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In The Spotlight: Food Awards, Film Festival News and Reggae Sumfest

In The Spotlight: Food Awards, Film Festival News and Reggae Sumfest

In The Spotlight: Food Awards, Film Festival News and Reggae Sumfest

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This week in Jamaica...


Traffic was blocked in several directions and the lawns of historic Devon House were crowded Thursday night with people out to enjoy Jamaica’s most interesting culinary experience, the Jamaica OBSERVER Table Talk FOOD AWARDS. Throngs of well-dressed people filled the venue where, after paying a substantial entrance fee, they were entitled to eat any and everything displayed before them in the scores of tents and tasting stations that surrounded them. Comfortable seats grouped attractively enabled those who wished to sit and nibble. Others stood to sample the many interesting and attractive dishes offered, before moving on to the next booth. The delicious smells of food cooking filled the air and despite the crowd, there was order and polite behaviour from all.

The Sandals booth featured dishes by English Master chef Marco Pierre White and I tasted Grilled Salmon with Asparagus as a choice over sirloin or grilled crayfish. I found fish at the beautiful Royal Plantation Hotel booth, hosted by hotelier extraordinaire Peter Fraser, who introduced me to the delights of his iced seafood buffet. Elsewhere the Knutsford Court Hotel had replicated its High Tea in its beautiful booth, which sadly did not win the award for Best Place for High Tea. I passed booths crowded with patrons eating jerk chicken and pork, barbecue ribs, and fried fish and paused at length at the Beaches booth full of a variety of desserts, especially grapes dipped in chocolate and nuts, as well as cheesecake and cookies.

The crowd was so thick that it was impossible to see and sample everything, including the many wines and other drinks available. But while resting in a quiet corner I noticed a juice dispenser and asked for some, and was surprised to be presented with fresh strawberry juice with pieces of fresh strawberries crushed in it. Delicious! Another special find was fat fritters made of crushed breadfruit and saltfish – I returned for seconds. There was wine from Argentina’s Algodon Wines, whose VP Karen Durgona gave me a glass of their fruity Chardonay.

Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, was all smiles as he greeted guests and presented the Chairman’s Award to William Mahfood of Wisynco, the manufacturer of a wide range of alcholic beverges, waters, and international consumer brands. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Helen Wilinsky, the lady credited with introducing Jamaica’s jerk sauce to the international culinary stage.

Among the other awards winners were Spanish Court Hotel as Best Place to be Seen, Strawberry Hill Hotel as Best Sunday Spot (where else?) and Busha Browne for Best New Sauce, while Chef of the Year Award was presented by Visiting Celebrity Chef Marco Pierre White to Kevin Broderick of Rockhouse Hotel & Pushcart Restaurant for his outstanding work with locally grown products

It was a memorable occasion, with much praise for organisation and presentation going deservedly to OBSERVER Lifestyle Editor and Table Talk Food Awards conceptualizer Novia McDonald Whyte, who masterfully conducted the Award ceremony with speed and clarity, giving due praise to all who helped her make the event the roaring success it has become.



A DANCE FOR GRACE, which premiered at February’s Reggae Film Festival 2010 where it won Honour Awards for Jamaican Feature Film and Actor Orville Matherson, is making news in the US where its pemiere screening in New Milford, Connecticut to a sold out crowd received much local praise. New Milford is not only Matherson’s US home, but also the setting for the film’s US-based story of a Jamaican-born schoolteacher who takes his dance class students to Jamaica to learn authentic dancehall steps to win a competition’s cash prize and help their community matriarch Grace.

The visit to Jamaica enables the film to incorporate several scenes of Jamaica, its tourism attractions and especially the dance hall culture. Scenes were filmed at the popular Passa Passa all-night session where the newest dance steps are presented by groups and individuals competing for the video lights and a chance at stardom.

The New Milford Film Commission invited Mr. Matherson, screenwriter and co-director Junior D. Powell, associate producer & production manager Dale Foti and lead actors/actresses and dancers Nancy Pellegrini, Douglas Sines, Yarc Lewinson, and Bretton Canfield for its Connecticut premiere at the Bank Street Theater on Sunday, July 25, before its opening in theaters across the USA.

In an article in local newspaper Housatonic Times the producers report that since its premiere screening at the Reggae Film Festival in February, A DANCE FOR GRACE has been shown to great acclaim at the New York International Film and Video Festival, and the Belize International Film Festival, where, Mr. Matherson reported, “People received the film very well, making our film the most attended at the festival”.

