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From left: Drs Chantae Bardowell, Marla-Kay Richards, Thejasree Pulikanti, Shellian Blagrove and Shasha-Marie Williams.

Shasha-Marie Williams could have been a pregnant teen, because that was the norm in Flankers, St James, where she grew up; while Shellian Blagrove was expected to scorn her problem-plagued community of Mt Salem. Their friends – Thejasree Pulikanti wanted nothing else but to follow in her parents’ footsteps; Marla Kay Richards, a country girl, received far less lunch money than her classmates; and Chantae Bardowell felt like giving up many times.

Four of the five women attended Montego Bay High School, while the other walked the hills to Mt Alvernia High School, nicknamed ‘Alvernia’. All five were determined to become medical doctors, and nothing would stop them.

Now doctors at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, the young women have become inseparable on the front line as they join the fight against COVID-19, each having had close calls with the virus since it entered the Jamaican airspace in March.

But in spite of the overwhelming challenge that the global pandemic has caused since its emergence in China late last year, the young medical professionals are adamant that it won’t dominate their lives.

DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE
Drs Williams, Pulikanti, Richards and Bardowell have known each other for about 16 years, while eight years ago they met Blagrove while studying at The University of the West Indies, Mona.

They have been practising for an average of four years each, with Bardowell recently completing her studies in Cuba, and her first year as a medical intern. 

“We are all general practitioners making steps to specialise in the near future,” Williams told The Sunday Gleaner.

The most compelling story of the five is Dr Blagrove’s, who grew up in Piggott Street in Mt Salem, St James – an area written off by many. In fact, she has been questioned countless times by soldiers deployed in the zones of special operations (ZOSO) community, asking why she lived there and if she wasn’t afraid.

“I would proudly say because this was where I was raised. My parents and the church made me know that it doesn’t matter where you are from, but where you are going. I still live there,” she shared.“My community members are proud of me. My hope is to inspire little boys and girls to dream, even when it seems impossible.”

For Dr Blagrove, medical school was the hardest thing she has ever done, and she admitted she couldn’t have made it without the support of her four friends. “We played together, laughed together, studied together, and pushed each other. And today I am so proud that we work together,” the young doctor beamed.

Dr Williams was inspired to join the medical profession from as early as 11 years old, when she noticed white spots on her skin. “As time went by, they got progressively worse and appeared in places that I could no longer hide. The stares, finger-pointing and all the questions were nothing compared to the fact that my condition had no cure,” she said.

She was diagnosed with vitiligo, which sparked her interest in dermatology.

The 28-year-old grew up in Flankers, where the standard at the time was for young females to get pregnant and males to be involved in gangs.

“It was at that point that I knew, and where I saw it was also my responsibility to lead and motivate persons in whatever way I can to be better versions of themselves and members of society,” Dr Williams revealed.

THREE GENERATIONS OF DOCTORS
Dr Pulikanti has a totally different story, growing up in a home where both parents were established medical practitioners.

“As long as I can remember, I have wanted to become a doctor to help others. I am from a family with three generations of medical professionals, I simply never saw myself as anything else. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of those who raised me and I have not once regretted my decision,” said the 26-year-old. 

Pulikanti admitted that there were several times she felt like giving up, because medicine is difficult, but those moments were when support from her family and friends became vital to make it through.

“Undoubtedly, my greatest supporters have been my family, who helped me to become who I am today,” she stated.

Dr Richards grew up in Bickersteth, St James – a rural district she visits regularly. She had her struggles growing up in a family not the least affluent. Actually, most persons in her family did not even have a job.

“As a child in infant school, I questioned this and asked why? I was uncomfortable with it, knowing that we could not afford some things and I got way less money for lunch than other children in the class. At that point, I knew that I could not fall in the cycle and when I grew up I had to have a job, and not only a job, but a profession. Education would be my key to success,” she said.

The 27-year-old shared that her family was proud of her accomplishments, not only as doctor, but throughout her entire school years from infant to university. One of her most difficult moments was the beginning of fourth-year medical school and one week before one of her clerkship exams. Her mom died from breast cancer. At first, her coping skills were good but as the months progressed, Dr Richards got the strong urge to quit the programme. But the guiding spirit of her mother kept her going.

“One night, I had a vision of my mom giving me a strong warning not to do so, and that I must run the race with patience. It was that warning and her repeating it three times that motivated me to continue, and here I am today,” she proudly stated.

THE DRIVE TO GO ON
Dr Bardowell knew she wanted to be a doctor since primary school, and was even more convinced after she watched the movie John Q. She went on to study medicine in Cuba, at the Universidad de Ciencias Medicas de La Habana.

The 28-year-old, who spent her early years in Trelawny and Westmoreland, spoke about wanting to give up many times during medical school.

“I had several nights of tears, feeling hopeless and lost. Especially while being away from family and living on my own in a foreign country, with different culture, different people, different language. But despite those hard times, I had a drive, I had a goal, I had to achieve for myself, then for my family. I never wanted to let myself down. And that drive kept me going,” Dr Bardowell declared.

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Toots Hibbert, an influential and veteran Jamaican ska and reggae singer and founder of the band the Maytals, has died. He was 77. The cause of death is as yet unclear, though he had been recently tested for Covid-19.

statement from his family released on Sept. 11 reads: “It is with the heaviest of hearts to announce that Frederick Nathaniel ‘Toots’ Hibbert passed away peacefully tonight, surrounded by his family at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica.

“The family and his management team would like to thank the medical teams and professionals for their care and diligence, and ask that you respect their privacy during their time of grief.”

The youngest of seven children, Hibbert’s parents were both Seventh-Day Adventist ministers and he grew up singing in church. He moved to the country’s capital of Kingston as a teenager and formed the first version of the Maytals in the early 1960s. Over the following 10 years the group recorded with a series of producers that reads like a reggae hall of fame: Coxsone Dodd, Prince Buster, Byron Lee, Leslie Kong — and reeled off Hibbert compositions like “Bam Bam,” “Sweet and Dandy” and “54-46 That’s My Number,” which was inspired by a mid-‘60s prison term he served for marijuana possession. 

Hibbert was one of the early proponents of reggae in the late 1960s and scored a hit with the song “Do the Reggay.” In fact, he is often credited with giving reggae its name when he christened the 1968 song.

He was a contemporary and friend of Bob Marley’s, and for several years both were signed to Island Records. Speaking with the Jamaica Observer in 2018, Hibbert spoke of sharing bills with Marley’s band, the Wailers, in their early days. “Sometimes the Maytals would close, sometimes The Wailers would close the show. We had no problems, no professional jealousy, we were all very good friends,” he said. “Out of all of us though, me an’ Bob were very good friends. It was out of one of those conversations that I did the song ‘Marley.’ He was telling me that he was going to be a dreadlocks Rasta an’ I laughed an’ said, ‘I want to be a comb-locks’ Rasta like Selassie I,’ an’ he laughed, just like the words in the actual song,” he said.

The two both had hits with different songs called “Redemption Song,” featured on his first album for Island, “Funky Kingston.”

“When I did ‘Redemption Song’ in 1972, it went number one [in Jamaica],” Hibbert recalled. “Marley said he would do a ‘Redemption Song’ as well. He used a similar rhythm but different lyrics.” Marley’s version of the song appeared on the final album released during his lifetime, “Uprising.”

Also in 1972, Hibbert appeared in the groundbreaking film “The Harder They Come,” which starred Jimmy Cliff. His 1969 song “Pressure Drop” was featured on the film’s soundtrack and was covered by the Clash in 1978, introducing Hibbert to thousands of new listeners.

A seemingly permanent presence in reggae music, Hibbert continued to tour and record through the decades, appearing on Willie Nelson’s 2005 album “Countryman” and covering Radiohead’s “Let Down” for a collection of reggae Radiohead covers. He even joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers onstage for a performance of “Louie Louie” during a 2011 New Year’s Eve party in St. Barts thrown by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

In 2013 he was injured when a thrown bottle hit him in the head during a performance in Virginia. He missed several shows but ended up asking the judge to give the young man who threw the bottle a light sentence. “He is a young man, and I have heard what happens to young men in jail,” he wrote in a letter to the judge. “My own pain and suffering would be increased substantially knowing that this young man would face that prospect.” The man received a six-month sentence.

Hibbert was hospitalized just days after the release of his and the Maytals’ first album in more than a decade, “Got to Be Tough.” The album was co-produced by Zak Starkey, and features contributions from Starkey’s father, Ringo Starr, as well as Ziggy Marley, Sly Dunbar and Cyril Neville (read Variety‘s review).

“I’m very proud of what I’ve done and the love I’ve given,” Hibbert told Rolling Stone of the album. “But it’s getting harder and harder to give the love the people need, and they need it now more than ever. No time to waste.”

