Monday, 24 September 2018

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Agent Sasco’s Hope River brims with positive energy and life lessons

RECORD TIME: The deejay showcases growth and substance on his superb fourth album.

On Agent Sasco’s new disc, Hope River, there is a track called “My Song.” It’s an anthemic mid-tempo tune that lifts the spirit and gives you that ‘I-can-conquer-the-world’ feeling. In short, that’s the overwhelming vibe you get when you press play on the 14-track album. A hypnotic mix of rootsy reggae, rhythmic dancehall and nonstop positive energy, it’s a solid effort from one of the most outstanding voices working in the contemporary dancehall space.

Among today’s top-flight Jamaican entertainers, the Kintyre-bred lyricist makes it clear that he is not one of those deejays chasing the hype, the glitz and the young girls. That’s not where his heart is. Hope River not only showcases a remarkable sense of maturity; it highlights the growth of an artiste who has come a long way since bursting onto the scene with the party hit “Girls Gone Wild.”

Almost two decades later, Hope River (his fourth studio album) is celebrating empowerment, gratitude, positivity and rising above the obstacles in your way. It’s responsible artistry. It’s substance.

He gets introspective and reflective on “Banks of Hope,” reminding us that time is longer than rope; spirituality and old-school mento instrumentation add to the appeal of “Mama Prayed,” a duet with gospel star Glacia Robinson; and he savours life’s endless possibilities on “New Day.”

The number of collaborations feels a little excessive, but who wouldn’t want to have their musical friends join them on this feel-good ride? Wayne Marshall shows up for “Journey”; Stephen Marley hops on for “Grateful”; and Kardinal Offishall supplies some tough rhymes on “Legacy.”

Other highlights: Dre Island’s smooth hook on “So Blessed,” on which Sasco remembers the one-room board house and seizing opportunities; Sevana’s sultry-sweet vocals on “They Will Rob You,” a cautionary tale that’s also about fighting for love; and “Passage of Time,” an excerpt of a 2004 interview with Buju Banton, one of the deejay’s idols. 

In many respects, Buju’s influence on Agent Sasco is undeniable – from the robust tone to the deep introspection and the keen observations that have become hallmarks of his craft. 

Hope River has all these attributes in copious abundance, and easily earns comparisons to records like Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock. So, truth be told, it’s no idle boast when the deejay says he’s winning right now. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+ 

BEST TRACKS: “So Blessed,” “Winning Right Now,” “Mama Prayed” and “My Song”

WHEN LIFE HAPPENS: Patricia Reid-Waugh uses lessons from her journey to empower retirees and people starting over

NEW CHAPTER: Author and resource person, Reid-Waugh lives a full life.

PEOPLE are nervous when they attend Patricia Reid-Waugh’s seminars. Her topic is retirement, how to prepare for it and how you can still live a fulfilling life well into your retirement years. Life doesn’t end because you’re now on the sidelines, away from the shove-and-thrust of the game, she tells her audiences.

In fact, the crux of Reid-Waugh’s message is that an exciting new life can begin with retirement. You have nothing to be nervous about if you sufficiently prepare. “This is not the time to go into the departure lounge and sit down. This is the time for you to start doing new things, exploring new things,” she tells TALLAWAH, as we sit amongst a late-lunch crowd at Café Blue in Liguanea. “Things you might not have had the time to do, now’s a great time to give them a try. Turn your hobbies into income-generating activities.”

In short, Reid-Waugh makes retirement sound like a thrilling adventure awaiting you. So it’s no surprise that the title of her relatively new book is Retirement: A New Adventure (Author House), a sort of expert’s guide giving readers the dos and don’ts and plenty of other sage advice.

Reid-Waugh knows what she’s talking about. A divorcée who blew out 70 candles in July, she is a very accomplished and refined lady who has done everything from teaching Mathematics at Calabar High to working in the financial sector on the tiny island of Nevis. It was while living and working in Nevis that she fell ill. The illness caught her off guard. She retired in 2011. “I was totally unprepared for it,” she recalls. “I had made absolutely no preparations.”

Now, having survived and thrived, she wants to help other Jamaicans steer clear of such pitfalls. In addition to writing and publishing her book, she’s been speaking at retirement seminars put on by such organizations as the National Land Agency, the Electoral Office, the Jamaica Teachers’ Association and CARIMED, for whom she recently did four sessions. “What I want people to know is the importance of preparation. You are going to have to recognize that you are no longer in this job. You have to change your whole mindset,” she explains.

But for Reid-Waugh, the best approach is to always stay positive. Look on the bright side. “This is when you can now be your best self, the person you’ve always wanted to be. There is a lot to do. There is a lot you can do.”

