A true Caribbean son of the soil, Jamal J. George was born, raised, and celebrated in the twin island home of carnival, calypso, soca, steel pan and parang, Trinidad and Tobago. All his life, he had been exposed to the influence of his African and Indian ancestors, through the many traditions his fellow countrymen practiced and presented. Jamal’s first foray into the practice of T&T’s cultural traditions came at young age, 8. He was trained in the oral tradition called storytelling. For Trinbagonians, storytelling has its origins in West Africa and the griot or jali is often used as a model for training young people how to execute this art form. The training Jamal received focused on dramatic techniques, the use of voice, performance and the history of this and other cultural traditions. From the age of 8, he spent many years honing his craft and entertaining audiences around the country and region.
After mastering the art of storytelling, his enthusiasm for culture lead him to the world of music and dance. Singing came naturally to Jamal and singing calypso in particular, made him a household name on the islands. He has been crowned TUCO and NJAC Tobago Junior Calypso Monarch and NJAC National Junior Calypso Monarch on consecutive occasions. Singing calypso gave Jamal his widest reach, as he had the pleasure of performing for several distinguished personalities across Trinidad and Tobago.
Jamal studied and performed modern, African and Afro-Caribbean dance genres with what was then the premier dance academy and performing company in Tobago, the Tobago Academy of Performing Arts. Jamal learned under the distinguished leadership of NYU alum and national cultural icon, Annette Alfred; Hunter College alum and the face of dance in Tobago, Elvis Radgman and UTT alum and dance school Principal, Lisa McSween. What was particularly unique about his training there, was the fusion of dance, music and education. No piece was put on stage without the dancers enduring a lesson in the history of the type of dance and the symbolism of its singular movements. Most dances were performed to drums and other percussion instruments, which required the dancers to know the songs that accompanied the music and their meanings.
Jamal’s talents did not just get him into major arts event and competitions, but his oratory skills in particular helped him land a job as a TV and Radio Program Producer at the Tobago House of Assembly Information Division. During his short time there, he had two programs on television.
Jamal relocated to the United States in 2006 to reunite with his father and to advance his education, career and life in general. His original dream was to work in television and entertainment, and fortunately was given a shot to audition for acceptance into the renowned American Academy of Dramatic Arts and School for Film and Television. Though he was awarded scholarships to both AADA and SFT, he made the very difficult decision to forgo his scholarships in order to pursue a more traditional degree. He eventually earned his B.A. in Media and Communication Arts: Advertising and Public Relations and then pursued an M.Ed. in Learning and Instruction.
Not one to lose sight of his passion and purpose, Jamal found other ways to fulfill his need to perform. While in college, he successfully auditioned for two plays: High School Musical and Dream Girls. He also found a “home” in New York’s premier Caribbean performing arts company, Something Positive Inc., founded by Trinidad’s own Queen of Rapso and spoken word, Cheryl Byron. There, he continued to grow as a practitioner of the arts and was introduced to more cultural and religious traditions. He rose through the ranks to become the company’s Treasurer, Junior Choreographer, and one of their Executive Committee members. His work with Something Positive Inc. has taken him to the Costa Rica, Morocco, Belize, and even back to his native, Trinidad and Tobago.
Over the years, Jamal has established a career in education. He has worked as an Instructor, Academic Case Manager, Program Coordinator, High School Teacher, College Advisor, and Dean. He is currently a School Administrator with responsibility for school culture, adult culture, systems and procedures, discipline and social work. His career in education has allowed him to incorporate his passion for the arts and performing in all he does. In his own words: “There are two things that I will always have a passion for; that I know will always be at the center of my existence; that I know will continue to shape my character; and that I know no one will ever be able to take from me.”
-- Jamal J. George