On Sept. 2, it was revealed that Hibbert was in stable but serious condition in a private medical facility in Jamaica. He was tested for Covid-19, although the results have not been announced.

Hibbert is survived by his wife of 39 years, Miss D, and his seven of eight children.

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Orlando Patterson - New York Times

For a tiny island in the Caribbean, Jamaica has long enjoyed an outsize global reach — there are the songs of Bob Marley and the gold medals of Usain Bolt, as well as the millions of sun-seekers flocking to the island’s pristine beaches. It is quite an accomplishment for a nation “barely the size of Connecticut,” as Orlando Patterson notes in his fascinating study, “The Confounding Island: Jamaica and the Postcolonial Predicament.” But shadows hang over this sunny picture, not least distressingly high rates of poverty and homicide.

Patterson is a Jamaican who has long lived in the United States, working as a sociology professor at Harvard University, which allows him both an intimacy with the island and a degree of distance through which to analyze it. Although he provides extensive citations and robust discussions of theoretical frameworks, he also offers a personal story of affection and frustration, perhaps most evident in the questions that form all but one of the eight chapter titles. These include: “Why Has Jamaica Trailed Barbados on the Path to Sustained Growth?” and “Why is Democratic Jamaica So Violent?” Indeed, these two questions are so significant, he devotes the first half of the book to them.

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"The Confounding Island: Jamaica and the Postcolonial Predicament" by Orlando Patterson.

Patterson starts by comparing Jamaica with its fellow former colony Barbados, which is 25 times smaller in area and, with under 300,000 inhabitants, possessing only one-tenth the population. Yet Barbados has more than twice the per capita G.D.P. of Jamaica and none of the political violence. To explain this, Patterson pursues lines of investigation that are not strictly economic. The themes of slavery and freedom run through his analysis; it is impossible to discuss contemporary Jamaica without their inclusion. Although Patterson’s time frame is postcolonial, to get to Jamaica’s economic present he navigates the pothole-strewn road of its troubled past.

Jamaica’s dramatic and complex history starts with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1494. In 1655 it fell under English control, and was subsequently transformed into a sugar powerhouse fueled by enslaved labor, until full abolition arrived in 1838. The island remained under British control until independence in 1962.

Such a trajectory is not uncommon in the Caribbean, but Patterson notes crucial distinctions in Jamaica’s development, particularly the British perception that it was dangerous and disease-laden compared with Barbados. As a result, there were fewer absentee plantation owners in Barbados and a more stable colonial population, which influenced the development of the island’s political institutions. The social history of these institutions is key to understanding how they functioned after independence, and why the implementation of what were often similar policies had divergent results

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Heywood Street market on West Queen Street in Kingston, Jamaica.Credit...Robert Rausch for The New York Times

From there, Patterson turns to violence, while also issuing some useful reminders about the nature of democracy. Jamaica, as he writes, is “genuinely democratic,” with a very robust civil society, and yet is rarely described as such. This is, in part, because of the notion that democracies, by their nature, are not violent, an idea “inconsistent with the realities of democratic history and practice.” Still, Jamaica remains an outlier in terms of scale, consistently topping global homicide lists.

Patterson examines how the political clientelism that took root in independent Jamaica has led to deadly “garrison-based politics,” in which a poor neighborhood is bribed or coerced through the threat of violence into voting for a particular political party. This phenomenon, mixed with persistent poverty, has given rise to the urban gangs and drug-related brutality that continue to blight the island. Patterson also revisits his own part in the development of Jamaica, returning to his time as an adviser to Prime Minister Michael Manley, who was the democratic socialist leader of the People’s National Party, and to the failure of the poverty-reduction program they tried to implement in the 1970s 

It is not all doom and gloom, however, especially when Patterson turns to Jamaica’s extraordinary cultural production. In examining the athletic prowess of the island’s runners, he swiftly dismantles any racist notion that Jamaicans are genetically more gifted as athletes, and instead returns to institutions. He lays Jamaica’s success in track and field at the swift feet of Michael Manley’s father, Norman, one of the nation’s founders, likening it to “the effect on track’s prestige in the United States had George Washington been a track star.” Manley was a talented athlete, and he promoted track and field as part of the formation of an independent national identity. Around this grew a nationwide infrastructure of running associations. Where institutions failed the economy, they proved to be champions in fostering athletics. In a similar vein, Patterson also looks at how the music industry has had enormous success beyond Bob Marley’s hits, in spite of the island’s limited resources.

Topics covered in other chapters range from women in the workplace to cricket, and such breadth makes this an eye-opening volume. It is also illuminating because Patterson carefully explores the complexity of the structural machinery behind Jamaica’s dazzling successes and dismal failures, rather than just chalking these up to simple causes. Although at times Patterson is critical of and disappointed by his fellow Jamaicans, his admiration for the nation’s independent spirit shines through.

Carrie Gibson is the author of “Empire’s Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean From Columbus to the Present Day” and, most recently, “El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America.”

THE CONFOUNDING ISLAND
Jamaica and the Postcolonial Predicament
By Orlando Patterson
409 pp. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. $35.

 
 
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6635933494?profile=RESIZE_710x© Shaun Botterill Everton Weekes passed away on Wednesday

With the death of Everton Weekes on Wednesday at the age of 95, cricket has lost one of its greatest batsmen. He was also the the last of a legendary trio of cricketing knights, known as the Three Ws, who oversaw the rise of West Indies cricket after the Second World War. 

The numbers alone make impressive reading: in 48 Tests, played between 1948 and 1958, Weekes scored 4,455 runs at an average of 58.61. He made 15 centuries including five in an extraordinary sequence that remains a record today. But it was the way he made those runs that caught the imagination.

Former West Indies captain Jeffrey Stollmeyer described Weekes as "a five foot six inch bundle of muscle".

"There was no nonsense about Weekes, no tomfoolery. Once on the job, he was purposeful. His business was to score runs," said Stollmeyer.

"Playing strokes was the game he knew and loved best, and unless circumstances warranted discretion, Weekes would produce his smashing square cut, slashing cover drive, resounding hook and forceful on-drive for all to see and enjoy."

Everton de Courcy Weekes was born in Pickwick Gap, Barbados on February 26, 1925. He was one of three West indies greats to be born within a mile and a half of each other over an 18-month period. 

The others were Frank Worrell and Clyde Walcott. Together they were the Three Ws.

"Of the Ws, he (Weekes) was probably the most ruthless run-compiler, and his compact build and high-scoring performances inevitably invited comparisons with George Headley," wrote Denis Compton, one of the great England batsmen of the era.

It was thanks, in part, to Headley that Weekes found his feet in Test cricket. The 23-year-old had been picked to play in the first three Tests of the 1948 home series against a weakened MCC (England) team led by Gubby Allen but with a top score of 36 he was omitted for the fourth Test. But when the 39-year-old Headley withdrew through injury, Weekes was summoned to Kingston, not a popular choice among the Jamaicans who favoured their own JK Holt.

Weekes arrived midway through the first day after the journey from Barbados to be greeted with jeers and heckles but they turned to cheers a day later as he crashed an England attack that included Allen, Maurice Tremlett and Jim Laker for 141, leading to a 10-wicket win for the West Indies.

- 'Brilliant array of strokes' -

Weekes was on his way and when the West Indies went on to tour India later in the year, he produced successive innings of 128 in Delhi, 194 in Bombay and 162 and 101 in Calcutta. He ought to have had a sixth consecutive hundred but was run out for 90 in Madras, a decision that Walcott described as "rather doubtful".

In 1950 he played a key supporting role to spinners Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine in West Indies' 3-1 series win in England. He made three half-centuries and then 129 at Trent Bridge where he was watched admiringly by the former Nottinghamshire and England opener George Gunn. "I have seen them all since Victor Trumper and including (Don) Bradman," said Gunn who was 71 at the time having played first-class cricket between 1902 and 1932. "I have never seen a more brilliant array of strokes nor heard the ball so sweetly struck."

Weekes returned to England in 1957 which, although disappointing by his standards, produced one truly memorable innings. It came in the second innings at Lord's with the West Indies, still trailing England by 217, on 80-4 and facing a heavy defeat. The England attack of Fred Trueman, Brian Statham and Trevor Bailey exploited the ridge at the Nursery End to make the ball rear spitefully.

Weekes joined Garry Sobers and set about adding 100 in 95 minutes. Weekes took a blow to the hand which cracked a finger but in a three-hour stay at the crease, continued to carve the bowlers around Lord's, hitting 16 boundaries before being dismissed for 90. "Never was a more heroic batsman more deserving of a century. It was the innings of a genius," wrote Compton.  

With Weekes, Walcott and Worrell in the middle-order, the West Indies rose from being a lightweight Test nation to world-leaders, laying the ground for the likes of Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards.

After retiring from Test cricket in 1958, Weekes continued playing in the Lancashire League in England, became an admired administrator and lethal bridge player, representing Barbados, and was knighted in 1995.

