Sheldon performs at the Blue Cross of Jamaica Scholarship Function in 1999.
Franklene Frater, Contributor
IF THE names Sheldon Shepherd or No-Madz don't yet ring any bells they should do so soon. A true product of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), this 21-year-old multi-award festival winner, has organised his own group , No-Madz, and feels his objective is to encourage and develop other talents.
A graduate of Kingston College, his foray into the performing arts began there, propelling him to the point at which he has the tenacity to 'gamble with talent', living totally from his talent.
Sheldon describes the JCDC as his 'cultural birth place' and one can easily see why.
His first performing role, he recalls, was to simply flap across the stage. He, however, insists that there are no minor roles, only minor actors and he certainly would not describe himself in that way. Having whetted his appetite there would be no turning back.
At his next appearance, a solo act in dub poetry, he was awarded 'the most outstanding presentation'. This was to be followed by a series of awards including a gold medal for dub poetry in Class Four, a silver medal for a poem written by his father, 'One a dem youth out deh', followed by four first-place national awards.
He also reaped success in dramatic collaborations between Kingston College and the Queen's High School and Kingston College and St Hughes High School, copping the Best Actor award for 'Romie and Julie' the localised version of the Shakespearean classic for the first collaboration. For the second, 'One love in dub', he played four separate characters and was rewarded with a gold medal.
And how did he achieve this? "Through prayer, meditation, practice and use of the mirror-practising the various expressions constantly in the mirror," and also immersing himself in the characters," he says.
Winning seems to have become a habit for Sheldon. In a move that was certainly unusual, he won a national award for a Shakespearean sonnet. In his final year at high school, he directed the speech entrants and was adjudged Best Director. He next coached the basketball team and you guessed it, he became Best Coach.
WON GOLD MEDAL
For the plays 'The Black that I am' and 'Reality Check', in which he played a priest, a crack head and a choir boy, he won a gold medal and was named best director. On entering Star Search at Traxx, he first tied for first place and was then adjudged
The group No-Madz, comprising Everaldo Creary, Oneil Peart and himself also experienced outstanding success in the festival season, scoring a 100 per cent at both the regional and national levels for the poem 'Pressure', a most unusual feat. Having experienced this success they have now become a performing group, which according to Shepherd, does a musical poetic, dramatic, live stage show, involved poetry backed by a live band, Saxophone.
Although they perform locally, Shepherd, like many other artistes points to the fact that the Jamaican market cannot sustain an artiste and they therefore have their sights set on the international market.
Sheldon has toured in Florida with the Stella Maris Dance Toupe and has also been selected to represent Jamaica at an international cultural conference in China, for which he prides himself on having introduced Jamaica at every opportunity he got and every venue he visited.
Unlike the stereotype in many people's minds that those in the arts are somehow inferior intellectually, Sheldon was a sixth former doing his 'A' Levels when the lure of the stage became ultimately irresistible and he happily acquiesced.
He also has the business savvy to undertake the bookings, both local and international for his group, does advertisements and other commercial ventures to the extent where he was recently able to open a restaurant for his mom.
He also will never negate the contribution of his father as an early dub poet whom he said as a child, regularly put him to bed with dub poetry and country and western music.
Sheldon would love to see the public in general and young people in particularly becoming more interested and involved in our culture.
He bemoans their lack of interest in our own traditions and feels that there should be a sustained effort to ensure that this is not so.
And what would he describe as the most important lesson learned from the festival?
"Self-reliance," he says which is the "highest science."