Jamaica's musical women celebrated at UTech
Not so long ago, 'woman time' was declared across the political landscape with the first coming of Portia Simpson Miller as prime minister. On Thursday evening, though unstated in such blatant terms, a similar sentiment infused the 2013 Annual Cultural Showcase at the Sculpture Park, University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech).
However, as 'The Creative Genius of Women in the Jamaican Music Industry' was celebrated through music, drama, dance and fashion, it was made clear that the women's contribution was not a sudden development. A general citation, read about midway through the event, mentioned women from diverse areas of music - among them Anita 'Margarita' Mahfood in dance, Patricia Chin of VP Records, Sonia Pottinger for record production, Professor Carolyn Cooper for academia, and Olivia 'Babsy' Grange and Sharon Burke in artiste management.
However, it was the vocalists who counted most in terms of sheer numbers - Millie Small, Phyllis Dillon, Doreen Schaffer, Totlyn Jackson, Myrna Hague, Carole Reid, Claudette Clarke, Carlene Davis, Tanya Stephens, Queen Ifrica, Etana, Lady Saw, Nadine Sutherland, Alaine, Tifa and Timberlee, among the extensive list of those in various genres who were mentioned.
Stating that the voices should never be silenced, the citation ended by saying, "their efforts will live on in the hearts of the Jamaican people".
In an extensive production hosted by Jennifer 'Jenny Jenny' Small, with a (sometimes overplayed) family trio of grandfather and two grandchildren, every effort was made to have Thursday evening's celebration live on in the hearts of the many who saw it. And there were many moments which should, among them a trio of vocal handovers from lead singers of the UTech choir to original singers of popular songs, who picked up on the second verses. Judy Mowatt, Sandra Brooks and Queen Ifrica were involved in this, the last especially effective as she made her surprise input in Lioness on the Rise on the runway set up in the audience area.
Karen Smith offered All of Me on her own, with a beautiful smile to boot, ending with her voice and the audience on a high.
Crystal Chambers' monologues were also memorable - not only because of the prodigious memory required for the task (which included parts of Lorna Goodison's I Come Through), but also her facility with various areas of the performing arts. As the UTech Instrumental Band (with a lady on drums) did in the early part of the programme, after the citation Desi Jones and Friends played for Winsome Benjamin's tribute to a number of female singers. Again, there was diversity, with the romantic ringtone of Telephone Love and the ache for a Shy Guy, through to the rejoice in freedom of Stepping Out of Babylon.
Lenya Wilks did two songs on tracks, the second, Mothered, a tribute to the maternal hand which veered out of the cliché, although on a well-worn topic.
Men were not to be left out, playing a significant role in the UTech choir and dance ensemble's take on Tanya Stephens' I'm Still Alive, the second of three songs performed in 'Lyrical Genius of Women'. The steel pan's 'Classics in Steel' included Heels On and the confident declaration of "haffi come back", much to the delight of the young women, before there was violin input to the evening.
Mama Ouch's recorded interview on big screen preceded the show of dancehall fashion, in which some flesh was flashed, heels hoisted and derriere's dangled, though not overmuch. The finale, to Marcia Griffiths' Electric Boogie put the lid on a long night.