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Jamaica’s reggae megastar received a hero’s welcome when he came home after seven years in a US jail. ‘No guts, no glory – that’s my genesis,’ he says in a rare interview

 Reggae’s elder statesman … Buju Banton. Photograph: Shawn Theodore

At the end of 2018, the reggae star Buju Banton returned to Jamaica after almost seven years in a US prison, and Norman Manley international airport was mobbed. His flight was delayed, the chants of “We want Buju” ramped up, then after a brief prayer huddle in the customs area, he pushed into the arrivals hall to pandemonium. It took a phalanx of hi-vis-wearing airport workers to hustle him through to the waiting police motorcade, a task not helped by the workers’ attempts to get selfies with their charge.

It was a hero’s welcome because, despite being convicted in the US of intention to distribute cocaine, Banton is a Jamaican hero. For his first post-prison concert, at Kingston’s National Stadium, about 30,000 people were packed in with many more enjoying it from outside.

The love Banton gets from the Jamaican people is the sort of deep cultural bond that goes way beyond his considerable achievements. Dennis Brown had this relationship, as do Yellowman and Usain Bolt, because they represent and celebrate the Jamaica that doesn’t make it on to tourist-board literature – as Banton himself drily puts it, “without any redaction or Photoshopping”.

“I don’t know how many people turned out that night,” he says. “The numbers don’t really matter – it’s the celebration that matters, the gathering of the people. I love my people, they know that, just as I know my people love me – they know a grave injustice took place. There was a magnetic energy generated by the people in the National Stadium that night. If you had a meter you could have measured it!”

After two trials – the jury was unable to reach a verdict in the first – Banton was found guilty of illegal possession of a firearm and conspiracy to possess 11lb of cocaine with intent to distribute. He was sentenced to 10 years, reduced by two when the gun charge was dropped. The case rested on recordings made by a Drug Enforcement Administration informant who received $50,000 for his services; one video played to the court appeared to show Banton sampling the drug. He denied any involvement in any drug deal itself, maintaining it was all talk, and the prosecution accepted he had no financial involvement. But conspiracy is talk – it only needs somebody to be talking to somebody else about something illegal.

The cover for Buju Banton’s new album, Upside Down 2020 Cover Art for new album

In the 18 months since his release, Banton has never talked about the conviction or his time in jail. When pushed, he calls it “an improvised hell” he got through by reading, meditating and reflecting on life – his own and in general. “Time and space is relative,” he says. “You have to shield your mind, and as a man of hope and a man of faith I can see the world is right there and I am right there, but can absent myself from the mundane existence.” He seems untouched by the experience, physically and mentally, the same amenable, generous and humorous person I have met on previous occasions.

He has long disavowed Boom Bye Bye, the murderously homophobic single he wrote and recorded as a 16-year-old and which was released without his knowledge when he hit big. To remind people, he issued a statement on his release from prison: “I recognise that the song has caused much pain … I am determined to put this song in the past and continue moving forward as an artist and as a man. I affirm once and for all that everyone has the right to live as they so choose.”

Banton shares a background of extreme hardship with so many Jamaicans – “standpipe poverty”, he calls it, as the houses in his part of Kingston had no running water – but his particular affinity with his homeland is due also to his Maroon ancestry. He can trace his roots back directly to the rebel coalition of runaway slaves and indigenous people who, in the 18th century, retreated to the mountainous interior and waged a 10-year campaign against the British. The Maroons’ guerrilla tactics were so successful that they were granted their own land and autonomy from colonial rule. Today the Maroons’ Accompong village remains apart from the government and plays a big part in the black Jamaican psyche: rebels who refused to bow down.

“My Maroon heritage is very important to I, because it kept I close to my roots and my origins,” Banton says. “I think about it every day. It kept me solid through the recent years, because I know how my people suffered long and they fought hard for freedom. It puts my struggles into perspective and shows why every black man have to fight.” In the grounds of his comfortable Kingston home, Banton has a circular Maroon hut. “The tabernacle! It’s built of thatch and wood and it’s a place of meditation and contemplation, a place appropriate to my roots and how I relate to the world.”

On a more prosaic level, Banton’s closeness to the Jamaican people comes from his sound system days in the late 80s, at a time when the island’s dancehalls were assuming fresh cultural currency as a generation of artists prioritised domestic over international audiences. From the age of 15, Banton apprenticed on the Rambo International sound system, which travelled all over the island.

 
“I used to ride on the back of the truck, all around the Jamaican parishes. We’d set up anywhere we could gather the people. And those audiences could be demanding! Every night you had to have a new song or you’re not going to last. No guts, no glory – that’s my genesis. It kept you always creative and stylish, and fearless.”

Recording was an obvious next step. “I record my first song when I was 16 years old. [Dancehall star] Clement Irie had taken me up to the Blue Mountain studios in Kingston, I thought just so I could see what a recording studio look like. Straight away I became very nervous because I’m seeing all these people I only know from on record and they’re all wearing gold chains as big as a car rim – or bigger! Then they put me in the booth with headphones on, and told me when the red light comes on, that’s my cue. I started doing the number and I didn’t stop until the three minutes was up.” This became The Ruler. “I couldn’t really remember doing it, I just remember how they was all impressed because they’d never seen someone sing from top to bottom of a tune and not make a mistake.”

Within a couple of years, Banton was the island’s top recording artist; by 1992, he had beaten Bob Marley’s record for Jamaican No 1s, and Donovan Germain, the boss of Penthouse Records, gave Banton the run of the studio. There, together with the producers Dave and Tony Kelly, confidence met musical intelligence to create the Mr Mention album.

Buju Banton performing in Kingston in 2003.
 
 Buju Banton performing in Kingston in 2003. Photograph: David Corio/Redferns

This was an experiment born out of “wanting to come to the dancehall with a complete body of work. We was young men fresh out of school and we had the studio at our disposal, our brains bubbling, bursting. We wanted to make music that would work in the dancehall. We had a genuine interest in going on a journey.”

Mr Mention became the bestselling album in Jamaican history. Its 1993 follow-up, Voice of Jamaica, made a broader statement still, shifting between love songs, dancehall bangers, hip-hop flavours (Busta Rhymes features) and social concerns. Then came ’Til Shiloh and Inna Heights, stunningly crafted albums of melodic Rasta reggae conceived during his conversion to Rastafari. “Those were tremendous bodies of work, messages I received when I was going through my awakening: Rastafari and reggae music are together.” The music aimed to “re-educate the masses” about the religion and culture: “We have shared our music with the world and we see many people wearing dreads, but they don’t understand the teachings.”

This restless creativity earned him five Grammy nominations before winning him best reggae album for Before the Dawn in 2011 – the ceremony came days before his incarceration and he couldn’t attend – and is still evident on his first post-prison album, Upside Down 2020. Featuring stars such as John Legend and Pharrell, it mixes up past and present styles of Jamaican music, nods to hip-hop and R&B, and on a couple of occasions ushers country into the dancehall. The latter shouldn’t be that surprising – country was once huge in Jamaica – but Banton’s breadth of influences is still remarkable.

“You have to move forward – it’s liberation,” he says. “There is no future in the past. Let it serve as a guiding force, but that’s all. Music is in my blood. I can’t lock myself in a single room; evolution is what you’re supposed to do.”

At 46 and free from the hell of the last few years, Banton has earned his place as reggae’s elder statesman, and is a genuine inspiration for the broadminded generation of Jamaican artists coming through, the likes of Chronic LawJaz Elise and Leno Banton, son of star deejay Burro Banton, to whom Buju’s stage surname is a tribute. He is keeping reggae’s roots where the ground has always been most fertile: the regular Jamaican people. According to culture minister Babsy Grange, they “would have loved him just the same even if he’d come back in handcuffs”.

 Buju Banton’s new album, Upside Down 2020, is out now.

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It's Gonna Be Real Dancehall!!!

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Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley will be the executive producer of Bounty Killer’s upcoming album.

The Warlord made the revelation during an interview with radio disc jockey Nikki Z recently.  According to Bounty, the album comes 18 years after his 2002 album, Ghetto Dictionary, which was released by VP Records.

“Now its 2020 and I am working on an album also.  So I am building up the fire and gassin up di place… I am not done; I am not dead. I am ready again.   And, it has been like 18 years I put out an album 2002.  The Ghetto dictionary; that’s my last album. That’s two generations actually, so it’s overdue- way past overdue, so I am working on an album with Ghetto Youths,” he said.

“Junior Gong is gonna be the executive producer.  So it’s gonna be something to listen to. It’s gonna be the real dancehall. I’m gonna remind them what dancehall is.  Some people don’t remember what dancehall is and what the real foundation is… so we gonna take them to the real hardcore,” he explained.

