A bit of nostalgia for those of you who can remember, while for others a chance to learn, about some of our Jamaican Christmas traditions.
“Grand Market” and “Jamaican Sorrel” are two
important elements of a Jamaican Christmas.
Christmas is the most celebrated holiday season
in Jamaica. Children especially look
forward to this time of the year. Not all
because of Santa Claus. It is the season
when most Jamaican parents treat their kids to new clothes. Thus the kids usually get to dress up in these
new clothes and attend Grand Market and other events throughout the season.
Grand Market is held on Christmas Eve in all
major towns across Jamaica. It is considered
by many Jamaicans as the highlight of the Christmas season. It is also the
liveliest day of the year; as vendors and stores usually operate for the entire
day and night. From as early as 6 am on
Christmas Eve most businesses are open.
The streets are lined with vendors selling clothing, household items,
decorations, ground provisions and items not available all year round.
Grand Market provides an opportunity for parents
and their smartly dressed children to complete their last minute Christmas
shopping. Festivities and music go hand
in hand in Jamaica. So sound boxes
playing music are set up to entertain. After
a certain time of the night, a lot Jamaicans usually gather in a “street dance
fashion” to dance, drink and enjoy themselves until Christmas morning.
Christmas Day usually begins with the playing of Christmas Carols. However Christmas dinner is what most Jamaicans look forward to. It is a Jamaican tradition to have Jamaican Sorrel with Christmas dinner.
Jamaican Sorrel is a drink made from the Hibiscus Sabdariffa flower (Sorrel). In Mexico this Christmas drink is called ‘Agua de Jamaica’ (Jamaican water). The Hibiscus Sabdariffa plant is harvested and the dried flowers pods are boiled and used to make this famous and refreshing drink. Ginger is added for flavor and it is sweetened with sugar and a splash of white over proof rum is usually added to give it a kick.
Jamaica Sorrel is not only tasty but has
numerous nutritional benefits you may not be aware of. Sorrel is an excellent source of Vitamin C. It is also rich in iron, calcium, copper,
magnesium and phosphorus. It helps to lower blood pressure, high cholesterol
and it enhances liver function.
If you want to have a taste of Jamaica this Christmas just head to our website to purchase a bottle of Christmas Sorrel cordial or Contact Us for one of our delectable Christmas Cakes.
Thanks Jhana Dunbar for this informative post.
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Who comes to mind when you hear the word entrepreneur?
Any women you can think of? What about Lady Gaga or my favourite Oprah Winfrey?
Some of the common characteristics of an entrepreneur are passion, perseverance and learning. Can you see these features in your favourite entrepreneur?
As I sit updating my resume I contemplate writing Entrepreneur as my current role. But do I display these features in my Jamaican Products business?
My vision is to bring you an authentic Jamaican Patty through a marriage of local Australian beef and imported Jamaican products. A patty contains various fillings and spices baked inside a golden yellow flaky pastry shell. As the name suggests Jamaican Patties are commonly found in Jamaica and often eaten as a full meal.
With my superannuation to fund the scheme I established a bakery at home. Now that is passion!
Initially I made the pastry by hand, but was faced with sore arms and uneven pastry thickness. The Rondo benchtop dough sheeter in my bakery put an end to these problems.
Manning the dough sheeter with a hit of the knobs I control dough movement from left belt to right belt and back, as the dough got thinner and longer. Before you knew it the dough was falling off the sheeter arm onto the bench and then handing in the air. I moved away from the controls and tried rolling the dough onto a rolling pin. The machine was too quick for me and in this position my arms could not reach the stop button.
The weight of the dough hanging off the machine caused the sheet of dough to break as I tried moving it to the other side. There was dough everywhere, on the floor, ceiling, all over me and it was 1am. I sat looked at the mess and wondered how seasoned bakers do it. The photos show a rolling pin, which I had acquired, as there is no rolling pin attached to my machine. Probably I can leave the rolling pin on the machine and use its speed to my advantage. Two containers storing ingredients should do the trick.
By 2am I had cleaned up and with new dough and the pair of containers I was ready to start again. I watched with joy as the dough rolled onto the rolling pin with the containers on either side to hold the rolling pin in place. But that was the left side and the dough needs to be thinner. 3am I had the strips of dough in the freezer. Surely that shows perseverance.
I drew a sketch of what I needed for the machine, rolling pin holders for each end. I contacted the local machine distributor but they were neither interested in my suggestion nor shared with me what other bakers do. I contacted the manufacturer in Switzerland. They replied within 2 minutes and organised for the distributor to visit me and discuss the issue. With each interaction I learn more about baking techniques and the machine.
As I reflect on the term entrepreneur I reply, yes I have what it takes to use the term. I showed commitment, passion and faith to fund the scheme from my superannuation. Yes, I persevered moving from rolling the dough by hand to become a novice baker using a dough sheeter. I encountered challenges but enjoyed finding solutions with a desire to learn.
So there on my resume I describe myself as an entrepreneur.
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The story of Jamaica’s Road to Independence – Part 3 continues. If you have not already done so, please read Parts 1 and 2 in previous blogs.
Kingston was founded in July 1692 on then agricultural land for
survivors of the 1692 Port Royal earthquake.
The town did not begin to grow until after the further destruction of
Port Royal by fire in 1703. By 1716 Kingston
had become Jamaica’s largest town and the centre of trade. The government sold land to people with the
regulation that they purchase no more than the amount of the land that they
owned in Port Royal and only land on the sea front. Gradually wealthy merchants
began to move their residences from above their businesses to the farm lands
north on the plains of Liguanea.
Kingston’s boom included establishment in 1729 of the first free school, Wolmers’, my alma mater. By 1755 there was a push by the then governor Sir Charles Knowles to transfer the government offices from Spanish Town to Kingston. Some thought Kingston an unsuitable location for the Assembly due to its proximity to the former decadent Port Royal. Not until 1872 did government pass an act to transfer the government offices from Spanish Town to Kingston.
The 1907 Kingston earthquake, considered by many of that time as one of
the world’s deadliest earthquakes, destroyed much of Kingston. It resulted in the death of over eight
hundred Jamaicans and destroyed the homes of over ten thousand more. This catastrophe provided the opportunity to
redesign and rebuild Kingston.
Kingston Harbour is the seventh-largest natural harbour in the world. It is an almost landlocked area of water
approximately with most of it is deep enough to accommodate large ships, even
close to shore.
