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Stabroek News

MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT: Sonia, Melanie, Lois & Marcia
published: Thursday | March 8, 2007

Colin Hamilton/Freelance Photographer

Sonia Pottinger

In the 1960s Sonia Pottinger was one of the most renowned female producers of reggae music. Born in 1940, she is married to music producer Lyndon Pottinger. She opened the Tip Top record shop in the mid-1960s and started to record musicians in 1966.

The first single she issued (recorded at Federal Recording Studios) was a Baba Brooks tune, which became a Jamaican hit. Throughout the rock steady and early reggae eras, she became very popular with hits by The Ethiopians (The Whip), Delano Stewart, The Melodians, (Swing And Dine), Ken Boothe Ellis and Toots and the Maytals. In the 1970s, she produced albums by Bob Andy, Marcia Griffiths, Culture, U Roy and Big Youth. Her most well-known production is Culture's Harder Than The Rest album, released in 1978.

She bought Duke Reid's Treasure Isle label in 1974. Until she retired from business in 1985, she reissued many Treasure Isle tunes.

Mrs. Pottinger was also responsible for recordings by Judy Mowatt and Sister Carol. Many of these were released on her High Note label. She proved adept at recruiting talented session musicians for her recordings. Among the musicians whom she worked with were Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Ernest Ranglin, Earl 'Wire' Lindo, Dean Fraser, Roland Alphonso, and Count Ossie.


Melanie Graham

Going to the movies may be fun for you, but for Melanie Graham, marketing manager of Palace Amusement Company Ltd., it is business.

Since 1989 Mrs. Graham and her husband have been operating the PalaceAmusement Company Ltd. that owns four movie theatres in Jamaica. In 2004, when a slight decline at the box office hit the cinemas, the company became concerned. One year later, the decline continued to a 30 per cent slip in attendance at the box office. Investigations showed that movie piracy was the culprit.

The Palace Amusement Company, under the direction of Mrs Graham, joined forces with the Jamaica Anti-Piracy Alliance (JAPA) in an effort to stem movie piracy. Determined to bring her business back up to par, Mrs. Graham also embarked on a public education campaign in the movie theatres to inform the public that movie piracy is equivalent to theft.

"It is important to get across that message that piracy of intellectual property is just as bad (as stealing a car) and it is stealing," she said.

Last year, in an effort to further clamp down on movie piracy, Mrs. Graham launched a campaign called 'JA, say no to movie piracy.'

The campaign received support from film distributors Twentieth Century Fox which donated part of the proceeds from their local box-office revenues. Since the start of this campaign almost a year ago, there has been a 20 per cent increase in attendance at the box office.

Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Lois Kelly-Miller

Lois Kelly-Miller is a very talented actress who has transcended the local borders of her homeland, Jamaica, and dominated the international scene. Mrs. Kelly-Miller appeared with Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black which was released in the late 1990s. In the movie she played a woman who was dying and met the angel of death (Joe Black) and knew who he was. She said that doing Meet Joe Black was one of the best productions she has ever done.

"There was such professionalism. The production, the direction, everything was good. If they said they were coming for you at five o'clock, they were there at five o'clock," she said.

She also revealed that while doing the movie she was slightly spoilt, as whatever she wanted they solicited for her. However, she said her greatest joy of doing the movie was meeting actor Anthony Hopkins who starred in the film.

"The thrill of it, to have your name associated with Anthony Hopkins is so good, he's just excellent."

On the local scene, she has performed in many plays, monologues and pantomimes. Mrs. Kelly-Miller is also a pianist. As an infant she started piano lessons, but her journey into acting began when one of her lecturers at music school saw her gift, and gave her play scripts. Back in Jamaica, she would do stints at small gatherings such as tea parties. Then, her foray into pantomimes began when Louise Bennett Coverley, who became a good friend of hers, asked her to write a pantomime.

The 89-year-old Mrs. Kelly-Miller now reminisces on her journeys in life and procrastinates yet again about getting back on the piano. Television has also become a big part of her daily routine. She notes, however, that she is not into the belly rub-up shows. But a variety of TV programmes, particularly 'Hard Talk' on BBC."

Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer

Marcia Wedderburn (Cherry Natural)

Cherry Natural admits without apology to being a feminist. Growing up, she loved reading but couldn't get to read as much as she wanted because of all the chores she had to complete. While she worked, her brothers were free to play marbles and she didn't think this was fair, and so she wrote about it.

During her first year in high school, her literature teacher would read a Miss Lou poem and then ask the students to write a similar one. Hers was always the favourite.

While at Jamaica School of Art, she joined Renaissance Artist Writers Association (RAWA) and the rest, as they say, is history. Cherry Natural has taken her voice beyond the shores of the island, representing Jamaica and the Caribbean at numerous poetry festivals. In1999, she represented the Caribbean as a poet in residence at the third writers' exchange, sponsored by Arts Council and Loughborough University in the United Kingdom. She also represented Jamaica in Canada in 2004 at the dub poetry festival.

Cherry Natural has released two anthologies: The first, in 1989, called Come Mek We Reason, and the second, Earth Woman, in 1999. These are motivational poems that look at life, focusing on class, race and gender issues.

Cherry Natural has been studying martial arts for 25 years and has learnt over 15 systems. She has been teaching women self-defence for 17. She has been to shelters in Indiana, California, Chicago Women's Leadership Academy and Indiana University conducting workshops in self-defence and poetry. Her 23-year-old daughter 'Little Natural', who now attends the University of Technology, has been performing with her since she was six and her son is in sixth form at Ardenne.

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