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A Visit to the Bob Marley Museum

The Bob Marley Museum was not on my list of places to see on this visit to Kingston but when my other plans fell through, it sounded like the perfect backup.

Bob Marley Museum entrance

Entrance to the museum

Located at 56 Hope Road in a 19th-century colonial house that was the home the Reggae superstar, Rastaman and activist was living in when he died in 1981, it was converted into a museum by his widow, Rita Marley, and opened to the public on May 11, 1986.

On the main floor is a working recording studio, memorabilia from Marley’s performances, and numerous awards. Included as well are costumes that were worn by the I Threes — Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths — his backup singers from 1974, and an image of Bob.

Bob Marley Museum

Bob Marley’s former home

On the second floor is Bob’s bedroom, with his guitar. Next to the room is a kitchen, family room turned portrait gallery and a replica of the record shop the Wailers owned. Included is the bicycle they used to deliver their records. The second floor also has memorabilia from Bob’s trips to Africa, including his performance at Zimbabwe’s independence celebration.

The tour includes a visit to the room that gunmen sprayed with bullets in 1976 in an attempt on the singer’s life. Rita, Bob and their manager were wounded. Unfortunately, the bullet that hit Bob in the arm could not be removed. The attack was widely believed to be politically motivated.

Bob had planned a free concert, Smile Jamaica, and been outspoken about the glaring inequities within the Jamaican society. In the tense and violent run-up to the 1976 general election, his comments were perceived to be supportive of the ruling PNP of Michael Manley and against the JLP’s Edward Seaga, who had been receiving backing from the US and the CIA. Graffiti at the time labeled Seaga “CIA-ga.”

Mural at Bob Marley Museum

Mural with images of Bob and the Wailers

Two days following the shooting, Bob performed, as scheduled, at the Smile Jamaica concert which was held at National Heroes Park. However, after the concert, he left the island for England where he spent 18 months.  Now the walls of the room are plastered with newspaper accounts of the incident except for a few areas where bullets pierced the brick.

Sign at the Bob Marley Museum

Sign at the cafe – Friendship keeps your heart full

Bob’s original mixing board is also on view. The tour ends with a 20-minute film, with the pulsating rhythms and unforgettable lyrics playing in the background, and featuring footage of interviews with the reggae artist.

In the courtyard of the museum are several murals, one with images of Bob and his sons — the daughters’ are to be drawn. Bob had 12 children. Another mural is dedicated to Haile Selassie. Near the entrance, the wall is covered by photos of Bob, the Wailers and the I-Threes. A statue of the singer, in an iconic pose – right fist clenched, reaching above his head, his left clasping his guitar – stands near the entrance to the museum. There’s also a restaurant, Legend Cafe. In the back, a fish pond and a small marijuana plant.

Bob Marley Museum - Marijuana, ganja, weed, herb, collie or collie weed

Marijuana plant

What You Need to Know

The Bob Marley Museum, 56 Hope Road, Kingston, 927-5152
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 9:30 first tour, 4:00 last tour
Tour lasts an hour
Cost: US$20 (Non-Residents); J$500 (Residents, with proper ID)
No photography is not allowed during the tour however, photos can be taken after.


Soulful Sundays: Derrick Harriott

Singer and producer, Derrick Harriott, has been in and around the music business in Jamaica for well over 50 years. I hadn’t thought about him until a few days ago when I noticed his record shop in Kingston. I was surprised.

Derrick Harriott, photo from The Jamaica Gleaner

Derrick Harriott, photo from The Jamaica Gleaner

Harriott is one of the pioneers of Jamaican music — one of its movers and shakers. He had his own label, Crystal, and produced several well known artists. At one point, he even had a show on one of the local radio stations. Harriott has several albums, including compilations, to his credit.

Give a listen to Walk the Streets and Close to Me. I also stumbled on to this interview he did last year.



Bacchanal 2012 – Jamaica Carnival

Approximately 30 minutes before Bacchanal 2012, Jamaica’s Carnival, which had as its theme, Future Shock, made its way to where I was standing near Devon House, the skies opened up. Despite the fact that it had looked ominous all morning, I had left without an umbrella or rain slick.

