirm that the slur was directed at anyone in particular, but they do believe that an inappropriate term or language was used on the field,” Phoenix General Manager, Bobby Dulle, said in a recent interview. 

But in taking the long view, Dulle believes the Collin Martin episode and its subsequent chain of events should provide an eye-opening experience for the 24-year-old Reggae Boy. “I do know that Junior wants to look forward. He wants to take this, just like we [do] as an organization, as a learning moment,” Dulle said. 

He added, “I do know that he has some things in mind that he’d like to do, but he wanted to wait, to understand what the investigation and the league ultimately decided. And he wants to look forward in steps, which include reaching out to Collin Martin and San Diego. [These are some] things that he expressed to me that he’d certainly like to do.”

NEW MUSIC REVIEW: Fresh tracks from Wayne Marshall and co, Protoje, Chalice and Koffee

Koffee – “Pressure” 
Melodic and laden with timely social commentary, the Grammy winner’s latest finds her ruminating on weighty themes that continue to occupy her gaze: humanity, socio-economic woes and rising above great odds. A- 

Protoje feat. Lila Iké – “In Bloom” 
Protoje’s collabos always yield fascinating results, and this sexy-spiky track with his reggae-soul label-mate Lila Iké is no exception, capturing the essence of what happens when a relationship is tinkering on the edge. B+ 

Chalice feat. Wayne Armond – “It’s Alright” 
Any conversation about the great reggae bands of all time must include Chalice, an enduring group whose fusion of timeless word-sound-power and rootsy musicality continues to churn out big hits like this repeat-worthy gem that hits all the right notes. A- 

Natural High feat. Wayne Marshall, Jesse Royal and Kabaka Pyramid – “Cane Fields” 
Wayne Marshall, we feel your pain. The ace singjay brings poignant vocals and take-no-mess swagger to this all-star team effort (Jesse and Kabaka are in fine form, as usual) that tackles hardships and oppression, struggle and survival, with thought-provoking results. B+

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

THE E-BUZZ: Buju Banton pays it forward / Vintage reggae hits updated / Remaking Marley’s “One Love”

>> New compilation album updates classic reggae/dancehall hits 
Ole time sinting come back again! Veteran record producer Jeremy Harding is currently putting the finishing touches to Dancehall Anthems, a compilation of fresh recordings of classic dancehall and reggae tunes. On the album, the likes of Sean Paul, Wayne Marshall, Bugle, Blvk H3ro, Runkus, Royal Blu and Agent Sasco render their versions of popular vintage hits by Ken Boothe, Tenor Saw, Louie Culture, Papa San and several others. Among the notable contributions: Kabaka Pyramid’s take on Michigan & Smiley’s “Nice Up the Dance” and Beenie Man’s update of “Zungguzungguguzungzeng” by Yellowman

Why Buju Banton is giving his Festival Song winnings to charity 
Buju Banton has donated his cash winnings from this summer’s Jamaica Festival Song Competition to a charity of his choice: the Sunbeam Boys’ Home, based in Old Harbour, St. Catherine. “I am just doing [this] to show these youths that someone cares. I want them to be part of their future and make an impact,” he said in an Observer interview. “For me, helping [charities] goes across the board, not just the ones that sound good and are prestigious. I also work with the Mount Olivett Boys’ Home in Manchester, and this is just part of my efforts to give these youngsters some hope.” Banton’s winning entry “I Am a Jamaican” copped $3 million in cash and prizes shares among the entertainer, the songwriter and producer. 

UNICEF and Marley family team up for “One Love” remake 
Released this past summer, the new version of Bob Marley’s call-to-action classic “One Love” has been dubbed “a global anthem for 2020.” The track features members of the Marley family, established and iconic musicians, artistes from conflict zones and children living in vulnerable communities. All proceeds from sales of the recording will benefit Reimagine, UNICEF’s global campaign to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from becoming “a lasting crisis for children.” The jewelry brand Pandora (a UNICEF global partner) will match every dollar donated by the public to “One Love,” up to the value of $1 million. Says UNICEF, “We are delighted that the Marley family and Pandora have lent their generous support, creativity and love [as we] reimagine a more equal, less discriminatory world for children, through global solidarity and cooperation.”

