Friday, August 29, 2008

Islandistas we love: Golden girls VCB and Shelly!

Jahknow, mi couldn't blog during di Olympics. Di at'lete dem just had me in such a uproar whe mi couldna constentrate.

Had to channel my Jamaican friends there just now. :) It is all done and dusted and it was truly the best Olympics ever for me as a Caribbean person. I don't know if any other Olympics could possibly compare for sheer joy, sheer amazing feats, the spirit of Caribbean unity and sharing each other's joy that enveloped the region. It was so absolutely wonderful to see our athletes truly shining the way we always knew they could when the drug-taking regimes got cleaned out of the sport. Not calling any names *coff* but they could only manage a few bronzes ... and some of those after they protest Caribbean athletes. Badmind and grudgeful, mi seh... only bronze fi dem! Dem haffi chat to wi back cos wi deh a finish line aready!

Anyhow, there were so  many islandistas and islandistos to be proud of at this Olympics. The Caribbean just BOSS UP the sprints - 6 out of 8 in the men's 100  metre finals and 4 out of 8 in the women's! Ye, it was like that.

But there were two islandistas who stood out the most for me - golden girls Shelly-Ann Fraser, the 100m champion and Veronica Campbell-Brown, the two-time 200m champ.

 They are a study in contrasts. Veronica Campbell-Brown was certainly the reigning and undisputed queen of Jamaican sprinting. Though she is only 26, this is her third Olympics  and she has medalled each time. VCB does not play when it comes to the big time. She is quiet, dignified and almost stoic in her demeanour. I have so much admiration for this woman. Particularly when Asafa was flattering to deceive over the last few years with records here and there but never the 'big ones, Ronnie Campbell always came through in the big moments. She is  well on her way to becoming JA's most decorated sprinter at the Olympics and eventually surpassing the icon of every female Jamaican sprinter, the temperamental diva Merlene Ottey. Ronnie is rock solid and so I was never bothered by all the chatter from the American commentators about what and what Alyson Felix would do. I knew that Ms. Campbell-Brown would come through. I had no doubt.

Shelly-Ann Fraser is a completely different character. Where VCB is the queen and a known quantity, she could now be seen as the princess. Certainly when she clocked 10.85 to edge out Campbell at the Jamaican trials, people were dubious. Kerron Stewart they had heard of, Sherone Simpson for sure but many thought that VCB should have been given a 100m spot - Fraser was the obvious choice to be left out with her lack of racing pedigree compared to the three older sprinters.

But Shelly-Ann proved her worth and in her very first Olympics, captured the heart of the world, not just with her speed (10.78!) but her sweet and bubbly nature, that trademark always-gleaming broad smile covered in braces and her witty claims that it was the yam, dumpling and 'reggae power' that pushed Jamaican athletes to such heights at this Olympics. She is truly just adorable and cute as a button.

Her background is an inspiration - coming from one of the most crime-ridden, poverty-stricken ghettos in Kingston, the infamous Waterhouse, she defied the odds (and long they are in JA) to attend one of the island's most prestigious schools, Wolmer's Girls and then on to the University of Technology. She has now risen to the top. Yet the home she will return to is a one room shack in Waterhouse, a poignant reminder that she has only just arrived and of how incredible her story is.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rihannna & Chris - in or out?

So, gossip sites all over the world ran the pic below of islandista pop star Rihanna and her rumoured bf, RnB singer Chris Brown at the airport supposedly leaving Barbados yesterday.

Well, you know islandista has the real suss on wha really a gwan. The pic was actually them coming into the island - I guess they threw out the story about them leaving to throw off the paparazzi and gossip folk.

(photo credit: The Barbados Nation)

But tabloids have no paparrazo as nosy as a Caribbean person so that cover lasted less than 24 hours before news started flying around Bim that our girl Ri-ri and Chris (we're going to make him an honorary islandisto just now!) are actually in the island, not out. Come nuh Rihanna - you know Bajans 'good gypsy' already so that was never going to last too long!

They were spotted on Barbados' west coast, in Paynes Bay to be specific, jet-skiing and having a great time - as well they should because those two youngins have been working hard, promoting their albums and then re-releases of their albums and touring for the last year or so. In fact, I hear Rih-rih's people have pretty much instructed her to take a month off, in appreciation of her constantly being on her grind.

So she's home for that holiday. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

THAT'S Love!

Love is ... being comfortable enough to squeeze your man's pimple for him. And him being comfortable enough that he just sits there and lets you put your hands all in his face.

I just had to laugh when I saw this picture of islandista Rihanna getting all touchy feely in a very domestic, 'ye, we real comfortable' kind of way with her boyfriend Chris Brown. I could just imagine her saying 'man, stop dey Chris, I gine pop it fuh you'.

