Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah – A WRITE JAMAICAN

by CLAUDETTE BECKFORD-BRADY
24 May 2013

Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah is a multi-faceted, multi-talented Jamaican woman who I am proud and happy to number among my friends.

THAMES tvBarbara, who I affectionately call Mama Makeda, made history and newspaper headlines back in 1968 when she was appointed as an on-camera reporter/interviewer on the Thames Television daily evening show, Today with Eamonn Andrews, making her the first Black person to appear on British television screens in a capacity other than that of an entertainer. Unfortunately history has not properly disseminated word of this achievement, which can be verified if anyone cares to make the effort, and others, such as Trevor McDonald and Moira Stuart have been credited with being the first black TV presenters even though Trevor did not appear till 1973 and Moira till 1981.
Whilst still in the UK Barbara also worked on the Today show at ATV- Birmingham and on the BBC’s Man Alive series. However, although she thoroughly enjoyed this stint at the BBC she could not resist when Chris Blackwell and Perry Henzell offered her a job as Public Relations Officer for the first Jamaican feature film The Harder they Come which starred Jimmy Cliff, and so she returned to Jamaica in 1972.

Senate (1)She continued her career as a journalist, writing newspaper columns and doing television and radio broadcasts. During her long and prestigious career she has lectured at the University of the West Indies (UWI), University of Vienna in Austria, New York University and the World Archaeological Congress Pre-Conference in Curacao as well as in several other halls of learning around the world. She was a delegate to the United Nations World Conference against Racism in 2001 and was appointed a Senator in the Jamaican parliament where she served from 1984 t0 1987.

bbh rff2010Barbara is also a film maker and is currently Executive Director at the Jamaica Film Academy (JFA) where she is responsible for managing the JFA, promoting the development of the Jamaican film industry, and organising the annual Reggae Film Festival. This Reggae Film Festival, launched in 2008, is a brainchild of Barbara’s own company Jamaica Media Productions (JaMediaPRO) which she started in 1987. She has produced and directed a number of documentaries and two TV feature films.

3 coversAs well as being a journalist and film maker, Barbara is also the author of several publications; Rastafari – The First Creation was published in 1981 and is now in its seventh edition. It was the first book written about the Faith by a practising Rastafarian and is available at amazon.com both in paperback and on Kindle. RASTAFARI-NEW-CREATION-Gold-Medal/

In 1992 Barbara published a novel called Joseph – A Rasta Reggae Fable which was loosely based on the life of the late great reggae icon and superstar Robert Nesta Marley (Bob Marley) with whom she was friends. The book has recently been republished and is available in paperback and Kindle formats at amazon.com and amazon.com.uk.  JOSEPH -A Rasta Reggae Fable. Barbara is currently working on a script with a view to producing a film of the book.

growing out coverOther publications by Barbara Blake Hannah include Growing OUT – Black Hair and Black Pride (Hansib Publishers, UK 2010)  about her early life and years in England, and HOME – THE FIRST SCHOOL: a HomeSchooling Guide To Early Childhood Education .

This last book was born out of Barbara’s experience at home schooling her son Makonnen primarily due to her concern that the traditional education system would be lacking in his overall development.

homeschoolHer experiment proved a colossal success: Makonnen has an impressive record of achievement. At the tender age of thirteen, he was appointed Youth Technology Consultant to the Jamaican government, and in 2001 he won the Institute of Jamaica’s Junior Musgrave Award. In addition he has installed computer systems in schools and commercial companies, and given speeches at prestigious institutions such as the UN, Harvard, MIT, and NASA amongst others. His list of achievements is endless and needs an entire article for himself and not a couple of paragraphs in his mother’s article. For more on Makonnen go to his page.  The book Home – The First School is essential reading for any parent considering home-schooling their children and is available at amazon in Kindle format. HOME-THE-FIRST-SCHOOL

Both Barbara and her son are devout practising Rastafarians and demonstrate to the world the positive achievements of Rastafari, and throw scorn on the small-minded persons who have a negative perception of the Rasta faith and Rasta people.

There is so much more that could be said about Barbara Makeda Blake Hanna, recipient of the United Nations Peace Medal in 1974 and the Ethiopian Crown Council’s Adowa Centenary Gold Medal in 1997, but I will just satisfy myself by placing her at the head of my list of what I call THE WRITE JAMAICANS.

JOSEPH COVERA REVIEW OF “JOSEPH – A RASTA REGGAE FABLE”
By Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah
REVIEWED for the Sunday Observer Bookends Magazine BY Claudette Beckford-Brady
This is the story of a Jamaican reggae superstar. It tells of the rise to fame of an ordinary man from the ghetto, who manages to rise above adversity and achieve worldwide acclaim and financial success.
Joseph Planter emerges from obscure beginnings in a small country town in St Ann to become internationally famous on the world stage as a reggae singer/songwriter. His rise to success and fame is not easy; indeed it is fraught with difficulties, but his Rastafarian faith gives him the strength and determination to overcome.

Having left St. Ann, he resides in downtown Kingston where he is achieving some success with his music, but without the due compensation, because of unscrupulous record producers. So when he gets an offer from an international recording company he is sceptical believing that they, too, just want to exploit him. However he agrees to a meeting, and his international career is launched.

mombookHis story is chronicled by Ashanti (Sister Shanty), a Rastafarian who grew up in the slums of West Kingston, eventually ending up in Wareika Hills; a place where the poor and other outcasts of society reside – the Rasta and the hideaway criminals and gunmen who skulk in the barren wilds of the foothills of the Blue Mountains.
Sister Shanty and Joseph have a unique and enduring relationship; a rare male/female friendship, uncomplicated by sexual game-playing or tensions, and she relates his story, taking us through his life and his career. She gives us an insightful glimpse into the inner feelings of Joseph; his love for beautiful women; his kindness and generosity; his love for fellow humans, and his bewilderment at the thought of someone hating him enough to try to kill him…
The political tensions of 1970s Jamaica come to a head when Joseph agrees to play at a concert – organised to unite the opposing factions and attempt to bring peace to the warring politically-divided communities of Kingston – and is shot. Speculation and suspicion run rife; no-one knows who to trust… Even Shanty’s Kingman (spouse) comes in for suspicion, which Joseph is unable to relate to, since Peter is also his friend. Unsubtle hints of a conspiracy by the British Establishment provide for additional intrigue.

