EMPIRE- THE NEW “ROOTS” OF THE 21st CENTURY

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Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) and Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) go head to head for the EMPIRE this January on FOX!

Nothing is more empowering, more enlightening, more entertaining or more encouraging than to see a series dedicated to the talents of African Americans in a vastly all white viewership. Empire The series will become the #Roots of the 21str Century!

THE BEST OF TIMES, THE WORST OF TIMES

Surfing can be a time waster to some as it is seen more often as hitting sites aimlessly accomplishing nothing.  But for the more experienced web user surfing is like visiting the library going through books, in this case sites, that hopefully will give you some form of enlightenment. Today I had such enlightenment. From one site to another I reached the link of a wonderful site called THE MOTH.

The Moth is dedicated to promoting the art of storytelling.

The Moth is dedicated to promoting the art of storytelling.

The name was interesting.. Moth?  What on earth could that be? I hurriedly hit the link and found it was a site dedicated to storytelling, the kind of storytelling that was both personal and true. Interesting concept. i spent some time on the site and read that it started in New York in 1997 by poet and novelist George Dawes Green, who wanted to recreate in New York the feeling of sultry summer evenings on his native St. Simon’s Island, Georgia.  He Invited some friends over to his house and soon this little movement became an organised group of active storytellers, conducting six ongoing programs and has brought more than 3,000 live stories to over 100,000 audience members. Some of you may have heard about it but i am just discovering this little gem.

The stories are compelling, some are funny and all of the story evenings are based on chosen themes for the nights presentation. I feature this story as it was moving and thought provoking. Anthony Griffith, a comedian tells his compelling story of the best of times and the worst of times. The story captures your attention as well as grips your heart, pulling at your emotional strings as he pours his heart out , telling his story about life’s triumphs and life’s challenges. Watch the video and I hope you are as moved as I was  watching it.

A comic must earn his living as a clown while suffering the ultimate heartbreak.
Anthony Griffith lives in the mountains of California at 5,000 feet elevation in an animal protected community. It’s much different from the inner city of Chicago where he used to live, but he still travels doing stand-up. He says that the overwhelming positive response of him telling his story at The Moth has prompted him to write my one man show and pen other short stories now in development.

THE VOICE-A SHOW IN ER

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Never has TheVoice generated so much interest in the Caribbean diaspora as the present season with Jamaican born and bred #Tessanne Chin showcasing her talents and by extension raising the hopes of every Caribbean talent. She is motivating a region beyond words cannot explain. She not only represents herself but every wanna be singer /performer hoping to get that one chance. The interest is heightened even more as there seems to be another clash of the titans , this time not on the tracks but in the vocal arena. Team Tessanne and Team USA is heading for a showdown.

Blake Shelton  put the contest in perspective by this comments…..’  You are a world Class Vocalist… I wish people would focus more on that than about you and where you come from..”.  Sadly America sees everything in a category . They can’t help it . Its in their DNA. So lets move on. All the contestants are excellent vocalist. They all have immense talent and vocal ability and so they are entertaining but the one thing that will separate the winner from the losers is song choice.

The American people have shown the propensity to like Adam’s 3 artiste. He is the only judge with all 3 of his protege in the lineup but Adam has this uncanny talent to mess things up by making wrong song selections and that could be to his detriment.  Making sure the song fits  TheVoice of the performer allowing him/her to soar  is the mentor’s responsibility  and to a certain extent the performer’s reality. Adam’s age and experience, just like the other judges , have only taken the vocalists at this stage to the place they can take them. They need more. This is where the veterans and icons  can help.

The show needs to bring in older established performers to work with each contestant and coach to take the contestants to another level and expand their vocal abilities. The judges are becoming redundant and repetitive in their comments. Producers/Directors loose the comments of these judges. Its corny and bland . Get them to perform with their candidates. The show is stagnant and without Tessanne Chin Caribbean connection it would have lost a lot of interest, certainly from the diaspora. The show is becoming a marathon where it should be a sprint to the finish. Over processed group singing, tacky arrangements, boring song selections and dull boring dance numbers all equal to a production on resuscitation and at the crossroads – either the production team is tired and want to go home or they are out of ideas. I would think its the latter. The producers and directors are the only ones that can save it. The creative room is dull. Change the room. Go outside. See color. Let some fresh air in. Think out of the box.

The Voice is not a singing contest, It’s who has TheVoice that moves you, touches you and takes you to a place of unimaginable feeling of beauty inside. TheVoice therefore is the vocal Olympics..who can go higher, farther and stronger that they have ever imagined.

ARSENIO IS BACK- LET THE CHURCH SAY AMEN

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Arsenio is Back. Woof. Woof Woof. The fact that he is back on late night television is enough for people in my generation to get the coffee ready and stay up to see that good ole magic once again.