At first, I tried to stare it back  — how could there be rain on carnival day? But as the drops got fatter and began pelting my head and shoulders, with some insistence, I reluctantly admitted defeat — my willpower was no match for a tropical shower — and shamefacedly begged a woman nearby, who had found some thick cardboard, for a piece to cover my head. Then I waited. I didn’t know how long the rain would last, or how soon the parade would appear, but I’d been standing too long to give up and go home. Sometimes, I surprise myself at how pig headed I can be!

Unlike many other Caribbean islands, Jamaica does not have a carnival tradition. However, students from islands where carnival is an annual event who attend the local campus of the University of the West Indies, began staging their own version of carnival long before Byron Lee started it in the island. That carnival, I’m told was bigger and even made it beyond Kingston to Montego Bay. Unfortunately, the music and the revelry stopped after Lee passed away. The current event has been around for 24 years and is now the only vehicle for anyone who wants to jump carnival in Jamaica.

Bacchanal 2012, Jamaica Carnival

Bacchanal 2012, Jamaica Carnival - Putting up the barricades on Old Hope Road

After maybe 15 long minutes, the rain let up. A truck appeared and men began unloading barricades. (Roads are blocked long enough to let the parade through.) I was relieved. The party, though wet, wet, wet (instead of hot, hot, hot) was still on.

Bacchanal 2012, Jamaica Carnival

Bacchanal 2012, Jamaica Carnival - Getting ready, Old Hope Road

Then this SUV arrived and the driver, who was wearing a T-shirt that read ‘Field Crew,’ got out very official-like. He walked to the rear of the vehicle, looked at something, walked back to the front, got into the driver’s seat and drove off.

Bacchanal 2012, Jamaica Carnival

Bacchanal 2012, Jamaica Carnival

Another long 15 or so minutes passed before we heard music in the distance. Then I saw the crowd.

Maybe because of the rain, things had become a free for all. Folks in costume who were playing mass, as well as members of the public, a few people on bicycle, and street vendors, some with push carts, were all now part of the road march.

Bacchanal 2012, Jamaica Carnival

Bacchanal 2012, Jamaica Carnival

Isn’t he just so regal?

When the last float inched past me I checked my watch. Less than 30 minutes had passed. I was surprised. Surely, this couldn’t be the end? Maybe the rain sent some people home.

I felt cheated. I discarded my makeshift rain hat and decided to follow. I walked for about 10-15 minutes when I felt raindrops again. This time, I had nothing to protect me. I dropped my camera in my bag and headed towards Devon House.

I was soaked by the time I got there. More than getting wet, I was disappointed with Bacchanal 2012. It was smaller that I anticipated and looked disorganized. In fairness, that could have been because of the rain. So next year, I’ll go early and I’ll go to mass camp.

Bacchanal, Jamaica’s carnival parade, takes place the weekend following Easter.

At the Premiere of the Marley Documentary

I like happy coincidences. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had no plans to visit the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston but then there I was. So last Thursday evening when the new Marley documentary  premiered at Emancipation Park, I knew I had to be there.

As I walked to the park at around 6 pm, I could hear Bob’s music, specifically the song I had heard at his Museum a few days before, the one I wish now I had asked about. Scores of people had already gathered, some were sitting on the grass, others were milling around. Kids were playing happily. I wondered how many of them really knew why their parents had brought them to the park.

The main stage was draped with the red, green and gold of the Rasta flag and several screens had been placed around the park so that viewers could sit where ever they wished to watch the documentary. The mood was festive.

At the Premiere of Marley, the Documentary

At the Premiere of the Marley Documentary

Wandering around, I bumped into a human chain formed by several young men and women who were wearing Marley T-shirts. They made up part of the VIP entrance. Standing behind the human barrier for a few minutes — they wouldn’t let me cross — I caught the arrival of the Marley girls, a former government minister and a group of people I didn’t recognize. They were ushered into an official area in front of the stage. Later, I would learn that in that group was none other than Kevin Macdonald, the film’s Academy Award-winning director.

Marley premiere, Emancipation Park

Marley documentary premiere, Emancipation Park, Kingston

But too many people were gathered at the VIP entrance and I couldn’t get clear shots of anything or anyone so I wandered towards the main gate where the officials would arrive.

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