Kelissa Live on Reggae Mountain


IMG-20141213-02947The heavy rains all afternoon cooled the temperature at Reggae Mountain, that section of Jacks Hill overlooking the lights of Kingston that is home to the popular Sunday night Kingston Dub Club sessions, and was once home to Bob Marley and his family. It’s also home to the McDonald family, whose elders Errol and Kerida formed their signature group Chakula in 1955 while raising three children who have grown up to make their mark in the entertainment industry. Daughter Kamila is a TV celebrity married to reggae artist Jah Cure, and son Keznamdi is a solo artist.

Kamila with Nomaddz
Kamila with Nomaddz

But it was daughter Kelissa who packed the beautiful venue on Saturday December 13 to deliver a professional one-and-a-half-hour show that had the happy crowd, wrapped in warm sweaters and hoodies, hooting and hollering for her hit songs that were clearly well known by those who came to listen. Introduced by her sister Kamila, Kelissa welcomed the audience by telling them she had come to ‘teach’ and they were her ‘students’. Indeed she did just that, interspersing her music with comments about life, women, music and the art of survival for today’s revolutionary reggae warriors.

Natural High Music

With the showcase already warmed up from early evening by the musicial selections of Natural High Music, and backed by her 5-piece band Ambessadors who showed a professionalism made even greater by their obvious youthfulness, Kelisssa took complete charge of the stage and the evening to give a taste of how she adds strength to reggae superstar Chronixx‘s show when she is on tour with him, as she often is.

Kelissa, Kabaka Pyramid & Dre Island

Chronixx was away performing in Australia, but Kelissa was not without strong company as Jesse Royal, Dre Island, Kabaka Pyramid, Young J.R. and her brother Keznamdi were some of the artists present who came on stage to embellish her show and delight the audience with a short performance of their own. A unique feature of the show was the agile tap dancer Samantha who amazed the audience with steps and style to accompany the reggae rhythms – something new that added to the special-ness of the show.

IMG-20141213-02949Kelissa is an unusual artist, a talented guitarist and song-writer who rides the rhythms with confidence and style, blending easily with her well-drilled band and her backing singers to deliver a performance that deserves the admiration and attention she receives at home and abroad. Kelissa’s infectious smile, frequent laugh and commanding personality endeared her to all present, who greeted her hit songs “Babylon is Burning” and “Winna” with hoots and hollers, singing along all the way. She also performed new songs “Best Kept Secret” on a Natural High riddim, and closed the show with “Live for Today” produced by  Walshy Fire from Major Lazer.

Father Errol McDonald, watching from the sidelines, must surely have been proud to see the great talent his musical parenting has nurtured. The show venue he has built as part of their hillside home is a professional space under the stars and with such facilities at their disposal, the professional result is not surprising. As the night ended and patrons started hugging farewell, the McDonald patriarch can rest assured that the musical baton has been securely passed to the second generation and, from all indications, will be to the next. Reggae lives on!

Donisha      IMG-20141214-02974       Jesse Royal with Makonnen       IMG-20141214-02979IMG-20141214-02975

PHOTOS: Donisha Prendergast, Dexta Malawi, Makonnen & Jesse Royal, Keznamdi, Monique.

(c) Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah


Reggae Film Festival 2013 AWARDS

Awards in the 2013 JAMAICA INTERNATIONAL REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL presented August 5 at Island Village, Ocho Rios.
born in trenchtown poster (2)DOCUMENTARY:’BORN IN TRENCHTOWN’ (USA); DIR: Greg Pond.
DIR: Judith Faloon-Reid, BarriVision Productions

Patrice J. 052 green jacket grin
Patrice Johnson

INT. FEATURE FILM: ‘HILL & GULLY‘ (USA); DIR: Patrice Johnson.God-&-all-o-we Productions
Keeper Of Zion GateCulture promo


