Boonoonoonoos - A Celebration A Wi People, is the Braata Folk Singers Fiftieth Anniversary valentine to the people of Jamaica.
This is not to say that the show is without its flaws. But founder and Artistic Director Andrew Clarke and his team can be justly proud of what this relatively new cultural group- only about three years old and already one of the tri state areas leading exponents of Caribbean culture- has been able to achieve in such a short time.
The two hour plus presentation unfolded at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, 153-10 Jamaica Avenue, on June 30, before a large and appreciative audience.
It was enjoyable production which evoked profound feelings of pride and nostalgia in Jamaicans of all ages wherever it is performed- especially in the year of the nation’s Golden Jubilee.
The show got off to a rollicking start with Section 1, titled Playground, in which the group, dressed as primary school students - and joined by members of the audience who were chosen on the spot.
It brought back wonderful childhood memories with ring games and songs including Ole Mass Charley, There She Goes Around the Ring, Brown Girl in De Ring and Punchinella.
The effervescent Dianne Dixon, playing the “role” of a rebellious student during this suite- was a constant delight, with facial expressions and body language that were seemingly effortless and totally convincing.
An entertaining but overlong musical interlude lead us to Section 2, titled Jamaica To Di World, in which tribute was paid to notable Jamaicans who have impacted the world in the past fifty years.
Hence the lively performances of, among others, Who A De Big Man Inna Cricket in honour of Courtney Walsh; Rally Round the Flag, in tribute to Marcus Garvey; Jammin, in recognition of Bob Marley and Dis Long Time Gyal, made popular by Louise Bennett Coverley.
A high point of this segment might have been the performance of the perennially popular festival song Give Thanks and Praises, but the moment was undone by poor articulation and projection, and again- a band that was way too loud for the voices it was meant to support.
Following intermission, it was on to Market Days, a revival of an excellent suite of songs set in a typical Jamaican market place, and comprised of classics including the hysterically funny Blinkin Bus, Dawg War, Every Time Mi Memba Liza and the always moving Evening Time.
Artistic Director Clarke- a remarkably gifted actor as well as a fine vocalist-went to town as usual with his lead vocal and comedic work in the suite’s Yellow Yam medley.
These market songs- included again in this show because they will form part of the group’s presentation at the upcoming choir games- were executed with such commitment and relish , that even those of us in the audience who have seen them performed many times before were nevertheless enthralled.
Perhaps the high point of the night for many in the audience- if the accompanying singing, hand clapping and ‘seated gyrations’ were any indication- was Section Four of Boonoonoonoos - a selection of pop and reggae anthems entitled Jamaica 50 Street Dance.
With consistently brilliant choreography by Jermaine Rowe and Chris Walker, assisted by Braata group member Keven Campbell, and exceptional costumes by Johnpaul Pierre, Braata have never looked or moved better, both in this suite and throughout Boonoonoonoos.