Sunday, September 13, 2015

Bashment Party for Irie Jam 22!

 Irie Jam Media group celebrated their 22nd anniversary by throwing a dancehall party in Queens at the Roy Wilkins Park on Sunday September 9, 2015.

At 2:15 pm, the park was already hosting a sizeable crowd with early entertainment by the warm-up acts.  Hailing from Barbados, Edwin Yearwood provided a short and spicy set with songs like “Pump Me Up” and the very popular “The Road is Mine”.  It was perhaps a fitting nod to New York’s Carnival Weekend to feature Yearwood in that segment of the show.  Standing head and shoulders above the early entertainment though was New York’s very own Noel “DanceMaster” Stevens whose energy in the heat of the early afternoon was not only palpable, but infectious.  The crowds snapped up the Jamaican flags being thrown to them during the performance of Jamaica Bolt – his tribute no doubt to Usain Bolt’s outstanding Beijing performance.  DanceMaster could certainly show the younger artists a thing or two when it comes to stamina, voice control and engaging an audience.  Taking a leaf out of the lyrics of the Jamaican SensationGully Bop who would perform on stage later in the day, his “Dem no Know Bout Me” was very catchy and well received.  Ending his performance with the markedly calypso-heavy beats of “In the Center”, this artist set a hard pace for the remaining acts to follow.
A young DJ out of Brixton in London - Macini got a chance to perform and acquitted himself well.  As a warm up act, his self-assured delivery of songs like ‘Tell me she Love Me’ and ‘Man a General’ was refreshing.  Backstage, he was very appreciative of the opportunity to appear in NYC, when asked how he felt the crowd responded and whether the audience was hard, he laughingly replied that Jamaican audiences were much tougher.  Jamaican group No Maddz closed out the early session as being the only group to perform with a band – their own.
The day’s main entertainment came from a predominately dancehall roster of artists including Tiger, Dexta Daps, Christopher Martin, Ding Dong and Ravers Clavers, Gyptian, Red Rat, Assassin, Bugle, Spragga Benz, Mr Vegas, Flourgon, Konshens, Anthony Cruz, Lushy Banton,  Omeil, QQ, Gully Bop, Micheal 'Lick Shot' Palmer, and veteran female deejays Sister Charmaine and Lady Ann.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Proud & Free Jamaica 53 - Thanksgiving Church Service 8.2.15

The Thanksgiving service in recognition of Jamaica’s 53rd year of independence was celebrated at St. Frances of Rome Catholic Church, officiated by Rev Cannon Calvin McIntyre from the Church of the Good Shepherd – who did not disappoint with a barrage of jokes to tickle the mainly Jamaican crowd, while the Rev Dr. Sam Vassel Pastor at the Church of the Nazarene giving the sermon.  Rev Vassel gave the congregants food for thought directing them on when and where to do the right thing; pointing out at length that the right thing is not always that followed by the majority; not to be swayed by false prophets and also to listen to the words and voice of God.  The hidden message was clear to those who had ears to hear.

St. Frances of Rome is a beautiful edifice situated at 236th and Barnes Avenue in the Bronx, but as I sat in the sanctuary, I couldn’t help reflect on previous Independence Thanksgiving Services and the fact that there seemed to be something missing from this present one.  The musical presentations helmed by the maestro Lloyd Chung with his Independence Choir gave a spirited rendition of Peter Tosh’s ‘Jah is my Keeper’, but there seemed to be an air of suppression.  There was definitely a lack of the natural mystic.
Prayers for the country and the Diaspora were offered up from Dr. Roy Streete and Ms. Sabrina Hosang-Jordan, recently returned from a trip celebrating her first wedding anniversary.  Michelle Rodney, Dean of Monroe College in the Bronx and daughter of Karl and Faye Rodney and Winston Codner, Clarendon College Alumni Association read the Scriptures.  Assemblyman Nick Perry was in attendance and Congresswoman Ruth Hassell Thompson sent a representative.

A definite highlight came as a member of the public arrived late and as ushered to her seat.  Low and behold the lady created quite a stir as she walked into the sanctuary with what appeared to be a basket of fruit on her head – people actually got up out of their seats, craning their necks and applauded her inventive headwear.  I was lucky to get a picture of Ms. Cynthia Neita, who should definitely get a ticket to the upcoming Independence Ball for her eye-catching outfit.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Studio One - Legacy Lives On

Morna “StudioOne” Dodd, is one of Studio One legend Coxsone Dodd’s children.  An entrepreneur in her own right, this chef and businesswoman seems to have inherited her father’s passion for business, legacy and family.  However her quest to continue in her father’s footsteps has thrust her into the path of adversity, animus and obstruction.