The producers went into their own pockets to finance the film because they believed in their project and they are ecstatic at the reception the film has received so far, especially the rapturous welcome in their home town. The Reggae Film Festival is proud that once again a film it has honoured has proved worthy of its Awards.


The Global Reggae Studies Center, founded and directed by Dr. Carolyn Cooper, the UWI Professor who first brought discussion and scholarship about reggae and dancehall music to the Jamaican campus, presented an interesting lecture ‘Locating the Japanese and the Jamaican in Japanese Reggae/Dancehall’, by Princeton University Professor Noriko Manabe at the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre, UWI, Mona last Tuesday.

What made even more poignant a lecture focusing on the strong links between Japanese people and Jamaican music, was the recent death of Sugar Minott who recognition came first and most strongly from Japan where he was even better known than in Jamaica. The Professor used Japanese artist Nahki as an example of an artist who had successfully made the crossover to reggae, and reported that it was a meeting with Sugar Minott that had caused Nahki to come to Jamaica. The rest is history.

The Professor said that, like many other cultures, Japanese interest in Jamaican music was first inspired by “The Harder They Come”, the 1971 Jamaican feature film starring Jimmy Cliff that introduced Reggae and Rasta culture to the world. The next milestone in the spread of reggae was the issue of the first album by Bob Marley and the Wailers, with its iconic Zippo l ighter cover.

For a more extensive report on Professor Manabe’s lecture, Read Basil Walters story in the Jamaica OBSERVER:


The rain destroyed my plans to attend Reggae Sumfest this year and my intention to report on it. I stopped attending Dance Hall Night years ago when slackness reigned supreme, so it was no problem to miss the opening Thursday night, when the rain started falling in earnest. Planning to set out on Friday morning with the intention of arriving in time for the press conference at 4 p.m., the rain became a permanent feature of the day and reports from those at the venue the previous night spoke of disastrous mud in the wake of the heavy rains that have been lashing the island for days.

Was it worth the heavy expenditure for transportation, hotel room, food and drink, to stand in the rain and mud just to say I had seen American superstars Chris Brown and Usher live and in person? For, when I examined my motivation for the expedition, I had to admit it certainly was NOT to see Etana, Jah Cure, Queen Ifrica or Tony Rebel AGAIN, not after having seen them headline every major stage show and entertainment event over the past 3 years, including launches of their and other artists’ albums.

I looked seriously into the fact that a show billed as the greatest presentation of my island’s music, was headlined by American artists, while reggae shows around the world – some lasting for many more days than Sumfest – did not feature a single US act unless that act was performing reggae.

Instead, they were featuring acts like The Congos, whom I have never seen live in Jamaica but who are such a major touring group that a new film about them has just been released. They were featuring The Twinkle Brothers, a Los Angeles group that have been around so long their locks are now gray, yet I have never seen them perform in Jamaica. They are featuring Big Youth and Kiddus I and Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace – artists they know from the movie 'Rockers' just as well as they know Jimmy Cliff from ‘The Harder They Come'.

Was Sugar Minott considered for the artists lineup, or was there regret when the outpouring of his songs after he died showed what an important artist he had been? What ever happened to The Rastafarians, a group that had a hit album in the 1980s? And can dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson only be invited to perform at a literary festival because his words are packaged in a book rather than a CD?

In fact, where are the poets, all of whom are now performng to musical backing and who were as much part of the development of hip-hop as the dub toasters? I once persuaded the Sumfest organisers to put on 3 poets on in a band change and the audience loved it. Why not make this a feature, to bring something new to the repetitive lineup? Where are the reggae violinists? Do my friends, the Sumfest crew, think they are only good enough for the high-brow Jazz Festival they organise? No, the Jazz Festival is where I believe Chris Brown and Usher should be showcased according to genre.

So, as I pondered these thoughts, I found the reason why JAH had sent the rain to prevent me from travelling to Montego Bay to see two superstar American R&B/hip hop/pop artists headline ‘the biggest’ show of my reggae culture on July 23rd – the Birthday of Emperor Haile Selassie 1 – when the Nyabinghi drums from which reggae was born were beating at celebrations all across the island.

From all reports, despite the rain and mud, the show lived up to expectations and fans attending were pleased, whether I was or not. So I write these words only in hope that my friends, producers Robert Russell and Johnny Gourzong, will take them into consideration when planning next year’s REGGAE Sumfest. A+ for effort, as always, guys.



'Mother nature is the true food artist’,
OBSERVER Food Awards celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, answering questions at the Foodie Seminar.

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