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Monday, February 28, 2011

Wanna throw a Great Birthday Surprise Party??

Follow these TEN STEPS and you can't fail!

Step 1 and most important rule:  Keep it hush hush

Step 2: Gather your team and secure location

Step 3: Call friends and family about the time and location and be sure to remind them that it’s a surprise

Step 4: Be casual and normal. Don’t start acting strange.  A sudden change of temperament may cause the person, you are throwing the surprise for, to become suspicious.  It doesn't hurt not to mention that the birthday is coming up either.  In some cases, they completely forget!  As it was in Marvin Bartley's case.

Step 5: Ensure cake, treats (nuts; chips; salsa dips, which can be home-made; wine; etc.) for patrons who will need to eat and be entertained, are secured.

*Note to Patrons: Bringing a bottle of wine or a few treats to add to the party doesn't hurt either. Thank you!

Step 6: On the appointed day remember the first part of Rule 4—BE CASUAL!  ACT NORMAL!  But most importantly put your plan of diversion in place.  In our case, Dexter Pottinger and I live in the same complex, so there was no way to carry the items (cake etc.) to the venue without Marvin noticing.  Which leads me to…

Step 7: Get package out the house!  Dexter gladly took Marvin on a local Kingston tour, with the promise that he would take him to Port Royal for fish later that evening.  Of course it was around 8pm by then and naturally Marvin was slightly suspicious…of something.  I mean, who goes to Port Royal after 8pm…right?  Meanwhile, I was at the venue ensuring that everyone had arrived.

Step 8: If necessary, feel free to do a rehearsal. In the case of our friend Duane Thomas, who cunningly avoided having his picture taken and who gladly extended his home to us, pretended to be Marvin, while we yelled "surprise."  Was kinda exhausting after two runs.

Marvin Bartley smiles at the end of a good night

So everyone was at the venue.  Where was the package??  Well it so happened that it arrived minutes later. The package a.k.a Marvin Bartley was under the impression that he was coming to Duane’s for a meeting, after which he would go to Port Royal for fish.  Umm… it’s about 8:30ish at night by then.

Step 9: Another scheme was needed.  Package was too polite and would not open door ahead of Dexter.  So Dexter pretended to tie his already tied shoelace, so that package/Marvin could open the door instead.  It worked!

When Marvin opened the door, we all yelled “SURPRISE!” and watched the many facial expressions unfold.  Apart from jumping back in fear that he was being attacked by…something, the look on his face was priceless!  We watched in amusement as Marvin recounted all the occurrences leading up to the party that he now admitted were indeed odd.  He showed gratitude for being duped.  After all, it was his first birthday party.

Step 10: Enjoy the success!  Ensure that everyone at least has a drink in hand and is having a good time.

So there you have it.  Ten important steps to planning the perfect surprise birthday party!





[E] ... What the??




[I] ... Seriously Prince, was the party that boring??












 Have a similar story to share?  Feel free to tell how you planned your surprise party and add any steps that you think are important to note. Remember to keep it PG 13. 


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

TIFA Says She's Here to Stay

"...Every time I decide to leave something good happens and I end up staying."   

Graphics: Camilla Facey
As a child Latifa ‘Tifa’ Brown was diagnosed with Blount Disease, which is a growth disorder of the shin bone (tibia) in which the lower leg turns inward, resembling a bowleg. Her first corrective surgery happened in a time when her parents were recently divorced.  She travelled to Canada at the age of five to begin the mending process while being under her father’s care. This Certified Diva hardly remembers the dark times in her life. With the bone disorder a thing of the past, her leg now adjusted giving her the “so sick walk,” she tends to focus on those treasured moments and the eclectic values absorbed from the adults in her life.

She gloats about her childhood, claiming she lived every child’s dream—the big house, the farm animals, which she classified as pets; especially her ram, affectionately called “Bulla.”  She also remembers the invaluable time spent with her grandmother and 1978 Miss Jamaica World, the late Joan McDonald, where she learned the importance of being a lady.  So, yes, the tea parties, fashion shows and brunches at the Hilton with “grandma” had certainly been useful in her nurturing.

“When I’m around my grandmother, I had to speak proper English,” she jokingly reminisces. 