From Sugar to Banana
Jamaica’s chief economic
crops are sugarcane, bananas, citrus, cocoa and coconuts, none of which are
Sugar – Byproducts of sugarcane include cane sugar, cane syrup, molasses, wax, rum (for which Jamaica is world famous) and bagasse.
In the 1740s, Jamaica and Haiti became the world’s main sugar producers, replacing piracy as Jamaica’s main source of income. In 1770 sugar and rum made up 87.7% of the value of all exports from Jamaica to Great Britain, Ireland, and North America. Jamaica’s high point of sugar production was from 1801 to 1805, with number of sugar plantations reaching a peak of 859 in 1804, prior to the abolition of slavery.
Sugar production increased in Haiti due to French engineered irrigation
systems as well as cane variety selection.
After the Haitian Revolution from 1791 to 1804, Cuba became the most
substantial sugar plantation colony in the Caribbean, outperforming the British
British sugar planters met with growing competition in United Kingdom (UK)
markets, especially beginning in 1874 when sugar duties were completely
removed. With no cheap labour force and
no preferential tariff protection, the plantation-owners in the British West
Indies could not compete with Cuba and Brazil, where slavery had not been
abolished. To make matters worse, the
European sugar beet was a cheap alternative to sugarcane. These factors caused genuine distress as the
price of sugar declined below the cost of production on many estates. Fortunately sugar prices in the United States
of America (USA) and Canada fell less severely, attracting increased quantities
of sugar and other products from the British Caribbean colonies.
With the declined importance of sugar, the character of landholding in
Jamaica changed substantially between 1865 and 1930. As many former sugar plantations went
bankrupt, some land was sold to Jamaican peasants under the Crown Lands
Settlement while other cane fields were consolidated by dominant British
producers such as Tate and Lyle, a sugar refining business. Small scale agriculture in Jamaica survived
the consolidation of land by sugar powers with the number of small holdings
tripling between 1865 and 1930.
Banana – In 1804 bananas brought from Cuba were the first to be marketed in the United States of America (USA). For many years bananas were regarded as a novelty. Then in 1870 Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker made an experimental import of bananas he bought in Jamaica for a shilling and sold them in Jersey City for $2 a bunch. After this success, Baker joined Bostonian entrepreneur Andrew Preston and created the Boston Fruit Company. This company owned a large fleet of steamships that, with time, became the largest private fleet in the world.
By 1890 bananas had replaced sugar as Jamaica’s principal export for
small farmers as well as for large estates.
This shift was influenced by the British demand for Jamaican bananas rather
than the country’s sugar. Expansion of
banana production was hampered by serious labour shortages, with the general
exodus of up to 11,000 Jamaicans a year.
Interestingly sugar is ideally suited to the climatic conditions of the
Caribbean, being far less vulnerable to the high winds from hurricanes that
readily devastate banana plantations.
In 1899, the Boston Fruit Company merged with other companies to become the United Fruit Company (UFC). UFC first experimented with refrigerated cargo holds in 1903, a technology that along with steam propulsion made the traffic in highly perishable bananas possible and profitable.
In 1924, the Rev. A.A. Barclay of Lucky Hill in St. Mary espoused ideas
that resulted in formation of the Jamaica Producers Association (JPA). By 1929 the Jamaica Banana Producers
Association (JBPA) was established as an independent cooperative under the JPA. Soon the JBPA owned a steamship line
consisting of four refrigerated ships, the first shipping line ever to be 100%
Jamaican owned. By 1937 the JBPA relentless
marketing with government support resulted in banana representing 50% of the
value of Jamaica’s total exports.
In 1939 the Second World War had a devastating effect on the banana
industry as commercial banana sales to the UK ceased. In 1940 the JBPA shipping fleet were pressed
into war service. By the end of the war
in 1945, only one of the JBPA’s four ships survived the war, earning notoriety
of having shot down a German Stuka Bomber in the English Channel while under
attack. In 1953 commercial banana exports
to the UK resumed.
Citrus – Citrus fruits
consists of oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, limes, and lemons. Citrus production is not a large industry in
Jamaica, but yields enough for local consumption and export.
Coconut – Records indicate
that in 1681 coconut plants flourished near harbours and coastal settlements,
then later with the expansion of plantation agriculture, the crop was grown
inland. By 1869 coconut oil became the
cheap raw material used worldwide for the manufacture of soap, explosives and
margarine. In 1930 the Jamaica Coconut
Producers Association Ltd was manufacturing oil and by 1937 soaps.
With the end of the Second World War in 1945, the demand for coconuts decreased
with advent of synthetic detergents and fibres. The export of dry coconuts declined and ceased
when the 1944 and 1951 hurricanes destroyed over 40% of all bearing palms. Formerly coconuts constituted a major part of
Jamaica’s export produce but with development of the edible oil and soap
industry most of the annual crop is used in local factories.
Coffee – In 1723 King Louis
XV sent three coffee plants to the French colony of Martinique. Five years later in 1728 the Governor of
Jamaica, Sir Nicholas Lawes, received a gift of one coffee plant from the
Governor of Martinique. From that one
Arabica coffee plant, an exquisite coffee was introduced to the world.
Some 85% of Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee is purchased by Japan. This
has driven up the price of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee to a level that many
people consider excessive in comparison to other premium gourmet coffees on the
Prior to 1891 there was no such thing as a hotel industry. Visitor numbers were small and the
accommodations were, large, squalid, consisting primarily of taverns in the
towns and inns in the rural areas. The
only decent accommodation available was the hospitality freely offered by the
country gentleman to those who were fortunate enough to obtain introductions. The 100 room Constant Spring Hotel was built in
1888, but the real spur to development was the Jamaica International Exhibition
planned for 1891. In order to house the
visitors who were expected to come to the Exhibition, the Jamaica Hotels Law
was passed in 1890 to encourage hotel construction.
With its vertical integration approach including plantations, railway, shipping
and telecommunications assets UFC became a major economic and political force
in the region, influencing the rise and fall of governments in the ‘banana
republics’. By 1902 UFC controlled Jamaica’s
entire banana trade.
The UFC used their banana transport ships for passenger traffic and for
a long time were the only form of travel between Jamaica and other countries. In addition guesthouses built for UFC workers
and officers were also used to house their early Portland visitors. The Titchfield Hotel, initially built by UFC
in 1895 was demolished and rebuilt in 1905.
