Jamaica - Roots, Reggae and the Rock
12 days - January 2-13 2013
Jamaica, like the neighbouring island of Cuba, is a musical powerhouse out of all proportion to its size and population of less than 3 million people. This trip offers a chance to experience Jamaica's extraordinary music on the ground, or on 'the rock' as many people refer to it. It's not just reggae, although there's a visit to the Bob Marley museum and Tuff Gong studios, but also some of lesser-known sides of the islands music like the kumina drumming and the annual Maroon Festival in Accompong and the gorgeous sound of old-time mento in Port Antonio. All this, plus time to enjoy the extraordinary landscape, beautiful beaches and tasty food of this vibrant island.
Day 1 Wed
Today we check into our hotel on Montego Bay's vibrant Hip Strip close to the city's downtown. You will meet your Songlines Travel Leader over welcome drinks and then this evening we will enjoy a group dinner and talk through the details of the week.
Day 2 Thurs
This morning we will meet with one of our music experts and then the rest of the morning is free to explore Montego Bay. Late afternoon we head to the hills to see some of the leading Kumina drummers on the island. The tradition was brought by indentured workers from central Africa shortly after the end of slavery. The evocation of the ancestors will, of course, need an offering so we'll spill rum on the ground to ensure their protection as dances get underway.
Day 3 Fri
Today is free for you to relax on the beautiful local beaches, or you may wish to take an excursion to the spectacular Mayfield Falls - 2 sparkling waterfalls and 21 natural pools - or perhaps you would prefer to visit the 18th century sugar mills and plantations. There's a great night of music this evening as we head to one of Montego Bay's popular dancehalls.
Day 4 Sat
This morning we head to Accompong in rural St Elizabeth, which is the venue for the Maroon festival. We will have the rest of the day to explore the area and perhaps go on a river safari or visit a hidden waterfall.
Day 5 Sun
Today is the Maroon festival in Accompong. The day and night will see us join in the cultural event held by the descendents of Jamaica's runaway slaves, the Maroons. They managed to force the English into a truce in the 18th century after raging a guerilla war to gain their freedom. They were given semi-autonomous status and signed a peace treaty on their leader's birthday in 1739 and the celebration continues every year on the same date. We'll be shown around the village by a Maroon elder who'll be our guide through the day. We'll watch them blow the abeng (cow horn), play the Maroon drums and yendeh (dance) as they make their way to the sacred Kindah tree. The streets around Accompong will be full of Maroons and their friends and the day has an international vibe. There are food stalls selling roasted yam and breadfruit through to the traditional jerk chicken and pork prepared by the people who invented it. In the evening sound systems wire up to the current and selectors play through the night.
Day 6 Mon
We'll have a late start today as you probably won't have gone to bed until the early hours of this morning. Late morning we'll be heading to Port Antonio the most unspoiled part of the island, where you'll have free time to walk around the town, visit its local market or just relax at the guesthouse.
Day 7 Tues
Today is free to explore Port Antonio. You may wish to visit the beautiful beach at Frenchman's Cove, or take a leisurely trip down the Rio Grande on bamboo rafts surrounded by stunning mountain scenery. We'll also enjoy a session of Mento - old-time Jamaican calypso - with one of the leading bands of the region.
Day 8 Wed
This morning there is time to relax on one of the beautiful beaches on this side of the island or opt for an optional activity. In the afternoon, we drive to Kingston; our island experience so far has been of rural Jamaica, but now we're heading to the capital Kingston, home to nearly half the population. We cross the mountains on a scenic road with the 7000ft Blue Mountains in the distance, and down to our hotel in the centre of Kingston. Late in the evening, we'll head to the HQ of the soundsystem Stone Love for Weddy Weddy, their mid weekly session.
Day 9 Thurs
Heading downtown we'll visit record stores and possibly one of the remaining vinyl distributors. There are hidden gems to be found with some shops stacked full of old records and rarities so if you're after something in particular this could be your opportunity. With luck we'll also be able to visit one of the recording studios. We'll then head across to see a drum maker creating recycled drums from crates off the wharf. We'll have a drum session with him in his warehouse in the heart of the ghetto. This afternoon we will pay a visit to the Jamaica Music Museum, a small but well put together exhibition that takes us through a musical journey from the first inhabitants of the island, the Tainos, all the way through to dancehall.
Day 10 Fri
Today we visit the Bob Marley Museum in the lovely 19th century house he bought in 1975 from Chris Blackwell and lived in until his death in 1981. It is full of all sorts of personal memorabilia. After that w'll visit Bob Marley's Tuff Gong studios where he laid down classic songs such as 'No Woman, No Cry', 'Trenchtown Rock', and 'Redemption Song'. It's still a working studio and his children as part of Ghetto Youths International still record. The pressing plants are still used to produce dubplates - the original acetates to the albums Kaya and Exodus stored behind chicken wire cabinets.
Day 11 Sat
We leave the capital today for our journey back to Montego Bay where we'll spend our last night. En route we visit Bob Marley's birthplace, Nine Miles, where a local Rastafari will show us where he lived. We might get 'Crazy' or 'Yotto' who'll sing some of Bob Marley's famous songs and they will take us around to visit the famous stone pillow (mentioned in the song 'Talking Blues'), the house that he shared with Rita Marley and his mausoleum. Bob Marley's mum, Cedella, rests here as well, in a more modern mausoleum, as she died just a couple of years ago.
Day 12 Sun
The trip ends today after an incredible week of the unforgettable vibrations of Jamaica. It's time to continue our travels in Jamaica, or head to the airport and the flight home.
Tour price (excluding flights) £1,375 per person
For information and reservations, call Songlines Music Travel on 020 8505 2582