Braata fills bankra with cultural folk treats

Actress Hillary Roosevelt Ricketts learning about the “Breadfruit” from Braata Folk Singers members.
Actress Hillary Roosevelt Ricketts learning about the 'Breadfruit' from Braata Folk Singers members.

After delivering a short but sweet sampling of their folkloric capacity and in the process ensuring a delightful early Mother’s Day treat, the Braata singers are now gearing for a full-fledged performance with an inaugural staging of a Bankra Caribbean Folk Festival.

Colorful, cultural and oozing with Caribbean pride, members of the group sang and danced their specialty recently in front of Jamaica’s former Prime Minister Percival J. Patterson when he spoke at Medgar Evers College and for their effort received thunderous applause.

The talented troupe could be considered exhibitionists, the way each member flaunt their heritage is somewhat of a display and homage to pastimes, nostalgia and a unique treasury distinct to the Caribbean region.

Often costumed in bandanas, floral patterns, peasant blouses, head-wraps and a rainbow of bright colors, their mere appearance sets an atmosphere of tropical, Caribbean revelry.

However, coupled with that alluring aspect, their embrace of an education and outreach element extends their mission of ‘showcasing the best of the Caribbean and its people” — they give something extra.

The gift they promise on June 7 is the first ever Bankra Basket Caribbean Folk Festival. From the group that fully explained the patois word ‘brawta’ and configured its plus facility to encompass the moniker now synonymous with more, encore and something extra, Bankra, may emerge another word familiar to others beyond a specific sector in the region.

“A bankra is a Jamaican traveling basket; usually woven, and is often carried or used as a display for a wide variety of produce. The name is inherited from the Twi language of Ghana (bonkara).”

Therefore the program for the day will feature basket weaving and extras to indulge adults and children. One of the main attractions will also be performances by some of the very best cultural, performance groups from the Caribbean.

From 3:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. groups representing Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti, Grenada, Guyana and Jamaica will virtually turn back the clock to reprise folk songs familiar to their heritage. Something Positive, La Troupe Zetwal, Adlib Steel Orchestra, AJA, Impressions Dance Theatre, Boodoosingh Tassa Group, Quake and a growing list of performers are billed.

Along with cultural exhibits, a drumming session, magician, JJ the Clown, games, animal farm, a food pavilion, body art, and surprises for the children – 12 and under will be admitted free of charge – brawta should be expected.

According to the organizers there will be three major components to the festival:

(1) The Stalls/Island Baskets

(2) The Cultural Performances

(3) Effigy Walkway

They claim that the impetus for the event is to dedicate folk forms and folk culture to “stimulate nostalgia for those who grew up with it, provide learning opportunities for others who had no knowledge of it, and help reestablish the importance, and relevance of folk as a viable, vibrant contributor to the Caribbean brand.”

Slated for The Jamaica Performing Arts Centre, 153-10 Jamaica Ave, on June 7, the doors will swing open at noon with a curfew at 8:00 p.m.

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