Zara McFarlane's dream festival: Koffee and herbal tea

The British jazz singer takes us to Jamaica for a lineup where Steam Down, Yola and Moses Boyd jam next to a waterfall


It would have to be in Jamaica, but not on the beach as people might expect. I’m thinking of a hillside, country spot, with a winding river you can walk in, green trees and a little waterfall nearby. It’s partly imaginary but I have been to a specific place in Jamaica like this, with a secluded river you could cross by stones, and drooping trees. It wouldn’t be a festival for tens of thousands – maybe one or two thousand people, so not Glastonbury-sized. More like a retreat.

The headline act

Since we’re in Jamaica, it has to be a Jamaican artist and I don’t see many women headlining festivals. That’s getting better, but I’d want to champion a female artist. Koffee would be my headliner. I’ve seen her performing with Chronixx in Birmingham and she’s a young reggae artist making waves and doing great stuff. I’d love to see her on her home soil and Jamaicans love Jamaicans, so she’d definitely get the crowd going.

Five more acts

I like the idea of having a mix of music and poetry and comedy and different things. I visualise a comedian presenter, maybe Judi Love, who has also got a Caribbean background, and the poet Anthony Anaxagorou. The music would explore all aspects. Yola would bring a country-soul vibe to warm things up in an intimate, singer-songwriter-y way. Moses Boyd is my dear friend and we’ve discussed going to Jamaica many times, but I don’t think he has yet, so I’d love to treat him. He’d bring that eclectic UK vibe with elements of electronic, grime and jazz.

I’ve actually got six acts and I’ll explain why. I’d want there to be a bit where the musicians jam together as a link to the next act, so I’d have [jazz collective] Steam Down as the jamming musicians because they’re good at improvisation and different rhythmical elements. So Yola performs, then does something with Moses Boyd, with Steam Down as the band. I really want to champion the British in Jamaica – I’ve recently discovered Ego Ella May and I love her, the poetic way she uses her voice with a slight rap edge. She’d bring things down to a more laid-back vibe.

Mayra Andrade is a Cape Verdean artist based in Portugal. I fell in love with her music on her Stória, Stória album years ago. It’s got jazz elements but it’s fresh and upbeat, uplifting, danceable with European influences – sometimes she sings in different languages. She’s often on at festivals on a different day to me, so I always miss her, but if she played at my festival I’d finally get to see her. Then the afterparty DJ would be Louie Vega, taking us into midnight with Latin grooves.

The non-musical activity

I’d like sound healing sessions with Tibetan singing bowls or gongs. People would lie down on a yoga mat and people would play different instruments, and the vibration of the sound affects the body and the mind, the mood and the emotions. It’s the perfect relaxation, using sound.

The food

I’m not a vegan or vegetarian but I would have to have ital food, which is Jamaican/Rastafarian meat-free food. And a juice bar, a cocoa/chocolate bar and a tea bar, because Jamaica has a lot of wonderful herbal teas. It is more well known for other kinds of herbal things, yes.

• Zara McFarlane’s album Songs of an Unknown Tongue is released 17 July on Brownswood


Interview by Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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