It’s a bit of Jamaica mixed with some Barbados and smothered in Trinidad, Haiti and Guyana.

The music, art, dance, and cuisine of the West Indies will be on colorful, aromatic display during the Bankra Caribbean Folk Festival in St. Albans Park on Saturday, June 8. The gates open at 1 p.m., and the cultural concert is set to run from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m.

Ernie Smith — a Reggae star with a smooth, baritone voice who has been on the scene since the 1960s, when he broke out with the hits “Bend Down,” “Ride on Sammy” and “Pitta Patta” – headlines the stage show. Performers of other Caribbean rhythms and a drum circle are also in the lineup.

A food pavilion with dishes from various islands is another major draw. And there will be space for basket-weaving, face-painting, folk games, story-telling, and a play zone.

Moko Jumbies (or ghost healers) will roam around on 20-foot stilts and colorful costumes, showing off their dance moves and dexterity while also bringing positive vibes to the scene. Attendees can also expect to see a “jab-jab,” a masquerader armed with ropes and chains (and maybe even snakes) as per Trinidadian tradition.

Plus, there will be a pop-up art exhibition with masks, effigies, puppets, and other objects.

Attendance is free, but registration is requested.

The word “Bankra” is a Jamaican term for a large basket that women use to transport food and cultural items. (It’s derived from the Twi language of modern day Ghana.) First organized in 2015, the Bankra Festival strives to expose newcomers to Caribbean life, stimulate nostalgia in those who grew up with it, and allow for cross-cultural exchange. Many Caribbean islands share similar folk stories, but the main characters have different names.

Braata Productions, a multi-pronged arts nonprofit founded by Jamaican actor/singer Andrew Clarke, has organized the annual Bankra Festival since 2015. (“Braata” is a Jamaica term for “more” or “bountiful harvest.”)

St. Albans Park is on Merrick Boulevard in the vicinity of Sayres Avenue at the westernmost edge of the Addisleigh Park Historic District.

Images: Bankra Festival


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