But she was also exposed to the not so polished side of life, having tagged along with the grown-ups to the yard parties, with blaring dancehall music from the favoured colossal speaker boxes.  Of course, what makes this artist so compelling is the perfect incorporation of her “uptown” and “downtown” upbringing that appeals to a wide audience.  And as a result she boasts of knowing how and when to “switch things up."

Since she exploded on the scene in 2005, Tifa has wasted no time in gliding that upward spiral.  Some of her most memorable songs are Bottom of the Barrel, Move Yuh Body, and Spell It Out, where “A Wha Do D.E.M.!” was conceived and has since become her tag line.

I suppose that would explain why she took home four awards after receiving seven nominations for Jamaica’s Youth View Awards recently held on February 5. Oh, and let’s not forget that she has grabbed the attention of American rapper, Ludacris.  He was so impressed with the stellar deejay that he invited her, and a few others, on his How Low remix. 

So allow me to dig deeper and get a bit more personal with our Jamaican Diva.
Photo: Marvin Bartley for BackAYard Magazine

Who is Tifa?
She laughs. To be honest ah don’t know… um…Really, Tifa is just a projection of Latifa.  She’s shy, creative, determined, stubborn, spontaneous, and secretive.

What’s your sound and style?
It’s dancehall, reggae, hip hop, and a mixture of an uptown and downtown vibe. 

Do you always write your songs?
Ninety-nine percent.  The only one I haven’t written is by Lil Joe, who recently passed away.  It’s called “Single” on the Cobba Cobba Riddim, produced by Equinoxx.

I understand that you don’t have a manager.  Why is that?
She sighs. I had one but it didn’t work out. But I have guidance from Ward 21 and Headline Entertainment who help oversee some of the projects I work on.  I prefer it that way because I get to know first-hand about the other side of the music business and I get to personally handle my affairs.

But at the rate at which your career is going, don’t you think you will need one in the future?
I’m going to need one soon.

What’s your average day like?
These days things are a bit slow, but usually as soon as I wake up, I check my blackberry for show updates and respond to emails. Then I bathe, go on the road to deal with interviews or make special appearances.

What’s one thing you can’t leave the house without?
My bag, because it has everything in it: my phone, comb, brush, and my lip gloss—can’t leave without ma lip gloss!

What are you addicted to these days?
Nothing really. I’m a seasonal girl and have my phases.

Favourite Colour?
I’m not a “favourite” kind of girl.  But lately I tend to be into pink and gold. But if I’m in the mood for something I’ll be into it. That’s how I usually treat everything, music, fashion, men… She chuckles at that.

Okay, so you’re not “a favourite kind of girl” but what about artistes in the business that you look up to?
Locally I love Lady Saw; Lady G; Macka Diamond; Movado; Agent Sasco. I like international artists such as Bob Marley; Maxie Priest; Dennis Brown; and most definitely Mary J. Blige, especially the older version of Mary J. I take a lot of inspiration from her.

What irks you?
Dirty nails and dirty dishes.  I have to be extremely tired, not to do my dishes.

Since you entered the music scene in 2005, you’ve been gradually progressing and gaining popularity both locally and internationally, what has been your most memorable collaboration?
I’ve really only done two collaborations, with Tami Chynn for the Certified Diva music video and with Ward 21.

Is there anyone you hope to work with in the future?
I’m not so keen on collaborations, because usually I find that one artist usually ends up doing better than the other afterwards.  I don’t like that experience for me or for the other person I work with.  But if I had to choose, anyone who sounds good and who’s happening right now.  I’m more a “spirit tek”[1] person. If we have a connection then I can work with you.

What was it like collaborating with Ludacris? Did you work with him in person?
No I didn’t; but it was an amazing experience.  I was surprised to learn that he was even a follower of my music. I can’t thank Alric and Boyd enough for making the link.
For those who don’t know, Alric and Boyd are master music mixers who’ve developed sounds for Rihanna on her Rude Boy mix, and naturally Ludacris’ How Low remix.

Do you have a favourite video?
I would have to say Spell it Out. I like Move Yuh Body too, but even today Spell it Out is my baby. I’m always involved in my video productions and that was the easiest and the least stressful.  Everything worked out according to plan and I got exactly what I wanted. 

Photo: Marvin Bartley
Discrimination against female deejays in Dancehall; does it still exist?
Things are getting better. In the past it used to be one dominating female dance hall artists and now we have much more. 