When in 1910 the Titchfield was destroyed by fire, UFC again rebuilt, expanding
that hotel’s capacity and gaining reputation as one of the grandest hotels in
the Western Hemisphere.
The Jamaican Government purchased the Myrtle Bank Hotel in 1889/90 and
totally rebuilt it as a first class hotel in time for the 1891 World’s Fair in
Kingston. Before 1920 UFC purchased
controlling interest in Myrtle Bank, Kingston and with Titchfield both hotels provided
a reliable revenue stream until the 1930s.
During its peak year of 1927, UFC moved nearly 70,000 tourists on its
steamships to various banana enclaves. The
shipping safety legislation of 1936 eliminated many company vessels from
passenger service. The temporary
nationalisation of the fleet during the Second World War and the rise of
affordable air travel after the war further distanced the UFC from tourist
The Jamaica Tourist Association was established in 1910 to enhance the
claims of the Jamaica as a health and pleasure resort at home and abroad and to
give “reliable” information to both prospective visitors and those already
holidaying in the island. Undoubtedly the
World Wars affected tourism, but Jamaica was increasingly viewing tourism as a
tool of economic development and one way of diversifying a predominantly
The mid 1950s saw Jamaica being serviced by eight international airlines
with unprecedented growth in international tourist arrivals. The Jamaica Tourist Board was established in
1955 with sales offices in the USA and London.
Jamaica gained some reputation as an exclusive resort attracting mainly
a wealthy and famous clientele. Between
1961 and 1963 however, the industry declined and the Government of newly
independent Jamaica realised the necessity to revive and expand what had become
an important sector of the economy.
The Crown Colony
The Jamaican assembly had effectively voted its own extinction by
yielding power to the Governor, Edward
John Eyre and in 1866 the British Parliament declared Jamaica a crown colony. Its newly appointed governor, Sir John Peter
Grant, wielded the only real executive or legislative power. He completely reorganised the colony,
establishing a police force, reformed judicial system, medical service, public
works department, and government savings bank. He also appointed local magistrates, improved
the schools and irrigated the fertile but drought-stricken plain between
Spanish Town and Kingston.
Transport and communication became essential for economic
development. The railways became
government owned in 1845 and cable communication with Europe was established in
Out of Many
So who are Jamaicans?
In 1494 Columbus and his Spanish crew invaded Jamaica with its Arawakan-speaking
Tainos, bringing European domesticated animals such as pigs, horses, and cattle. Few Spaniards settled here, with Jamaica serving
mainly as a supply base to help in conquering the American mainland.
The first Jews came to Jamaica from Spain and Portugal during the
Spanish occupation from 1494 to 1655. Fleeing
the Spanish inquisition they concealed their identity, referring to themselves
as ‘Portuguese’ while secretly practicing their religion. With the British conquest in 1655, General
Venables recorded the presence of many ‘Portuguese’ in Jamaica. They were allowed to remain and began to
practice their religion openly.
The Jews were granted
British citizenship by Cromwell, which was confirmed in 1660 by King Charles, enabling
ownership of property. The Jews attained
full political rights in 1831.
population was never large. However,
their contribution to the economic and commercial life of the nation
outstripped that of any other group of comparable size in Jamaica.
The first enslaved Africans to Jamaica arrived in 1513 from the Iberian
Peninsula. The 1833 Slavery Abolition
Act did not mean that people of African origin no longer came to Jamaica. In fact during the apprenticeship period (1834
– 1838) and in 1839 a number of persons of African descent came to Jamaica as
free labourers. In the following 25
years about 10, 000 free labourers of African origin came to Jamaica. Jamaicans of African ancestry form the
largest ethnic group.
With the British conquest Cromwell increased Jamaica’s white population
by sending indentured servants and prisoners captured in battles with the Irish
and Scots, as well as some common criminals. This practice was continued under Charles II,
and the white population was also augmented by immigrants from the North
American mainland and other islands such as Barbados.
The Irish were accustomed to hard work, but they were unacquainted with
the hot Caribbean climate. Though their
bondage was often a death sentence, enough of the Irish survived that by 1670
they already accounted for a significant part of Jamaica’s population. The Irish is Jamaica’s second-most
The Germans came as indentured labourers with the hope they would create
a thriving settlement and act as a model for the ex-slaves. In 1835, Lord Seaford gave 500 acres of his
10, 000 acre estate in Westmoreland for the Seaford Town German settlement of 200
Germans. Needless to say the programme
was never a success.
Between 1834 and 1838 about 1, 210 German immigrants arrived in Jamaica.
They were small-trades people, a few
farmers and disbanded soldiers of light Calvary regiment. Their previous occupation meant they had to
learn how to plant ground provisions and speak patois.
East Indians are the largest ethnic minority in Jamaica. They arrived as indentured labourers between
1845 and 1917 to work on sugar estates. The
intention was to earn a ‘fortune’ for starting a better life back in India, but
for many that did not materialise. At
the end of the indentureship contract, many Indians reverted to their ancestral
occupations, some became farmers or fishermen, while others returned to the
trades of barber, goldsmith or ironsmith. Others became money lenders.
The Indians introduced several plants and trees in Jamaica, the most
common being betel leaves, betel nut, coolie plum, mango, jackfruit, and
The Chinese started arriving in 1849, brought as indentured labourers to
work on the sugar estates. However they
disliked the nature of the work and soon left the estates to set up small
grocery shops all across the island. Eventually they were able to develop their
businesses until the small grocery shops grew into large enterprises embracing
not only retailing, but also wholesaling and other types of activities.
A few hundred Chinese who worked on the Panama Canal ended up settling
in Jamaica. Establishing a migration
corridor from China, by 1930 there were some 6,000 Chinese settlers in Jamaica. In 1931 the Jamaican government issued a
decree limiting the inflow of Chinese to students under the age of 14. The restriction was in response to the demands
of the Jamaican business community, which feared the rapid expansion of Chinese
retail trade on the island.
Although some Chinese went back home to marry Chinese wives who they
brought back to Jamaica, others inter-married with non-Chinese Jamaicans
contributing to the island’s racial mixture.
The popularity of Chinese food among Jamaicans is their lasting contribution
to the island.
