Monday, January 31, 2011

The allure of Jamaica Jazz & Blues

Just like how her music relative Machel Mantano dominated the Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival last year, soca queen Alison Hinds wore her crown well and injected a carnival-like energy in the Greenfield Stadium to steal the show on Thursday night.

The whining and gyrating never stopped until she exited the stage at 2:30am after giving the jazz crowd more than an hour worth of sizzling performance. From the moment she walked on stage she made her intentions clear that she was going to transform the stadium in Trelawny into carnival scene that she hoped her fans were able to handle. The crowd stepped up to the challenge as when they were not busy singing along with Hinds, they were busy waving their rags or whatever they could find and dancing to the soca notes that evoked the need to move their waist.

With songs like Faluma, Caution and Roll It to name a few, the Barbadian-born musician, who was performing at the music festival for the first time, had patrons eating out her hands and scored huge response when she solicited a male patron to join her onstage to showcase his dancing skills.

The musical diversity of Jamaica’s premium music festival was evident with the presence of Ron Isley who came to the stage prior to the carnival infusion by Hinds.

With his suave persona that flowed as smooth as how he sounds, the man dubbed a ‘Mr. Big’ slowly but confidently walked on stage 12 a.m. looking quite dapper with his black and gold cane  and a distinguished allure to please fans with his performance. Despite performing for over an hour, time was not sufficient for this music icon, who is celebrating over 50 years of music, to sing all his hit songs.

Isley’s appearance at the Jamaica Jazz and Blues had the audience in a trance of musical splendor and his sensual female stage props gave him all the more credit in the eyes of his fans on his ability to offer timeless entertainment.

The Get There singer Brenda Russell who shared the stage with Phil Perry and the Paul Peress could do no wrong even though her performance was Only For One Night.

Fifteen years after she did the international smash hit Shy Guy, Diana King reigned supreme at her first appearance at the 15th staging of the festival. Her vocal range gave the audience goose pimples as she gave a superb set. She did more than just Say A Little Prayer and it was just enough for her fans.

Earlier performances from Digicel Rising Stars’ Nickeisha Barnes and Camael Davis were crowd pleasers to set the precedence of the great acts which followed

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jazzing it up with youths

“The older audience have not stopped spending!” according to Junior Taylor of Turnkey Productions as he cleared the air on the thrust to lure younger fans to the 15th staging of Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival.

“I think the reality of it is that each group is changing because 15 years ago young people then were 25 or 30 year olds who came to Jazz. They are now much older than that so instead of only catering to them alone we’ve still had to be offering entertainment to youths of today” Taylor noted in an interview at the launch of Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival at the Palmyra Resort and Spa in Montego Bay.

The American rock band Maroon 5 is expected to make their debut at the music festival on Friday, January 28. The quintet, who has a huge international following of young fans, are best known for their hit singles This Love, She Will Be Loved, Harder to Breathe, Sunday Morning, Makes Me Wonder.

“With every passing year the span of audience being catered to is growing. So a Maroon5 allows us to interact with the younger audience whom we will develop and continue a relationship for the next 15 years” Taylor further added.

Maroon 5 have won three Grammy Awards and have sold over 15 million albums worldwide. Their third album Hans All Over is now out.

With the introduction of this band, Taylor noted that it is not that the older folks are not spending but just that “Turnkey wants to ensure that there is a very good balance between the two so that we don’t upset the people who has been supporting us over the years but encourage the young people to support us”.

 The Gleaner-sponsored Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival runs from January 23-29. The festival will see the likes of Ron Isley, Diana King, Brenda Russell, Alison Hinds, Phil Perry and Paul Peress on Thursday night. Friday night will see the multi-platinum group Maroon 5, Regina Belle, Tavares, SWV and Richie Stephens. The final night on Saturday patrons will be treated to Natalie Cole, Air Supply, Laura Izibor, Committed, Silver Birds Steel and Orchestra.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

More Culture Education Needed!

Opposition spokesman on education Basil Waite is lobbying for the inclusion of mandatory cultural lessons within the schools’ curriculum to help preserve Jamaica rich heritage that is being eroded by popular culture.