Nat Dub
Natural Dub

MUSIC VIDEO: ‘MYSTICA – (COSTA RICA); Natural Dub – Costa Rica


CINE JAMAICA – ‘THE CROFT – (JA); DIR: Wayne Benjamin, Fabrikated Projex
ANIMATION: ‘‘TEAM X’ (JA); DIR: Stephen Williamson (JA)
Madge Sinclair Award

stranded n Dangriga
Stranded In Dangriga


nomaddz-rise above profanity
Rise Above Profanity



JAMAICAN TRAVELOGUE:  JTB AWARD Inspiring appreciation for the beauty and people of Jamaica.  ‘JAMAICA THROUGH THE EYES OF CARL BRADSHAW’; DIR: George Tait, Guerilla Film International (CAN/JA)

team X
‘TEAM X’ – DIR: Stephen Williamson

ONE LOVE AWARD:  Films that promote the RFF objective to inspire World Peace.          ‘THE COTTON HOUSE‘; DIR: Russ Brandon (USA)

YOUNG FILM MAKER AWARD: Stephen ‘BigBomb’ Williamson. For excellence in both Film and Animation.

Special Thanks to the RFF Technical Team: BariVision Productions,, Peter Chung, Tina True and Makonnen Blake Hanna, with support by  Delroy Morgan – Island Village, Sugashak Records, Orange Hill Records & Jamaica Tourist Board.

Reggae Film Festival begins

new posterThe JAMAICA INTERNATIONAL REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL opens on August 1 at the start of Jamaica’s Independence celebrations and runs for 5 days at Island Village in the beautiful resort town of Ocho Rios. More than 20 international film directors are flying in from Los Angeles, Washington DC, Toronto, Atlanta and London. They include Director Patrice Johnson and the cast of her feature film “Hill & Gully‘, British teen Gia O’Meally, star of the TV series “Which is Witch”, Monica Haim, director of the documentary ‘Awake Zion‘ that explores the relationship between Zionism and Rastafarianism and director Roy Anderson who explores his Maroon roots in ‘Akwantu’.born in trenchtown poster (2) Jamaican film makers are travelling from Kingston and Montego Bay to join them in the annual celebration of Jamaican culture in film with films that include the island’s first horror film – Wayne Benjamin’s ‘The Croft’ and first gospel film ‘Just Another Friday’ by director Judith Faloon-Reid.

With a preponderance of films by female directors, the 2013 festival honours WOMEN IN FILMWomen In Film with a special tribute to the late actress Madge Sinclair, star of ‘Conrak‘, TV series ‘Trapper John MD‘ and her iconic role as Eddie Murphy’s royal mother in “Coming To America’. Other Jamaican women in film include Grace Jones, Bond girls Martine Beswick and Marguerite LeWars, as well as Sheryl Lee Ralph and Leonie Forbes, Jamaica’s leading stage and film actress. The 2013 Festival highlights Jamaican Women In Film, directors Judith Faloon-Reid, Sharon LaCruise, Patrice Johnson and Danielle Scott-Haughton.

stranded n Dangriga
Stranded in Dangriga
lovers rock
Lovers Rock

Daytime activities include a Pop-Up Book Fair all day Sunday, August 3, and afternoon seminars on Acting – led by TV actor Justin Hadeed Awn; Scriptwriting, at which Donna-Marie Dowe will announce the 2014 Scriptwriting competition, and Animation led by Sam Stewart. Throughout the Festival, Village shops Island Coffees and Jose’s Bar will be open to provide food and drink for patrons, with special beach-side service on Sunday.

TruBornAfricanThe Opening Night Red Carpet reception will be hosted by Jamaica Film Academy Chairman Carl Bradshaw, with St. Ann Mayor and MP Shahine Robinson as special VIP guests. Invited guests include dignitaries from civic, tourism and business sectors of St. Ann, who have welcomed the Reggae Film Festival to the Parish. They will be joined by celebrities from Jamaica’s film and music industries in the 5 day festival, which ends with presentation of Awards in several categories and screening of Award-winning films.

The Jamaica International Reggae Film Festival is sponsored by Island Village, Jamaica Tourist Board, IRIE-FM, Island Coffees, Barivision Productions and Reggae Films UK.



APRIL  18, 2013

island village


Plans are going well for the staging of the 6th Reggae Film Festival at Island Village, Ocho Rios during Independence Week, August 1-5.   Manager Delroy Morgan says Island Village is pulling out all the stops to ensure the success of the event, to which he personally brings his experience of 3  years as a Sundance Film Festival volunteer.