Cubans fled to Jamaica as political refugees during their Wars for
Independence, from 1868 to 1878 and 1895 to 1898. Despite the official position of neutrality,
white and brown elites, anxious to increase the number of Europeans, welcomed
the Cubans who were mainly white. Similarities
in the socio-economic structures in both Jamaica and Cuba facilitated the
integration of the newcomers. Although
most refugees left Jamaica after 1898, the long-term economic impact of their
fleeting presence was the establishment of tobacco as a viable export staple
and the modernisation of the island’s sugar industry.
The first Lebanese/Syrian immigrants arrived by their own free will in
the 1860s and 1870s fleeing religious persecution. Britain was seen as the country of freedom and Jamaica under British rule fell into that
category. Then there was ‘chain’
migration as many of the later arrivals were joining relatives and friends
rather than striking out for entirely new territory.
Stories recount that many Lebanese/Syrians first heard of Jamaica as a
result of the Great Exhibition of 1891.
This exhibition drew over 300,000 visitors from around the world
including some from the Middle East. The
opportunities identified in Jamaica soon attracted middle easterners from
Lebanon and Palestine. They decided to
journey to Jamaica and try their luck at selling dry goods. With no Greek Orthodox Church in Jamaica they
adapted and turned to the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches.
Despite being a small percentage of the Jamaican population, the Lebanese/Syrian
group has played a significant role in the commercial and industrial
development of the economy. Through
their influence as well, Syrian bread has become very popular among Jamaicans.
Christianity was introduced by Spanish settlers who arrived in Jamaica
in 1509, making Roman Catholicism the first Christian denomination to be
established. Later Protestant missions
were very active, especially the Baptists, and played a key role in the
abolition of slavery.
Anglicanism was introduced by the British in 1664. The first church was built on the spot of the
Spanish Church of the Red Cross in Spanish Town. It is the oldest Anglican cathedral outside
of the British Isles and the oldest place of continuous worship in the western
By the early nineteenth century, abolitionism had propelled other
denominations to the forefront, and threatened the established Anglican Church.
Thus, in 1824, the Diocese of Jamaica, which
also included Belize and the Bahamas, was established. In 1861 the Bahamas became a separate diocese,
and in 1891, the same happened to Belize. During the 1960s the Cayman Islands were
The Rastafari movement, an Abrahamic religion, was developed in Jamaica
in the 1930s following the coronation of Haile Selassie I as Emperor of
Ethiopia. Haile Selassie I was crowned
as Emperor of Ethiopia in November 1930.
This was a significant event in that Ethiopia was the only African
country other than Liberia to be independent from colonialism and Haile
Selassie was the only African leader accepted among the kings and queens of
Three Jamaicans who all happened to be overseas at the time of the
coronation each returned home and independently began, as street preachers, to
proclaim the divinity of the newly crowned Emperor as the returned Christ.
In December 1930 Archibald Dunkley, formerly a seaman, landed at Port
Antonio and soon began his ministry. In
1933 he relocated to Kingston where the King of Kings Ethiopian Mission was
founded. Joseph Hibbert returned from
Costa Rica in 1931 and started spreading his own conviction of the Emperor’s
divinity in Benoah district, Saint Andrew Parish. His ministry, called Ethiopian Coptic Faith;
moved to Kingston in 1932 to find Leonard Howell already teaching many of these
same doctrines. Howell had returned to
Jamaica around the same time as Hibbert. With the addition of Robert Hinds, himself a
Garveyite and former Bedwardite, these four preachers soon began to attract a
following among Jamaica’s poor.
Other popular religions in Jamaica include Islam, Bahá’í Faith Buddhism,
Sikhism, Hinduism and Judaism.
Representatives of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities in
Jamaica have described Jamaican as being tolerant of religious diversity, and
identified the high level of interfaith dialogue as evidence to support this
The story finalises in Part 4.
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The story continues. So if you have not already done so, please read Part 1.
Maroons intermittently used guerrilla tactics against Jamaican militia
and British troops, who had destroyed many Maroon settlements in 1686. The British tried to capture them because they
occasionally raided plantations, making expansion into the interior more
difficult. An increase in armed
confrontations over decades led to the First Maroon War in the 1730s.
Edward Trelawny was appointed Governor of Jamaica in April 1738, at a
time when the colonial authorities on the island were in the midst of waging an
unsuccessful war against the Maroons. This
was the first of the great Maroon wars.
Trelawny quickly realised that the colonial militia, fighting on two
fronts against the Leeward Maroons in the west and the Windward Maroons in the
east, were unable to defeat the Maroons.
So he offered the Maroons of Cudjoe’s Town a peace agreement in 1739. Cudjoe’s Town was later renamed Trelawny
Once Cudjoe signed this treaty, Trelawny offered a similar treaty to the
Windward Maroons in 1740. This overture
was supported by the British settlers and the treaty officially recognised. The treaty accepted the freedom of the
Maroons and allowed them to have autonomy in their communities in exchange for
agreeing to be called to military service with the colonists if needed. This military service agreement resulted in
the Maroons tracking and returning runaway slaves and assisting with quelling
slave uprisings and rebellions. This
would later cause a rift between the Maroons and other Jamaicans.
Due to tensions and repeated conflicts with Maroons from Trelawny Town,
the Second Maroon War erupted in 1795. Other
Maroon communities did not join in this uprising. Being low in ammunition and with a measles
outbreak they were outgunned and outnumbered by government forces. The Maroons agreed to a truce with the
government who claimed they had not abided by the terms of their Maroon treaty. Thus in 1796 approximately 600 captive Maroons
comprising of men, women and children were deported to Nova Scotia, Canada. Jamaica granted £25,000 to pay their travelling
expenses and those of accompanying administrative and medical personnel.
The story of the Maroons in Nova Scotia is brief as they arrived in 1796
and left in 1800 for Freetown, Sierra Leone, in Western Africa. Oral history maintains that a few Maroons
remained in Nova Scotia while some of the Maroon descendants in Sierra Leone returned
to Jamaica in the mid-1800s.
The only Leeward Maroon settlement retaining formal autonomy on Jamaica
after the Second Maroon War was Accompong, in the parish of Saint Elizabeth. Windward Maroon communities were located in
the parish of Portland and included Charles Town, on Buff Bay River; Moore Town
(formerly Nanny Town); and Scott’s Hall.
In 2005 the music of the Moore Town Maroons was declared by UNESCO as a
‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’.