My first taste to late night talk show was the Arsenio Hall show. At the time, and I am talking the 90’s here, Arsenio was the only African-American personality on TV that spoke the language, understood the culture and certainly had the soul of the demographics networks were trying to reach- the urban generation. His popularity created the unofficial “Pop TV Generation” soon to be known as the MTV generation, and soon the only place to be seen was the Arsenio Hall show. Arsenio then is what Oprah is now – THE SHOW of SHOWS. If you didn’t hear or see it on Arsenio it did not exist. Many an artiste, Tupac, Vanilla Ice and Magic Johnson used that platform to set the record straight to the rumors affecting them at the time.

Arsenio started a lot of the trends that are happening today. The Woof Woof Woof sound from the audience started from his show from a section of his audience fondly called the “Dog Pound”. His musical band’s name was called ‘The Posse”, a term used in urban culture that pointed to your closets friends. Arsenio also made it cool for politicians to come on late night show to reach a particular audience and when Bill Clinton appeared on the show and played his saxophone, that musical note took him to the White House.

Arsenio’s had his ear to the ground and he pushed the right envelopes and brought guests on his show that you would never expected. Coupled with the un-expected ones that just showed up, made the show a must watch . You never knew who you would miss. How can you forget Michael Jackson walking on the set with Eddie Murphy in the couch or Luther Vandross appearing on the last show and spontaneously singing. There were so much spontaneity it gave the show an authentic handle on the term ” talk show”, It was unscripted , un rehearsed and from the host point of view he too was floored by these unannounced appearances. That was the magic of Arsenio Hall show- It was preaching the gospel late at night to the young and even the older generation. It was like going to church.

19 years later Arsenio is back and up to his old antics. I hope he and the producers do not try to fit the show into the stereotypical talk show presently on the networks. These days the guests are vetted, the questions are certainly manicured and scripted, the audience is controlled to the point of being just by standers. Letterman, Leno and Obrien are nothing but sterilized hospital rooms.

Let Arsenio go. Let him be spontaneous because that’s what he is. Let him bring the un known artiste to give them a stage to showcase their talent; let him have his ‘dog pound’; let him have the cat calls; let him bring on the controversial guests; let him have his rant with homophobic audience members like he did with Queer Nation; Let Arsenio be Arsenio. I can assure you , when this happens late night talk show will not just be late night entertainment, it will assembling the church to come to the altar to worship.

Welcome back Arsenio- the church is waiting in the pew. And the church says…Amen.

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SHOCK & AWE AT THE “SHITTY” AWARDS

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As an entertainer and producer I am very aware that it takes a variety of ideas and creative thinking to produce anything. The first rule of thumb that any producer ask himself is ..”who is my target audience”? When that question is answered then it makes it easier to produce your event.

The 2013 MTV awards is an annual event that is primarily a business generating, money-making  event for MTV and its affiliates. The TARGET audience that makes up the MTV generation  is the youth aged from 12-24 years. Remember that MTV is a cable and satellite television channel that broadcasts popular music and promotional music videos. It was launched in 1981. So one would ask why should they be concerned with anything that might be considered ‘old’ or out of their target audience current trends? Some will say their target audience is the youthful, try anything, do anything, wear my pants on my ass, tattoo covered ,a piercing body, colored hair, booty and cuchie showing generation . MTV is giving that audience the staple they have given them all year – filth. Whatever you feed the people little by little , they become. For those MTV generation who knows better, they might be appalled, like Will Smith kids reaction to the performances. But for others it is ..”yea…This is THE BOMB”… sadly expressing their delight at the gourmet of pop culture gone south.

Will Smith & Kids at MTV last night- looks like they saw a ghost!

Will Smith & Kids at MTV last night looks like they saw a ghost!

Every year MTV gives its audience , totaling millions worldwide, “Shock & Awe”. It doesn’t matter about the clever editing used, filth usually filters through. This year the show was held in Brooklyn. Why Not? It’s the coolest place  since Vegas. A whole NBA Team moved there!  Nicely tucked between Brooklyn Bridge, the Barclay Center was the home for the filth that started from the so-called must have staple of awards show the Red Carpet!  The only thing exciting about that “carpet” show was the shot above from the overhead blimp. That experience was just a lot of howling screaming kids and the shallowest ‘personalities’ that they could find to interview .

Lady Gaga's opening

Lady Gaga’s opening

Lady Gaga opened the show. She has a new single so it’s a done deal. In the usual Lady Gaga shock and awe style she delivered. From audible boos to the eventual hand clapping her reaction was at best luke warm. This audience was tough if they can’t  appreciate Gaga.