Seats will be set on the Island Village central lawn under the statue of Bob Marley, facing a large screen onstage under the classic bamboo roof. Each night a programme of Festival feature films, shorts, documentaries and music videos will be shown.  In between screenings, live reggae performances will entertain audiences, who will have a chance to vote on the Best Music Video.

Premium screenings will also take place nightly in the Cove Cinema in the Village, which will host the Film Festival Gala Opening Reception. The Reggae Film Festival ends August 5 with the presentation of Awards and award-winning films.

In the daytime, Reggae Film Festival activities will include the midday start on Saturday August 3 of the Make A Film In 24 Hours Competition, which ends the following day.  The Film Festival Seminar will take place on Sunday afternoon on the topic: “Film: The Business of the Show”.


rhona-fox-02bokeem woodbineAmong the VIP Guests who have already confirmed their presence are US actor BOKEEM WOODBINE, star of “Total Recall” and “Dead Presidents” who visited Jamaica recently scouting locations for a new feature film.  Also coming is GuyaneseAmerican actress RHONA FOX who heads her own successful music promotion and management company, FoxFuze whose clients have included reggae star Shaggy.  Both will be among the judges of the Festival films, as will BRUNO CHATELIN, Chief Operating Officer of the respected website and magazine, who is also  a Board Member of the European Film Academy, Member of Cesar, and Advisory Member IFFS.


theskin poster Keeper Of Zion GateCulture promoAmong the films to be screened are six feature films, including the first from Austria, as well as the first from Antigua — “The Skin” starring Jamaica’s Carl Bradshaw.  Reggae documentaries include the first from Israel, ‘Keeper of Zion Gate‘ about Joe ‘Culture’ Hill‘s Peace mission to that country, and a rare view at “The Land of Look Behind‘, a vintage documentary about Rasta and reggae by noted German film maker Werner Herzog.  International documentaries include ’16 Acres‘ a US film in its Jamaican and Caribbean premiere about the struggle to build a suitable tribute to 9/11 at the World Trade Center, a documentary on Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe and a special look at Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt.

Films by Jamaican film makers will be screened on CINE JAMAICA night, Friday August 2 and will include several animated films, shorts and ‘The Croft’  a new feature film by Wayne Benjamin. CINE JAMAICA films will form a special night’s programme at the upcoming Portobello Film Festival in London

Awards in several categories will be presented on Tuesday, August 5 at a Gala Ceremony at which a leading Jamaican reggae star will be the guest performer.  An After Party will bring the curtains down on another Jamaica International REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL.

Buju Banton on trial


“It’s not an easy road/ Some see the glamour and the glitter and they think a bed of roses…”

 The Spotlight this week in Jamaica has been focused fully on Buju Banton , the iconic Rasta reggae singer and four-time Grammy nominee who found himself on trial in the USA for conspiracy to sell cocaine. Nothing has so captured public attention this week as the Buju Banton case, even though in the same week dancehall DJ Bounty Killa was arrested and jailed for domestic abuse.

From the trial began on September 20, it has been the main topic of conversation in Jamaica, with discussions centering around the videotape of Buju ‘sampling’ the product to be sold, and tape recordings of phone conversations with two alleged co-conspirators as convincing evidence of his guilt. But no less compelling is the evidence that the case was set up by a professional entrapper who earns a good living from US government crime agencies to set traps such as the one Buju was caught in.

LONG WAIT FOR TRIAL   Ten months ago, when Buju Banton was arrested and incarcerted in Miami, the news had only shock value and soon fell off the public view, as Buju has been known to be controversial. He spoke out angrily when he was arrested and convicted for two ganja plants that were found growing in the yard of his large studio compound – a conviction that deprived him of a US Visa for several years. But as the length of his imprisonment without trial extended far beyond the norm into 10 months, Jamaicans and reggae fans began to question whether there was something ‘different’ about this case. After all, we know the history of Buju’s controversial song that brought him powerful opponents who might be happy to have that voice silenced by a long jail sentence.

