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Braata Reaches for Big Things

Braata Folk Singers at the 5th Anniversary Gala

Although they have adopted the Jamaican word for a little something extra, Braata Productions appears to be bent on making a big impression on the Jamaican Diaspora landscape, particularly in New York (Queens) where they are housed. The company, currently celebrating its fifth year, recently held its annual Gala fund raising event  which included the icon Paul Campbell among the honourees.

“In this world it is always so wonderful to be reminded of where you're from,” Campbell said when he came to the stage to accept his award for excellence in film. “And Caribbean nationals in this place that we are living in we should always be cognizant of where we're from and we should support events like this because it takes us home and away from the madness," Campbell continued. Though now sporting a few grays, Campbell known for his enigmatic portrayals in Dancehall Queen, Third World Cop and the Lunatic, looked his usual debonaire self. His upcoming film is Jamaican Mafia.

Karl Williams and Erin Hylton hosts of the anniversary galaThe night’s other awardees were Bryan Cunningham (excellence in youth and education), Michelle McClymont (excellence in community development), Rev. Canon Dr. Glenworth D. Miles and Team Jamaica Bickle. 

“The greatest service that we can perform is the service that we provide to our fellow human beings,” Rev. Miles said. He noted that the night’s awardees were  
He explained that the night's awardee were not selected because they were popular or great but because they serve.

McClymont noted that to her the award signalled the value of the arts in community development. 

“It proves to me that there is an understanding that art and development go together, " she said.     Stephanie Johnson and Andrew Clarke deliver 'The Prayer'

Irwine Clare, founder and CEO of Team Jamaica Bickle which supports athletes particular at the Penn Relays, sent out a call for greater support of Caribbean culture. 

"We must begin to invest in our culture. He said. It's not just about cheap laughs that fill the room,” he said. "We need to develop our own endowment for the arts. We cannot just expect it to run by itself or it will run out of steam."         

The evening, which passed smoothly and provided good entertainment was ably hosted by Karl Williams and Erin Hylton who complimented each other well. While Hylton remained poised, Williams brought with him a touch of fun, laughter and irreverence, becoming the more engaging of the two.

The evening also presented more than a tups of entertainment. The gala opened with Stephanie Johnson and her impressive lungs. She delivered Amazing Grace and later called on the man behind Braata, Andrew Clarke, for a notable rendition of The Prayer.

Lloyd Lovindeer and the Braata Folk Singers"It is wonderful to be a born Jamaican and it is wonderful to be here," Johnson said before diving into a rendition of ‘How Great Thou Art’, her final piece for the night which was greeted with rousing applause.

The Braata Folk singers delivered a lively suite of songs including ‘The Blinking Bus‘ and wonderfully arranged medley in praise of roasted yellow yam. Praise of another kind was brought by Minister Kukudoo, turned the night into a bout of ‘praise and worship’ with a rousing revival  medley and then took it to another level with a folk suite. The audience sang along lustily and each time he asked  “mi cyan sing another one,”  they shouted the affirmative.    
Lloyd Lovindeer was the night’s final performer, bringing the evening to a satisfying close from his impressive repertoire of comedic songs. Lovindeer, also kept the audience laughing along with his display of wit between songs. Interestingly, he opened with a touch of gospel, explaining later that this would allow the audience to be more forgiving when he got facetious.

As they laughed along, it appeared that the ruse had worked. Lovindeer, may be an admitted senior citizen but he hadn't lost a step. His set included ‘Man Shortage’, ‘Boy Blue’ and ‘Light a Candle’. Explaining that he got goosebumps when he watched the Braata Folk Singers perform his work (The Blinking Bus) he called them back to the stage to support his delivery of ‘Pocomania Day’ and ‘Wild Gilbert.