The acclaimed Braata Folk Singers of New York will present their most ambitious production to date with Boonoonoonoos - A Celebration A Wi People - its 2012 gala concert in tribute to Jamaica's 50th anniversary of Independence.
The one-time-only event will take place next Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, 153-10 Jamaica Avenue in Queens.
As a celebration befitting this milestone year in Jamaica's history, Boonoonoonoos will take its audiences on a nostalgic trip through the evolution of Jamaican music, with songs from several genres including mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, and dancehall.
The show will also pay musical tribute to Jamaican icons who have impacted the world in various fields including Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley, Courtney Walsh, The Hon Louise Bennett Coverley, and Noel Dexter, artistic director of the internationally acclaimed University Singers.
Audiences will be treated to performances of traditional Jamaican ring game songs such as Manuel Road and Ole Mass Charley; folk favourites, including Evening Time and Yellow Yam; as well as popular Jamaica festival song winners such as Give Thanks And Praises.
Founder and artistic director of Braata Folk Singers, Andrew Clarke, is both honoured and excited at what he calls "the most important and inspired Braata production to date."
"There is no question about it, that Boonoonoonoos is the coming-of-age concert season for Braata, for a number of reasons," Clarke said.
"Firstly, it falls within a year that will be a major milestone in the social and cultural history of Jamaica. It is one of a series of events taking place in New York and throughout the diaspora to mark our country's golden jubilee.
"Secondly, it is the most ambitious project we have ever mounted, because we are essentially trying to tell the story of Jamaica's musical development over the past 50 years within a two-hour presentation. What do you leave in, and what do you leave out? That was a huge challenge for us because there is so much material."
Third on the list of reasons for Clarke is the fact that this will be the group's last major performance before it goes to Cincinnati, Ohio, for the World Choir Games. The Braata Singers are to represent Jamaica from July 10-14.
Clarke states that he and his creative team - musical director, Garnett Mowatt, choreographers Jermaine Rowe, Chris Walker, and costume designer Johnpaul Pierre - have gone "above and way beyond" their previous efforts to make Boonoonoonoos the show it deserves to be.
"We have put it all up there on stage for Boonoonoonoos. Every-thing we have learnt, all the hard work we have done since we started the group three years ago has been leading up to this moment. The creative team has outdone themselves in every way to get the best from our members, and with new songs, choreography, and incredible new costumes, the group will look and sound better than ever before."
Rowe, an alumnus of Jamaica's National Dance Theatre Company, whose performing credits include the London production of The Tony Award-winning musical FELA! agrees.
"In all aspects of performance, the members have matured considerably. This made the job of choreography for this year much easier for me and Chris ... . Their remarkable growth allowed us to really push the envelope, creating movement resulting in a presentation that will please the ear and dazzle the eye as well. It's a show for the ages and for any audiences of any age ... . You know that any show incorporating performances of folk, ska, mento, and dancehall classics is going to be fierce!"
Boonoonoonoos will also serve as the group's final major fund-raiser for the World Choir Games next month.
According to Clarke: "We are nearly there in terms of the resources we need to get to Cincinnati, but every little bit helps. So anyone who wants to learn more about how they can help us get there can go to our website www.braataproductions.org."