Thursday, 15 October 2020

CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: The return of drive-in cinemas / Rick Elgood opens The Agency / Miss Rawlins makes a movie

Under the Stars: Palace to reintroduce drive-in cinemas 
It goes without saying, given the seeming perpetuity of the COVID-19 pandemic, that Jamaican movie buffs would welcome the reintroduction of drive-in cinemas to the local entertainment scene. As it turns out, Palace Amusement, ever making smart and enterprising moves, is way ahead of us. Led by the tireless Melanie Graham, the team, in August, secured a license for the Cinema 2 premises (former home of the Centrestage Theatre playhouse) on Dominica Drive in New Kingston, a property that the public is well familiar with. But when is the grand opening? “Further details on an official opening are pending, as this is subject to directives from the Government,” Palace said in a release, avidly looking forward to providing a venue where patrons can “watch their choice of the latest movies from the comfort of their vehicles.”

Kadeem Wilson, Camille Davis star in Rick Elgood’s latest project 
From the director of Dancehall Queen and One Love comes The Agency, a made-for-television series conceived and directed by ace filmmaker Rick Elgood. Starring popular actors Camille Davis, Kadeem Wilson and Hugh Douse, the project takes viewers behind the velvet rope of the local music industry. The pilot episode is already in the can and was recently screened at the Caribbean Tales Film Festival in Toronto. With another six episodes scripted for development, Elgood is thinking big: Amazon, Hulu, Netflix. “Through networking, I have been able to get an agent in Hollywood who worked with one of the three platforms and loves the idea, so I am slowly climbing the ladder,” he disclosed in a recent interview. 

>> Nadean Rawlins’ star turn as a filmmaker 
Thespy and Actor Boy winner Nadean Rawlins has never shied away from taking bold steps in the pursuit of her career goals – whether before the cameras (landing roles in films like Destiny), on the stage (taking the lead in works by Jambiz and the University Players) or behind the scenes (starting her own talent agency). She’s now added filmmaker to the list. Traytown, an intriguing short film, marks her film directorial debut. With a cast including Jovi Rockwell, Ramon Walker and Paul Issa – alongside creative collaborators Letay Williams (writer) and Gareth Cobran (co-director) – it was among three Jamaican films scheduled to premiere at this month’s Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival. Making a foray into film, says Rawlins, offered one of her most thrilling challenges ever. “It was new; it was challenging. I was in a space I did not have any idea how to navigate, having done stage. This is a whole different ball game,” she told the Observer’s Brian Bonitto. “It was a learning process, [but] I think what I brought to the production is directing actors – getting them to internalize what the [characters] are doing, so they could portray that and tell their story.” Clocking in at 13 minutes, Traytown follows aspiring politician Aria Sawyer and her quest to become the community’s next Member of Parliament.

PEOPLE IN THE NEWS: Tough early days for Minister Fayval Williams / Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert takes over as House Speaker / Clifton Reader appointed JHTA president

AT YOUR SERVICE: Managing Director of Moon Palace Jamaica, Clifton Reader, is the new President of the Jamaican Hotel & Tourist Association (JHTA). Reader, who succeeds Omar Robinson (who served for the last four years), was elected unopposed at the body’s recent AGM, hosted by the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston. For Reader, the COVID-19 pandemic is a moot issue, but he feels local industry players have been doing a commendable job given the circumstances. “We can all be proud of the response of our sector in the implementation of protocols and sanitization routines that have served to protect staff, guests and, by extension, our communities,” says the tourism veteran, who won 2011’s Hotelier of the Year Award. 

LADY OF THE ‘HOUSE’: Pearnel Charles left some big shoes to fill, but his successor is more than up to the task. Specially hand-picked by PM Andrew Holness, Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert is the new Speaker of the House, recently sworn in to a grand reception from her colleagues. No stranger to the demanding role, she temporarily occupied the post from July to December 2011. It comes with the primary challenge of ensuring that the rights of all members of the House are protected, coupled with the responsibility of upholding the rules. Juliet Holness is Deputy Speaker of the House. Meanwhile, Dalrymple-Philibert is currently in her fourth term as MP for Southern Trelawney. 