The next shock was the duo featuring  the current “thief of rhythm” Robin Thicke and the media popular Mylie Cyrus.  That performance made Janet Jackson’s “NIPPLEGATE” looks like a sunday school performance. Everyone’s talking about it. umm WHY? The hypocrisy is killing me. Everybody ‘twerks’ in the MTV generation. It’s a standard acceptable “dance style ” for the ‘ladies’ and Mylie is only doing what she knows the kids love to do. So don’t blame Mylie. It’s on MTV DAILY!

Mylie Cyrus "twerking" at MTV awards

Mylie Cyrus “twerking” at MTV awards

The show moved from the MTV awards to the Justin Timberlake concert , complete with a reunion of NSYNC, how touching. He  was receiving the coveted Michael Jackson Award. His performance was actually a competition between his dancers and Gaga’s dancers to see who were the best performers and whose choreography was outstanding  The same boring , overly produced pop numbers for 20 minutes from someone who is at best a mild performer. All I expected to see was Mrs. Carter  appear and shake her “boo-die” that only Mrs Carter can.  At that point I went to bed.
Justin Timberlake & NSYNC on stage

Justin Timberlake & NSYNC on stage

Some 2 hours later I awoke and the show was airing again from 10.30pm – 12. I decided to watch the balance as I had recouped some strength to endure the MTV filth. The usual staple , Kanye aka “Father of cute little North West “ performed. Somehow his contract with MTV is indefinite and as usual he lost me for the  3 minutes he was on stage. As a matter of fact – he lost the entire audience and only Kanye knows his message he wanted to spread last night. Thankfully he did not slap anyone for their awards.
Kanye West performs

Kanye West performs

The filth continued. Drake looking like a child high on coke to the over exposed Kevin Hart . But the most humorous segment of the night was the producer’s ode to ‘equality’ with the appearance of out and about athlete Jason Collins and the current & popular ASAP Rocky to deliver the message of inclusion to the audience. I must admit that was good comic relief in an otherwise boring show.  On stage were 2 peas, not in the same pod, delivering a message that one pea LIVES and the other FORCED to ‘promote’ a topic that was clearly not good for his reputation and his die-hard fans, you know, the boys from Compton or South Chicago or Harlem. Those boys that will slap anyone who just glance over at them. Poor ASAP Rocky, didn’t know what to say or how to say it, he just blurted out what comes to him naturally….

“A$AP Ferg’s Trap Lord album is in stores right now!” said Rocky. “The next artist stands up for everybody being equal—color, homosexuality” he added, pointing to Collins….”

Mr. Producer…next time give the guy a script for christ sake. Don’t leave him out to the wolves. Poor guy has to live with that reputation for life . SMH…the cost of money and promotion.

ASAP Rocky and Jason Collins- 2 peas not in the same pod

ASAP Rocky and Jason Collins 2 peas not in the same pod

There were some saving graces however and from the audience reaction they too appreciated class Bruno Mars, probably the best performer of the night, Macklemore performing ‘Same Love” and Jennifer Hudson joined Mary Lambert on the same song. There were flashes of brilliance but in the environment of filth it got lost from the stench of MTV’s presentation of modern-day pop culture. The show ended thank God with Kate Perry performing the hit from the latest soundtrack from the new Rocky movie “Roar”. At that point my stomach was the only thing roaring for food, food .

Pop culture is in trouble. Last night was a reflection of the social change in the society, albeit MTV being American pop culture. Sadly it filters through out the world and our kids believe that this is quality. As parents you can only do so much. Hopefully you will not loose them to the abyss of the MTV generation dark hole. But last night it was all about marketing, supply and demand and consumerism. Thankfully for me the remote was my little friend. I am saved. But the thought that your kids will grow up in a world where pop culture no longer craves the angels of music but rather the demons, vampires and the dead, it is enough to make you call up your subscriber and say …remove MTV from my subscription.

Macklemore. Jennifer Hudson & Mary Lambert performing 'Same Love."

Macklemore. Jennifer Hudson & Mary Lambert performing ‘Same Love.”

NDTC AT 50…STILL A YOUTH

 

 

 

When you visit the Facebook page of the NDTC you will see this line which states what the company is all about : “The National Dance Theatre Company is a voluntary organization of dancers, singers, musicians, creative technicians and administrators.”   And so it is. 50 years ago professor Rex Nettleford , Eddie Thomas et al created what was at its time probably a forward thinking theater group. Dance then in Jamaica was seen as someone living with HIV now- sad but tolerated. For 50 years the company was the foremost dance theater in the country, becoming the cultural ambassadors of the country. It represented the epitome of ones dance career. To be selected to dance in the NDTC was a recognition that you have attained a certain quality and degree of performance to be included in this celebrated company.