Bounty, yesterday, shared a photo outside the Marley family’s legendary Tuff Gong studio in Kingston, with dancehall artiste Agent Sasco, formerly Assassin.The pair teased fans with an upcoming “deadly” Bounty Killer and Agent Sasco

Meanwhile, Bounty Killer said he was in no rush to complete the album, as that was not his style.

“In music, we have no time, no date. It’s when the music say its time.  Because you don’t give yourself deadline in music; never do dat.  Just make music come as inspiration.    Das why I haven’t put out an album in 18 years.  Cause I never look at no time like ‘yow a 10 years now enuh or 15 years, because everybody bukking me u and saying yow, is nearly 20 years,” he said.

Bounty Killer has released several studio albums since he burst onto the dancehall scene in the early 1990s.  The last one, Ghetto Dictionary: The Mystery, which was released by VP Records in January 2002 featured 20 tracks including hits such as Sufferah featuring Wayne MarshallMysteryHigh Grade ForeverPot of Gold featuring Richie StephensArrow and the title track Ghetto Dictionary.

The superstar has long spoken of the high regard which he has for the Youngest Veteran whom he has described as exceptionally brilliant, while Marley himself always refers to the artiste as a ‘legend’.Damian Marley and Bounty Killer in 2017.

Last August, Damian made it known that he would love to produce tracks for Bounty Killer, whom he said he first met while in his early teens.   He told the Jamaica Observer newspaper at the time that he loved the Killer’s music, and that the Seaview Gardens native always looked out for him from his teenage days.

Both men, along with Eek-a-mouse, had also collaborated on the hit track Khaki Suit, from Damian’s Grammy-winning Welcome to Jamrock album, back in 2005.

Damian Marley,Bounty Killer & Eek A Mouse - Khaki Suit

Damian is no stranger to being an executive producer, having produced Third World’s Grammy-nominated album titled More Work To Be Done last year as well as Kabaka Pyramid’s Kontraband in 2018, 

In the meantime, the One General told Nikki Z that he is not interested in new phenomena like streaming.

“I don’t know about dem tings.  I don’t pay attention to streaming.  I was here before di internet, and I don’t get too into di net.  I was here before di microwave; I was here before color TV just came out.  I was here before cable; I was here when TV signing off.  So I am not into all that internet fad,” he said.

In This Story: Agent SascoBounty KillerDamian Marley

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Lifestyle blogger Jhunelle Jureidini with her quarantine kit,created from items found in her pantry. (Photos: Contributed)

Absence, they say, makes the heart grow fonder.

And when loved ones are out of reach, it’s oftentimes difficult to show them how much you appreciate them. Small gestures go a long way and lifestyle bloggers Jhunelle Jureidini and Tiana Chung show just how they maintain their friendship given their separation due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The government imposed six-to-six curfew has made socialising with anyone outside of your household almost impossible. With the coronavirus continuing to upend familiar rhythms of life, leaving bars, churches, and schools closed, hundreds working from home and others jobless, those looking for ways to pass the time have leaned towards creativity.

In the absence of busy schedules, users accept social media challenges in droves. Some bring together families for choreographed TikTok dance routines while others channel their inner fashionista with the #PillowChallenge.

All in a day’s work and in efforts to ward off boredom. But, one such challenge that seems to connect even more people is the Quarantine Kit challenge. Jhunelle Jureidini, curator of Simplylocal.life, suggested she and fellow blogger Tiana Chung, food blog curator of WongaGyal, create and exchange quarantine kits.

Plus, there's a video, see below...

“WongaGyal and I had been talking about collaborating for a while but had no concrete ideas.”

“She started selling customized quarantine kits and that's when I thought that would be a unique and thoughtful way for us to share with each other, but a little more personal,” Jureidini told Loop Lifestyle.

Instead of choosing what you want in your quarantine kit, we both agreed on criteria and filled the kits with items mostly from our pantries. Putting thought and time into arranging the kits, plus the surprise element — not knowing what you're going to get from the other person — made the experience more fun,” Jureidini mentioned.

Jureidini, who makes a living from showcasing Jamaica’s hidden gems — hotels and tourist attractions, and covering local events like Reggae Month — has more time on her hands during the lockdown.

So here goes…Jureidini shows us how to prepare a quarantine kit

First, figure out the theme or concept you’ll use to pick the items.

It could be arts and crafts, self-care, comfort food, etc. If it’s food, make sure to check for allergies.

Jureidini suggests... items from a cocktail recipe (using Appleton Estate Reserve rum); adding ingredients to make a snack; an immune booster like Tetley Super Tea, with the recommended 20% Vitamin C dosage. Then, add a wild card.

You should also wear a mask while preparing the kit, wear gloves, and wipe down everything before adding them to the container. Then agree to meet and practice social distancing while exchanging kits. Or if you are far away from loved ones, you can mail it or have it delivered to them.

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Cuba lends a Helping Hand with COVID 19

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The head of the 148-strong Cuban medical team that arrived here two weeks ago to help with Jamaica's novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) fight, wants Jamaicans to believe in the contingent that he says will do its best to give this nation's citizens the finest-possible medical care.

General practitioner Dr Eduardo Ropero said that he and his team members were oozing with confidence to get involved in the fight, alongside local health sector workers, to control and eventually tame the outbreak that has caused woe and destruction across the global landscape.

“We will not let the people of Jamaica down...Never,” Dr Ropero told the Jamaica Observer in an exclusive interview Friday evening, at the end of the team's 14-day quarantine.

“We are here to support the Jamaican health system to fight the new pandemic; interchanging knowledge with colleagues of this country and improve the knowledge and health of the Jamaican people,” the veteran practitioner of 25 years stated.

 The Cuban team of 46 doctors, 98 nurses and four technicians arrived in Jamaica on Saturday, March 21. Starting this weekend, they will be deployed across the four health regions (South East, North East, Western, and Southern) at hospitals and health centres. Dr Ropero will be based in the western region but does not know exactly where yet.

“Jamaica can depend on us 100 per cent. The Cuban medical personnel are filled with humanity and solidarity. We love our profession and we care for our patients,” Dr Ropero underscored.

Now that the period of quarantine has elapsed, Dr Ropero has joined other medical personnel, near and far, in appealing to remember that people that paying attention to health care tips is in their best interest.

He wants Jamaicans to know that the best approach in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis is for people to understand how importance it is to “wash their hands frequently, avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth if you are out of the house; keep social distance of almost one metre; use sanitary face mask or handmade mask” — a message that is now like an echo across the globe.

More can be done, he argued, while noting that some people refuse to self-isolate and don't understand that it is necessary for their wellness. Dr Ropero said that it is necessary to involve all media, in particular television, print, radio, and the Internet, in educating the population.4331651050?profile=RESIZE_710x

He, too, is not against the wearing of masks, as the debate rages over whether or not the items are necessary, as according to him, “the advice from the WHO [World Health Organization] is that just ill persons must use the mask, but it is very difficult to know when a person is sick — because the patient could be an asymptomatic person for 14 days”. Like other members of the brigade, he too has his fears of getting infected but remains confident that members of the team will be as careful as they can be.

“Yes, of course it is a real possibility, but if we follow correctly the safety indications, the risk of contracting the virus will be very low,” he maintained. Dr Ropero praised the Government of Jamaica, in particular the Ministry of Health and Wellness, for being “far-sighted” about coronarivus, citing the ministry's programme of informing the people from early about how to care for themselves, self-isolation, and effecting control on travellers. The first-time traveller to Jamaica, who has worked in Venezuela for seven years and Brazil for two, does not see a challenge for him and his team to fit into the Jamaican culture and enjoy what it has to offer, including the food. There are 77 members of the 138-team which has experience working abroad.

“Almost everything I heard about Jamaica is good — your culture is great; I love Bob Marley I heard from other Cuban doctors who worked here that you are very kind people, very friendly and hard workers; and of course all Cubans love Usain Bolt. He is unique.

 “The food is spicy, and yes, it is a little problem... a little hot for our mouths, but we try to get in the habit of eating spicy food. In the hotels the cooks are the best. The food is always delicious.”

Jamaica's dark side though — violence and crime — is of concern to the Cuban medical leader and his team, and they will do everything necessary to protect themselves. “I don't like what I hear about the violence and crime in Jamaica. In Venezuela and Brazil we treated shooting patients and some injured by the knife, and it's a painful picture for any person, even a doctor. But we are here to work and that is our main focus,” said the medic who admitted to being a sportsman of sorts, having played “a little baseball and soccer”, though confessing that he was not good at either.