Morna was recently in New York to attend the funeral of her brother, Clement Seymour Coxsone Dodd Jr who passed away from cancer at the relatively young age of 56.  Morna firmly believes that her brother’s condition was exacerbated by his struggles with some members of the Dodd clan fighting to lay claim to the entire Dodd legacy with no intention of sharing with other siblings.

We’ve seen this scenario play out several times in the families of our reggae legends, the Marley Estate was settled to some extent, but there are still claims surfacing from children looking to establish heirship to the Marley empire, Sugar Minott, Dennis Brown, John Holt, all died without making wills and their estates are being settled by highly paid lawyers and administrators.

Coxsone Dodd did leave a will and for all intents and purposes, his assets were to be shared equally among his children, both those with his former partner who migrated with her three children, Claudia, Jr and Morna to England and his progeny with wife Norma Dodd who died in 2010.  There are allegations of names being fraudulently removed from the will, monies disappearing into thin air and even one highly placed radio personality serving jail time for his role in the misappropriation of funds!

Morna’s calm, but steely personality leaves one with a sense of confidence that she will put the Dodd ship to rights and that her motives are not driven by greed, but by a pure passion to ensure her father’s legacy as one of the main architects in creating the music known all over the world as reggae, stays alive, relevant and in the hands of those who crafted, fought and died to bring the music to fruition.

The lady is on a mission which is further fuelled by her brother’s death.  As a testament of that love, Morna is determined to continue her brother’s work and talent as a producer under the Coxsone label.  She is saddened by the fight that her brother endured abier, together with a picture of her own son who passed away in 2014.
t the hands of his Norma Dodd who made his life a living hell in the 1970 as she attempted to wrest control of the catalogue.  There is no doubt that the two were close, you hear the catch in her voice as she relates how she placed a Manchester United FC shirt in her brother’s

Morna, working with a handpicked selection of performers on her own label Studio One The Excellency of Reggae Music is well on her way to carving out her own niche, with or without the help of her sister Carol – who is painted as the main protagonist in this ongoing family feud. 

Attempts to obtain a comment from Carol Dodd received no response.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Selma’s deceptively idyllic opening soon gives way to the depiction of racism taken to a terrible zenith on Sunday - September 16, 1963 when the lives of four Sunday school children – Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair were sacrificed.  Another child, Sarah Collins, lost her right eye in the attack and more than 20 other people were injured.
It is no coincidence that the 16th Street Baptist Church and Birmingham, Alabama featured so prominently in galvanizing the civil rights movement.  With its racist governor George Wallace and the brutally barbaric Police Commissioner Eugene ‘Bull’ O’Connor the climate was one which allowed for the protection of the KKK perpetrators of the Birmingham church bombing, stalling any investigation and criminal conviction for over ten years.
Selma, Alabama was chosen for the iconic march to Montgomery partly because it was still rigidly segregated in the 1960s, any African American trying to eat at so-called ‘white’s only’ establishments were beaten and arrested, there was no outward socialization between the races and that area of the Southern ‘black belt’ was clinging stubbornly and illegally to its past.  One must remember this was deep Dixie country.  The selection of Selma as the battleground between integrationists and racists was a well-designed strategy whose sole intention was to force the hand of Lyndon B. Johnson into enacting new civil and voting rights legislation.  Johnson, the Vice President at the time of John F. Kennedy’s assassination found himself in 1964 the newly elected President caught between ushering his own agenda into play and crafting a response to the nightly visions of brutality played out across American television screens.  Ordinary Americans were aghast at the constant images of murder and mayhem perpetrated by Americans against other Americans. 
Selma the movie, pays homage, primarily to Dr. Martin Luther King, a martyr and staunch proponent of the Mahatma Gandhi style of resistance, who believed in using non-violent tactics to effect changes in the status quo.  Director Anna Devurnay focuses on King the man, and yes, there is evidence of his infidelities; brought to light and used by the FBI in an attempt to destroy King’s image as a God fearing family man and sully his efficacy as leader of the non-violent movement.  King’s weakness in that regard is countered by his steadfast resolve to stare death in the face while always showing the power and strength behind the confrontational, but non-violent movement.  The movie also brings to life the other nameless, faceless freedom fighters, starting with Jimmie Lee Jackson, murdered by state police after a peaceful demonstration; Amelia Boynton, activist and one of the organizers of the Selma march, beaten unconscious on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, the SNCC brothers Colia and Bernard Lafayette instrumental in spearheading the Selma voter registration campaign, James Reeb the white Boston minister murdered after participating in a symbolic march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, following the televised brutality on March 7 1965 - Bloody Sunday when state troopers and police attacked the demonstrators with tear gas and billy clubs leaving many bloodied and broken.  The marches were led on that occasion by the current Member of the US House of Representative John Lewis and Hosea Williams.  Annie Lee Cooper, civil rights activist, forever remembered as the woman who fought to exercise her voting rights and punched Sein November 2010 at the age of 100. 

