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Janine Remembered. Exemplary Life now Honored via Black Collar Creative Foundation.

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The Black Collar Creative Foundation was launched in Trinidad and Tobago on Friday 20th, October with a display of immense talent in recognition of a gifted soul, Janine Charles-Farray. A force in the Arts and media, Farray sadly, passed away in October, 2022. The foundation is aimed at preserving her legacy. In her opening speech, Founding Director, Ms. Marva de Freitas Charles’ (Janine’s mother) gave a chronology of her daughter’s work and dedication to the Cultural and Creative Industries.

The elder Charles recalled that her daughter had been was very active in the choir from as early as primary school and in Bishops Anstey High School under the leadership of Mrs. Bacchus-Ifill. She said singing was her passion and it was nurtured by the late Dr. Pat Bishop who mentored and trained Janine in The Lydians choir.

She was a part of the inaugural Board of The Lydians and later resigned as board member. Following which, she was assigned the position of Communications Officer. Subsequently, she was relieved of this duty by the new Board and Management in 2020. She would eventually form Black Collar Creative Ltd., Ms. de Freitas Charles shared. She was instrumental in scripting the night’s feature musical, Une Petite Nuit (A little night) with Chandelier Productions.

Janine won many awards at the TT Music Festival and sat on several Boards and Committees, the latest being the National Carnival Museum and the Caribbean School of Dancing.

As a Panorama aficionado and lover of calypso, she would review the performances, blog and share her thoughts on social media. She was an avid mas player who loved J’ouvert with 3canal.  Charles revealed that they would cross the stage by the Queen’s Park savannah and on the way back, pass in front of Bishops where Janine would lead them in singing the school song, “Who would tru valour see, let him come hither”. There is no better way to describe the brilliance and sheer dynamism of this daughter of the soil, Janine Charles-Farray. She was a ‘cultural powerhouse’ as described by many who knew her, and she advocated for this sector we loved so – she was fearless. One of her many accomplishments was coordinating efforts for cultural and creative organisations during the pandemic, which led to the procurement of hampers donated by Massy Stores to distribute to creative practitioners in need.

Patron of the Foundation, Rhoma Spencer recounts her first encounter with Janine who at the time was being bullied and teased at school for being a big girl, when her mother brought her by her house to talk to her, since she herself was a ‘big’ woman in the arts about body positivity and how to thrive in her skin. Years later, Janine would interview her for the Guardian newspaper, and she reminded her of who she was. She shares that what she saw then was a ‘confident black woman, comfortable in her skin’ and she paused and wondered for a moment if she had a hand in that. 

The launch also included the band, One Vision One Voice (OVOV) who entertained the audience with an eclectic mix of music from reggae to pop, showcasing their versatility. The night’s highlight was Chandelier Productions’ theatrical musical, Une Petite Nuit, which told a love story that was both witty and comedic. Led by Musical Director, Michael Hudlin, the theatrical featured singers/actors Adafih Padmore, Joelle Archer, Shennice Williams, Tahfari Leslie, Carl Anthony Hines, Isaiah Alexander, Gabrielle Alleyne and Kristian Adams. Mr. Stephen de Gannes, CEO of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce expressed his absolute enjoyment of the launch, sharing that he was particularly impressed with so many young performers, with special mention of OVOV keyboardist, Candace Moore, all the performances and the high standard of the production and musical accompaniment. 

The foundation has since been registered and will soon accept angel contributions and donations towards supporting creative start-ups with seed funding.

The Board of Directors are Enrico de Freitas, Garnet Allen and Marva de Freitas Charles. Interested persons can email the Black Collar Creative Foundation at bccreativefoundation@gmail.com. For press or further information, contact, Rachael N. Collymore of Power Media Hub Ltd. at engage@powermediahub.com or (868) 323-0416.  

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A Powerful Journey. Calypso Rose Fought All Odds. Queen of the Road Musical, A Necessary Reminder.

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Technology, social media and the ease of life we’ve all become so used to in this 21st century, is a far cry from the odds faced and overcome by so many who paved the way. This past weekend in Trinidad and Tobago, the delivery of ‘The Queen of The Road’ musical reminded patrons of this fact, and much more in its walk down memory lane which highlighted the life and times of the incomparable, Calypso Rose.

