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Jamaica: Rastafari Indigenous Village

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

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.


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.

Travel Photo Thursday: Montego Bay Convention Center

Montego Bay Convention Center, Jamaica
Montego Bay Convention Center, Jamaica

This recently completed building is the Montego Bay Convention Center. Located a few miles outside the city, it is convenient to the Donald Sangster International Airport (St. James), the Ian Fleming International Airport (St. Mary), hotels and guest houses.

I was fascinated by the curves and angles and their reflections and also by the colors of the sky and the Caribbean Sea.

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website!

Treasure Beach, Featured Post

I’ve been featured in the Cheapflights blog in their Travel Bloggers choice series. Take a look at why I think Treasure Beach, Jamaica is a destination everyone should visit.
Treasure Beach
View from a villa
Cheapflights is the UK’s leading flight deals provider and if you haven’t already booked your flights to Jamaica, take a look at their site.
Since my arrival in Jamaica, I’ve been soaking up everything around me, especially flowers. Many, like this one, the Shrimp Plant, are new to me. Some I know but have forgotten their names.
Shrimp Plant, Jamaica
Shrimp plant
I’m surprised how many fruit trees I don’t remember. I know the popular ones, like the mango, banana, coconut. But guava, naseberry, starapple, for example, if they’re not in fruit, I’m lost. So I’m also getting re-acquainted.
While I’m doing that, please take a look at my post on Treasure Beach and a few of my previous posts on Jamaica.

Jamaica’s Newest Prime Minister, Andrew Holness

Jamaica’s ninth and youngest leader, 39 year old Andrew Holness, was sworn in as prime minister

Andrew Holness, Jamaica's new prime minister
Andrew Holness, Jamaica's new prime minister

yesterday afternoon in an elegant and sober ceremony on the lawns of King’s House, the residence of the Queen’s representative, the Governor-General His Excellency the Most Honorable Sir Patrick Allen.

Prime Minister Holness takes over from Bruce Golding, who was forced to demit office following his handling last year of the extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, a local drug lord.  Coke was wanted in the U.S. on charges of drug and weapons smuggling. He was eventually extradited but not before violence broke out in Tivoli Gardens, the area in Kingston that he controlled and more than 70 people lost their lives.  The Coke affair strained relations between Washington and Kingston.

In August this year, Coke pleaded guilty in New York to racketeering and conspiracy. He will be sentenced in December to 23 years in prison.

Golding’s decision to leave office a year before his 5-year term would have ended, has been hailed by many as the right thing to do as the country had lost confidence in him. In addition, with him at the helm, the ruling Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) would have surely lost the election to the opposition People’s National Party (PNP).

Much is expected from the new prime minister who was born in 1972 ten years after Jamaica won her independence from Britain.

In a wide-ranging speech following his swearing in, Holness said he was taking responsibility for the running of the country. Referring to the country’s massive debt burden, he said Jamaica could not continue on the path of borrowing more than it produces. The new prime minister urged fellow politicians to transcend petty, mean spirited, “tear down politics.”

Prime Minister Holness ended his hour-long speech with Mother Theresa’s version of the Paradoxical Commandments, which, he said he tries to live by.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

Soulful Sundays: Dennis Brown

One of the few child stars in Jamaica, Dennis Brown recorded his first hit when he was just eleven years old. The “Crown Prince of Reggae” recorded more than 75 albums in the lovers rock style, a romantic genre of reggae music, producing hit after hit in a prolific career which spanned nearly thirty years and included stints as a producer for his DEB label in the UK.

Dennis Brown

Brown, who was born in Kingston in 1957, died in 1999 but his musical style has influenced many other reggae singers.

Last year, Brown was named to NPR’s 50 Great Voices “from around the world and across time.” The list includes Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Mahalia Jackson, among others.

In recognition of his contribution to music, the Government of Jamaica posthumously awarded him the Commander of the Order of Distinction posthumously on October 17th, National Heroes Day.

Take a listen to two of Brown’s hits, If I Follow My Heart and Love Has Found Its Way.