During a brief presentation at the 273rd annual Accompong Maroon Celebrations in Accompong Town, St. Elizabeth on Thursday Waite argued that it is “we need more of this kind of history being studied in our schools because it is through such medium where a greater appreciation for what is taking place here today and understanding as to what some of our descendants fought for”.

The annual Accompong Maroon celebration is held on January 6 to commemorate the birthday of former Maroon leader Cudjoe. He fought with the British for decades before signing a peace treaty in 1738.The celebration begins with the blowing of the abeng, summoning all the Maroons to assemble like they did more than 270 years ago. The abeng is an old powder horn adapted from its use for carrying musket powder to an instrument used to communicate with Maroons over many miles in the Cockpit terrain.

It was in this view where Senator Wait, who is also a descendent of a Maroon, revealed that he will be strongly lobbying parliament to ensure that the well-documented Maroon history is included in the syllabus from the elementary up to secondary.

The United States of America Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater commended the Jamaica’s Maroon communities for preserving much of the African culture.

“Communities that preserve traditions often face challenges in the form of outside influence and pressure to change. Finding that balance is something only you and your leaders can do but as you chart your path, know that the United States underscores the need for all governments to respect the human rights of all citizens, including indigenous and minority populations and others with diverse lifestyles”.

Nonetheless, the Accompong Town Maroons have charted a path toward the continuation of their cultural legacy through the formation of their Accompong Maroon Junior Council.

According to the maroon chief Ferron Williams “our history needs to be preserved and one such way to do that is through our youths. As such the formation of a Junior Council was necessary in order to continue our traditions. As elders, we alone cannot accomplish the task of cultural preservation and so our young ones must be given the opportunity to continue what we have over the years”.

This year’s staging of the celebrations saw a noticeable decline in the number of international visitors who are normally drawn to the event because of its history. Last year persons from England, Canada, the United States and even Kenya attended the major calendar event in St Elizabeth.

A solution to improve this dismal international turnout was touted by Senator Waite who encouraged the organizers of the celebration to target more persons from the African Diaspora to come and partake in the proceedings.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Great vibe from Tan Bad

Richard 'Breadback' Bramwell

From wanting to be an architect to masterfully crafting music beats, producer and music engineer Richard ‘Breadback’ Bramwell hopes to reenergize the current scene of dancehall and reggae through taking it back to its roots.

With his new dancehall rhythm dubbed Tan Bad “I just want to bring back the original dancehall vibe and atmosphere through this rhythm” Bramwell explained.

He further added that “while there’s a lot of fusion of dancehall with genres like hip hop that is now saturating the market, it is important to ensure that some of that which is going out for public entertainment has the sound of what we used to hear years ago”.

The Tan Bad rhythm boasts the likes of Vybz Kartel, Elephant Man, Sizzla, Erup, ZJ Liquid, and Delly Ranks among several others.

Bramwell, who has been in music production and engineering for the past 10 years, operates his own Breadback Production that was responsible for the soothing roots rock reggae rhythm dubbed 9 to 5 which feature the hit song Jamaican Girl by Lutan Fyah.

His ear for detail and dedication to the business of music was something he revealed he absorbed from international musician Sizzla.

“I am Sizzla’s engineer and he is someone who will voice 10 songs in one day and these are ten good songs not just something mediocre. His seriousness to the music is what I admire and it’s that same amount of unyielding effort that I put into each material I work on” the producer noted.

When asked as to whether or not he is considering being on the centre stage performing, he smiled during his response that “I like to be in the background helping to make the artiste’s material the best it should be, my talent is to produce and make beat”.

At age 30, this Vineyard Town resident has an optimistic view on his musical endevours as the Tan Bad rhythm has been scoring several radio and internet plays and positive responses.

Although touring around the world with Sizzla heightened his appreciate for Jamaica’s musical presence in the market his dream to be an architect still forms apart of his long term professional goal.

“There is no reason I can’t still be involved in music at the level that I am at and have an additional career in architect. It is possible and it’s still my dream to be an architect” a confident Bramwell concluded.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Best of Jamaica, Food!

The yielding aroma of Jamaica’s finest cuisines coupled with the seductive sweetness of delicious pastries during the Best of Jamaica Grand Market Extravaganza over the weekend, created a culinary squall in the absence of Tropical Storm Tomas.