The abolition of the slave trade and slavery was not only achieved by frequent
slave uprisings and rebellions in the Caribbean but also by the work of
humanitarians who were concerned about the slaves’ well-being. Humanitarian groups such as the Religious
Society of Friends (Quakers) publicly protested against slavery and the slave
trade. Quaker colonists began questioning
slavery in Barbados in the 1670s, but first openly denounced it in 1688.
During the 1740s and 50s the anti-slavery sentiment was taking a firmer global
hold. A new generation of Quakers protested
against slavery, and demanded that Quaker society cut ties with the slave
trade. Beginning in the 1750s
Pennsylvanian Quakers tightened their rules and by 1758 made it effectively an
act of misconduct to engage in slave trading. The London Yearly Meeting soon followed,
issuing a ‘strong minute’ against slave trading in 1761. The Committee for the Abolition of the Slave
Trade was formed in 1787 by a group of Evangelical English Protestants allied
with Quakers, to unite in their shared opposition to slavery and the slave
There were many slave rebellions of note, including the Easter Rebellion
of 1760 led by Tacky. Jamaica’s slave
population swelled to 300,000, despite mounting civil unrest and unstable food
supplies. During the period 1780–87 about
15,000 slaves starved to death.
In addition Jamaica was experiencing external threats. A large French fleet, with Spanish support,
planned to invade Jamaica in 1782.
However the British admirals George Rodney and Samuel Hood thwarted the
plan at the Battle of the Saintes off Dominica. In 1806 Admiral Sir John Duckworth defeated
the last French invasion force to threaten colonising Jamaica.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the production of sugar in
Britain’s West Indian colonies saw money pouring into Britain. The sugar
production came to be controlled by a small circle of wealthy planters and
merchants in Britain. They nurtured ties
with members of both houses of British Parliament and eventually a number
became MPs. For example William Beckford,
owner of a 22,000 acre estate in Jamaica, was twice Lord Mayor of London and over
50 MPs in parliament represented the slave plantations. No surprise that an Abolition bill first put
to parliament in 1791 would in 1805 fail to pass for the eleventh time.
The Act of Union 1801 allowed 100 Irish MPs into Parliament, most of
whom supported abolition combined with the general acceptance of the evils of
the slave trade enabled the law to pass both Houses. William Wilberforce, an Evangelical Christian
and parliamentarian who spear headed the campaign against the British slave
trade for 18 years, finally witnessed the passage of the Slave Trade Act in
The Slave Trade Act of 1807 made the purchase or ownership of slaves
illegal within the British Empire, with the exception of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka)
and Saint Helena. The legislation
imposed fines that did little to deter slave trade participants, so it acted to
outlaw the slave trade but not slavery itself. Abolitionist Henry Brougham realised that
trading had continued and as a new British MP successfully introduced the Slave
Trade Felony Act 1811, making slavery a felony act through the British empire. The Royal Navy established the West Africa
Squadron to suppress the Atlantic slave trade by patrolling the coast of West
The British were, by the late eighteenth century, the biggest proponents
of the abolition of slavery worldwide, having previously been the world’s largest
slave dealers. Britain used its
influence to coerce other countries to agree to treaties to end their slave
trade and allow the Royal Navy to seize their slave ships. The West Africa Squadron did suppress the
slave trade but did not stop it entirely. Between 1808 and 1860 the West Africa Squadron
captured 1,600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans. Many of these freed captives were resettled in
Jamaica and the Bahamas.
Abolishing the transatlantic slave trade in 1807 increased planters’
costs in Jamaica at a time when the price of sugar was already dropping. It was not until the passage of the Slavery
Abolition Act 1833 that slavery itself was eventually abolished.
During the Christmas holiday of 1831 a large-scale slave revolt in
Jamaica, known as the Baptist War, broke out. What was organised originally as a peaceful
strike by the educated Baptist minister Samuel Sharpe ended up mobilising some
60,000 enslaved persons throughout the island.
The colonial government used the armed Jamaican military forces and Maroon
warriors to put down the rebellion by early 1832.
Some 14 whites were killed by armed slave battalions but more than 200
slaves were killed by troops. Sharpe,
other ringleaders and about 340 slaves were tried, convicted and hanged. Whites generally blamed missionaries, who
were working among the slaves, for inciting the revolt. In the weeks that followed mobs gathered by
the Colonial Church Union, an organization of white planters loyal to the
Anglican church, and burned several Baptist and Methodist chapels.
Because of the loss of property and life in the 1831 rebellion, the
British Parliament held two inquiries. At
that time Britain’s economy was in a flux.
A new system of international commerce had emerged. Britain’s slaveholding Caribbean colonies, which
were largely focused on sugar production, could no longer compete with larger
plantation economies such as those of Cuba and Brazil. So merchants demand an end to the market monopolies
held by their Caribbean colonies and pushed instead for free trade.
Emancipation and Compensation
The results of these inquiries and the British economy contributed
greatly to the abolition of slavery with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. This Act had two major parts: (1) the
emancipation of all slaves throughout the British colonial empire except those
held on the islands of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Saint Helena; and (2) compensating
slave owners for the loss of the slaves.
Emancipation would commence in stages on 1 August 1834. The first stage was the freeing of all
children under six. Then the others
would work a period of six years as unpaid apprentices for their former masters. On 1 August 1834 the Governor at Government
House in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on explaining the conditions of emancipation
was drowned out with chants of ‘Pas de six ans. Point de six ans’ (‘Not six
years. No six years’). Continuing
peaceful protests resulted in full emancipation for all being legally granted
ahead of schedule on 1 August 1838.
Needless to say the masters continued to ill-treat and exploit the enslaved
people in the British Caribbean until they finally gained their freedom at
midnight on 31 July 1838.
Compensation to slave owners was paid for by the British government,
funded by a loan not fully paid back until 2015. The British government raised £20 million (equivalent
to £16.5 billion in 2013 pounds) to pay out for the loss of the slaves as
business assets to the registered owners of the freed slaves. Not surprising the slaves themselves received
no such compensation.
Many former slaves left the plantations and moved to the nearby hills,
where their descendants still farm small landholdings. The planters received some compensation (£19
per slave) but generally saw their financial resources and labour forces
dwindle. The British parliament removed
protective tariffs in 1846, further reducing the price of Jamaican sugar.
The immediate post slavery days were very difficult for the poorer
classes. Though most of the English planters had left the islands and new
owners were running the plantations, the old oligarchic system still remained.
