Beat People

Lil’ Rick defends his crown, Nilo Cruz wins a Pulitzer, Nadella Benjamin shines at Notting Hill, Michael Lee-Chin makes a big gesture, Lady Saw breaks lyrical barriers, Shola Lynch captures history on film, and Usain Bolt goes for gold

  • Nilo Cruz. Photograph courtesy Peregrine Whittlesley Agency
  • Nadella Benjamin. Photograph by Anton Modeste
  • Michael Lee-Chin. Photograph courtesy AIC Limited
  • Lady Saw. Photograph courtesy
  • Shola Lynch. Photograph courtesy Shola Lynch
  • Usain Bolt. Photograph by The Jamaica Observer

Ready to defend his crown

Barbados Crop Over 2002 belonged to Bajan soca star Lil’ Rick, who drove
the masses wild on stage and on the road with his high-energy performances
and the monster track Hyper Dawg. Backed by a big following, both
locally and regionally, he walked away with the road march and party monarch
titles. One year later, he’s both more infamous — thanks to his run-in with
Trinidadian kaiso artists Denyse Plummer and Sanell Dempster at the “Battle
of the Sexes” show held at the Kensington Oval — and more beloved. He’s even
being compared to Machel Montano, for his grassroots appeal and constant
top billing. At Crop Over 2003, keep your eyes open for more fireworks, both
on and off the stage!

Dylan Kerrigan

Pulitzer in the tropics

When Cuban-born playwright Nilo Cruz won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for drama
in April, New York theatre mavens were taken by surprise: his winning play,
Anna in the Tropics, had yet to make its Broadway debut (and it had
been 11 years since a play had won the Pulitzer without a New York production).
Commissioned and premiered by the New Theatre in Coral Gables, Anna is the
story of a family of Cuban cigar-makers living in Florida in the early 20th
century, inspired by Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. “By honoring my play,” said
Cruz, who teaches at the Yale School of Drama, “the Pulitzer Prize Board
is . . . actually acknowledging and securing a place for Latino plays in
the North American theatre.”

Philip Sander

Designing woman

Trinidadian Nadella Benjamin is energetic, fearless, and, at 27 years old,
remarkably certain about her life’s mission: to document the cultural traditions
and art-forms of the Caribbean, while taking an active role in their promotion.
When London’s Yaa Asantewaa Community Centre asked her to help design costumes
for the 2000 Notting Hill Carnival, she decided to go and see for herself.
In 2001, the centre invited her not merely to help, but to design the entire
band — which went on to win first place in that year’s competition. This
year, Nadella is coordinating a full-scale Caribbean village, where Notting
Hill masqueraders can sample island cuisine and browse distinctive Caribbean
products. But her designing days are not over: the big plan includes working
with Peter Minshall’s Callaloo Company in 2004.

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Tracey-Anne Gill

Making a big gesture

When the Royal Ontario Museum’s new Crystal wing opens at the end of 2005,
it will bear the name of Jamaica-born billionaire Michael Lee-Chin. Last
April, the museum announced that the $30 million lead gift in its major fundraising
campaign had been given by the chairman and CEO of AIC Limited, an Ontario-based
financial assets management firm. Lee-Chin migrated to Canada in the 1970s,
and entered the financial services industry after graduating from university.
Rising rapidly through the ranks, he bought AIC in 1987, and took the company’s
assets under management from $1 million to over $14 billion. “I represent
a large segment of the new Toronto,” he said, speaking when news of his donation
was made public. “It was important that the lead donor be someone like me.”

Philip Sander

Dancehall’s queen

Marion Hall, aka Lady Saw, is a patois-centric pioneer without equal. Her
tough, raunchy, yet eloquent style — full of salty Jamaican poetics and style-bending
assuredness — has broken barriers, earning her respect in the male-dominated
dancehall world. She’s also in high demand as a collaborater with hip-hop
and pop-rock acts — she’s worked with No Doubt, Missy Elliot, Lil’ Kim, and
Eve. Her fans get to experience Lady Saw’s lyrical prowess live this August
at the Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest, where she’s sure to make a scene with selections
from her new album, Striptease.

Dylan Kerrigan

Hail to the chief

First-time director Shola Lynch is bringing Caribbean-American history alive
in a new documentary for PBS. Lynch, whose family hails from Tobago and Grenada,
takes on the spirited 1972 US presidential campaign waged by Bajan-American
Shirley Chisholm. Chisholm was the first black woman elected to the US Congress,
and the first black to run for the presidency. Lynch’s toughest challenge?
Getting Chisholm’s permission. “She’s as feisty now as she was then,” laughs
Lynch. “I had to filibuster to convince her.”

Kellie Magnus

Irie thunderbolt

The 2003 Easter weekend brought triumph for Team Jamaica at the Carifta games,
as they topped the final medal table with a total of 76 (39 gold, 23 silver,
14 bronze). One man in particular, world junior 200-metre champ Usain Bolt,
had an exceedingly good time. His magnificent performances brought gold in
the 200-metre, 400-metre, 4 x 100-metre, and 4 x 400-metre events. He also
established Carifta records in the 200 and 400, and helped the sprint relay
team to a new games record. No surprise that he also walked away with the
Austin Sealy Trophy for the meet’s most outstanding athlete.

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Dylan Kerrigan


Correction: In our tribute to the late  André Tanker in the
May/June 2003 Caribbean Beat (“Music beyond measure”, page 30), we
erroneously gave Tanker’s birth date as September 25, 1941. Tanker was actually
born on September 29, 1941.