ES031661Joseph, during his recuperation, finds time for reflection and decides to go to Ethiopia. He obtains the requisite visas for himself and his entourage with the help of a well-known white American journalist, who has followed and chronicled Joseph’s career almost from his advent on the world stage. Joseph and his close friends, including the American journalist, Sam, leave for Ethiopia.
Meanwhile, running under a cloud of suspicion, Peter and Sister Shanty has managed to reach Cuba, where they find the real Socialist experience, and would have been content to remain, but Peter wants to clear his name, and with the help of Cuban friends, manage to reach Shashemane in Ethiopia, where they come face to face with Joseph…
During his sojourn in Ethiopia Joseph experiences a rebirth – a mystical revelation and new awakening – and his body, spirit and soul are rejuvenated. Sister Shanty, too, with her Kingman and the others, find peace and spiritual fulfillment despite the minor conflicts brought about by the fact that they are all from different Houses of Rasta.
Joseph leans toward the House of Nyabinghi, but sometimes attend the Ethiopian Orthodox Church; Mikey, a Twelve Tribes of Israel member (referred to in the book as ‘The Sons of Jacob’) has no time for the Church; and Red Dread is a member of the Research and Repatriation Committee, which is a militant off-shoot of the Ethiopian World Federation – all different ‘mansions’ within the House of Rastafari.

JOSEPH coversThey all eventually return to London to a media circus of screaming newspaper headlines and scores of journalists dogging Joseph’s every move, amid accusations of his living an immoral lifestyle filled with drugs and sexual orgies.
Joseph is saddened by these unjust accusations and decides that there is only one way to get his side of the story across, and to ensure that he is not misquoted or misrepresented by the media. He organises a mega-concert-cum-press conference at London’s most prestigious venue, the Royal Albert Hall, where he gives an inspired performance for his fans, confronts his critics, and confounds the antagonistic journalists with his wisdom and plain common sense. He is particularly saddened by the vitriolic attack of Sam; the American journalist he had thought was his friend.  On his return to his hotel room, he collapses and is subsequently diagnosed with a life threatening ailment.
The story ends with a very surprising twist…

JOSEPH 2 coverA novel work of fiction, very loosely based on the life of Bob Marley, with pseudonyms cleverly used but not disguising the real characters, the book gives a realistic portrayal of life in the 1970s – the political climate; tribalism and gun violence; the hardships of survival and the trials faced by the communities of the poor Kingston ghettos.
The author, Barbara Blake Hannah, herself a practising Rastafarian and member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, gives, through the voices of her characters, an honest insight into the Rastafarian religion, explaining the philosophies and the divisions within the House of Rastafari. She takes the reader on a spiritual journey to Shashemane, and a revolutionary journey to Cuba.
The book is written in Standard English, but makes effective use of the vernacular in a way which is easily understood by all, including non-Jamaicans. The honest and realistic use of everyday language makes even the ‘badwords’ sound normal and not at all like expletives. The author’s power of description, in simple terms, yet photographic, transports the reader visually to the scenes she describes and infuses them with the feelings and emotions being experienced by the characters.
Shashemane, for instance, often described by Rastafarians as the ‘Promised Land’ rich and fertile, where the living is free and easy, is exposed realistically to the reader as a few rudimentary dwellings on a hilltop, where eking out a living is far from easy. The reader can see the settlement in his mind’s eye and feel the hardships described.
The story flows easily and has everything a reader wants in a good book; conspiracies, suspense, excitement, intrigue.
It was originally published in 1991 by Jamaica Media Productions Limited, and subsequently re-published in 2006 as a part of the Macmillan Caribbean Writers series. It has very recently been republished by the author herself and is available at Amazon websites.

STAND-OUT ARTISTS OF 2014

My pick of the Jamaican artists whose music brought a smile to my face in 2014 – Barbara Makeda Blake-Hannah.

no-maddz-shotta-750x750Top of my list is NOMADDZ, a unique group of which there is no comparison or precedence. A mix of dub poets, performance artists and reggae singers whose music is a fusion of sounds and whose lyrics are always thought-provoking, each is talented in their own right. We haven’t heard from them in a while since they dropped “Breadfruit is The New Bread”, though we’ve been watching some excellent acting performances from Everaldo Creary and Sheldon Shepherd in the Jamaican movie “Betta Must Come”. Now NOMADDZ has teamed up with Sly & Robbie to produce a new album that displays their many versatile talents excellently and will probably earn lots of accolades in 2015.  “(Watch NOMADDZ – ‘Shotta’)  

IMG-20141222-03059stephen newlandROOTS UNDERGROUND and RAGING FIYA are reggae bands in the lineage of Third World and Steel Pulse that command a stage in their own right, not merely as backing artists to a major act. A recent double-bill in Kingston over Christmas confirmed the musical excellence of both bands that has seen them each booked for the major music festivals in 2014 and to come in 2015.  STEPHEN NEWLAND, lead singer of Roots Underground, is an electric performer who brings further dynamism to the group’s rootical music, while Raging Fiya – though only a few years old – show a cohesion and professionalism that makes their performances good to watch, listen and dance to.