lma Sherriff, Frank Clark.  Cooper was fired from her job in a nursing home for pursuing her dream to vote in Alabama, a right she had already held in the States of Ohio and Pennsylvania.  She died
I was also powerfully reminded of the countless nameless supporters who answered the call to participate in that monumental march from Selma to Montgomery, those who provided food and shelter to the vanguard activists, and in so doing jeopardized their own safety, but nonetheless sacrificed for a greater cause.
The movie Selma does its job injecting new interest in a slice of history that many would like to sweep under the carpet, it shines a light on America’s shameful racist past.  Some would say America’s continued racism – evidenced by the escalating deaths and civil rights abuses of young black men at the hands of police officers across the length and breadth of America.
There are those detractors who have complained that little celluloid space was devoted to those who stood shoulder to shoulder with Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttleworth, Joseph Lowery, Andrew Young, John Lewis and Bayard Rustin to name a few, but Selma the movie is another trigger for the start of a much needed and hopefully continued conversation.

I was moved afresh at how far African Americans have come and yet how little things have really changed.  Dr. King’s dream is alive, the spark is dim, but the flame has not been entirely extinguished.  Every black child needs to see this movie, at least once and be inspired to live their own dream.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

That Daughter’s Crazy” - the one woman show that evolved into a film about the life of Rain Pryor who grew up a hybrid black and Jewish girl in Hollyweird.  Born at a time when retaliation at being called a nigger led to her expulsion from school and her front lawn being the repository of a burning cross and the word spray painted on the walls of that same home.  The only daughter of Richard Pryor and Shelly Bonis, a union which some would say truly celebrated the pimping lifestyle, after all Pryor was raised in Southern brothels, the son of a prostitute whose grandmother was a madam; Shelly was a go-go dancer.  The unlikely couple fell in love, married and produced Rain, so named one rainy night while her parents were stoned!

The documentary is not about Richard Pryor, it’s about his daughter coming to terms with her dual raciality.  The trials and tribulations of living with the prejudice that blighted her early forays into public performance, most notably being passed over in her Hollywood High School for the lead of Peter Pan, instead relegated to the more exotic role of Tiger Lilly.  Her paternal and maternal matriarchs played pivotal roles in character building, her father’s grand-mother the brothel madam from whom she learned that the word ‘nigger’ emanating from the wrong mouth was a signal to defend one’s heritage and from her mother’s mother she learned never to take no for an answer.  Those larger than life female role models helped her to carve her own road and gave the courage and strength to tell her story.  Growing up the child of arguably the funniest and most irreverent comedian in the United States, a longtime predilection for drugs, the famous attempted suicide when he poured alcohol over himself while freebasing, suffering 50% burns over his body who finally lost his battle for life to Multiple Schlerosis.  Raine’s story is poignant and bittersweet as she tells of losing faith after God ‘allows’ her father to die, but regains that faith when she discovers a Yoruba religion that
allows her to embrace both her black and Jewish cultures, and is well on the way to making the final step in becoming a Priestess.  One senses she is at peace, determined to break the destructive cycles that propelled her parents, adamant that her daughter will not be bound by the mistakes of her own parents.  She is mother to a beautiful golden child named Lotus and one can see the connectivity and the love they share.

The documentary really is a tribute to her father.  When she mimics him, you see like a bolt of lightning, that she is her father’s child and his comic genius has indeed been passed through genes and rests firmly and comfortably on her shoulders.

As is becoming more and more common, with one party owning the images, music and rights to a deceased celebrity, there are no images of Richard Pryor in this documentary, but there is something even better, his daughter Rain represents him and one gets the sense that Richard himself is sitting quietly in a corner pulling on a toke and beaming from ear to ear – proud of his little girl Rain,

Rain Pryor has no shame to her game as she takes you on a journey charting her course from a young gauche girl coming into her own womanhood who makes a conscious decision to embrace her unique heritage with no apology.  That Daughter’s Crazy indeed, but not in the way you could possibly imagine.  This accomplished, actor, director and jazz singer continues to speak truth as she knows it and in doing so endears her to an audience who loves her in her own right.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Review: Talkin Dub - Michael ‘Mikey’ Smith 60th - Birthday Tribute

 Mikey SmithMichael “Mikey” Smith born 1954 in Jamaica was one of the early innovators of a new art form, combining music – usually in the form of a resonant drum and heavy bass line – and spoken word interwoven to form DUB POETRY. The popular and original artists in this new genre were Linton Kwesi-Johnson and Jean Binta Breeze from England and Oku Onoura from Jamaica.

