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Folk singers ring in 50 years of Jamaican independence

Braata Folk Singers will perform on March 10 at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center. Photo by Wide Vision Photography
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While the island country of Jamaica celebrates its 50 years of independence, celebrations in Queens and the rest of the city take on a whole new significance and flavor.

Once a Spanish possession, the island in 1655 became an English, then a British, colony, gaining complete independence Aug. 6, 1962. Today Jamaica is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II serving as the Jamaican monarch.

With roots in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, it is a young, intrinsically diverse country.

On the island “celebrations began at the start of 2012, and will run throughout the year, reaching fever pitch towards the end of July to the middle of August — traditionally the period of emancipation (Aug. 1) and independence (Aug. 6) celebrations,” said artistic director Andrew Clarke, whose upcoming March 10 performance of the popular 12-member Jamaican group, Braata Folk Singers, will take place at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, at 153rd Street and Jamaica Avenue.

According to Clarke, in Queens and the New York area, the Caribbean Diaspora also has plans to commemorate this milestone, especially since there are so many Jamaicans here who may not be able to participate in the festivities back home.

“We thought a great way to start our year off was to bring back a show that has received great reviews from audiences and critics alike,” Clarke said.

In “Wheel an’ Come Again,” evocative folk songs are performed against the backdrop of a Jamaican market on market day.

“As a presenting organization, we thought it would be prudent to present programming that reflects in part the rich tapestry that Queens represents,” said Courtney Ffrench, general manager of JPAC. “The collaboration between Jamaica Performing Arts Center and Braata Productions was ratified in the spirit of that celebration.”

The show is being held in an effort to raise funds to enable Braata to attend the World Choir Games in Cincinnati from July 4 to July 14 — the culmination of all the events. In June, for Caribbean-American Heritage Month, Braata Singers will open their new season, which will pay tribute to Jamaica and its achievements over the last 50 years.

Afterward athletes will compete in the London Olympics.

“Much like our famous track stars, we hope to go for gold in this the 50th year of Jamaica’s independence. I think it would be just a wonderful gift to our country — a celebration both of stage and on the track,” Clarke said proudly.

IF YOU GO

Braata Folk Singers in “Wheel an’ Come Again”

March 10, 8 p.m.

Jamaica Performing Arts Center

153-10 Jamaica Ave.

Jamaica

(718) 618-6170

info@jamaica-performingartscenter.org

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