kelissaKELISSA McDonald stands out from the upcoming female musical flowers that include JAH9, , HEMPRESS SATIVA, CEN’C LOVE and newcomer NEO-SULAN SMITH with a series of dynamic performances at home and abroad. A powerful solo show before Christmas gave insight that she holds her own as a performer on the recent international tour with Chronixx, and it is clear that her few single hits will surely increase in 2015. Often keeping her company is her brother KEZNAMDI, whose 2014 songs “Darkness” featuring Kabaka Pyramid and “Weekend” showed that he is a talent in his own right. (Watch ‘WINNA’ ft. Chronixx )

jesse royal
kabakaJESSE ROYAL, DRE ISLAND
and KABAKA PYRAMID all came to attention at the start of the ‘Reggae Revival’ movement, almost indistinguishable from each other. But each has carved out a space as a solo artist in 2014, distinguished by a hit that has given them greater visibility and enabled them to stand out from each other.  Each can be proud of their increased popularity and tour dates in 2014, following hard on the heels of CHRONIXX and PROTOJE, who still hold the top spots among the ‘Reggae Revival’ crowd.  WATCH 
DRE ISLAND – ‘Rastafari Way’: 

exile di brave

dexta malawiEXILE DI BRAVE and DEXTA MALAWI are a new breed of roots artists who have developed an identity while hosting music events that feature them and their group of artist friends. Exile Di Brave‘s ‘Vinyl Thursdays‘ revived interest in vinyl disc sessions and gave a few up-coming artists a weekly chance to dub live. Dexta Malawi launched his catchy hit song and video “Woke Up This Morning” with a Boxing Day 2013 party at popular Afrocentric restaurant Veggie Meals On Wheels that took the song on its global journey. Both artists have toured Europe in 2014 and are set to continue in 2015.  WATCH “Woke Up This Morning’ Dexta Malawi 

NRG

NEW REGGAE GENERATION – In late 2013 three friends ARSEENAL D’ARTILLARY, IYAH GIFT and MAKONNEN BLAKE-HANNA who have been working as solo artists on their own careers, united in a musical fraternity to perform as the N.R.G. – the NEW REGGAE GENERATION. The unusual trio who sing together, back each other up and mix it up in a combination of roots reggae, hip-hop and dub, received special attention for their performances at a growing number of 2014 events, including the popular ‘Kingston Dub Club’ Sunday night session, Bob Marley Museum’s ‘One Love Fridays’ and the ‘Pay Attention’ hip-hop sessions.

iyah gift albumRSEENAL ALBUMWhile accepting the growing recognition of N.R.G., each artist continues to work on his individual career with positive results that will increase in 2015. Solo albums were released by IYAH GIFT and RSEENAL in 2014, soon to be joined by MAKONNEN in 2015. IYAH GIFT brings a touch of his African parental roots to his music, (LISTEN HERE) while RSEENAL‘s album ‘A Luta Continua – Vitoria e Cierta” (LISTEN HERE:) reflects his position as a committed revolutionary, whose bullets are his rapid-fire lyrics.

rockers revolution coverMAKONNEN,  a ‘tech genius’ whose early musical years were spent as composer/producer of a number of artists and hits, took on the added musical role of artist in 2013 and came to attention with the popular airplay of his first single “Red Eye”.  Makonnen’s Soundcloud page (LISTEN HERE) features several tracks from his upcoming album ‘Rockers Revoution‘. Dermot Hussey, musicologist and host of “RIFFIN” online radio show, says of Makonnen: “What I like about Mak’s music, is the creative elements he produces. His work is very focused, and he makes use of a wider sonic choice, his beats underscore that as a young brother he marches to a larger sound. There is a lot of talent in Jamaica, but an equally repetitive factor, a kind of mono culture, the same thing over and over, or one thing at a time, but as a young man, he understands the generational shift, because he’s a part of it, and understands that it relates to a bigger picture.”

STARS OF 2015  – These are the Jamaican artists whose performances and music I will be looking out for in 2015. Wishing them all the BEST for the New Year.

Reviews praise ‘The Moon Has Its Secrets’

by Barbara Blake Hannah

coverThe hardest part of being an author is waiting to hear what readers think of your work. You, of course, think it’s the greatest literature since … well, whoever! But deep down you know that you need to hear other opinions before you can be sure that you were not wasting time and creative anxiety putting all those words together, with a storyline, characters, drama, tension and eventual resolution, and then being confident enough to publish it to the world.

That was my condition when I celebrated Jamaican Independence August 1st, 2014 by publishing ‘THE MOON HAS ITS SECRETS’ on Amazon.com, through its innovative e-publishing portal CreateSpace.  Since then my anxiety has subsided somewhat as — one by one — comments have been coming in that are positive enough to have enabled me to heave a sigh of relief.

Claudette Beckford-Brady, a Jamaican raised in England who is herself an author of 4 novels, wrote a Customer Review at Amazon.com:

“Not much is historically known about Jamaica’s only female hero, Nanny of the Maroons, affectionately referred to as Grandy Nanny by Jamaicans, but this novel by Barbara Makeda Blake Hanna is a credible depiction of her story. An interesting and entertaining fictionalised account, it begins in Africa in the 1600s chronicling the story of a young girl captured by slave traders and brought to Jamaica, and continues with the stories of her female descendants over several centuries, culminating in the 1970s with a white British girl seeking to find her slave ancestor, and illustrating Jamaica’s motto, “Out of many, one People”. … This fascinating novel “The Moon has its Secrets” speaks to her talent as a writer and should be required reading for all Jamaicans, and particularly high school students. It would also be good to see this book turned into a movie.”

brady bookIt’s a singular honour to be praised by another author, especially one whose work I respect as I do Claudette’s. Check out ‘YARD AND ABROAD’,  her new collection of short stories set in Britain and Jamaica,  full of amusing, poignant and entertaining scenes of both countries.

flakoIt’s an equal honour to have my work endorsed by a leading Rastafari Elder, historian Ras Flako whose books on the Coral Gardens incident are an accurate record of the gross acts of injustice that happened when a private act of revenge was turned into a wave of government brutality against any man professing the Rastafari faith.