LEARNING CURVE: Fayval Williams has kicked off her tenure as Education minister with one of the biggest controversies of the year: discrepancies with the results of the 2020 CSEC/CAPE examinations. The Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) has come under fire from hundreds of students, parents and educators over the administration of this year’s exams. An independent review has been set up to probe the concerns, with CXC Chairman, Prof. Hilary Beckles advising that a report would be produced for discussion with the relevant stakeholders. Meanwhile (as of October 5), students remain at home, accessing their lessons virtually though the Education ministry’s online learning management system, free-to-air television and radio. According to Minister Williams, approximately 20,000 teachers have been trained in the use of cloud-based learning management system. 

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

MAN ON A MISSION: 3 Things we Love About new Agriculture Minister Floyd Green’s Master Plan

A MAN WITH A PLAN: Youth engagement and public education are among Green's top priorities.

Newly appointed Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries, Floyd Green, has hit the ground running, leading a government ministry for the first time in his public-service career. Naturally, he’s been outlining plans for the long road ahead. Here’s a snapshot: 

1. Forging a link with the education sector 
“We definitely are going to be working with the education ministry to ensure that we have a robust agricultural science programme across all our institutions. We want a complete reshaping of the minds of how people view agriculture.” 

2. Attracting more youth to become farmers 
“We have to find a way to get more youth to come into agriculture and fisheries, and we have to make it easier for people who have a genuine interest to get a pathway to come into [the sector]. So one of the things I want to do is ensure that the information is at their fingertips.” 

3. Giving embattled fishermen solid support 
“The reality is a lot of our fishermen are going through difficult times, and we have to have a programme to help them retool, help them deal with the impact of climate change, and help them to do deep-sea fishing.”

Monday, 12 October 2020

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Avid performer and makeup artist Khumar McHugh is living his dreams in the face of health challenges

DOING WHAT HE LOVES: “I’ve learned to accept myself,” declares McHugh.

WHEN Khumar McHugh speaks his voice doesn’t rise more than a few octaves above a whisper. Soft-spoken and quite reserved, he comes across to many as a shy guy. You’d never know it from a conversation with this young man, just 25 years old, that he’s already suffered two strokes and has survived to tell the tale. 

Today, seated in a corner office on the Ashé premises in Kingston, McHugh is a picture of good health and a joyful spirit, but you begin to see that there are deeper layers here as he delves ever deeper into his fascinating story. 

According to McHugh, the first stroke came on in 2018 (after he’d finished up a dance class). By doctor’s orders, he went on rest for about a month. In May of this year, approximately two years later, it happened again (starting with a tingling sensation in his hands). The singer-dancer-actor has just completed a three-month break from performance duties with Ashé, hoping to get back to what he loves fully. Meantime, his doctors are stumped as to what brought on the strokes, and McHugh can’t seem to pinpoint what exactly could have triggered it. 

How has he been coping emotionally with such serious health-related challenges? “There is always the fear of it happening again,” he admits. “I think on a deeper level it has a lot to do with how you cope with the stress and pressure in your life, because I do feel overwhelmed at times.” But, he’s learned that the little things are critical. “I talk long walks. I listen to music, and I try to keep myself stress-free,” he reflects, looking out the window. “I’m learning to take things easier. I try to stay on my medication and just take it easy for now.” 

But deep down McHugh is itching to get back to the way things were. His performing-arts journey started with the world-renowned Kingston College Chapel Choir. After leaving KC in 2012, he auditioned for Ashé and got in. Eight years on, he’s evolved into a well-rounded triple threat, who also gets to dabble in costume management, administrative duties like data entry and even community outreach. “When you’re here, it’s like family,” he readily says of the Ashé experience. “You never feel like you don’t belong.” 

“Khumar brings light and joy to Ashé,” says Artistic Director Michael Holgate. “He’s an excellent singer, a good performer and a good ensemble member. He’s one of the members who remembers the choreography easily.” Like so many of his peers, he’s been diversifying his skills. 

Dancing, acting and singing aside, McHugh’s biggest passion is makeup artistry. He’s even kick-started a little side business, Khai Beauty Extreme, and has already worked with such major stars as Alaine. Taking note of these skills, Ashé Executive Director Conroy Wilson has tasked McHugh (a D’Marie Institute alum) with taking charge of the troupe’s image for stage performances.