The team was part of a contingent of Cuban medical personnel who were selected last year by a group of Jamaican technocrats who visited the north Caribbean socialist state from June 12 to 16 to recruit almost 300 professionals.4331661534?profile=RESIZE_710x

The selections were done by a team that was headed by senior director, human resource management in the Ministry of Health and Wellness Gail Hudson, and also included head of surgery at Annotto Bay Hospital Dr Ray Fraser, who studied medicine in Cuba; regional technical director for the Western Regional Health Authority Dr Diane Stennett Campbell; Nurse Educator Sheila Daley Jones; Director, Human Resource and Industrial Relations Coleen Ricketts-Evans; Director, Human Resource and Industrial Relations Pauline Roberts; Director, Nursing Services (KPH) Joan Walker-Nicholson; Chief Nursing Officer Patricia Ingram-Martin; Director, Nursing Services (Cornwall Regional Hospital) Gillian Ledgister; Director, Nursing Services (St Ann's Bay Hospital) Marcia Lafayette; Regional Nursing Supervisor (SERHA) Marcia Thomas-Yetman; and Senior Medical Officer (St Catherine Health Department) Dr Francia Prosper-Chen.

This is the third and final batch of medical personnel to arrive from Cuba within the last nine months.

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COVID 19 IS NOT A JOKE

STAY SAFE! PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING!!!

It could mean your life, the life of people you love or someone else's loved one.

SAY A PRAYER FOR THE MEDICAL PERSONNEL ON THE FRONT LINES

SAY A PRAYER FOR THE DELIVERY PEOPLE TRYING TO GET YOU FOOD etc.

SAY A PRAYER FOR HUMANITY!

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When you think of Carnival, soca music naturally springs to mind. And when you think of Jamaica, dancehall inevitably pops up.

But what do you get when you mix the two? Well, you'll find out on the road next month with Xaymaca International as the Carnival titans have flipped the script to make it a perfect soca and dancehall fusion!

Having started the blend last year with the introduction of their Queen of Dancehall costume, Xaymaca upped the stakes today and took it one step further by signing dancehall artistes Ding Dong Ravers and Teejay as their official ambassadors for their 2020 Carnival season.

And we don't know about you but we're VERY excited.

Loop got a special invitation to the official signing this evening, and we caught up with Ding Dong and Teejay to find out what they think of their new ambassadorial roles.

Ding Dong beamed: "I respect Xaymaca to the fullest because they believe in me and they're the first to believe in me in the soca world. Big up Romeich because he convinced me from the first year to do Carnival. It was a very important move in my life and it worked out to be the best.

"I've a big soca song this year and I hope to create history with it on the road with Xaymaca."

Revealing some of what he'll be bringing to the road on April 19, Teejay added: "I will come party and enjoy myself." And he promised plenty of "wildness" and "madness".

Kandi King, Xaymaca co-director, explained a little bit of the reason for the dancehall partnership. She told Loop: "We really just wanted to give our international masqueraders a taste of Jamaica. Of course you can't think of Jamaica without thinking of reggae and dancehall, and if you think about dancehall, you have to think about Ding Dong. 

"So we just wanted to diversify and give them a small taste of what dancehall has to offer."

Andrew Bellamy, Xaymaca CEO, added: "We'll be bringing the perfect fusion of the Jamaican culture with soca. We have the best of the local dancehall scene, we have Ding Dong and Teejay and we'll be bringing some of the strongest 2020 soca artists and you combine that with the experience we provide from breakfast through to lunch and dinner.... It's going to be an unforgettable experience for our masqueraders."

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Niki Minaj - Proud Trinidadian

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Celebrity musician Nicki Minaj has decisively claimed her Trinidadian heritage, saying via an Instagram post that she is a 'proud Trini'.

The rap diva shared photos to her Instagram account on Carnival Tuesday after wearing a costume from Tribe Carnival and enjoying the festivities with her husband while on a truck.

Minaj was seen partying with soca stars Machel Montano, Iwer and Kes, who all sang their hits including the popular 'Stage Gone Bad'.

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Minaj, who just released her latest hit 'Yikes', was seen decked out in a blue and purple costume resplendent with feathers. 

She was joined by husband Kenneth Petty who she married in October 2019.

Minaj said she and Petty were once childhood sweethearts when she lived in Queens, New York as a child. 

Minaj produced a Carnival video for 'Pound the Alarm' in Trinidad in 2012. 

'Fast and Furious' actor and musician Ludacris was also in the island for Trinidad and Tobago's 2020 Carnival celebrations. 

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Turks and Caicos to set up Film Commission

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Permanent Secretary for Tourism Cherylann Jones (l) and Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, Transportation and Communication Clara Gardiner at the TCIFF.

Turks and Caicos will be establishing a film commission. Premier Sharlene Cartwright Robinson said seed funding is already available for the Tourist Board to set it up.

The Premier was speaking at the opening night of the Turks and Caicos International Film Festival on Friday.

This is the first year of the TCIFF and the Premier expressed hope that it would become a major platform to attract visitors. She also said the event, themed Blue and Green – the Oceans and the Environment, would also create more awareness about the environment. Cartwright Robinson revealed that the TCI recently signed a declaration to protect the oceans along with other countries in Europe.

The TCIFF is aimed at shining a light on environmental issues through film. The event opened with a screening of Tom Mustill’s short featuring environmental activists Greta Thurnberg and George Monbiot. Mustill, who is in TCI for the Festival, said when he made it he wondered if anyone would watch and if conservation and protecting the environment was too boring.

The movie, he said, now has over 50 million views. The feature film of the night was the Leonardo DiCaprio- produced movie Shadow of the Seas, a documentary that follows efforts of a Mexican journalist and environmental activists to save the Vaquita, a sea creature on the verge of extinction due to the illegal trade of the Totoaba swim bladder.

The Totoaba is a fish whose swim bladder is high in demand in China for its apparent healing properties. Fishermen in Mexico draw nets across the Sea of Cortez in an effort to catch the fish, the trade of which is controlled by the mafia. The fish is called the cocaine of the sea. Other sea creatures, including the dwindling population of the Vaquita, are often caught in the nets laid for the Totoaba and die as a result.

The documentary does only just highlight the urgency to save the Vaquita, of which there are about 15 left in the world, but shows how consumer behaviour, social issues, government policies, and law enforcement are intertwined in environmental issues.

The Festival continues today with panel discussions and more screenings.

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3778123209?profile=RESIZE_710xThe Carenage in Grenada was decorated with colourful lights for the Festival of Lights. Photo courtesy the Grenada Tourism Authority

To crown the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s (CTO) Year of Festivals in 2019, Pure Grenada, the Spice of the Caribbean, debuted its newest event, Festival of Lights on December 6 and 7. 

The Festival took place on the Carenage, which is one of the most stunning spots in the destination.

The beauty of the festoon lights on the Carenage was further enhanced by new spotlights, which lined the entire harbour area, lighting the historical buildings in a multi-coloured glow as well as a new laser light show.

Added to the ambience created by the lights was a mixture of carols, steel plan music, parang music, local cuisine, a Santa’s grotto and a night market that provided all the Grenadian Christmas goodies such as sorrel, ginger and household items.

Performances by local artists and groups such as the PBC Boys Choir, Sonika McKie, Kareem Alexis, Emily Rapier and Hess and the Boys crowned the entire affair.

The Festival of Lights was the brainchild of the Chairman of the Grenada Tourism Authority and adviser to the Minister of Tourism, Brenda Hood who championed the idea for a few years.

She said, “jThe Festival of Lights is an opportunity for us to show the world how wonderful and authentic Christmas time is in Grenada. It is also an opportunity for our visitors to interact with our friendly citizens.”

The Ministry for Tourism and Civil Aviation collaborated with the Grenada Tourism Authority to form a Committee to bring the Festival of Lights to fruition.

Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen said it was a great achievement for Grenada to host its first Festival of Lights.

She said, “This was true collaborative effort and we thank all the businesses that came on board. The Carenage is a stunning location and we hope to enhance it every year with the Festival of Lights.”

There will be two more events on Saturday, December 14 starting at 5 pm and December 21 at 3 pm to close out the Festival of Lights for 2019.

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At Mo’s Original, It Pays to Be Open-Minded

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In Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, a neighborhood with a large Caribbean population and a lot of Caribbean restaurants, Mo’s stands out by finding the intersection of Jamaican and Japanese food. A pair of talented chefs have found success in the unexpected intersection of Caribbean food and ramen noodles. (Hannah Goldfield - The New Yorker)

The story of Mo’s Original, a new restaurant in Brooklyn, involves a few false starts. First, there was Glady’s, an eclectic sandwich shop opened in Crown Heights, in 2013, by Michael Jacober, a chef and grilled-cheese-truck impresario. The sandwiches were excitingly unusual, but after a few months Jacober, feeling like an interloper in the neighborhood, decided to rebrand as a Caribbean restaurant, focussing on Jamaican-style jerk to better serve the local community. If this was pandering, it was in good faith—Jacober travelled around Jamaica to educate himself and found a partner in one of his sous-chefs, Junior Felix, a native of St. Lucia—and it worked; in 2016, they expanded to a second, bigger location, in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens.