Ras Flako wrote of my book: “The Moon Has Its Secrets” captures the many horrors of captivity and inhuman treatment by ones supposed to be humans themselves. The book also shows the willpower of human endurance against stockpiled odds and the yearning to be free.There are many lessons to be learned from this book, as many are still trapped in mental slavery and have completely ignored their roots and their allegiance to mother Africa because they are born in the Diaspora.”

connollyINVITING COMPARISONS      Jamaican journalist Michael Conally, now running a successful PR agency in London, also gave his opinion. “The Moon Has Its Secrets tells a compelling story, one which draws in selected parts of Jamaica’s wide cultural mix and weaves a story around characters hung together by history, ancestry and drama, connecting the past to the present and perhaps painting a signpost to the future. It is a book that, genre wise, will invite comparisons with historical slave novels but that would be an unfair box to plop it in.”

geisterCanadian film maker and TV director Michele Geister, who lives in Jamaica with her two children, made a lengthy review:  “Finally a new novel that is the first to celebrate the legacy of the island’s iconic, sole female national hero: Nanny of the Maroons. “The Moon Has Its Secrets” is eloquently drawn from Jamaica’s complicated, yet rich and fascinating history. Knowledge about this warrior queen exists only as legend so many thanks are due to the author for constructing a most feasible scenario for Nanny’s life.

Accomplished filmmaker, journalist and novelist Barbara Blake-Hannah has created an important work, weaving the country’s gritty, turbulent heritage and folklore into an adventurous page turner via the lives of five Jamaican women across the ages. Readers are taken on an intricately detailed journey of a nation’s maturation into self-awareness commencing with the horrors of Africa;s 17th century slave to colonialism then independence and all the way to the 1970’s international emergence of the Rastafari movement.

It is wonderful that this story is told from the female perspective as the country’s matriarchal lineage was/is Jamaica’s silent, unheralded strength.  The many annotated academic references heighten the experience of Blake-Hannah’s honest look back that is nuanced with feminine mysticism.  This book is a must have for all Jamaicans, high school students, visitors and lovers of this Caribbean island and its citizens’ feisty zest for life.

Nanny-of-the-MaroonsEMOTIONAL  REVIEW           Certainly, the most emotional review came from a US-based FaceBook friend, who had kept me informed with delightful comments as she read the first few chapters.  Then I didn’t hear from her for a while, until she sent this message:

“Blessings B.Makeda! Your book “the moon has its secrets” is forever united with me strong and even painfully,because first of all it touch my heart and soul from word one and secondly because it was my company during the last days of my beloved mother who has just left me little over a week. I was day and night at her bedside (she became almost 98, a history book herself) and at times she was sleeping I was reading thru…..finished the book little b4 she , as I want to say, flew away, because she always wanted to fly…..you see the connection how the book moved me? Just tellin u. When I am back on my feet and have my brain functioning proper I ll write the review on amazon….but I need some time now to get over this loss of my mom, a person that has always been there, all my life…….Highest Respect to you one love”

I was so startled. I wrote her back: “Wow!!! This is better than a ‘review’. I am so glad my book kept you company with your mother’s flight to Paradise!!! As the book showed you, she is just waiting to embrace you while you are still in flesh. Commune with her always, her spirit is real. Be comforted that JAH sent the book to keep you company. Your mother has good company with Nanny, who stayed with you both to the end. Never forget the spirit world. It’s real when the spirit is formed by LOVE.”

She wrote me back:  “This is such a beautiful picture!!!! Thank you, it imprint in mi mind and helps me…..I hope she can meet and reason with all these blessed elders that passed away lately …….some real great people leaving this earth rite now, isn´t it……. autumn leaves are letting loose of their trees, wild geese are gathering to fly to Africa….and all Mandela there too…… str8″

Definitely my favourite review!

nanny falls
Nanny Falls, Portland

THE MOON HAS ITS SECRETS is available by Kindle download or by ordering a paperback copy at Amazon.com.

(c) Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jamaica – Ian Fleming’s Lasting Love Affair

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Matthew Parker’s biography “GOLDENEYE – Where Bond Was Born; Ian Fleming’s Jamaica” is as much about the noted author as it is about Jamaica’s history between the end of colonialism and the start of Independence. Parker’s book is a refresher course of all the interesting and important events that took place during this important period of our national history and he reports well on Jamaican people, places and events of the time in a vivid description of the island’s mix of wealthy English residents, snobbish Jamaican Whites holding on to the tatters of Empire, and the Black patriots and political leaders whose actions led to Jamaica today.

Most of all, the book shows the great love Ian Fleming had for Jamaica. It was not just the place where he wrote his books. Jamaica, and his simple home Goldeneye were the true and deepest loves of Fleming’s life. The small beach below his house, the sea in which he was as much at home as on land and where his daily adventures were catching fish for lunch and challenging barracudas, moray eels and sharks, indeed the entire country itself were the only places where Fleming felt truly at home.

MEMORY OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE             Falling in love with Jamaica after his first visit as a British Intelligence officer in 1942, in 1946 Fleming bought land and a small strip of beach at Oracabessa and on it built a simple house where he lived as often as he could escape his life in England, hosting occasional visitors including playwright Noel Coward who became neighbour and a close friend, British aristocracy including his wife Ann (former Countess Rothemere) and eventually British PM Sir Antony Eden recovering from the disaster of Britain’s failed attack on the Suez Canal. Economic needs made him turn his travels and writing experience into a series of books that served not only to pay his bills, but which came to be the dramatic fantasies that kept alive the last embers of the fading British Empire through a hero who embodied the noble and heroic qualities that had built England into a world force.

DrNoBondJamaica is always depicted as the place where Bond would find a welcome and rest from his adventures and, in the stories with Jamaican locations — “Doctor No” and “The Man With the Golden Gun” — the place that refreshes his life.  “As ever,” Parker writes, “Bond is soothed and reinvigorated by Jamaica … while listening to cicadas singing from the lignum vitae tree.  For Fleming, Jamaica evokes fond memories of his many assignments and adventures on the island … for him Jamaica was the oldest and most romantic of former British possessions.”

Fleming kept the house simple to escape the social circle of the times that included the English colonial governors, relics of an era now fortunately long gone. Also pictured are the wealthy White Jamaicans and British millionaires with palatial homes for winter visits, maintaining a thin crust of upper-class pretentiousness and racial superiority, while ignoring the very real Jamaica that was developing around them.