The will of the masses was not deemed important and hence ignored. To add fuel
to the already burning flame, the American Civil War resulted in supplies being
cut off from the island. A severe drought was also in progress and most crops
In the economic chaos that followed emancipation the Morant Bay
Rebellion of October 1865 is well remembered.
. The uprising was led by a black Baptist deacon named Paul Bogle and
was supported by a wealthy Kingston businessman, George William Gordon. Gordon was a prominent coloured legislator who
was sympathetic to the problems of the poor people and later was blamed for the
trouble caused by the masses.
Bogle and his men stormed the Morant Bay Courthouse while it was in
session. A number of white people was
killed including the Custos of the parish, St Thomas. Some three decades after slavery ended, the
Maroons assisted the government in putting down the peasant rebellion led by
Paul Bogle. Paul Bogle and George
William Gordon were hanged, more than 430 people were executed or shot,
hundreds more flogged and 1,000 dwellings destroyed. This was the last time the Maroons were to
serve in this military capacity.
With the general emancipation of slaves in 1834, things changed
drastically for the Maroons. Since the
British no longer needed their services as a tracking force, they had little
interest in maintaining distinct, partially autonomous communities in the
interior of their colony. The first
formal attempt to encourage the assimilation of the Maroons into the wider
population was the so-called Maroon Lands Allotment Act of 1842. This piece of legislation aimed to abrogate
the treaties of 1739 and absorb the Maroons into the emergent peasantry by
dividing the communally owned Maroon lands and parceling them out to individual
owners. The Maroons, however, simply
refused to comply and the colonial government did not force the issue. It soon found that its interests were not
necessarily served by dissolving the Maroon communities.
The story concludes in Road to Independence -Part 3. Read more then.
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Although archaeologists suggest the Arawakan-speaking Tainos settled
Jamaica about 800 CE (Common Era), there were others before who left behind red
The Tainos named the island ‘Xaymaca’, meaning ‘land of wood and water’.
Incidentally the words ‘hurricane’, ‘tobacco’
and ‘barbecue’ were also derived from their language. The Tainos grew cassava, sweet potatoes, corn,
fruits, vegetables, cotton and tobacco. Tobacco
was grown on a large scale as smoking was their most popular pastime. The Tainos built villages throughout the
island. As fish was a major part of
their diet, many of their 60,000 person settlements were along the coasts and
The European Invasion
The Spanish King and Queen funded Columbus, a Portuguese, to find a
westerly trade route from Europe to India and the East Indies. With his westerly travels taking him to the Caribbean,
this area is sometimes termed the West Indies.
Boasting of the timid inhabitants and fertile lands, he was funded for 3
more trips to this New World. On his second
voyage he landed in Xaymaca (Jamaica) on May 5, 1494. Having heard the Cubans describe Jamaica as ‘the
land of blessed gold’, Columbus was disappointed there was no gold in Jamaica.
Christopher Columbus spent 1503–04 shipwrecked in Jamaica and it is said
the Spanish crown granted the island to the Columbus family. In 1509 the Spanish Governor Juan de Esquivel
established the island’s first capital, Sevilla la Nueva (New Seville), about a
mile west of St. Ann’s Bay on the north coast. This settlement is said to be the oldest
Spanish settlement in Jamaica and one of the first cities established by
Europeans in the Americas. In 1534 the
capital was moved to Villa de la Vega (later Santiago de la Vega and then St
Jago de la Vega), now called Spanish Town.
It was the centre of government and trade and had many churches and
Under Spanish rule the island remained poor as few Spaniards settled in
Jamaica. The island served as a supply
base of food, men, arms and horses shipped to aid in conquering the American
The Spanish enslaved many of the Tainos; some escaped, but most died
from European diseases and overwork. The
Spaniards also introduced African slaves to cultivate the newly introduced
sugar cane plantations. By the early
17th century the island’s population was reduced to about 3,000.
The English Rule
On May 10, 1655, Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables led a
successful attack on Jamaica. The
Spaniards surrendered to the English, freed their slaves and then fled to Cuba.
It was this set of freed slaves and
their descendants who became known as the Maroons. The Maroons adapted to life in the wilderness
by establishing remote defensible settlements, cultivating scattered plots of
land notably with plantains and yams, hunting, and developing herbal medicines.
The English turned a blind eye to the buccaneers based in Port
Royal. The buccaneers attacked the
treasure ships of Spain and France, ensuring these other Europeans were too
busy to seriously attempt to capture Jamaica from the English. Under the buccaneers’ leadership within a
decade and a half Port Royal grew to become known as one of the ‘wealthiest and
wickedest city in the world’.
One of the most famous buccaneer was a young indentured labourer from
Wales named Henry Morgan, born abound 1635.
Arriving in Jamaica in 1655 he became a captain of a small privateering
vessel in 1662. His tactical approach to
attacks in the Caribbean resulted in great financial income and an excellent
reputation. Morgan was promoted to a vice-admiral
of the Jamaican fleet. He was knighted
and appointed deputy governor of Jamaica in 1673. Morgan died in 1688 and was buried in
Palisadoes cemetery which sank into the sea during the 1692 earthquake.
The English authorities began to suppress the buccaneers after signing
the Treaty of Madrid in 1670, which recognised the English claim to Jamaica.
Like the Spanish, the English concerned themselves with growing crops
that could easily be sold in England. Thus
tobacco, indigo and cacao were overtaken by sugar cane plantations with the term
‘as rich as a West Indian planter’ meaning the richest person around. The sugar industry grew so rapidly that the 57
Jamaican sugar cane estates in 1673 grew to nearly 430 by 1739.
This growth was supported by the ongoing slave trade and transport route
called the ‘Middle Passage’. This 3-sided
voyage started with England trading goods (especially ammunition) with Africa
where these were exchanged for slaves. Then the journey continued to the Caribbean where
the slaves were landed and sugar, rum and molasses taken aboard for the final
leg of the journey back to England.
The Royal African Company was re-formed in 1672 creating an English
slave trade monopoly that branded its initials on the slaves’ chests. Jamaica became one of the world’s busiest
slave markets with a thriving smuggling trade to Spanish America. Jamaica’s sugar production peaked in the 18th
century, dominating the local economy and depending increasingly on the slave
trade as a cheap labour source. Small
farmers diversified into coffee, cotton, and indigo production, and by the late
18th century coffee rivalled sugar as an export crop.
