WELL TUNED: The renowned choral group consistently brings depth and range to their performances.
If there’s one thing to be said for the Jamaican Folk Singers it’s that for a very traditional choral group, they know how to reinvent themselves with a modern twist. That’s among the first things that leaped readily to mind while taking in their 2015 concert season at the Little Theatre in Kingston on the weekend.
Brimming with time-honoured and indigenous Jamaican folk gems, ample humour, and some choreography to give the show added dimension, the performance was quintessentially Folk Singers – tunefully pleasurable with just the right amount of entertainment value.
Though the group’s courageous attempts at dramatization don’t always hit the mark, you can’t deny their effort to step outside the proverbial box, year after year, and bring something fresh to engage their loyal following.
As with any Jamaican Folk Singers recital, you get popular and catchy songs about Jamaica’s lush tropical landscape (“Mango Time,” “Mango Walk”), the healing wonders of natural herbs (“Elena”) and countless work songs that reaffirm the strength and resilience of our forefathers.
Among the many qualities that founder Dr. Olive Lewin embedded in the choir’s DNA is a deep and abiding appreciation for spirituality. As such, songs with strong Biblical themes and empowering messages also figured prominently in the performance, while recalling several of the greatest heroes the Old Testament, namely Daniel, Noah and King David.
Meanwhile, a stark meditation on revivalism and ritualistic practices highlighted the second half and gave the show added punch and visual power. The tunes flowed in quick succession – many you recognized (“By the Rivers of Babylon”, “It’s A Hard Road to Travel”, “If I Had the Wings of a Dove”), a few you were hearing for the first time.
And that’s one of the factors that continues to set the Jamaican Folk Singers apart from other local groups. Though they specialize in traditional folk, the depth and range they bring to their art is consistently refreshing and laudable.