RECORD OF JAMAICA’S TRANSITION             Parker’s carefully researched book is full of excerpts from Fleming’s personal letters, as well as those of his wife and friends. Through these we get a clear picture of a man who, despite his love of women, clearly preferred his own company, writing each morning as a ritual, then satisfying his love of the sea with snorkel, flipper and spear gun,  with which he regularly used to catch meals of fish and lobster. His wife Ann liked neither the sea nor the house, quite the opposite of Blanche Blackwell – his Jamaican lover in whom he found the perfect person to share Goldeneye with, whether Ann was there or not.

For me, the strength of Parker’s book is its value as a record of Jamaica’s transition from colonialism to Independence. He traces the development of Jamaica’s tourist industry that was highly influenced by the attraction to Fleming’s Goldeneye and Coward’s Blue Harbour home of a long list of famous Hollywood and British film and stage stars, citing this activity as a major factor in the building of North Coast hotels such as Tower Isle near Oracabessa, Sans Souci in Ocho Rios and Round Hill in Montego Bay. Parker quotes Fleming’s disgust at the development of “… the rash of millionaire hotels” that Bond, with mixed feelings notices as he flies in over Jamaica’s North Coast in ‘Doctor No‘ and quotes Jamaican critics who observe that “… tourism had turned Jamaican youths into touts, beggars and parasites”, stating that “…while the economic benefits of tourism were meant to mitigate the problems of Jamaica’s colonial past … the industry actually shored up many core features … and trapped the island in the grip of neocolonialism.  For some it was a trade off between dignity and much-needed dollars.”

PrincessMargaret19620810SHAKING UP SOCIAL LAYERS             Parker observes with some pleasure that Jamaica’s social layers were about to be shaken up, as things that had been accepted up till then were now being seen as wrong and in need of correction.  As Jamaica moved from Britain’s attempt to unite its Caribbean colonies into a manageable, but ultimately failed, political Federation, Parker writes of the lifting of what Norman Manley called ‘the dead hand of colonialism’, noting that the 1955 visit of Princess Margaret to celebrate Jamaica’s 300 years of British rule was observed without any reference to what had taken place in those 300 years.

But Fleming shows that he recognizes that the days of White elitism are over, when Bond in ‘Doctor No’ says of the Queens Club (a perfect copy of Kingston’s then-racially exclusive Liguanea Club) that “Such stubborn retreats will not long survive in modern Jamaica. One day it will have its windows smashed and perhaps be burned to the ground.”  As we learn in Parker’s book, “Fleming’s proudest boast was that he had ‘learned about living amongst, and appreciating, coloured people – two very different lessons I would never have absorbed if my life had continued in its pre-Jamaican metropolitan rut.’”

For Fleming, Jamaica provided a place of recovery as it did for his hero Bond. “Jamaica … made Fleming ‘a different person from how he was in Britain. The island smoothed Fleming’s rough edges and in the six years between building Goldeneye and writing his first book, he explored Jamaica as thoroughly as he explored the sea and coral reefs outside the house.”  Writes Parker, “… each year Jamaica had soaked into him, with its creative spirit and cocktail of luxury, melancholy, imperialism,, fantasy, sensuality, danger and violence.”  Fleming not only uses Jamaica as a location for his stories; he adds Jamaican characters and names of Jamaican friends in his stories.  In ‘Casino Royale‘ Bond signs his name as ‘James Bond, Port Maria, Jamaica’, the town where Fleming’s marriage to Ann Rothemere took place. In ‘Live and Let Die’ Fleming takes Bond to Negril in the days before tourism arrived and which, for Bond, “… is the most beautiful beach he had ever seen, five miles of white sand sloping easily into the breakers and, behind, the palm trees marching in graceful disarray to the horizon.”

ian_fleming14LASTING LOVE FOR JAMAICA.        England was Fleming’s home and the patriotic affection he had for his country can be seen in every Bond novel.  The symbolism of Queen Elizabeth 11 declaring the 2012 Olympics open with a spoof Bond moment, is an indication of how much Bond represents to England and its reputation as a world leader.  But Parker’s book shows that the love Ian Fleming had for Jamaica overshadowed Fleming’s life and loves, and was amply displayed in each Bond book.

Indeed, Jamaica as seen through the eyes of Ian Fleming is a most beautiful, wonderful, magical place, as much a celebrity in its own right as the many titled and famous people who visit him at Goldeneye. Parker’s book made me even more happy to be a Jamaican, and made me know and love Ian Fleming even more than I already do. A thoroughly satisfying read that will both inform and delight Jamaicans, as well as fans of that dashing, perennial hero James Bond.

© Barbara Blake Hannah

SLEEPING OVER – Couples Swept Away

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Swept Away! The name alone is enticing. Who does not dream of being swept away on a tropical desert island with powder-soft white sand beaches, unlimited food and drink and the rocking rhythms of a Jamaican reggae band? At Swept Away, one of two Couples resorts on Negril’s seven-mile beach, the dream becomes reality.

Set in a tropical garden stretching 17 acres along Negril’s famous beach, Couples Swept Away fulfills all the best fantasies of a tropical vacation. Admire the sculptures by renowned Jamaican artist Gene Pearson while you are checked in by the charming Taneshe, who has spent the past 7 years perfecting her welcome smile, and you realize your stay is going to be uniquely different.

IMG-20140922-02626Your walk through the gardens to your villa-style bedroom gives you the first glimpse of the beautiful beach and crystal blue water for which Negril is world-famous. Sailboats rest at anchor, waiting patiently to be taken out to cruise the safe seas. Couples lounge in paired deckchairs pefecting their tans, sipping tropical smoothies. Staff hurry past on their myriad duties, never failing to offer a welcoming smile. You can tell already that this is going to be a perfect vacation.

IMG-20140922-02634One of the 4 Couples Resorts that began when Jamaican entrepreneur and patriot Abe Issa – dubbed ‘The Father of Jamaican Tourism’ – built the first hotel at Tower Isle, Ocho Rios, in 1949, the fabled hotelier, who served as Chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board from 1955-1963, left a legacy of Jamaican tourism for his family that has led to the development of four beautiful resorts across Jamaica, of which Swept Away is one. Still very much a family business, Couples Resorts is led by Abe’s son, Lee, and other members of the Issa family, who along with a dedicated team of management and staff, remain committed to Abe’s pioneering vision and dedicated to making sure that each visit is a perfect one.