Performing publically in the 70s and 80s at a time of political unrest, as evidenced in the partisan political climate of Jamaica or the police oppression taking place in England and excessive use of the ‘Sus’ laws, dub poets were seen as aggressive griots, calling out the establishment and exhorting their listeners to action.
Talkin Dub - Michael ‘Mikey’ Smith 60th Birthday Tribute
Mikey Smith a strident opponent of injustice was a talented performance poet whose tragic murder by an alleged politically affiliated trio who stoned him to death on August 17 1983 cut short what was definitely a promising career.

To celebrate what would have been Smith’s 60th birthday, the Caribbean Cultural Theater under the banner of their Poets & Passion series presented “Talkin Dub – Tribute to Mikey Smith” on Thursday September 18 in Brooklyn. Paying homage to the Jamaican dub originator, Aja from Barbados, YaBez, Ras Osaagyefo and Queen Majeeda all from Jamaica not only performed their own works, but collaborated in a tribute by reading the iconic ‘Mi Cyaan Believe It’. The evening’s presentation took on the form of live spoken word together with a video clip of Michael Smith himself performing Mi Cyaan Believe it as those in the audience witnessed firsthand the poetic prowess of the poet as activist.

In the open mic session that followed, local artists were encouraged to bless the mic with their dub poems, with outstanding performances from the female poets one from Australia, got a round of applause on revealing this was only her second day in the Big Apple, Nandi Keyi-Ogunlade (Trinidad) and Arielle John (Trinidad) energized the audience with their excellent performances. Whether celebrating Trinidad’s independence and the lack of parity between their Afro and Indo nationalities, or the reverent tribute to the women and children sacrificed on the slave ship – The Zong during one of many horrific tales of genocide on the middle passage and the banal insincerity of those who don’t understand the spiritual significance of not doing justice to the remembrance ritual.
A lively discussion followed where artists and the public exchanged thoughts on when and where artists should perform free to serve a greater good and how artists reach a wider audience and more importantly impact on the lives in their own communities.

It was an energetic evening; the landscape enhanced the ambience as one was able to browse the afro-centric jewelry, oils, books and clothes on display at Sister Kufunya’s Nicholas Brooklyn in the heart of the melting-pot that is Brooklyn.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tribute to Maya Angelou

I've not been updating as frequently as I should.  Scouring through my unfinished scribblings, I came across a tribute to Maya Angelou and deem it fitting to post here on my blog......

Reading “I know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was a revelation to me and further solidified my love of reading, but - this author was someone special, in the UK I had grown up with Buchi Emcheta, but this woman Maya Angelou was raw, fresh and real.
I can honestly say that I read all her autobiographic materials, and loved every one.  For the last book she published, I was in the audience at the flagship Barnes & Noble at 14th Street and bought two copies of her book Mom & Me & Mom, hoping to have her sign both, but the crowd and the volume of frustrated fans wanting to get next to her was just too much for me so I decided I’d send one copy away for her to sign….I never did, but not having her signature in a book pales in comparison to knowing that she’s gone.  No longer will I see that smooth yet weather beaten face or those huge sunglasses she’d taken to wearing in later years, there’s a lump in my throat and an ache in my heart.   
“Aunty Maya” was so many things to so many people.  Dining with princesses, presidents and kings, she kept it real and through her writing became a friend to those who never even ‘knew’ her.  Her writing was more than inspirational, her quotations became the code by which to live a fulfilled life.  An avid civil rights activist – she fought injustice wherever she found it and showed the way for countless young girls struggling with unprettiness.  Maya was an amazon among midgets, she blazed trails where ever she went, fearless in kicking down doors and forcing recognition of her talents.  An accomplished journalist, broadcaster, dancer, singer and actress Maya did it all.  Living life to the fullest she travelled the world and realized that we are all one, no matter where we come from – we are all Africans.  Aunty Maya, I’m not ready to let you go and I shan’t - not just yet, I’m vowing to re-read your works (especially the autobiographies) and crying as I will no doubt cry when my mother passes, coz that’s how much I rate you.
Condolences to her family – a Great Woman Passed this Way!
by Maya Angelou

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom
The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.
 But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing
 The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.