Reid-Waugh herself is a sterling example. In addition to becoming an author, she plays the organ at her church, St. Luke’s Anglican; she’s a choir director and has been serving as a Justice of the Peace for the past four years. That’s not all. “I’m now learning to play the violin. I started in 2013, and I’ve already passed Grades One and Two,” shares the relentless achiever, who also wants to master the steel pan. “I have a full life. That’s what’s important,” she adds. “And that’s why I don’t look 70.”

Surviving and Thriving: More from Miss Patricia

The public response to Retirement: A New Adventure: “The response has been very good. People like the book. When I do seminars, I get comments like ‘You know I never thought of that’ or ‘I never looked at it that way.’ Others now feel encouraged to write memoirs and tell their own stories.”

The Jamaican Government can do more: “In Nevis, there is a senior citizen steel pan group. They go out into the town square and they give concerts. And it’s a government-sponsored initiative. I think our government needs to do more for our senior citizens and retirees by way of programmes like these. And the associations that have been set up to help senior citizens and retirees need to be more accessible and effective. Older people need things to keep them active. And a lot of them need help with things like financial planning.”

Always aim to live your best life: “You have to keep it moving. And that’s what keeps your spirit alive, and you really get to enjoy the fullness of life. Live, don’t just exist. That’s the message.”

Saturday, 22 September 2018

@THEDISH: David Tulloch on the Sugar Daddy factor + Dalton Harris brings his A-game to the X Factor + Is Damion Crawford the future of the PNP?

>> ‘I’m Ready’: Damion Crawford on being a major asset in the PNP
Could Dr. Peter Phillips and Damion Crawford become a new Obama and Biden? The newly elected PNP Vice-President thinks so. “I believe that within the party I am the greatest complement to Peter Phillips, and the PNP has always ran with a complement. When they claimed Portia wasn’t smart, Phillips was her complement. And now they are claiming that Phillips is an old person. I think I am that complement,” Crawford told reporters at the PNP’s 80th conference inside the National Arena on Sunday. Crawford (now in his late 30s) is also firm in his belief that he is an asset to the People’s National Party as he now looks to solidify his place in the top brass. “I think I have national connections that are sure to support me. The younger voters are sure to support me. The assumption that I didn’t have a constituency is flawed,” he says. “Every individual has to look at themselves and ask what more can I do? How can I be more effective and efficient? I believe that I have been one of those who have been gaining attention for the party.” Of the four VPs (Crawford, McNeill, Phillips the younger and Paulwell) installed on Sunday, Crawford received the most votes (1,973) from the delegates.
>> From the Heart: Teary-eyed Dalton Harris receives standing ovation on UK's X Factor
“It was a little intimidating, but I just had to keep all of that inside and just concentrate on giving the best performance,” says Jamaican singing sensation Dalton Harris, who is earning raves for his knockout rendition of “Sorry Seem to Be the Hardest Word” on the UK’s X Factor before a live audience of 6,500 persons. They responded with a standing ovation. After drying his tears, Harris received four ‘yeses’ from the judging panel (including Simon Cowell!), progressing to the next round of the competition. According to Harris, he was overcome with emotions, hence the tears. “I was just overwhelmed,” he told the Jamaica Observer. “It was more like a sense of triumph after all my hard work.” So what is his game plan for the next round and beyond? “I am just going out there to do my best,” says the 24-year-old who tapes in London. “I have no expectations. I’m just gonna do my best.” We wish him all the very best!
>> Some Like it Hot: Why audiences have fallen for Sugar Daddy
Undoubtedly, Sugar Daddy is David Tulloch’s most commercially successful play in recent years, drawing large crowds to the Phoenix Theatre on weekends. “People just can’t get enough, and I am pleased that I’ve achieved what I set out to achieve,” he tells TALLAWAH on a rare break from the production. Like Fifty Shades of Grey, he insists, the play’s erotic charge is not the only draw. “We don’t have a problem pushing the envelope. People know that. But I think the patrons love the strong storyline. It has sex and nudity, but there’s meaning and purpose behind it. I wanted to tell a real, real story. We wanted something tasteful, and this is valid, tasteful entertainment.” But Tulloch readily concedes that you can’t please everybody when it comes to presenting sex on the Jamaican stage in one guise or another. “People who want to see it raw can go to the [strip] clubs for that, but those who don’t need it so bare can come and see a show like Sugar Daddy. It’s enough to excite you,” the 37-year-old playwright-producer explains. “This is not disrespecting anyone; this is not demeaning anyone. And I will always believe there’s a need for this kind of entertainment.”