IMG-20140923-02671After our late check-in, we make our way to the dining room where Maitre d’ Dionne Drummond welcomes us with the enthusiasm that we are beginning to realize is a hallmark of Couples Swept Away staff, who are certainly the most courteous and interesting we have encountered in our many visits to Jamaican hotels. A grand buffet dinner featuring a wide selection of dishes, salads and pastas, is accompanied by the resident band playing international favourites and popular reggae hits in Bob Marley style. The long road trip from Kingston forces an early night. We choose the overhead fan above the air conditioning and retire to soft pillows and smooth sheets of an enormous bed.

IMG-20140922-02627We wake early and open our ground-level villa-style room onto a balcony with steps into the garden, where a pool filled with tropical fish and water lilies bubbles merrily. Room service Continental breakfast is served here and the sound of morning birds is fitting company. Soon we don swimsuits to enjoy the beautiful beach, refreshing ourselves with snacks from the nearby Veggie Bar whose staff delight in whipping up smoothies from a selection of Jamaican fruits, before it’s time for buffet lunch that ends with a selction of chocolate pastries. A post-lunch rest is required, as an afternoon rain shower shows us how the hotel’s gardens stay green and flourishing.

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Feathers Angel
Feathers Angel

There’s hardly enough time to do everything possible at Swept Away. We thought of  taking the Sunset Cruise to the Lighthouse, which could have given us a unique view of Negril. But, with only 2 nights to enjoy Swept Away, we have reserved dinner in Feathers – the gourmet restaurant for which the hotel is famous. A dress code applies which brings out the well-dressed guests who sip cocktails at the bar before being seated for a meal that is definitely the highlight of our visit. The most beautiful features of the restaurant are the murals of angels who fly on the walls over our heads. Painted by Oriente Issa – wife of Abe Issa’s youngest son Paul, they are an artistic delight that makes our meal even more special.

FEATHERS GOURMET RESTAURANT

Rack of Lamb
Rack of Lamb
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Chicken & Shrimp

Our waitress Tracy Ann is delightful, well-spoken and fully informed about the five-course menu from which we make our selection. We enjoy a Green Pea Lollipop Appetizer, shrimp, fish and marlin in a Seafood Medley, and Pumpkin soup infused with aromatic spices, before our main courses arrive. The Rack of Lamb is tender and seasoned to perfection while the Chicken with Shrimp served with CousCous provides another taste sensation.

With fine service by Tracy Ann (who has been at Swept Away for 6 years) we enjoy what my companion says is the ‘best gourmet meal ever experienced in Jamaica’. For dessert, Jamaican Bread Pudding served with Strawberry Sorbet never tasted so good, accompanied by Blue Mountain Coffee, to end a perfect meal and evening.

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Shellyann Simpson with Gene Pearson sculpture

An early morning swim gives us a final memory of the legendary Negril Seven Mile Beach, the endless stretch of white sand and blue water that has made this Jamaican resort world famous. Throughout our stay there has been no harassment by beach vendors and nothing but happy service from staff who seem to go out of their way to make us enjoy our visit.

Fruit and smoothies fill us before our final buffet lunch,then it’s time to check out of Paradise. We ask Guest Relations Manager Shellyann Simpson to convey our thanks to all the staff who have served us with such politeness and passion, to make our stay so very special. We have certainly enjoyed being SWEPT AWAY!

(c) Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah

SLEEPING OVER – Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, Kingston

THE KINGSTON LANDMARK

by Barbara Blake Hannah for JA GLEANER ‘HOSPITALITY JAMAICA’

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Check-in
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Lobby

Sit in the lobby of the Jamaica Pegasus for just 10 minutes, and you’re certain to see either a famous celebrity just arrived in town, or someone you know other than the person you came there to meet.  Ever since its opening, the Pegasus has been a home for royalty and  heads of State, political leaders from Castro to Mandela and entertainment superstars — Jamaican and international, but especially as a home for ‘just-us’ Jamaican people. The meeting rooms have hosted thousands of important State functions, entertainment events, weddings and information seminars.

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24/ Cafe

Two years ago the Hendrickson family led by patriarch Karl Hendrickson added added the Pegasus to its portfolio of 7 Jamaican hotels and since then the familiar landmark has undergone a serious and beautiful update in décor and space use  that is still not complete, but ready to meet its guests. The famous lobby has been enlarged by addition of a bright cafe open 24/7 offering a wide selection of pastries and light meals, an open terrace overlooking the pool for relaxed dining, and a cosy blue-lit bar that is popular at nights, all of which provide more space for the constant flow of people in, out and through the hotel. Everywhere the Hendrickson hotels signature touch of blooming orchids can be seen decorating corners and meeting places.

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ROOMS       With all but one floor of room refurbishing complete, the 16th floor luxury suites have undergone special care. The 2-bedroom Trelawny Suite features tones of sand and brown upholstery with gold highlights, lamps and ornaments, while pale green florals compliment bedroom linens of a huge, comfortable bed set high off the ground. With floor-to ceiling living room windows overlooking the breadth of Kingston and Port Royal, one can see why an English royal spent a month here incognito years ago and, more recently, a reggae royal made the Trelawny her home for a special visit.IMG-20140809-02284

pegasus foodAccustomed to catering for their 315 rooms as well as many large functions, the food at the Jamaica Pegasus is always top class, specializing in buffets that offer all the traditional Jamaican favourites while not forgetting the international tastes of their guests. Breakfast, offering a wide variety of Jamaican dishes such as ackee & saltfish, steamed and brown stewed fish, callaloo and hash brown potatoes is served till 10 a.m., followed at midday by buffet lunches offering jerk chicken, oxtail and  rice & peas, as well as a pasta bar and  a Friday Seafood Special, are always special moments of a Pegasus stay.

peter hilaryprudence simpsonGeneral manager since the Hendrickson takeover, Peter Hilary first came to the Pegasus when it was part of the Trust House Forte chain and while working thereafter in other countries, has maintained his Jamaican connections over many years. Sales Manager Prudence Simpson has been a foundation of the hotel’s sales team who was retained when the new owners took over, a sign of what a valuable team member she is. They lead a top-class staff whose pleasant personalized service shows the difference new management can make. Though the Jamaica Pegasus is under new ownership and management, the warm family feeling of this national landmark hasn’t changed one bit.