Yes, but is the tension still there?
Definitely. It won’t go away. We always want to be on top, to be the number one artists, but to be honest I believe the market is big enough for everyone. My style is different from a Lady Saw or a Stacious, and the world is big enough for everyone to get a piece. I love when we as female artists come together and get a chance to shine like on the Ward 21 Production of Dem Gal Sitt’n Medley. It really highlights our individual styles.

Have you faced discrimination?
Yes. A lot of persons didn’t believe in me. They would look at me and see the “ben foot” and say things like ‘Where’s she going with that?’ or ‘She doesn’t even have a degree.’ I grew up with so much discrimination that I learned how to have a thick skin and continue to do what I know I can do.

But you have a degree now.  You studied at University of the West Indies (UWI) and graduated with a BA degree in Psychology and Human Resources Management.  But you’re a dancehall artist. What happened?
Nothing happened.  I’m my mother’s only child and she wanted her daughter to have an education.  But Psychology wasn’t my first choice, I wanted to do Business Management, but UWI didn't give me the option. I’m making good use of it though, especially when managing myself.
Has it ever been so hard that you want to just throw in the towel?
A lot of times. But every time I decide to leave something good happens and I end up staying. So I guess it’s a sign that I should stay put.
You have a lot of singles out, but so far no album.  When will we see an album from you?
This year definitely. Before, the time wasn’t right, but people have been asking. I wanted to wait for the right opportunity and want to put out songs that people haven’t heard before and would actually want to buy. So I’m coming up with new songs like Get Flat.  That video is coming soon.  So look out for that.
So…You performed in Slovakia…? What was that like, being surrounded by so many persons who don’t speak English, let alone Patois?
It was amazing. It was good to see my fans, in their “I love Jamaica” T-shirts, singing the words to my songs even though they didn’t speak English. I also performed in the Czech Republic and am the first female dancehall artist to perform there. I’m very proud about that.  
She has also performed in Austria, Germany, Czech Republic and Italy. Tifa’s performance was so riveting in Italy they dubbed her the Queen of Dancehall!

I read in an article where one writer described your journey as “somewhat easy.”  Do you agree?
Yes and no. I have to give thanks because so many artists have been in the business for fifteen, twenty years and haven’t put out a song, done any music videos or performed in the places I’ve been.  So I’m blessed to have Ward 21 and Headline Entertainment giving me guidance and helping me make the right decisions in my career. There’s no formula. When it’s your time, it’s your time.  The good thing about me is that I’m consistent.

What’s in the works for 2011 and beyond?
Apart from working on my album, I’m a brand ambassador for Nuvo liqueur.

Are you interested in anything outside of music?
Real Estate, Fashion, Perfume, Hair.

Where do you want to go, that you haven’t visited yet?
Japan! Ever since I was three years old and watched an episode of Sesame Street when they went to Japan.  I also want to go to Bahamas and visit Atlantis because I’m a very adventurous person.

So what’s stopping you? Just go!
After a mild chuckle, she says...Soon.

[1] spirit tek: When one feels he or she naturally meshes with or can relate to another without force.

For more about TIFA, follow her at and 

Check out Tifa's videos here:
Her latest: "Nah Stop Shine/Move Yuh Body"                             


 Her Favourite: "Spell It Out"

My favourite track: "Why"

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Burgeoning Director Predicts Bright Future

These days 3D is no longer limited to three-dimensional graphics.  For some Jamaicans when the term is mentioned Jamaican model turn designer, turn make-up artist and stylist, Dexter ‘3D’ Pottinger comes to mind.
Pottinger, who describes himself as “a creative soul” sees himself expanding beyond expectations, even making a name for himself in the world of video directing.  According to the twenty-eight year old icon, when working on various projects with other directors in the past, he felt there was an itch he could not scratch unless he was in the director’s chair himself.
"They just did not have the vision as a stylist," Pottinger says.