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

NEWS FEED: Jampro reopens NYC office + Edward Seaga to give UTech public lecture + Work to begin on Asafa and VCB statues

>> Having already completed statues Olympians Usain Bolt (unveiled last December) and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (to be unveiled October 14), sculptor Basil Watson and Culture/Sport Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange have signed an agreement for Watson to commence work on statues of Asafa Powell and Veronica Campbell-Brown. The statues fall under the Jamaica 55 Legacy Programme. “The maquettes will be ready later this year,” says Grange, “so we can have a special unveiling for the media, and then early next year those statues will be mounted and unveiled in Statue Park.” 

>> This week, as part of a revamped marketing strategy targeting the Tri-State area for investments and exports, Jampro is reopening an office in New York City. An official ribbon-cutting and reception ceremony will take place at the office, now located inside the Jamaican Consulate. The office will join Jampro’s Toronto location to jointly form the promotions agency’s North American Regional Offices (NARO). “This is a crucial move to capitalize on the business possibilities that exist in the US,” says Jampro’s president, Diane Edwards. “With this new focused office, we will now be more targeted in our promotions strategies and attract more investment dollars to the country.” 

>> The Most Hon. Edward Seaga will present the next UTech Distinguished Public Lecture, scheduled for next Thursday, September 27, at the school’s Lecture Theatre 50, commencing at 5pm. The former Jamaican prime minister and current UTech Chancellor will speak on the topic “The Origins and Development of Jamaican Music.” The lecture series, coinciding with UTech’s 60th anniversary celebrations, has already hosted such presenters as Judge Patrick Robinson and Governor General Sir Patrick Allen.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

TALLAWAH BOOK CLUB: How to conquer your fears + How the C’bean shaped the US + How to love Jamaicans

OUR KIND OF PEOPLE: We love the title, but according to the critics and fans of the book, it’s deceptively simple. Alexia Arthurs’ debut collection of short stories, How to Love a Jamaican, dives deep into the fictionalized lives of Jamaican immigrants and their families back home. Published by Ballantine Books and packing some 256 pages, her 11 stories tackle myriad themes, chiefly loyalty and betrayal, tenderness and cruelty, while offering readers an unforgettable “portrait of a nation and people and their way of life.” In “Shirley from a Small Place,” for instance, a world-famous pop star retreats to her mother’s new house in a rural part of the island. Other very telling story titles include “Mash Up Love,” “The Ghost of Jia Yi,” “Bad Behaviour” and “Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands.” The glowing reviews speak volumes of Arthurs’ storytelling prowess. “With its singular mix of psychological and sun-kissed lyricism, this dazzling debut marks the emergence of a knock-out new voice,” proclaims O Magazine, while Marie Claire raves, “Arthurs’ debut is vivid and exciting, and every story rings beautifully true.” 


>> In addition to PNPYO president, youth activist and expectant mom, Krystal Tomlinson has added first-time author to her impressive résumé, recently launching the motivational offering, Kill Fear: The Art of Courageous Living. “The book looks at the root causes of fear,” she explains, “the science behind how the fear works, identifying the fear you have and tools to beat that fear in a corner.”

>> Historians will thank Debbie Jacob for Making Waves: How the West Indies Shaped the United States. Published by Ian Randle Press, the book gives an account, via 30 stories, of some famous and lesser-known Caribbean sons and daughters who significantly helped shape American society from the 1700s to the present. You’ll encounter “exciting and vivacious” tales centred on Alexander Hamilton, Sidney Poitier and Marcus Garvey, but you’ll also be enlightened about how a West Indian woman started the witch hysteria in Salem and the crucial yet unsung role Barbados played in the American Revolutionary War.

Monday, 17 September 2018

ON THE RECORD: Ce’Cile dishes on new projects, the music biz and enjoying motherhood

HOT MAMA: "I find that there's more I'm now enjoying about life," shares the superbusy artiste.

AMONG the many things Ce’Cile Charlton has mastered since making her music-industry debut over two decades ago is the art of working the spotlight. She makes it seem effortless. Motherhood has been a bit more challenging. But, as she tells TALLAWAH, she’s getting the hang of it. With September now in full swing, the entertainer’s six-year-old daughter, Christiyana, is back in school, as her mommy sets her sights on new business ventures and keeping pace with the hot young starlets doing their thing. Fresh from a jaunt in Europe, the ‘forever 25-year-old’ chats with TALLAWAH.

TALLAWAH: For some parents, the annual back-to-school period can be such a hassle. How have you been finding it this time around?
Ce’Cile: It’s not a hassle for me because we had the whole summer to prepare, so I’m handling it pretty well. She’s six now, so I’ve gotten the hang of it. I was away for part of the summer, doing a few weeks in Europe, but we had our Face Time. Now I’m back home, and she’s back in school. 