Fight for Emancipation
Who wants to be a slave!!
A slave’s life was brutal and short, because of high incidences of
tropical and imported diseases and harsh working conditions. In addition the number of slave deaths was
consistently larger than the number of births. Europeans fared much better but were also
susceptible to tropical diseases, such as yellow fever and malaria. Despite those conditions, slave traffic and
European immigration increased, and the island’s population grew from a few
thousand in the mid-17th century to about 18,000 in the 1680s, with slaves
accounting for more than half of the total.
Slaves rebelled whenever they could, with many successful in running
away from the plantations to join the Maroons in the almost inaccessible
mountains. Maroons intermittently used
guerrilla tactics against Jamaican militia and English troops, who had
destroyed many Maroon settlements in 1686.
The story continues in Road to Independence -Part 2. Read more then.
Jamaicans love to cook and when they do, flavor
plays an important role. Pepper is one
of the main ingredients that Jamaicans use to flavor their dishes and Scotch Bonnet
pepper is the pepper of choice for most Jamaicans and other Caribbean
a style of cooking meat that Jamaica is known for, also involves the use of
Scotch Bonnet pepper. In fact, Scotch
Bonnet pepper is one of the main ingredients in Jerk seasonings and sauces. Jamaicans also use Scotch Bonnet peppers when
making their famous Escovitch Fish. In
the preparation of Jerk Chicken, Pork and Escovitch Fish, the Scotch Bonnet pepper
is used for both its flavour and heat. The Scotch Bonnnet pepper is also chopped or minced
and marinated on meat over night or added to the food in the early stage of
cooking. The green unripe Scotch Bonnet
pepper on the other hand is often used whole to enhance the flavour of soups
and Rice and Peas dishes.
Scotch Bonnet peppers are used to make famous Caribbean hot pepper sauces. Some of the Jamaican made hot pepper sauces are available for purchase on our website. Hot pepper sauce can be used as a condiment. It can also be used to season meat, fish and poultry. If you are not a hot pepper lover because of the heat, you can use the pepper sauce in moderation for its flavor.
The Scotch Bonnet pepper is named for its resemblance to a bonnet, called Tam o’ Shanter hat. The pepper is native to the Caribbean islands and Central America.
Some varieties of the Scotch Bonnet pepper can ripen to red, orange, yellow, peach, chocolate brown or even white. The white Scotch Bonnet pepper is very rare to find and usually has the most heat.
Bet you did not realise that the flavor and heat, as with any chilli, adapts to the region and soil it is grown in. Thus, varieties will differ slightly in spice, sweetness and even shape.
So what does a Scotch Bonnet pepper taste like? The taste has been described as slightly sweet taste, a bit like a tomato with a hint of apples and cherries. This sweetness makes the Scotch Bonnet a very popular chilli for Caribbean cooking and hot sauces. It is a really distinct sweet-heat flavor that a lot of people love.
The Scotch Bonnet pepper is very closely related to the
habanero, so if you’ve tasted a habanero you’ll have a decent idea of what a
Scotch Bonnet has in store for you in terms of heat. But just add in more sweetness.
the Caribbean a pepper is considered hot if it ‘burns going in and burns coming
out’. However, there are 2 other scales
of heat measurement, Scoville and American Spice Trade Association (ASTA).
Scoville Scale measures the concentration of capsaicin, the active compound
responsible for pepper spice. The capsaicin
oil is extracted from the dried pepper and mixed with a solution of water and
sugar to the point where a panel of taste-testers can barely detect the heat of
the pepper. The pepper is assigned
Scoville units based on how much the oil was diluted with water in order to
reach this point.
on the panel taste one sample per session so that the results from one sample
don’t interfere with subsequent testing. Even so, the test is subjective because it
relies on human taste, so it is inherently imprecise.
plants produce spicy hot chemicals which can also be measured using the
Scoville Scale, including piperine from black pepper and gingerol from ginger.
uses high-performance liquid chromatography to accurately measure the concentration
of spice-producing chemicals.
The Scotch Bonnet is a hot pepper, rating 100,000 to 350,000 units on the Scoville Scale.
In a field of natural and human engineered peppers the Scotch Bonnet rates 21 in ascending order of heat. The number 1 is the Carolina Reaper, engineered by combining peppers from St Vincent and Pakistan.
How to Stop Peppers
tried drinking water to reduce that pepper burn? You will remember it did not work as capsaicin
is not water soluble. Did you then try
drinking alcohol? That only made it
worse as the capsaicin dissolves in alcohol and gets spread around your mouth.
The capsaicin molecule binds to pain receptors, so the trick is to either neutralize alkaline capsaicin with an acidic food or drink, such as soda and citrus or surround the capsaicin molecule with a fatty food such as yogurt, sour cream or cheese. Now you know how to stop the burning, are you ready for a taste test? Why not try cooking with the hot jerk seasoning paste.
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Jerk – What’s in a name? Although Jerk can be a term for a lousy mate we are focusing on the culinary meaning of Jerk.
No doubt you
have heard the term Jerky, lean meat that has been trimmed of fat, cut into
strips, and then dried to prevent spoilage.
Cited as originating in the 19th Century from the American
Spanish work charqui (translated to beef jerky or jerk), the term Jerk has a
much longer history in Jamaica.
Jerk is a unique Jamaican seasoning or marinade made from a combination of Pimento (also known as allspice or Jamaica pepper), hot pepper and other spices and herbs. There are two schools of thought about the origins of jerk. The first credits the Arawaks (Tainos), the original natives of Jamaica, with the authentic method of jerking. The other credits the Maroons with initially applying the technique to wild boar. The Maroon community was established in the 17th century by runaway slaves who lived in the rugged mountains of Jamaica.
There is an infinite number of jerk seasoning
recipes, some with ingredient list a mile long. However all jerk seasoning mixes must have three
main ingredients in order to taste authentic: Pimento, Scotch bonnet peppers;
and Thyme. Pimento is indigenous to Jamaica and is also the only spice native
to the “New World”.
In Jamaica Jerking is the term associated with
preparing Jerk meat. This Jamaican method of cooking involves placing highly
spiced meat over a pimento wood fire and allowing it to cook slowly. It was a
local option to salt curing which helped to prevent spoilage in the tropical
heat. The liberal amounts of indigenous spices and peppers preserved meats and
made them taste delicious when cooked over the open fire.