In these new digs, however, Glady’s didn’t quite take. And so, in May, Felix, with a new partner, William (Mo) Garfield, a onetime collaborator with Jacober (who recently divested from both places), decided to rebrand, as a Caribbean-ramen restaurant. If this sounds to you, as it did to me, like an outlandishly misguided and even lazily of-the-moment idea: I’m happy to report that it pays to be more open-minded. Garfield and Felix are not trend-chasing hacks but, rather, skilled chefs who have found the intersection of their passions. Garfield, originally from Portland, Maine, and a veteran of Japanese restaurants, is a devoted student of ramen; Felix is fluent in Caribbean flavors and a master of the custom smoker that he and Jacober designed for Glady’s, which burns American maple and ash wood in addition to traditional Jamaican pimento chips.

The success of Mo’s is best exemplified by the spicy miso-curry ramen. Curry is Caribbean, curry is Japanese, curry is fantastic when added in balanced proportion to an incredibly rich chicken broth, which is so thick with miso that it’s almost a sauce. Golden and creamy, it’s a perfect base for a tangle of thick-cut wavy noodles and generous curls of succulent smoked chicken thigh, nestled with charred cabbage and carrots and topped with wisps of scallion, garlic oil, and a house-made togarashi spice mixture.

The “smoke” ramen, made with both smoked-chicken broth and shreds of smoked pork loin, would be my second choice, and, in the mushroom-broth ramen, the three-dimensional flavor of the sweet smoked cherry tomatoes alone makes that dish worth ordering. (The latter is vegan, and the kitchen is unusually accommodating of dietary restrictions, using only wheat-free tamari in lieu of regular soy sauce and offering to substitute rice noodles in any ramen.)

But the menu goes far beyond noodles. Dinner begins with complimentary baskets of freshly made, copper-hued potato chips sprinkled with togarashi. Appetizers include crunchy tater tots topped with eel sauce, aioli, and bonito flakes; fried Brussels sprouts with vegan fish sauce (made with seaweed and mushrooms); and plump bao buns filled with sweet-and-sour pickles and meaty-textured deep-fried tofu. A “big salad” features frilly-tendrilled mixed greens that taste like they came from the farmers’ market as opposed to a plastic clamshell, tossed with carrots, daikon, hemp seeds, almonds, and herbs in an oniony dressing. The smoked chicken and pork loin are available barbecue style, too, and, to really please the crowds, there’s a burger—with two beef patties—plus a veggie “burger” (actually a smoked portobello cap).

A few months in, Mo’s has some kinks to iron out. On several recent evenings, the kitchen had run out of a good third of its offerings, and delicious-sounding specials, though prominently advertised, have been elusive; I’ve been chasing the smoked lobster with corn for weeks. I was sorry to see a dish of excellent head-on shrimp grilled in soy and ginger replaced by one with shrimp breaded and fried, and to be served a plate of tamari-brined fried chicken that was just shy of inedibly burnt. With a few tweaks, Mo’s could end its Goldilocks-like journey and feel exactly right. (Dishes $5-$15.) ♦

Published in the print edition of the October 14, 2019, issue, with the headline “Mo’s Original.”

  • Hannah Goldfield is The New Yorker’s food critic.

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Holy Moly!! Fashion in the Cathedral

3738450911?profile=RESIZE_710xThese are images from the fashion show held on Sunday at the Holy Trinity Cathedral that have ignited a big debate. The show, held from Friday 1st  to Sunday 3rd November, was part of Style Week Trinidad and Tobago and organized by Zetick Caribbean.

Express photographer JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK attended the fashion event and captured these images. 3738452100?profile=RESIZE_710x3738458457?profile=RESIZE_710x3738457398?profile=RESIZE_710x3738456868?profile=RESIZE_710x3738456282?profile=RESIZE_710x3738454842?profile=RESIZE_710x

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THE CONFOUNDING ISLAND
Jamaica and the Postcolonial Predicament
By Orlando Patterson

For a tiny island in the Caribbean, Jamaica has long enjoyed an outsize global reach — there are the songs of Bob Marley and the gold medals of Usain Bolt, as well as the millions of sun-seekers flocking to the island’s pristine beaches. It is quite an accomplishment for a nation “barely the size of Connecticut,” as Orlando Patterson notes in his fascinating study, “The Confounding Island: Jamaica and the Postcolonial Predicament.” But shadows hang over this sunny picture, not least distressingly high rates of poverty and homicide.

Patterson is a Jamaican who has long lived in the United States, working as a sociology professor at Harvard University, which allows him both an intimacy with the island and a degree of distance through which to analyze it. Although he provides extensive citations and robust discussions of theoretical frameworks, he also offers a personal story of affection and frustration, perhaps most evident in the questions that form all but one of the eight chapter titles. These include: “Why Has Jamaica Trailed Barbados on the Path to Sustained Growth?” and “Why is Democratic Jamaica So Violent?” Indeed, these two questions are so significant, he devotes the first half of the book to them.

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"The Confounding Island: Jamaica and the Postcolonial Predicament" by Orlando Patterson.

Patterson starts by comparing Jamaica with its fellow former colony Barbados, which is 25 times smaller in area and, with under 300,000 inhabitants, possessing only one-tenth the population. Yet Barbados has more than twice the per capita G.D.P. of Jamaica and none of the political violence. To explain this, Patterson pursues lines of investigation that are not strictly economic. The themes of slavery and freedom run through his analysis; it is impossible to discuss contemporary Jamaica without their inclusion. Although Patterson’s time frame is postcolonial, to get to Jamaica’s economic present he navigates the pothole-strewn road of its troubled past.

Jamaica’s dramatic and complex history starts with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1494. In 1655 it fell under English control, and was subsequently transformed into a sugar powerhouse fueled by enslaved labor, until full abolition arrived in 1838. The island remained under British control until independence in 1962.

Such a trajectory is not uncommon in the Caribbean, but Patterson notes crucial distinctions in Jamaica’s development, particularly the British perception that it was dangerous and disease-laden compared with Barbados. As a result, there were fewer absentee plantation owners in Barbados and a more stable colonial population, which influenced the development of the island’s political institutions. The social history of these institutions is key to understanding how they functioned after independence, and why the implementation of what were often similar policies had divergent results.

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Heywood Street market on West Queen Street in Kingston, Jamaica.Credit...Robert Rausch for The New York Times

From there, Patterson turns to violence, while also issuing some useful reminders about the nature of democracy. Jamaica, as he writes, is “genuinely democratic,” with a very robust civil society, and yet is rarely described as such. This is, in part, because of the notion that democracies, by their nature, are not violent, an idea “inconsistent with the realities of democratic history and practice.” Still, Jamaica remains an outlier in terms of scale, consistently topping global homicide lists.

Patterson examines how the political clientelism that took root in independent Jamaica has led to deadly “garrison-based politics,” in which a poor neighborhood is bribed or coerced through the threat of violence into voting for a particular political party. This phenomenon, mixed with persistent poverty, has given rise to the urban gangs and drug-related brutality that continue to blight the island. Patterson also revisits his own part in the development of Jamaica, returning to his time as an adviser to Prime Minister Michael Manley, who was the democratic socialist leader of the People’s National Party, and to the failure of the poverty-reduction program they tried to implement in the 1970s.

It is not all doom and gloom, however, especially when Patterson turns to Jamaica’s extraordinary cultural production. In examining the athletic prowess of the island’s runners, he swiftly dismantles any racist notion that Jamaicans are genetically more gifted as athletes, and instead returns to institutions. He lays Jamaica’s success in track and field at the swift feet of Michael Manley’s father, Norman, one of the nation’s founders, likening it to “the effect on track’s prestige in the United States had George Washington been a track star.” Manley was a talented athlete, and he promoted track and field as part of the formation of an independent national identity. Around this grew a nationwide infrastructure of running associations. Where institutions failed the economy, they proved to be champions in fostering athletics. In a similar vein, Patterson also looks at how the music industry has had enormous success beyond Bob Marley’s hits, in spite of the island’s limited resources.

Topics covered in other chapters range from women in the workplace to cricket, and such breadth makes this an eye-opening volume. It is also illuminating because Patterson carefully explores the complexity of the structural machinery behind Jamaica’s dazzling successes and dismal failures, rather than just chalking these up to simple causes. Although at times Patterson is critical of and disappointed by his fellow Jamaicans, his admiration for the nation’s independent spirit shines through.

Carrie Gibson is the author of “Empire’s Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean From Columbus to the Present Day” and, most recently, “El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America.”

THE CONFOUNDING ISLAND
Jamaica and the Postcolonial Predicament
By Orlando Patterson
409 pp. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. $35.