Now in its 8th staging, Best of Jamaica held at the recently rebranded Breezes Rio Bueno Resort and Spa in Trelawny, succeeded in its bid to showcase one of the most important ingredients in Brand Jamaica, its food.

With a touch of elegance married with the idea of a Jamaican Coronation Market, Best of Jamaica’s Grand Market Extravaganza fused culinary cuisines from around the world with Jamaican flavours which excited the contingent of local and international visitors who attended the event.

If the shrimp cocktails and marinated mussels were not enough to awake the taste buds then the balsamic marinated lamb and salmon and swordfish veloute were enough to whet the appetites of anxious food lovers.

The Grand Market Extravaganza made it difficult for guest not to experience a sweet climax through pastries with an array of chocolate opera cake, tropical fruit tart and crème de mint torte that threatened to retire of the popular cheese and black forest cake that many cannot get enough of.

On the other hand, marketing officer for Irie Isle Charlene Archie toppled trained chefs to become Best of Jamaica Amateur Cook-Off chef for 2010.

With her Irie grilled chicken served with wild rice and papaya mixed vegetables a relatively short Archie stirred a huge taste with her bursting flavours

“It’s the first time I am winning a cooking competition and against trained chefs, it’s exiting!” an enthused Archie revealed.

 “I must admit that it was intimidating at first, but I took my time and did in the name of fun, not knowing that my grilled chicken seasoned with Irie Isle products would stir such responses from the judges and secure such a huge victory” she confessed.

Best of Jamaica is an annual six-day celebration of Jamaican food and culture held at the resort formerly known as Grand Lido Braco in the yam producing parish of Trelawny.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Best of Jamaica

Although Tropical Storm Tomas did not leave a trail of destruction in Jamaica like Nicole, the widely publicized storm created a marketing nightmare for Breezes Rio Bueno’s signature Best of Jamaica festival in Trelawny.

“We had several international and local cancellations days leading up to the start of the event and despite us reassuring them that the impact for this side would not be significant, persons were still hesitant, and as such they cancelled” director of sales for Jamaica and the Caribbean at Superclubs Resorts Burchell Henry revealed.

The organizers of the premier food and cultural festival held from November 2-7 had to get creative in ensuring the at least some of the planned festivities were still took place.

“Thirty percent of our rooms that were booked and paid for received cancellation due to Tropical Storm Tomas which is huge chunk of our occupancy as it represents up to 90 rooms” Henry revealed.

He further added days such as Thursday and Friday during the passage of the tropical storm, severely impacted on the scheduled activities as many participants out of Kingston reported cancellation as a result of the inclement weather.

Now in its 8th year, “the show had to go on!” Henry charged. “Best of Jamaica is the best event of its type in Jamaica.  There’s no other hotel that has not only done this type of event, but has done it for the length of time that we have been doing it for” he affirmed.

The recently rebranded Superclubs Resort experienced a significant decline in occupancy levels that were not normal during the staging of the resort’s calendar event.

With a pool of dedicated staff who worked around the clock, the event was saved when they hosted the Best of Jamaica Grand Market Extravaganza. The marriage of Jamaican cuisines along with reggae and dancehall music allowed both local and international guest to experience an authentic Jamaica Coronation-like setting that was second to none.

Henry used the opportunity to encourage more locals to participate in the celebration of Jamaica’s heritage and learn about the various aspects our culture that is now Brand Jamaica.

“We want our Jamaicans to embrace the concept of Best of Jamaica as we celebrate our food and culture and all the other countries who have contributed to our rich heritage”, he noted.

Among the list of sponsors of Best of Jamaica includes telecommunications company Claro, Jamaica Public Service Company, Best Dressed Chicken, Pepsi, Irie Isle and Jablum.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Assistance for Deportees

Help has arrived for deported migrants sent back to Jamaica through the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), which seeks to assist in reintegration and helping them become productive members of the society.

“It is very difficult for these persons who are deported and are also drug abusers who have lived in a First World country for the greater portion of their lives to adjust to our lifestyle in Jamaica, they need to be re-socialized”, Sislyn Malcolm, national director of field services at NCDA revealed.