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First published August 20, 2014, JAMAICA GLEANER HOSPITALITY MAGAZINE 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION.

Sleeping Over – Terra Nova Hotel

BOUTIQUE LUXURY IN A HISTORIC SETTING

by Barbara Blake Hannah for Ja GLEANER HOSPITALITY JAMAICA

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If you’re leaving home to sleep over, you should be staying somewhere better than home,” says Michele Hussey, grand dame of the Terra Nova Hotel. Built in 1924 as the home of a wealthy Jamaican and converted to a hotel in 1959, the historic Terra Nova is now owned and managed by the Hussey family, who take pride in the fact that the hotel’s 47 suites offer the luxurious standard of grand hotels around the world.

IMG-20140809-02292tn17Suites have elaborate bed décor and gold-trimmed furnishings, Eqyptian cotton linens, smart-TVs that enable internet connection, rain showers, cedar-lined closets and the over-the-bed light switches, among the many special features. 

IMG-20140809-02296IMG-20140809-02294Guests will notice small touches such as Moulton Brown bathroom toiletries, TV remotes sanitized and plastic-wrapped, safety boxes that can hold laptops, computer desk and wifi connection, terry-cloth robes and shower slippers, that make it easy to understand why the guest books contain signatures of titled persons and athletics superstars who prefer privacy. “These details are what makes us stand out from the others,” says Michele Hussey, who keeps up to date on the special features luxury hotels around the world offer guests so as to interpret them in the Terra Nova.

IMG-20140809-02288barDécor and Food Designer Ardelle della Costa, responsible for the hotel’s look and updates, says “The Terra Nova is interpreting the old features to make them more contemporary for the younger generation.” These features include maintaining the opulent olde-world décor of the gilded and award-winning Regency Restaurant, under whose crystal chandeliers many marriage proposals have been made, yet transforming a lobby space into the Regency Bar, a popular nightly oasis for in-house guests and locals enjoying a night out.

IMG-20140809-02297IMG-20140809-02299Food has always played a major part in the high reputation of the Terra Nova, winning annual food awards for both cuisine and ambience. Presentation always wins high marks and service is white glove at times. Terra Nova prides itself on offering the finest wines to accompany fine dining, with a large wine bar taking pride of place in the Regency Bar, where one can also dine on a light or full meal day or night.

TN10There are beautiful exterior features of the Terra Nova, such as the small gallery of Kapo sculptures and photo-art featuring plants from the hotel’s flowering gardens, the lobby’s antique furniture, the swimming pool and adjoining gym, and especially the Terra Nova grand piano tinkling through the evening’s dinner hours. TN12

TN13Add to these a Patisserie offering pastries and chocolates made in-house and the now-famous Sunday Brunch where a long buffet of a variety of salads, pasta, meats, seafood, vegetables and pastries attracts a full house each week of Jamaican families, it is clear why the Terra Nova earns its reputation as a hotel with a regal Jamaican difference.

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First published August 20, 2014  Jamaica GLEANER HOSPITALITY JAMAICA

‘THE MOON HAS ITS SECRETS’ – a legend of Jamaican Maroon Heroine NANNY


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coverFive women tell the story in Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah’s new historical novel THE MOON HAS ITS SECRETS. Kofia, a young African girl, is kidnapped and taken to Jamaica to become a slave. Inspired and strengthened by the life lessons her mother gave her each full moon, she passes down the secret information to her children, one of whom becomes a legendary Jamaican heroine. The novel follows Kofia and her generations from 16th Century Africa to 20th Century Jamaica.

Little more than legend is known about ‘NANNY OF THE MAROONS’, named Jamaica’s first and only female National Heroine in 1975. ‘Nanny’ was not her original name, but an honorary African title of ‘Queen’. Few facts exist about her, but her legend shines out from brave revolutionary history of the Maroons. This fiction honours her memory and the strength and independent spirit she has given to countless Jamaican women.  

Nanny-of-the-MaroonsFilm maker and TV director Michele Geister, writes in a review: “Finally a new novel that is the first to celebrate the legacy of the island’s iconic, sole female national hero: Nanny of the Maroons. “The Moon Has Its Secrets” is eloquently drawn from Jamaica’s complicated, yet rich and fascinating history. Knowledge about this warrior queen exists only as legend so many thanks are due to the author for constructing a most feasible scenario for Nanny’s life.

Jamaican author Claudette Beckford-Brady writes: “This fascinating novel  speaks to Barbara Blake-Hannah’s talent as a writer and should be required reading for all Jamaicans, and particularly high school students. It would also be good to see this book turned into a movie.”

A reviewer on Amazon writes: As a descendant of the Portland Maroons, THE MOON HAS ITS SECRETS was very personal for me. As I read the book, the stories that I heard about the Maroons from my father became more real to me.
In a larger sense, it reminds us of the horrors of slavery. The book reminds us that we must respect and value women in our society and respect and honor our elders. It reminds us of the rich culture that Africans took to Jamaica. It reminds us of the struggles for equal rights and justice in Jamaica. It reminds us of the role of Marcus Garvey in instilling African pride in a people who had lost their identity.  It reminds us of the role of the Rastafarian movement in making a spiritual and biblical connection with Emperor Haile Selassie.

bbhBARBARA BLAKE HANNAH has worked in Britain and Jamaica as a journalist, film maker and author specializing in Jamaican culture, media and entertainment.  She is also author of RASTAFARI – The New Creation (1st edition 1982) the first book on Rastafari written by a practicing member of the faith, ‘JOSEPH – A RASTA REGGAE FABLE’ inspired by the life of her friend, reggae legend Bob Marley, HOME – THE FIRST SCHOOL, a parental guide to early childhood education, and GROWING OUT: BLACK HAIR & BLACK PRIDE,  a memoir of her early life and the development of her racial self-confidence while living and working as the first Black TV journalist in Britain.  