At the same time, much of this present chapter in Khumar McHugh’s life is really about learning to navigate the rocky road that is adulthood. Doing what he loves, keeping his health in check, staying on his medication. “He has a great future ahead,” says Holgate. “He just needs to choose to fully invest heart, soul and mind into himself as an artist.” 

A big step for him was moving out of his parents’ home on Maxfield Avenue in Kingston to renting his own place in Barbican. “I’ve learned to accept myself,” he says, looking forward to pursuing a Media & Communications degree at the University of Technology. “Being on my own has come with a lot of pressure. It’s not easy being independent. But you can’t take things for granted. You have to be grateful for every moment.”

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

MADE IN JAMAICA: 3 Cool Things You Should Know About

>> Apiculturists-turned-thriving business owners, Yanique White and Aaron Taylor are savouring the ‘sweet’ taste of success, thanks to increasing public support for their Bee Sweet Honey products, which offer bottled raw honey, as well as honey blends in flavours ranging from red raspberry, hibiscus and chamomile to lemon and ginger – and ideal sweeteners for tea that come with a range of health benefits. To order, email: or call 328-5098. 

>> With three exciting flavours to choose from: original, cream curry and cream pineapple, SOMM Jamaican Pasta Sauce is delighting Jamaican foodies all over. Made with aromatic local herbs and spices, SOMM was conceived by PastaHouseJa proprietor Stefany Mathie, who started out doing pasta lunch orders before graduating to supermarket shelves and has now set her sights on supplying to retail establishments in all 14 parishes and beyond. To order call 463-8858/503-5004.

>> Rum-and-raisin popcorn? That’s just the latest product from Arawak Gourmet, who have invited Jamaicans to join them on a food odyssey, starring an assortment of original and neatly packaged culinary items that range from their coconut jerky and pickled sorrel to their caramel popcorn (the coffee coconut crunch and coffee almond crunch). Throw into the mix the vanilla turmeric chai tea of a soothing after-dinner option. “Our goal is to secure [our place as a] wholesome, home-made, handmade Jamaican brand,” says proprietor Natalee Thomas-Shorter, who has been supplying demand since 2017. To order call 483-4835/ 823-8281.

HOT-BUTTON ISSUE: Who was Rev. Larius Lewis? – The shocking murder of a young Anglican priest

HIGHER CALLING: Persons who knew him says Rev. Lewis was a "warm" and "caring" individual.

JUDGING by a few of his photos found via a quick Google search, Larius Lewis was a man who enjoyed life as a priest in his own simple, unfussy way. You can tell he was the kind of person who was slow to anger. Here he is, reflecting light, as he serves Holy Communion in church. There he is in a group shot, bonding with his fellow clergymen. And then the real tell-tale photograph: Lewis seated in the great outdoors, staring back at you, his small, lamb-like smile pulling you in. A really likeable, handsome young man. 

So it really makes you wonder how and why he met such a gruesome end. 

On Friday, September 25, the lifeless body of the 36-year-old priest was found by church officials at St. Paul’s Cure Anglican, located in Chapelton, upper Clarendon, where he had been stationed as a member of the clergy. According to subsequent news reports, his body was discovered, with the hands and feet bound, in the church’s rectory. Persons who have come forward with information say they last saw him alive on Wednesday, the 23rd. 

But even more perplexing, the cause of Lewis’ death remains shrouded in mystery. Did he die of strangulation? Blunt-force trauma? The autopsy report should prove quite revealing. 

“Such a beautiful, talented soul has been violently taken from us,” one resident who knew Rev. Lewis wrote on social media. His fellow priests and church community members are also “shocked” by the tragedy. They say Lewis, who was affectionately called Larry, had a passion for music. He loved to sing, and he played the keyboard. 

A trained educator, he completed studies at the Mico University College and, according to one colleague, Lewis was in attendance at a teachers’ conference, held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, earlier this year. 

Lewis was also active in the community, earning the admiration of important people like newly installed Member of Parliament for the North Central Clarendon constituency, Robert Nesta Morgan. “He blessed my office and gave me good advice. We broke bread and prayed together. [I am] sad and upset. We will find the killers,” the MP wrote in remembrance on Twitter. 

What about the relatives? So far no mention of family members has surfaced since the news of the tragedy broke. 

In the meantime, investigations are ongoing by the Chapelton police and other Clarendon-based officers who are yet to make a breakthrough in the case.