Photo: Marvin Bartley
           So he fearlessly ventured into the business with directing his first music video for former girl group “Make Boys Cry” (MBC) in 2005.   Since then he has been honing his craft, adding the flair he believes has been absent from the music video scene by not only highlighting the artist but also the clothes and accessories.  So far, no one is complaining.  In fact, his execution has allowed two of his music videos for 2010, “Move Yuh Body” and “Certified Diva” to be nominated for video of the year for this year’s Youth View Awards (YVAs)  to be held this Saturday, February 5 at the National Indoor Sports Centre. 
A true example that nothing good comes easy and over night, Pottinger’s five years of hard work has paid off.  And if he doesn’t win?  Knowing that he has only been directing for a short period of time, he is simply honoured to be recognized among the greatest in the business. 
This cutting edge director, stylist and make-up artist prides on thinking outside the box and relies on the right team, such as Winston “Willo” Wilkins of Team Willo and newcomer to the business as director of photography, Marvin Bartley, to bring his ideas to life.  As he continues to develop his repertoire and gain respect in the business, Pottinger hopes to eventually work with RnB heavy weights like Rihanna and BeyoncĂ©.  
Not that he has far to go, since he has already worked on Drake’s music video, “Find Your Love” as a stylist.  As a director he is proud to have worked with Jamaican bread stars such as Bad Gyal Ce’Cile, Tifa, Etana, Angel, and Russell Diamond.  He has even played a vital role in shaping the images for female contenders Ce’Cile and Tifa, both nominated for female artist of the year.  So not only is this young force a visionary, he is one to be reckoned with.  
Photo: Marvin Bartley

         So what else does the future hold for this chameleon?  So far 2011 has been eventful with the young creator co-directing his first television commercial for Telecommunications powerhouse, Digicel for their current Jus’ Buss II Campaign.  He also acclaims his success to his fans, understanding full well that without them he would not have burgeoned to where he is today.
        And for those inspired, who dream the Pottinger dream, this is what the driven director has to say: 
 “Start researching on what you want to pursue and intern in the field to gain knowledge. Jump at it. You don’t need the money to start; all you need is the drive and the passion.”

Pottinger adjusting head piece on dance hall artist, Tifa, on set of her "Move Yuh Body" video

Pottinger ensures his video runs smoothly with DP, Marvin Bartley for Tifa's "Move Yuh Body" video

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Get to know me, your blogger:

As a child raised in Santa Cruz in the parish of St. Elizabeth, I always had a wild imagination.  I had what can be classified as “the imaginary friends syndrome.”  Usually I played different career roles.  At first, because my mother was a teacher, in my mind I became one.  Had my own classroom, in fact my own school.  Later, teaching became dull and I imagined myself as a veterinarian, but true veterinarians had to master the sciences, which was not my forte and so I considered becoming a reporter.  Of course by then, my imaginary friends outgrew me and naturally I parted ways.  

So it was decided, I was going to be a journalist. Somehow the reporter/journalist I envisioned wasn’t like what I saw on my local tele.  I was more intrigued by how the Americans handled things and that’s when I knew I wanted to venture beyond Jamaica. Still I never saw it possible and didn’t know how.
One day, I pounced upon a programme called “Profile,” featuring the late Madge Sinclair and was so impressed that a Jamaican was making waves in Hollywood that I immediately realized my dreams no longer had to be limited to my country.  I then quietly vowed that I would be above average, if not someone great.
I convinced my parents to allow me, their youngest, to study abroad.   After Manchester High School I received a scholarship to study at Albion College in Michigan, and gladly attended with the secret desire to pursue acting myself.  I figured the closer I was to America, the closer I would be to achieving my goal.  During College my interest in journalism faded and my friends encouraged me to consider a modelling career and though initially I was hesitant, I took it more seriously in my final year when I realized my collegiate journey was ending. 
A happy Albion College Grad.
I travelled to New York and stayed with my brother, attended the open calls of some of the different agencies and I received a million nos.  Nonetheless I made use of my work permit and received my first job at Macy’s in Herald Square, Juniors Department, utterly dissatisfied with the way my life was unfolding.  I had a BA degree in Communications and there I was working in a retail store, failing at my new found passion to become a high-fashion model.  Eventually, I signed up with a temp agency and secured a few fleeting jobs.  The most memorable was working as a receptionist at the showroom for Donna Karan New York.  Worst job ever!  It was grossly mundane as all I did was sit at an empty desk, stationed directly before the elevators, with a clipboard and greeted people as they entered, while hearing the same promo video over and over again.  I literally wanted to shoot myself in the foot.  This was supposed to be a two week stint, but on the third day I called my temp agency declaring that I was leaving the job.  They coaxed me to stay and I did, but I watched insufferably as models tried on clothes for perspective buyers, wishing it was me.