THE MOON HAS ITS SECRETS is available on order at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle.

GIMME LIKKLE BASS – The Dub & Rockers Revival

 

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Dub Club

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It is now easy to enjoy a musical night out every night of the week in Kingston. I don’t mean stage shows with reggae and dancehall stars, or high-priced performances at exclusive night clubs – they happen too infrequently, and at a cost not always within reach of music fans’ pockets.

I refer to the rising popularity of a new breed of free, open-air music events featuring sound systems playing Dub & Rockers – a genre of music with heavy emphasis on drum and bass that was popular in the late 60s and early 70s, when Jamaica’s reggae made the world get ‘irie’. Some of the featured artists of that era include Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Augustos Pablo, Jah Shaka, Bunny Brown, King Tubbys, Black Uhuru, Mikey Dread and many others whose music filled   the dance floors of that era one generation ago.

wednesdays       By the time the Monday Blues have worn off and the work desk has cleared somewhat by Tuesday, you can begin your musical nights on Wednesdays at DUBWISE, a session held at the popular Whitebones fish restaurant on Constant Spring Road, where plates of steamed fish and curried lobster are as much a part of the night’s fun as the steady pounding of Dub Music.

viinyl thursdays       On Thursday nights the adventurous venture into Tavern, a small community nestled on the banks of the Hope River just above Papine. There, popular artist and DJ Exile Di Brave hosts VINYL THURSDAYS, a session of exclusively vinyl platters dating back to reggae’s 70s and 80s. With the lights of the riverside community as a twinkling backdrop and a cool breeze blowing through the ackee trees, the event is a favourite stop for Rastas of all ages, both from the Tavern community and visitors, such as a Japanese group led by ISHI whose selection and Patois rap are pure Jamaican roots.

On Friday nights you can stop by veteran guitarist Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith’s INNA DI YARD, where the dub is live with any number of musicians and artists stopping by to lend their arts to the session.  On the same night DUB SCHOOL is in session at Veggie Meals On Wheels, the city’s leading Ital restaurant nestled in a corner of Regal Plaza, Cross Roads. VMOW has its own faithful group of supporters who regularly patronize the restaurant, so irie friends are always around to nice up the vibe.

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Rseenal, Jahson, Makonnen, Iyah-Gift
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Original Mikey General

Definitely spend Saturdays at ROCKERS REVALUTION, that takes place outside Kairo Soul Wholesale at Mary Browns Corner, Constant Spring Road. There reggae artist Rseenal D’Artillery and his partner Marianita Sakiya turn their shop into a music venue every Saturday with dub music and live performances by a roster of upcoming artists such as members of his performing group New Reggae Generation (N.R.G.) Makonnen and Iyah Gift. Producers Jordan Armond and Blaise Davis bring their original Natural High Music dubs to the night, while Supa Nova Sound provides the music backing for the performing artists, who have included Original Mikey Dread, JahsonDexta Malawi and Exile Di Brave. Kairo Soul Wholesale does a regular and brisk business inside the shop while patrons at the club and restaurant in the plaza sit outside and enjoy the evening’s music and performances.

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Gabre Selassie

The ‘Pappa’ of the nightly dub music sessions is Sunday night’s DUB CLUB, hosted by Ras Gabre Selassie at his beautifully decorated venue high up in the Jacks Hills overlooking the lights of Kingston spread out below. Every Sunday night the road is lined with parked cars and the venue packed with the beautiful and irie Kingston bright set, as well as visiting reggae fans from around the world. It’s at Dub Club that you will bump into the new popular young artists like Chronixx or Jesse Royal, relaxing from their summer tour dates with friends they knew before they became world famous.

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Chronixx & Kelissa

The return to Dub & Rockers music is a recent trend, that highlights one of the many evolutions Jamaican music has undergone since it’s beginning. Asked to explain the popularity of Dub & Rockers, none of the artists involved have an answer. “Just time,” said one. “It’s original and people always like the original,” said another. But another explains: “Rockers was part of the original sound system culture that helped to create and solidify the sound system culture of Jamaica. It was never gone, it never died in Europe. It’s just that the need for conscious music has grown stronger and conscious people want somewhere to go out at night too.”

IMG-20140620-01786IMG-20140712-02010       Meanwhile, patrons say they ‘love the vibe’ of the Dub & Rockers sessions that offer natural juices, ital food and soy ice-cream refreshments, hand-made craft items like the coconut shell jewelry by Trench Town Cultural Yard or the fashions by Zion Ites. It’s a welcome peaceful vibe, with the sound systems, artists and patrons supporting each other’s events. Pick your night to enjoy some Dub & Rockers, old school style.

 

PHOTOS – 2013 JA INTERNATIONAL REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL

Member of Parliament SHAHINE ROBINSON with Director RONAN DAVIDESCO (Israel) and GEORGE TAIT (Canada)
Member of Parliament SHAHINE ROBINSON with Director RONAN DAVIDESCO (Israel) and GEORGE TAIT (Canada)
US Ambassador PAMELA BRIDGEWATER visits meets Author CLAUDETTE BECKFORD BRADY at the Film Festival Book Fair.
US Ambassador PAMELA BRIDGEWATER visits meets Author CLAUDETTE BECKFORD BRADY at the Film Festival Book Fair.
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A Maroon blows the Abeng at the start of the documentary AWKANTU – THE JOURNEY
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The screen at ISLAND VILLAGE
Under the statue of BOB MARLEY at Island Village Mall, Ocho Rios.
Under the statue of BOB MARLEY at Island Village Mall, Ocho Rios.
Acting Seminar with JUSTIN HADEED AWN, CARLA MOORE,  & PATRICE JOHNSON
Acting Seminar with JUSTIN HADEED AWN, CARLA MOORE, & PATRICE JOHNSON
ISLAND VILLAGE, Ocho Rios.
ISLAND VILLAGE, Ocho Rios.