And so the NDTC was celebrated with packed houses over the past 50 years. And so it should. not only was dance the foremost talent on stage but also the very best in singing, musical accompaniment , staging, lighting and yes box office So in theory the NDTC was living its statement of being a voluntary organization of dancers, singers,musicians, creative technicians and administrators  all coming together to create this one whole – the Season of Dance.

The 50th season of dance is a celebration of its own accomplishment and perhaps its tribute to Jamaica 50. Everything else in the country is. The performance saw new works and a bit of the old classics my favorite being Sulkari. The new NDTC with its cadre of young performers did well, technically they made every choreographer happy for the night, no major flaws. They were not surgically sharp in all the performances, one can expect that and you also witnessed different performance levels of the dancers- some felt it while others were just going through the motion. Again you can expect that. Seeing the company 28 years later I drew from my last performance of dancers who were a bit more culturally mature, technically sounder and a more cohesive unit. You  got a different feel from both generations only too evident in  Gerrehbenta where the present dancers danced the piece while the older dancers performed the dance- 2 distinctly different perspective.  Again you can expect that. The singers had few changes- a few of the recognizable faces were there in full force hallowing out their vocals with clarity and vigor. The singers were good to watch and a pleasure to hear. Again you can expect that.

What I did not expect 50 years onward  is the technical difficulties for the music in a signature piece THE CROSSING. Faulty music, apparently from a scratchy CD made the performance null and void to end the first half of the performance. That I did not expect. 50 years and with all the technology in the world to help make performances like the NDTC flawless and we are still using whatever it is they were using. Inexcusable. But again you can expect that especially in a live performance. After all its theater and anything that can go wrong in theater usually does. But it is how you recover that makes a group  like the NDTC a good company rather than a GREAT  company.

Recovery was poor. An inaudible announcement followed by the quick turn on of house lights  indicated to the audience that it was intermission.  Yes there were the usual apologies but  that was not enough. A GREAT company would have recovered from their problems and presented the piece immediately after the intermission , do a quick reshuffling of the programme and give the audience what they promised to deliver. It would have cost them nothing , maybe 30 minutes more.

 The professor and his group has done a fantastic job over the last 50 years but as a cultural giant in the Jamaican society it should be in a better place than where it is now. No real website, very limited season and performances, still not a paying entity, no real or consistent merchandizing, not enough social interaction offering consistent classes for  youths and not yet a significantly dominant cultural force in the Caribbean or to use a favorite word of the region the Caribbean Diaspora where other country’s dance company can aspire to reach.

Is it money, is it the lack of time and diligence or is it the inane self indulged belief that because we are in the Caribbean we are limited by our resources. The legendary oratorical skill for which Nettleford was known, was often characterised in much the same terms as his dancing, namely a careful choreography of ideas which sought to captivate the imagination, as well as one’s sensibilities. This has been the NDTc legacy for the last 50 years. Now for the next 50. What next? Are we still going to see dances that are rooted to the floor, performances affected by poor CD quality, lighting from the 8s and 90s , a website that is but a page and non interactive and no real imagined opportunity to drive revenue to support itself and its talented cast?

The NDTC is 50 but it is still a youth, full of energy but needs a business driven leadership team to take it to the next 50 years milestone. Like Jamaica the NDTC seems to be settled and happy where it is. It seems to be happy with taking baby steps to realize their dreams and will reach its milestone when it does. I think thats a mistake. The NDTC is now bigger than life. It is capable  of making any decision that will become successful because of its ardent and religious following. It will do them well to lead its followers  as the professor wanted the group to lead. Lead the Caribbean and the world. Become a symbol of excellent theatrical management catapulting the  NDTC from being a good company to a GREAT company.

 

 

 

The little movie that could -Taken 2

If most of you had seen Taken last year you would probably wonder like me why this movie did not make it to the big screen. The movie was a hit. It made so much money and got so many good responses  that the producers decided to do a sequel. The good news is the sequel is here .

Former CIA man Bryan Mills finds his family under threat once again from another posse of Albanian kidnappers… and this time, it’s extremely personal.

Rade Serbedzija plays the father of one of the goons offed by Mills in the first Taken film, and it’s he who orchestrates the attack on his family. This time, it’s his wife (Famke Janssen) they snatch, and Mills is every bit as angry as he was last time.

Fortunately his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) manages to evade the kidnappers, but she still ends up in the firing line when Mills enlists her to help him save her mother.

The action is set in historic and beautiful Istanbul and judging from the trailer Taken 2 promises to be another smasher. The movie is scheduled to open in October in the UK and certainly in the US as well.

Taken 2 Movie Trailer