TALLAWAH: Speaking of Europe, it’s nice to hear that you’re still advancing your career after so many years in the unpredictable music biz. But we were led to believe that you had retired.
Ce’Cile: I am not retired, and I don’t plan to retire any time soon (Laughs). We’re always doing music, always touring. Always working. But when you’ve been in the business for a while, sometimes it’s best to take a break to focus on other priorities in your life. And the competition is hotter right now. We see a lot of strong females coming to the fore like Shenseea and Spice, but you just have to find your niche and do your thing.

TALLAWAH: That’s so true. You just saw Sugar Daddy, the hottest show in town. What’s your honest opinion on the production?
Ce’Cile: I had heard so much about the play. I came for the sex, but I got the message (Laughs). I heard it was raunchy, but it’s dealing with real-life situations. When you go to see shows overseas like on Broadway, they push the envelope, so why not here in Jamaica? I think it’s a great play with life lessons.

TALLAWAH: You’re noticeably trim and slim these days. How do you keep your body looking so fashionably on-point?
Ce’Cile: I don’t know. When I stay home and don’t travel, I tend to eat more, but when I’m away I try to eat better. For most of August I was in Europe, and I was eating a lot healthier. Not much sugar, and I think that helps. And I find that there’s more I’m now enjoying about life. I was in a car accident in May of last year, and I had issues with my ribs, and even though I’m not 100% where I want to be right now, I try to stay happy. I live for my friends and my child.

TALLAWAH: Do I hear a single woman speaking?
Ce’Cile: (Laughs). I’m not married, but I do got a man.

TALLAWAH: Are you the marrying kind?
Ce’Cile: I don’t know if I ever will [get married]. I’ve never been asked, and I’ve never asked. Yes, you can do that now (Laughs). But my auntie Winsome told me that sometimes marriage spoils things. And I personally don’t like having a man too much in my space. I love having him in my life, but not in my space.

TALLAWAH: Interesting. You always have some exciting new projects in the works. What’s next? 
Ce’Cile: I’m looking forward to doing different types of things. I’m working with people outside of Jamaica on some stuff. I like to experiment, and I hope to do more of that here in Jamaica. And take my songwriting to the next level. How things are now you don’t have to limit yourself geographically. I’m also working on a children’s book with my friend Cassandra, as well as some other business ventures. I had my hair line, and I hope to bring that back. And just continue keeping up with my daughter.

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Talented tenor Hanief Lallo finds his place in the world of musical theatre

STRONG SUIT: “I just really like being on stage performing,” shares the 28-year-old.

ONE of Hanief Lallo’s favourite singers is jazz vocalist Michael Bublé. “He’s so sincere in how he comes across in his music. He has a spirit and an energy that makes listening to jazz a wonderful experience,” Lallo says of the Grammy winner, who is also a great live performer. Similar qualities could be cited to describe Lallo himself, who knows how to thrill an audience, whether he’s performing with the University Singers or Father HoLung & Friends.

In this season’s The Parables, Lallo portrays the mean and ruthless King Pharaoh, commanding the stage with authority, while showing off an impressive vocal range, his robust tenor put to terrific use. You immediately understand why he’s always wanted to perform in operas. 

“When I was at Our Lady of the Angels Prep, I had a group of friends who just loved performing, and one day we were discussing what we wanted to be in the future, and I just said I wanted to be an opera singer. That was always my dream,” the 28-year-old tells TALLAWAH one recent evening at the Little Theatre, after catching a performance by the Jamaican Folk Singers.

Lallo is now a trained software developer, armed with a Computer Science degree from the University of the West Indies. But he’s been getting plenty of opera-lite experiences with HoLung and the Mona-based Singers. He was a fan of the University Singers long before becoming a member. “I used to always attend their season and listen to their CDs, so I knew that when I got to UWI I would audition,” says the Ardenne High alum.

He’s been with the Singers since 2012, the same year he joined Father HoLung & Friends, going on to appear in such mega-musicals as Moses, The Messiah and last year’s smash hit Queen Esther, playing the pivotal role of Haman. 
These days, given his day job and performances that can pop up at any time, sometimes his schedule gets hectic, but “I think I manage very well.” To wit, The Parables is set for a remount at the Courtleigh Auditorium in mid-October and the University Singers are reprising their 2018 season the following week at the Philip Sherlock Centre. 

Lallo has also worked with such standout troupes as Tribe Sankofa and Nexus. All these diverse experiences, he admits, have changed his life, enhancing his self-discipline and deepening his passion for the performing arts. “I’m grateful. I’ve been able to meet the right persons to help me along the way, and I still have a long way to go,” he notes. “Everything has happened for me as it was supposed to happen.” 

But is becoming an opera singer still on the cards? “I’ve thought about it, and I hope it’s something I’ll be able to pursue. If I did Broadway I’d be happy, too,” he says. “I just really like being on stage performing.”