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Zara McFarlane Pieces Together Her Afro-Caribbean Heritage on The Checkout

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Jenelle Ernest
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Zara McFarlane performing at the Soleil Summer Festival in St. Lucia

Zara McFarlane may be from England, but she's made it her mission to understand her Afro-Caribbean heritage by investigating the folkloric music of Jamaica, one of England's former colonies, and also the home of her parents. The Checkout caught up with McFarlane at the Soleil Summer Festival, in St. Lucia.

What are the rhythms of Kumina and Nyabinghi, and what are their origins? Much to McFarlane's dismay, there is little research on these ritual music styles, originated in the islands by enslaved Africans from many disparate parts of the mother continent. 

With Arise, her latest album on Brownswood Recordings, McFarlane seeks to gain a better understanding of these unique sounds and traditions — and a clearer articulation of her identity as a jazz singer of Jamaican heritage living in the United Kingdom.

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For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.