Folk music in the spotlight

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ANDREW Clarke, who has quickly made a name in New York cultural circles, debuts his Bankra Caribbean Folk Festival at this year’s Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) Week.

The Bankra Caribbean Folk Festival is scheduled for closing day (June 7) at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center on Jamaica Avenue, Queens.

Clarke’s project is a showcase of Caribbean groups including his Braata Folk Singers from Jamaica, Something Positive Inc, Boodoosingh Tassa Group and Adlib Steel Orchestra from Trinidad and Tobago, La Troupe Zetwal from Haiti, Quake USA from Grenada, and Guyana’s Impressions Dance Theatre.

Given the significant contribution of folk music to Caribbean development, he believes the Bankra Festival is timely.

“I’m tired of folk music being put on the side stage, as the warm-up act when it is the forerunner of Caribbean music, so it deserves mainstage recognition,” he said. “I hope that in the years to come, much like similar summer festivals here in NY, it will grow to a large venue attracting thousands and earning its place as a staple.”

Clarke is founder of the 10-member Braata group. To date, he has done three productions: Flambeaux, a Trinidadian musical; The Black That I Am and A Girl Without Wings.

The ‘Bankra Festival’ is a family affair. It also entails a children’s village as well as a Face and Body Art booth and a food pavilion highlighting popular dishes from the Caribbean.

Clarke was born in Montego Bay. He migrated to Florida in 2003, relocating to New York five years later.

The CTO was launched over 40 years to showcase the culture of New York’s massive West Indian community.

According to a press release from organisers, this year’s event “brings together a group of 32 regional destinations for seven days of jam-packed activities to market and promote the region”.

— Howard Campbell


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