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Jamaica: Rastafari Indigenous Village

Iionkanaka

The drums are what drew me to the Rastafari Indigenous Village in Montego Bay. The sound seeped through the lush jungle of breadfruit, ackee, banana, coconut and assorted other trees and urged me to shake my feet.

I decided to follow. Moving closer, I walk in rhythm to the boom, boom of the bass drum, then quicken my steps, dancing to the music that was meant just for me.

Rastafari Indigenous Village

Rastafari Indigenous Village

I push open the bamboo gate, walk pass the garden with 100 different herbs with names like Dog Tongue,Search Mi HeartFever Grass and Moses in the Cradle scripted in bold letters on joints of bamboo planted near each bed.

Dog Tongue

Dog Tongue

I greet a group of German tourists being given an introduction to the Village and head straight to the location from where the drumming is coming. Five Rasta bredren (men) and one sistren (woman) are gathered in a circle beating the drums and singing a song I don’t recognize.

Drummers at the Rastafari Indigenous Village

Several rows of chairs face them and on each sits a rattle, made from a small calabash gourd. I pick one up and start shaking it in time with the bass.

A few minutes later, the visitors arrive accompanied by Iionkanaka, who’s leading the tour. They’re invited to take a seat and the drums go quiet. Iionkanaka explains each – the bass, which keeps the rhythm, thekumina, which is used in traditional dances, and the repeater, which repeats a chord continuously. Another Rasta walks into the circle and begins to sing.

Five or so songs later, they invite the visitors to join them for a short drumming session and take photos. Following the end of the morning tour, they move to the on-site craft market where small items made by the Rastas can be purchased.

Who are the Rastas?

The Rastafari movement began in Jamaica in the late 1930s. It is more of a way of life and a system of beliefs than a religion. Rastas revere Emperor Haile Selassie I, whom they call their spiritual leader and Africa the home of all mankind.

Rastas belong to several houses that have their own set of rules and focus. Some of the better known ones are the School of Vision, Twelve Tribes of Israel, Boboshantis, and Nyabinghi. Rastas believe ganja (cannabis) is spiritual food and use it especially during their reasonings (discussions). The weed is chopped and smoked in a chalice, sometimes called a chillum pipe. (The chalice works on the same principle as the hookah.) Note: Although the Rastas freely smoke and use ganja, it is still illegal in Jamaica with stiff penalties, including jail time, especially if you’re caught leaving the country with it.

Rasta preparing the chalice at the Rastafari Indigenous Village

The Chalice, Rastafari Indigenous Village

Taking a toke, Rastafari Indigenous Village

Taking a toke

The Rasta ital diet relies heavily on herbs, fruits and vegetables and includes no meat or alcohol. The coconut is used extensively to add flavor. Following the teachings of the Bible (Numbers 6:5), they Rastas never cut their hair, wearing it in locks. They’ve also developed their own language and colors,

Iionkanaka at the Rastafari Indigenous Village

Iionkanaka explained that this Village, also referred to as Iion Station, was started three years ago. The group performs poetry and drumming sessions at the Village or at events around the Island and offers tours to teach visitors about their way of life and the importance of herbs and natural living.

The Rastafarian Indigenous Village or Rasta Village, is located about 10 minutes from the Westgate Shopping Center in Irwin, Montego Bay, Jamaica. 876-285-4750. Tours start at $40 per person.

Soulful Sundays: Gregory Isaacs

Gregory Isaacs

Another of the musicians I grew up listening to is singer/songwriter, Gregory Isaacs, also called the “Cool Ruler” for his soulful, heartfelt music. Isaacs’ hit single, My Only Lover, is credited as being the first song recorded in the lovers rock sub-genre of reggae.

He recorded with many of the top Jamaican producers of the 1970s including King Tubby, Freddy McGregor, and Lee “Scratch” Perry who also produced Bob Marley & the Wailers, and was one of the biggest reggae performers in the world, touring the UK and US.

Gregory Isaacs

Gregory Isaacs, photo from the Internet

Also in the 1970s, Isaacs signed first with Virgin Records then with Island Records and recorded Night Nurse, the album and single that saw him break through to a larger audience. In a prolific career, spanning 40 years, Isaacs released an estimated 500 albums and was nominated for four Grammy Awards, including for Brand New Me in 2010. In 2011, his album Isaacs Meets Isaac, which he recorded with Zimbabwean reggae singer, King Isaac, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Reggae Album.

Isaacs, who was born in Kingston, died a year ago on October 25th at his home in London after losing his battle with lung cancer. He was 59 years old.

Give a listen to Night Nurse and Hard Drugs.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hidden

Hidden Guava
A slightly opened bud hidden by leaves

A slightly opened bud

Hidden Guavas

Hidden Guavas

Coconut tree

Coconut tree berries

 

Why an Airport in Jamaica is Named for Ian Fleming

Most people are puzzled when they learn that an airport in Jamaica is named after Ian Fleming.

The airport, formerly known as Boscobel Aerodrome, is located in the parish of St. Mary where Fleming, a Naval Intelligence Officer lived and created the British spy, James Bond.

Ian Fleming, photo from the Internet

Ian Fleming, photo from the Internet

Fleming fell in love with Jamaica on his first visit in 1943. The Jamaica of Fleming’s time was the playground for the rich and famous. Katharine Hepburn, Noël Coward, Errol Flynn and others were regular visitors to the island. Coward, Fleming’s neighbor was best man at his marriage to Anne, at the town hall in Port Maria, St. Mary.

Fleming loved Jamaica and for nearly twenty years, retreated to the island where he wrote the 12 novels and short stories that feature Bond. The island became the backdrop in several of his books – Dr. NoThe Man With the Golden GunLive and Let Die and Octopussy are largely or partly set in Jamaica.

He might have also borrowed the name of his fictional character from a famous ornithologist, James Bond, on whose family estate in Jamaica he was allowed to write.

Two of the Bond movies, Dr. No and Live and Let Die were also filmed in Jamaica. The car chase in Dr. No was filmed on the Palisados road that links the Norman Manley International Airport to Kingston. Ursula Andress (Honey Ryder) emerged from the sea at Laughing Waters Beach in St. Ann, and other scenes were shot at the aptly named James Bond Beach, in the same parish.

Bond returned to St. Ann where several locations including the Green Grotto Caves were featured in Live and Let Die.

Speaking at the opening at the Ian Fleming International Airport on January 12, 2011, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding addressed critics who thought the airport should have been named for a prominent Jamaican noting that Fleming gave the island “an image much larger than it otherwise would have had.”

Ian Fleming died in England on August 12, 1964 and was buried in Kent.