A Caribbean musical stage production of “Rebirth: Songs of Reggae, Hope & Folk!” by the Braata Folk Singers is back by popular demand at the Jamaica Performance Arts Center on Sunday, June 5 at 6 p.m.
While previous Braata productions had folk music from all over the Caribbean, this year Jamaican and Trinidadian traditions will be the focus as both countries approach their 60th year of independence. “Rebirth,” which debuted June 2021 at JPAC, has also incorporated inspirational gospel and classic reggae music. This year it also intends to add more mento, ska, rock steady and dance hall songs to its repertoire, according to Braata founder Andrew Clarke.
“It was a very popular show, considering that we just made the shift from just folk to inspirational and reggae music,” Clarke told the Queens Chronicle. “We reopened when Broadway wasn’t fully opened yet … before a lot of producers had started to do events, and ours was indoors.”
The show also had a second run in October 2021, according to Clarke.
“We have turned to inspirational music because of how steeped in religion a lot of Caribbean people are and people are turning to a higher power during these difficult times.”
While most of the artists hail from Jamaica, the other performers are Trinidadian, Jamaican-American, Grenadian and African American, according to Clarke.
“They are members of the ensemble, right there in our core and they are learning the music … the cadence which we sing and speak and they are immersing in the culture.”
Clarke is looking forward to returning to JPAC, which is located at 153-10 Jamaica Ave.
“They have always treated us like family,” he added. “We are made to feel welcome.”
Courtney Ffrench, the artistic director of the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, which owns the JPAC building, is honored to have Braata perform at the center’s venue again.
“Finding talent that speaks to the Caribbean and Black community at large is extremely rare,” Ffrench said via email. “Braata not only provides professional and colorful storytelling, it offers a fresh and charismatic insight into the diasporic interconnection not commonly elevated in the community. Braata is a treat to behold.”
Online presale tickets for “Rebirth” are available at braataproductions.org for $25 and at the door will be $35.
Some of the folk songs that were popular last year were “Evening Time,” “Yellow Yam” and “Long Time Gal,” said Clarke. “I Need You to Survive,” “The Potter’s House,” “Total Praise” and “Can’t Even Walk” were some of the gospel songs that were performed in 2021.
“‘One Love Medley’ — we are simply bringing that back this year,” said Clarke who is from Jamaica and came to the U.S. in 2009. “You simply can’t celebrate Jamaica and anything Jamaican if you don’t perform ‘One Love.’ It is the informal international anthem for coming together.”
Not only has Braata expanded its music selection, it has also switched gears with its costuming, Clarke said.
“Since last year, we have reimagined what folk costumes are like. Traditionally, when people think of folk costumes they think of the folk peasant blouses and skirts,” said Clarke. “What one of our costume designers has done was to deconstruct one of the fabrics that is well-known in Jamaica.”
The fabric is a wine-red bandana, which also includes white, black and sometimes lavender stripes of color, and is usually worn on Jamaican Independence Day, Aug. 6.
“He has taken all the colors from that and re-created a sort of gala gown,” said Clarke. “That will serve as our opening costume … The other costumes riff off Braata’s logo colors, which in various iterations represent the Caribbean islands.”
The logo colors are black, yellow, green, red and blue.
“The color combinations create all the colors found in the flags of the Caribbean,” said Clarke. “Braata is a Caribbean ensemble, not just Jamaican … Come and experience a show like no other. A lot of people have a preconceived notion of what a folk ensemble does and a preconceived notion of what Jamaican and Caribbean culture is. I think this show helps to broaden people’s horizons.”