Queen of the Road, written and directed by Rhoma Spencer, was presented by Yes Productions on both Saturday and Sunday in Trinidad. It was first presented as a workshop in Canada in 2019 before premiering in Tobago in October 2023. The musical begins with Rose’s acceptance of the The Victoire de la Musiq Award- the French equivalent of the Grammy. She won the award in 2017 after releasing the album, ‘Far From Home.’ In her production, Spencer rewinds the life of the 84-year-old, taking the audience on a whirlwind- sometimes harsh, often humor filled, consistently thought-provoking adventure through the childhood, adolescence and adulthood of Calypso Rose.

Thara Howe (centre) plays young Calypso Rose.
Photo: Carlyle Morris

Her story, a remarkable testament of each human being’s purpose from birth, is unraveled bit by bit in the musical, with a young Rose played by 11-year-old, Thara Howe- a student of St.Patricks Newtown Girls Primary School. Throughout her on-stage performance, members of the audience could be heard gushing at the effortless ease by which Howe executed her part of the matriarch calypsonian, in her childhood years. “She has a big future ahead,” said one person in the audience.

The adult Rose, played by 2018 Calypso Queen, Stacey Sobers was undeniably the perfect casting. An almost too-close- to- understand re-enactment of the Bethel, Tobago entertainer hears Sobers deliver with ease, songs like, ‘Tempo’, ‘Fire in Me Wire’, ‘Her Majesty’, ‘Leh We Punta, ‘ Young Boy’, and many of the artistes other memorable hit singles. Supporting cast members included, Kearn Samuel as The Mighty Sparrow, Karen Francisco as Rose’s aunt Edith, Theresa Hope who played the very important role of Calypso Rose’s grandmother and Fabrice Barker who played the role of her father – a preacher who went on to leave Rose’s mother and their family for another woman.

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Mother’s Day In Focus: Women Encouraged to Realize Their Divine Role.

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There is a divine feminine energy that resides in every woman on the planet. This spiritual energy, while sometimes hidden, is powerful beyond measure, and as Mother’s Day comes into focus, Trinidad and Tobago’s Empress Aje says the time has come, once again, to encourage the country’s women to stand in the beauty and strength of their being. 

Her effort to highlight this innate strength is seen in the annual production of her event, ‘The Iba Music Festival.’ Now in its fourth year, the creative showcase returns with love and empowerment at its core. “I don’t think women truly understand what they possess. My effort is to remind women of who they are, the contributions they can make. They must understand that they have a lot of power in their hands- power that can ultimately reach out to change the direction of both men, and children.”

Naomi Sinette

Empress Aje is a woman of impeccable standard who holds fast to the Yoruba tradition. Strengthened by the African teachings of this tradition, she operates solely by spiritual guidance from ‘my ancestors,’ as she explains. Her assignment this Mother’s Day weekend brings the likes of illustrious entertainers, Nisa, Jaron Nurse, Farmer Nappy, Collis Duranty, Stephanie Joseph, Naomi Sinette and Darren Sheppard with NLCB Fonclaire, into focus. Aje will also be a part of the musical lineup, serenading all women on Saturday. 

Expanding on her belief in the importance of promoting the divine feminine power in Trinidad and Tobago, Empress Aje says, “More women should be placed in strategic areas of our country’s political landscape.” She believes these women must however understand who they are and add value to the positions they attain. 

Farmer Nappy will perform at the Iba Music Festival on May 11th.

A prompt 6:30pm commencement carded for Saturday, May 11th’s, Iba Music Festival, Empress Aje assures that variety is at the core of the show. “The event offers great musical variety. As the creative director, I’ve carefully chosen each element of the showcase to deliver positive vibrations on who we are celebrating this weekend.” Added to the live entertainment, the Festival, which is being hosted in the Amphitheatre area, also hosts a number of creative vendors who are being given the opportunity to share their work with patrons. “Initially, I did have second thoughts about hosting the event this year, however I was encouraged to deliver, and I am happy that I listened. Everything has fallen into place,”she said. 

Over the past four years, the Iba Music Festival moved from the Little Carib Theatre to the Naparima Bowl. The event was also hosted virtually during the pandemic and even amid that challenge, Empress Aje, a former corporate employee, explained that she was propelled by a higher power, to keep promoting this positive celebration of feminine energy. “In 2022, I was guided to move the show to South. We had artistes like Freetown Collective and Queen Omega, and the event made an enormous impact. We’ve remained in South since that time,” she explained, noting that patrons can expect nothing but good energy, love and enjoyment ahead of Mother’s Day. 

For further information on the Iba Music Festival, those interested can call 868-770-1241. 

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