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Asafa Powell launches fitness and health website

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Asafa Powell, the former 100-metre world record holder and current Guinness Record holder for the most sub-10 runs has launched asafafitlife.com, a fitness membership platform to help people around the world take control of their health and meet their fitness goals, with hands-on guidance on workouts and nutrition.

“Health is our greatest asset,” Powell said. “Having over a decade of dedicated workout and nutrition experience as an athlete I felt it was time to share that.”

The services offered on the site include but not limited to a 12-week fitness plan, nutrition advice, as well as recipes and fitness videos. Having done a soft launch to get feedback and fine-tune the site, the response has positive.

It has given persons the opportunity to start their fitness journey with someone they trust, can relate to and know that the support they need is at their fingertips.

“I wanted to create a community,” Powell said.

Once people sign up, they get access to a range of his e-books like 'Live Like a Legend', a 30-Day guide to help people kick-start their journey to fitness. There is also access to a private group on Facebook that members can join to share their progress, provide support, share recipe ideas and keep in touch with Powell as they embark on their fitness journey.

The site also features more than 50 fitness videos providing detailed workout instructions for beginners as well as expert advice on how to exercise safely and effectively as well as Powell’s Nutrition Mission eBook.

To learn more about Asafa’s fitness membership platform and to see why it’s poised to change the game visit https://asafafitlife.com.

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Gordon Arthur ‘Butch’ Stewart O.J., C.D., Hon. LLD is an anomaly in the business world. He’s managed to not only create an estimated billion dollar empire, but has done so wearing an ever-present smile along with his trademark striped shirt. The man often referred to as the “Cupid of the Caribbean” (he’ll tell you why later) has control of his privately-owned Jamaican-based empire that today includes 23 Caribbean properties, Appliance Traders Ltd., ATL Automotive, ATL Autobahn and The Observer media company. All told, Stewart spearheads two dozen diverse companies that collectively represent Jamaica’s largest private sector group, the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner and its largest non-government employer.

The 78-year-old Sandals Founder and Chairman is responsible for flipping the “all-inclusive” resort market on its head and making it a luxury enterprise, offering everything from butlers trained by the English Guild to airport transfers via Rolls-Royce Ghosts. And he is constantly working, creating new opportunities set to engage guests, such as his new golf course in St. Lucia alongside Greg Norman, a new Rondovals at Sandals South Coast and refreshed restaurants and rooms at Sandals Royal Caribbean.

Simply put, the Jamaica-born businessman—who is still based in the Caribbean to this day—is fueled by a dogged passion for hard work, duty to country and love of family who always seems to be having the most fun. “Honestly, I’ve never worked a day in my life,” he says. And now, he’s sharing how to do what you love—as he did—and make billions in the process. Talk about living your best life…
Sandals-South-Coast-Aerial-View-e1570186246958.jpghttps://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Sandals-South-Coast-Aerial-View-e1570186246958-688x423.jpg 688w" alt="Sandals South Coast" width="752" height="462" />Photo Credit: Sandals

How did you get started in the hotel business and what drove you towards the hospitality industry?

Serving customers with a generosity of care and exceeding their expectations is the essence of hospitality and the values that have driven my lifelong approach to business – even before the start of Sandals. The late 70s and 80s were a politically sensitive time in Jamaica. As the value of the local dollar dropped, it became necessary to find a way to earn the stable foreign currency necessary to meet business obligations. That was the impetus for Sandals Resorts and exceeding expectations the source of its success.

You didn’t invent the all-inclusive concept, but you say you’ve perfected it. What do you mean?

After significant innovation in the space – from in-room amenities such as hair dryers and coffeemakers – which may seem quaint today to included transfers and premium brand drinks, we made a very conscientious decision in 2007 to go further, much further and create a premium all-inclusive resort experience that would compete successfully against any resort experience in the world. And we’ve done it. No beads, bracelets or winding buffet lines. The Sandals Resorts five-star standard begins with a phenomenal beachfront setting; selection of groundbreaking and beautifully appointed suites including over-the-water bungalows, which we introduced to the Caribbean; choice of at least 16 restaurants at every resort; top-shelf liquor and enhanced service including butlers trained by the Guild of Professional English Butlers. Quality, service, style and choice are what define our luxury included concept and we’re very, very proud of it.

What, in your opinion, is the secret to the success of your company?

Teamwork, a commitment to exceed expectations and leadership that makes these values the priority has been the essence of our success.

Rolls-Royce-Private-Transfer.jpghttps://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Rolls-Royce-Private-Transfer-688x458.jpg 688w, https://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Rolls-Royce-Private-Transfer-357x238.jpg 357w, https://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Rolls-Royce-Private-Transfer-225x150.jpg 225w, https://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Rolls-Royce-Private-Transfer-621x414.jpg 621w" alt="Sandals" width="752" height="501" /> Luxury stays at Sandals include private transfer via Rolls-Royces

Do you need consistent innovation and ingenuity to keep the brand fresh, or has the product simply perfectly established a formula at this point?

Any organization that stops innovating will not last very long. We are committed to exceeding guest expectations and they change, as they should. That’s why we include fast and free WiFi and have invested heavily in areas that today’s audiences demand such as quality interior and exterior design, excellent food and beverage, thoughtful service and new destinations. Whether it’s an incredible rooftop experience, opportunity go bowling or sip cocktails in an authentic speakeasy, we’ll never stop creating new ways to delight our guests.

Can you tell us about your five-star initiative?

Luxury customers know that signing chits and tipping don’t make for a better experience and that’s what our 5-Star campaign is all about. We are on a mission to dispel myths and to make sure customers seeking a true luxury resort experience – from in demand destinations and spectacular beachfront settings to standout suites, personalized service and incredible dining, consider Sandals Resorts.

What does Sandals offer that you yourself seek on vacation? What are you five “musts” for any hotel/destination?

When I travel, I look for an authentic vacation experience that’s true to the destination matched with the luxury of a 5-star resort, and I believe that Sandals does just that.

1. I’m a Jamaican who loves the water so a great beach with easy access and crystal-clear waters is a must!
2. Friendly, local staff are very important to me. I always like to learn more about a destination from the people who live and work there.
3. A variety of options! I like to have lots of choices when I’m on vacation. One day I might want to relax by the pool and then the next day, get out and explore the water sailing on a Hobie Cat.
4. Unique rooms and suites are key. I want to be wowed when I walk into my room, whether it be a large, spa-style bathroom or a pool on my balcony.
5. Top-notch dining is non-negotiable for me. A high-quality, authentic food and beverage experience is one of the most important elements of any excellent vacation.

Sandals-South-Coast-Bungalow.jpghttps://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Sandals-South-Coast-Bungalow-688x459.jpg 688w, https://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Sandals-South-Coast-Bungalow-357x238.jpg 357w, https://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Sandals-South-Coast-Bungalow-225x150.jpg 225w, https://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Sandals-South-Coast-Bungalow-621x414.jpg 621w" alt="Sandals South Coast" width="752" height="502" /> Luxurious accommodation at Sandals South Coast

Photo Credit: Sandals South Coast

Have you considered opening Sandals resorts outside of the Caribbean? If you’ve considered it, is this something we might see in the future?

Options are always to be considered. For now, we are proud of what we’ve built in the Caribbean, which is our home; the Caribbean people who have benefited from the opportunities Sandals has presented and the many people we have introduced through the resorts to this incredible part of the world.

There are plenty of perks that come with being the leading Caribbean Luxury Included resort company but what are some challenges that you have faced in your career that you’ve overcome, and if so how?

Every success comes with challenges and I’ve had my share along the way. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but I would point to the period immediately following 9/11 as one of the most challenging moments in the history of the company, as it was for too many. With travel absolutely halted, there was great temptation to slash prices and cut services. We made the decision to bet on us and an American customer in need of our style of vacation. While we did put incentives into the marketplace, we also used that time to acquire new resorts and begin extensive renovation at existing resorts. The risk was rewarded, and the company celebrated by initiating “Operation Relax,” donating $2 million in free vacations to active-duty military at home or abroad.

Obviously traveling is a part of your routine, since you get to travel to so many stunning destinations, where would you say is your favorite place in the world?

My favorite place is to be on my boat fishing.

GAS-Rio-Chico-HIGH-RES-800x706.jpghttps://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/GAS-Rio-Chico-HIGH-RES-688x607.jpg 688w, https://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/GAS-Rio-Chico-HIGH-RES-768x678.jpg 768w, https://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/GAS-Rio-Chico-HIGH-RES.jpg 1369w" alt="Gordon "Butch" Stewart" width="752" height="664" />Photo Credit: Rio Chico

Which of the Sandals properties do you enjoy the most and why?