So by the time the trial began on Monday September 20, everyone was interested in Buju’s fate and – perhaps better late than never – had begun to pay tribute to the work and life of one of Reggae’s most beloved performers. Watching Buju’s appearance in the courtroom on the first day of the trial crisply dressed in suit and tie, the full weight of what faced him seemed to fall on Jamaica’s shoulders and – with an attitude of “He’s ours, no matter what” – Jamaica started paying tribute to Buju Banton.

TILL SHILOH   We remembered the Buju who seemed to be maturing from his brash and outlandish youth when he produced the seminal “Till Shiloh” album which brought a new generation of the conscious Rasta music that Bob Marley had given us. The album introduced and confirmed Buju Banton as a Rasta psalmist, leaving behind his earlier works and youthful indiscretions.

So all Jamaica wondered how Buju Banton had got himself into such trouble. Was he truly a cocaine dealer, or was the case based on the fact that – as he said in his evidence – he ‘… talked too much”. Along with the many who prayed for his deliverance, there were those who felt he was guilty by video and would undoubtedly be punished. On Friday, as the jury was about to begin deliberations, one newspaper wrote an Editorial chiding Buju Banton with words to the effect that ‘if you lie with dogs, you will rise with fleas’, that caused one Comment writer to say: “Please wait until the verdict is in to be so negative.”

DRIVER     On Monday, the day the verdict was to be delivered, another daily newspaper published the lyrics of Buju’s hit “Driver”, in which Buju tells a courier to take a package, collect some money and avoid getting caught by ‘the Feds’. The implication was clear.

Driver, don’t stop at all, mi seh drop this Arizona round a Alba Mall/ Driver, mi seh don’t even hitch, collect dat likkle food deh yah and come back quick/ Driver, just rememba di damn speed limit/ Cau if yuh run inna di Feds my friend dat is it/All mi life savings a ride pon this/ Yuh can drink a beer but don’t yuh dare bun a spliff/ Di scent a di marijuana mek yuh life uplift/ Even though it compress and tie inna plastic/ Don’t deliver it a go end up drastic/ A barrel gun mi buss and mi yuh know it caan stick...”

But all the negative comments were overbalanced by the outpouring of LOVE expressed nationally for Buju Banton. This was best demonstrated when a rumour on Friday morning that a “Not guilty” verdict had been delivered, caused the Downtown Kingston area to burst into celebration as happy as when Usain Bolt won his first Olympic Gold. Car horns were honked and people shouted for joy all over city and countryside – until word came that it was a false alarm and in fact the jury had retired to reconvene on Monday.

TRIBUTE TO A REGGAE ICON   On Friday night Anthony Miller, Jamaica’s best entertainment journalist, used his prime time Entertainment Report to package a series of interviews he has done with the Gargamel from his early pre-dreadlocks years to the release of his  “Rasta Got Soul” album showing the history and talent of this extraordinary artist.  Avoiding much attention on the notorious song that haunts Buju’s repertoire, Miller instead showed an artist whose energy, philosophy and attitude reminds so much of the late Peter Tosh – another artist who was not afraid to speak his mind.

On Saturday Rastafari brethren and friends gathered at the thatched-roof tabernacle Buju maintains in the yard behind his Gargamel Studio and began a two day-and-night Nyabinghi session. The sounds of African drums and spiritual chants went up into the rain-cooled night and day and night, as prayers and chants in traditional Rastafari fashion of heartbeat and music were sent up by the large crowd in prayers to the All-Mighty. Media reports quoted nearby residents who said they were not disturbed by the sounds. “If it will help free Buju” said one, “fine with me. We like him, he is a good neighbour.”

On Monday morning several FaceBook pages carried a link to this video of one of Buju’s songs that ironically seems to have been written specially for this occasion.

MISTRIAL VERDICT    On Monday afternoon the Judge declared a mistrial, and Jamaica was glad that Buju Banton’s fate is not yet sealed, hoping he will be allowed out of jail on bail. “It’s better a mistrial than a guilty verdict. At least he gets a second chance,” said Buju’s mentor and former manager, producer Donovan Germain.

Jamaica is glad our Prayers were answered, thanking JAH for small mercies.

To Buju we say:

‘Be strong, hold a firm meditation,

One day things must get better.

And though you think our faith is in vain,

Till Shiloh we chant Rastafari name.”





   Jamaica OBSERVER cartoon, Monday September 30