In a bid to rescue them from the grip of feeling lost and marginalize, she revealed that the NCDA initiated the Jamaica Reducing Re-offending Programme (JRRAP) in collaboration with the Ministry of National Security. The goal of this intervention Malcolm explained, “is not only to help deported migrants with a history of drug abuse but also ordinary deported individuals who do not have any relative or are not able to make contact with relatives.”

“We also assist in the reintegration and rehabilitation of substance abusers within this population, provide life coping skills to those who are deemed to be habitual drug users and abusers” she further added.  “It is hoped that this initiative will enable these individuals to successfully reintegrate into society and become responsible citizens”.

The programme is funded by UK-government and will come to an end in March 2011 after nine months since it was implemented. However, the national director of field services at NCDA is deeply concerned about the short run of this programme and hopes other countries will set in and play a role.

“While most of our deportees come from the UK, they also come from Canada and the US and if we are able to receive some assistance from these countries with regards to this programme we would be grateful,” Malcolm appealed.

Persons who wish to contact the National Council on Drug Abuse they can call a toll free number 1-888-991-4244 or text the word HELP to 564-3784.

Experiencing a piece of Paradise

Hundreds of international travel agents will converge in Jamaica each week for the next two months as apart of the tourism ministry’s campaign to reposition Jamaica as the ideal and safe destination to come for vacation.

“This is the start of a major programme to reposition Jamaica in the minds of our travel partners and travel agents.  2,000 travel agents coming on island over the next six to eight weeks. We are going to be bringing some 400 radio remotes that will be beaming from Jamaica to the various markets in the world” the tourism minister Edmund Bartlett revealed at the welcome party in Montego Bay at Sandals Cay over the weekend.

In light of the State of Emergency and the violent showdown between the police and criminals in West Kingston in May, which saw a decline in tourist arrivals for the months of May and June, Bartlett explained this thrust is a continuation of the ministry’s marketing campaign to rebrand Jamaica through visiting Europe and North America (where most of the tourist originate from).

This he argued is done in a bid to bring the overseas partners to Jamaica so they can have firsthand experience that the destination remains as strong and vibrant as before.
“The activities of May and June have all but evaporated and Jamaica is now a stronger and better destination because we were proactive in dealing with criminal activities and that we have made Jamaica safer and so they now can see the new developments in infrastructure that we have made that they never saw last year” Bartlett affirmed.

Already the tourism minister has charged that the rebranding efforts have reaped fruits as “we were able to totally erase the negative trends of May and June to have our July becoming the most strongest ever in history in terms of our arrivals. We also had the strongest August we’ve ever had with a growth of four percent and we have began September on a positive note”.

Friday, October 22, 2010

All about Flow

If persons in Montego Bay expected a low-keyed inaugural opening of the state-of-the art Flow store over the weekend then the ultra-VIP party on Friday and then a major stage on Saturday must have been a dream.

Flow made no exception and pulled out all the stops to ensure that the presence in the second city was felt over the weekend and to cement their commitment to their investment in expanding in western Jamaica.

The lightening speed internet provider transformed the Fairview Shopping area into a den of entertainment on Friday to ensure that their specially invited guests partied in style and luxury. From the décor to the exquisite culinary delights courtesy of Ashbere guests were entertained under the allure No-Maddz band.

No-Maddz band
The unique sound and style of music by the dub poet musicians No-Maddz quickly gain traction among the guests who showed deep interest in what these musicians had to say. The members, who are also stars in the Better Mus Come Jamaican movie now in theatres, performed their hit single Rise Above Profanity which earned them some cheers for their ingenuity.

Among those who attended the VIP cocktail event were Minister of Education Andrew Holness, Tourism minister Edmund Bartlett, Water and Housing Minister Dr. Horace Chang, Member of Parliament for West Central St. James Clive Mullings , Mark Kerr-Jarrett and his wife Paula, renowned cardiologist Dr. Claudine Lewis among several other social elites in Montego Bay.

Flow’s store opening fete culminated over the weekend with a free concert performance from Lady Saw and Konshens to official stamp their presence in the second city.