Oh boy, that’s a tough one! I mean, how do you pick one child over the other? Sandals Montego Bay, our flagship resort, holds a very special place in my heart. I mean, that’s where the Sandals story first started. Whenever I visit Sandals Montego Bay, I’m always overcome with a flood of memories of those early days when we really had no clue how to run a resort. And yet, here we are in 2019 leading the way. The fact that Sandals Montego Bay recently completed a massive transformation from top to bottom, adding new rooms, new restaurants and new amenities will guarantee that a whole new generation of Sandals guests also fall in love with this amazing resort.

You’ve been in the game for a while now and have likely seen changes in the travel industry. How do you think the all-inclusive category has evolved since you started, in regards to luxury accommodations and service?

I think the most dramatic change within the all-inclusive space since we began in 1981, has been the shift in the perception of the category. Once upon a time, guests believed all-inclusive meant one thing: mediocrity. Every all-inclusive resort was the same. We changed that, paving the way for more entries into the category and more choice for consumers. And this is a good thing because Sandals has never aimed to compete on price. We are focused solely on quality of experience. This is why we take such tremendous pride in the location of our resorts, the beauty of our grounds, our incredible variety of suites that dazzle in their uniqueness from rondovals to over-the-water bungalows. It’s why we put so much care into our food and beverage, operating multiple standalone restaurants run by a dedicated staff and chef rather than servicing diners from a single commercial kitchen. Today’s luxury customer seeks customization above all else, personalization of every facet of the experience. That is the Sandals difference and the essence of our new 5-Star campaign.

What can we expect moving forward from the “Cupid of the Caribbean” (and how/why do you have that nickname)?

I always laugh when I’m called “The Cupid of the Caribbean” but when I first started Sandals in 1981, I was targeting the honeymoon market so everything was geared towards romance, for two people in love. And while weddings and honeymoons are a big part of our business, Sandals is also a great place for couples to get away and reconnect, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and enjoy the very best in luxurious accommodations, delicious dining, impeccable service and so much more. From romantic candlelight dinners under the stars to relaxing spa treatments in a seaside gazebo, we offer something for every couple at any stage of their relationship.

You’ve said in the past that you’ve “never worked a day” in your life, because you enjoy it so much. Do you think that’s the key to success in both business and in life?

Being fully engaged in the things that are important to me, committing to do my best – this is living life to its fullest. That is the ultimate success.

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3665152117?profile=originalAlmost five years ago on a local TV show in New York, the host was taken aback when the Jamaican reggae artist Gyptian was introduced by a diminutive, elderly Asian woman.

“He was not expecting to see a Chinese woman talking about reggae,” Patricia Chin, now 82, recalls with a laugh, during a telephone interview from New York.

But the half-Chinese, half-Indian Chin, who was born in Jamaica, knows just about everything there is to know about reggae. 

She and her late husband, Vincent “Randy” Chin, helped build the nascent reggae music scene in the late 1950s from their home in Kingston, Jamaica, along with the likes of the legendary Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.

In 1975, the Chins emigrated to the US and opened VP Records, in Brooklyn, New York. They later relocated the store, ironically, to the neighborhood of Jamaica, Queens.

This year, the label is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a year-long series of events, including a free concert in Central Park on September 10 and the release of a special box set and special-edition vinyl records.

The Chins’ foray into the reggae music scene began six decades ago after the couple met in 1957, the same year Patricia became pregnant and the couple married. She was a student nurse at the time, and admits they didn’t know much about reggae music.

Vincent was traveling around the Caribbean island updating vinyl records in hotel jukeboxes, which were the main form of musical entertainment. Patricia Chin quit nursing school to accompany him. They then hit upon a business idea.


Reggae singers Devonte (left) and Tanto Metro with VP founder Chin (center), VP CEO Randy Chin (second from right) and the Consul General of Jamaica Basil Bryan. Photo: AFP

“We went to the company Vincent worked for and asked them if we could sell the reject records from the jukeboxes,” Chin recalls. “Back then, 60 years ago, we didn’t have Jamaican music, but American music like R&B and Elvis Presley.”

People were happy to buy the used records and demand grew so large that customers lined up outside the door of their first shop, Randy’s Records, on Saturdays.

They had sublet a small space in a restaurant for the record shop, but eventually bought out the owner to expand their space. They even occupied the building next door to turn it into a recording studio, naming it Studio 17.

“There were seven or eight musicians doing reggae music, while we Chinese were the ones who owned the Chinese shops. [These shops] were the meeting places for young generation Chinese to mix with the blacks,” Chin says.

“The Chinese bought equipment like speakers and turntables, and the blacks had the idea of producing, singing and making music. The shops were like a [public] square for people to meet up.”

Like much of the Caribbean, Jamaica is a multi-ethnic country. Most people are of African descent, with smaller groups of European, Chinese or South Asian origin.

The Chinese originally arrived on the island in the mid-19th century as indentured laborers on plantations. Some stayed and started businesses, particularly grocery stores.

Chin with reggae singer Tarrus Riley.
Chin with reggae singer Tarrus Riley. Photo: Ajamu Myrie

The Chins made Studio 17 more affordable than other recording facilities to help young musicians.

“We invested in them, helped them press and sell records,” Chin says. “It was the natural thing to do. We were a hotspot for artists to listen to music.”

While Chin, who was nicknamed “Miss Pat,” was behind the counter selling records at Randy’s, she briefly met some of the artists her husband brought to the studio to record with.

“Bob Marley; he was very shy. He would come in with a producer. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Peter Tosh were young, they were around 16 or 17 years old,” she says.

Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were among the original members of legendary reggae band The Wailers. Perry, now 83, is still dropping reggae albums.

But a recording didn’t mean instant success.

“In Jamaica, everyone is a singer, so they [Marley and Tosh] didn’t sell any records at all at first,” Chin recalls.

She adds that it wasn’t until British-born, Jamaican-raised producer and founder of Island Records, Chris Blackwell, discovered the likes of Marley and Tosh in the 1970s that they become world-famous.

To seek new business opportunities, Vincent went to America and hung out in jazz clubs, where he met many African-American musicians, including rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Fats Domino, reggae singer and songwriter Johnny Nash and keyboard player and composer Arthur Jenkins, who also visited Kingston to record in their studio.

Amid an escalation in political violence in Jamaica in the latter half of the 1970s, the couple found it increasingly difficult to operate the business, so they left the country bound for the US.

With four children in tow, they landed in New York in 1975 and started over with VP Records, using the initials of their first names. 

Unlike in their hometown, business was initially slow. American customers only knew of Marley, but not other reggae artists who, Chin says, were just as good.

They were also unaware of the different styles of Jamaican music, including cool hop, ska and dancehall. During this period, only a handful of mainstream music stores in New York carried reggae music, so it was a struggle for the Chins to introduce other reggae artists.

Reggae fans watch performers during the 25th Anniversary of VP Records show at Radio City Music Hall in New York City (2004).
Reggae fans watch performers during the 25th Anniversary of VP Records show at Radio City Music Hall in New York City (2004). Photo: AFP

“We thought that Bob Marley was popular so we brought other music like roots reggae, but we couldn’t sell [the discs],” Chin recalls.

They made only $270 a week and had to make ends meet by selling records in the back of a van in Brooklyn.

It took five years for business to pick up and they then began to sell reggae records across the US. After 10 years in business, VP Records moved from the small shop space in Jamaica, Queens into a bigger building at the end of the block.

In 2003, tragedy struck when Vincent died from health complications. By this time Chin’s children had begun to help her run the business.

Her eldest son, Christopher, had been working at VP Records since the age of seven and, like his father, was personable and liked talking to the artists.

Her younger son Randy, who had worked as an aeronautical engineer at McDonnell Douglas and Boeing, returned home to work on digital downloads, while daughter Angela works in distribution.

Two grandchildren have also gone into the family business. Chin’s stepson Clive, who also became a record producer, went back to Jamaica to set up his own record label, however.

Chin (center) with her children Angela Chung (left), Chris Chin (back) and Randy Chin in 2004.
Chin (center) with her children Angela Chung (left), Chris Chin (back) and Randy Chin in 2004. Photo: AFP

While VP Records is based in New York, they continued to sign artists in Jamaica, record them, make the records and then sell them.

“I didn’t go to business school – things happened naturally for me. [I was able to] see the need to develop artists, even though not all of them succeeded,” Chin says.

She adds that many years ago, there weren’t many Jamaican female artists, they were mostly relegated to the role of backup singer. Today, however, there are a number of successful women singers, including Current, Spice, Queen Ifrica, Jah9, Fay Ann Lyons and Ikaya.

Capping the 40th-anniversary celebrations for VP Records, at the end of this year, will be the publication of a coffee-table book Chin is writing to document the family’s music career.

“Sixty years of music in Jamaica. Looking back we were just doing a business,” Chin reflects. “Some people say to me that I have a glamorous business, but I don’t know anything about glamor.”

Bernice Chan
Bernice is a contributor to Inkstone. She is a senior writer on the Culture Desk of the South China Morning Post.
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