I do not know what it is with West Indians and popping pimples but it seems to be some kind of relationship rite of passage. I used to haaaate when I saw my room-mate at UWI doing it to her man - I thought it was nasty and vaguely reminiscent of gorillas grooming each other, picking for ticks or something.

But now I am ashamed to admit, I let my man do it to me and on occasion I squeeze one for him. That is when you are really comfortable - you have gone past the stage where you try to look cute all the time when they see you and you're just cool.

It's sweet in a gross way.

Got to switch it up!

It's been a while but like a true fabulous islandista I was indulging in the delights of Barbados' Crop-Over festival for the last fortnight or so - it's only THE summer carnival to attend - sorry Antigua, St. Lucia, SVG, Grenada et al! :)

But some of the things I have seen and heard over the course of the festival have definitely got me to thinking - about entertainment and longevity and originality. There was a whole lot of fussing during Crop-Over from local artists and their managers at the fact that the National Cultural Foundation was willing to shell out $30 000 for Machel Montano and a similarly hefty sum for David Rudder and Patrice Roberts to perform at Cohobblopot which is the last major show before Kadooment Day - it is basically part of the climax of the Crop-Over festival.

By contrast, Alison Hinds was rumoured to have been offered $3500.



During this Crop-Over season I got the opportunity to view Machel's show - or should I say Machel Montano HD.

I also saw performances by two of Barbados' most successful soca artistes - Alison Hinds and Rupee.

As little as 7,8 years ago all three of these performers were on the same level fame-wise and no doubt, fees-wise. But over the years, the gap between them has been growing, in Rupee's case despite (or maybe in part because of) his international label contract.

Truth be told, Alison and Rupee's performances, image, the whole works are little different to what they were doing years ago. Both have their 'own' bands now - Rupee has the Dot Com band and Alison has moved on to the Alison Hinds Show. But little has changed beyond the name changes.

Alison still does the 'wining test' routine where she calls up a man to 'test her wine'. Musically she has not expanded the range of music she performs, sticking to groovy soca or power soca. Yet we know that Alison is versatile - anyone who has ever heard the seminal Square One 'Four Sides' album they put out for their tenth anniversary or seen one of the Four Sides concerts they put on that year would know she is capable of dancehall chanting, ballads, RnB and so much more.

Rupee  is even worse - the last major change in his image was in 2000 when he cut off the long hair that had been his signature with Coalishun. I saw him perform this season and it pained me that it was basically a snooze-fest. He is sporting the same cap and shades and track jacket or blazer, singing the same tunes in the same groove and has not added anything. The thing is, I love Rupee's music but he is not doing himself any favours by staying in the same comfy niche for so long.

Machel on the other hand, gives you value-added. In the last five years or so, he has been making a greater and greater effort to add interest and spice to his shows. In that time he has brought us the Xtatik Circus (remember the Power Puff girls wukking up on stilts?), Xtatik the Marching Band and now Machel Montano HD.

It is not by accident then that his star has risen even after a quarter century in the industry and his fees have risen as well. He said as much back in June in an article published in the Nation:
"People like Alison Hinds came to Trinidad and commanded some great fees in times when our artistes wasn't commanding those fees. People like krosfyah, people like Rupee . . . something like fees is determined by the artistes themselves," he said, adding that critics had to come up to speed with what was happening.

He spoke specifically of the Bajan Invasion, which exploded in 1996, and the massive response from Trinidadians to the slower-paced music that they were unaccustomed to.

The 26-year veteran said artistes had to see beyond the fees, but management and professionalism had to come into play as well.

"I remember sitting down with my management and devising plans, not just to raise our fees, but to raise our production and when we raised our production level, we received more. Because it obviously cost more. So everything is a growth basis . . . you work your way up through integrity, through consistency, through product."

Moreover, this is not just the case in soca (though it may well be amplified because soca is still so seasonal that your window of opportunity for making an impact each year that will carry you through to the next one is limited).

Look at Madonna. The woman is 50 and yet she keeps changing up her image - from 'Like a Virgin' Madonna to the 'Blond Ambition' S&M Madonna to the Far East inspired 'Ray of Light' Madonna to the 70's roller disco queen 'Confessions on a Dance Floor' Madonna and several in between. She doesn't sit back and presume that being Madonna is enough.

Look at our own islandista Rihanna. It was when she dramatically changed up her image with her most recent album 'Good Girl Gone Bad' that she achieved her greatest levels of success to date.

So now it is up to Barbadian and other regional artistes to decide if they are going to follow the trail Machel has been blazing.