Today Jerk cooking has progressed from cooking
in the ground to the familiar sights of the steel drums or “Jerk pans”,
barbeques or kitchen ovens. These Jerk
pans can be found all over Jamaica on the street-side where jerk meats, mainly
pork and chicken, can be purchased. You
even have the option of choosing how spicy you want your Jerk meat. Jerk is normally sold with Jamaican staples
such as Bammy, Fried Dumplings, Festival, Roasted Yam or Hard Dough Bread.
At home you may use jerk seasoning to marinate
or rub everything from tofu chunks to poultry, seafood, or red meat before
roasting or barbecuing. It is especially
good when you marinate chicken, pork, or thick slices of tofu overnight. Then grill, roast, or broil the following day
and serve with additional jerk sauces.
Jamaican Products provides the opportunity for you to explore the Jerk experience. Jerk seasoning and Jerk sauces are available in domestic and commercial quantities. Jamaican Products offers Jerk seasoning as a paste, liquid or dry options. Mild and Hot pastes as well as dry jerk seasonings are available in domestic sizes. While Mild and Hot pastes and liquid jerk seasonings are offered in commercial sizes. Jamaican Products also offers a range of jerk sauces to be used as table condiments.
If you are seasoning meat or other protein
source to fry the dry rub jerk seasoning will work best. If on the other hand you
want to marinate over night for a deeper flavour, the paste and liquid wet
marinades are suggested.
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Jamaica is home to numerous herbal remedies proven to have tremendous health benefits. Among the best is the Jamaican Black Castor oil that has been working wonders and has earned a place in the heart of its users because of its many benefits. As such, Jamaican Products has added this wonderful Jamaican made product to our selling list.
Well, some will agree
that it is the hair benefits; others will say it is the health and skin
benefits. Whichever purpose it is used
for, when compared to all other Castor Oils on the market; the unadulterated
method of processing the Jamaican Black Castor Oil makes it the best to use.
There are no chemicals added which is the major difference between the Jamaican
Black Castor oil and the others.
The careful reaping of the Castor beans is the first stage of an
intricate operation that involves quality.
Unlike the other Castor
oils, the Jamaican Black Castor oil is extracted using the traditional
method. The castor beans are not roasted
very dark so as to maintain the highest potency and beneficial healing
properties of their castor oil. After
roasting, the beans are pulverized, water added and boiled. The finish product is pure, thick, pungent
which is dark brown in colour; hence it is considered healthier in nutritional
Importantly, how a castor bean is processed ultimately determines its pH
level. Due to the method of processing of the other castor oils, they are
slightly acidic; whereas the Jamaican Black Castor is more alkaline.
When it comes to uses and benefits, the Jamaican Black Castor oil has
greater benefits of the hair, skin and health. The nutrients present in the
Jamaican Black Castor oil are Vitamin E, Omega 6 and Omega 9. The omega 9 fatty
acids contribute to skin health. Its antifungal and antibacterial properties
make the oil a great treatment for acne.
The Jamaican Black Castor is also better for your hair. The rich
nutrients in the oil make it ideal for treating dandruff, hair growth and
helping with dryness.
Lastly, other traditional uses of the Jamaican Black Castor oil include:
treating acne; breaking up external s scar tissue and may prevent new scars
forming; soothing shingles; treatment of skin infections like athlete’s foot
and ringworm; and reducing the appearance of stretch marks. These are traditional Jamaican remedies. If you think you may be suffering from any of
these ailments, consult your doctor.
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Robert Nesta Marley (Bob Marley), a Jamaican icon, was born on 6 February 1945 in Nine Mile, Saint Ann, Jamaica to Cedella Booker and Norval Sinclair Marley. Rumour has it that as a boy his birth names of Nesta Robert were reversed to Robert Nesta by a Jamaican passport official because Nesta sounded like a girl’s name.
Marley and Neville Livingston (Bunny Wailer) were childhood friends in Nine Mile and started playing music together while at Stepney Primary and Junior High School. At age 12 Marley moved to Trench Town, Kingston with his Mom, who later had a daughter with Wailer’s Dad.
In 1963 Marley formed a vocal harmony group the Wailers with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. The group was introduced to Rastafarianism by Rita who Marley married in February 1966. By 1969 the Wailers fully embraced Rastafarianism, which greatly influenced Marley’s music in particular and reggae music in general. The Wailers collaborated with Lee Scratch Perry, resulting in some of the Wailers’ finest tracks. This collaboration ended bitterly when the Wailers found that Perry, thinking the records were his, sold them in England without their consent.
This initial British exposure brought the Wailers’ music to the attention of Island Records owner Chris Blackwell, who produced their first albums. In 1974 Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer left to start solo careers. Marley then formed Bob Marley and the Wailers, with his wife Rita as one of three backup singers called the I-Threes.
In 1977 Marley was diagnosed with cancer, which was kept secret from the general public while he continued working. On May 11, 1981 Marley died in a Miami hospital, he was 36 years old.
Unlike mere pop stars Marley was a moral and religious figure as well as a major record seller internationally.
Bob Marley was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994; in December 1999, his 1977 album “Exodus” was named Album of the Century by Time Magazine and his song “One Love” was designated Song of the Millennium by the BBC. Although never recognised with a Grammy nomination, in 2001 Marley was bestowed The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, an honour given by the Recording Academy to: performers who during their lifetimes have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.
Marley’s legend looms larger than ever, attributable to his music, which identified oppressors and agitated for social change while simultaneously allowing listeners to forget their troubles and dance.
Marley is treated like a deity among defiant youth and seasoned revolutionaries alike, who recognised him as one of their own, playing on the streets of Vanuatu, embracing him in Harare during Zimbabwe’s independence, and sending him messages of solidarity from Peruvian jungles to Himalayan hideaways.
One Love and Happy Birthday to a Jamaican icon.
Last month UNESCO added Reggae music to the list of international cultural treasures.
So how did this Jamaican music evolve and why the accolades?
While sometimes used in a broad sense to refer to most types of popular Jamaican dance music, the term Reggae more properly denotes a particular music style that evolved out of the earlier genres of Ska and Rocksteady.
The first Jamaican recording studio opened in 1951 and recorded “Mento” music, a fusion of European and African folk dance music. Ska originated in Jamaica, combining musical element of Mento and Calypso with a bit of American Jazz and also Rhythm and Blues. Ska music was made for dancing, being upbeat, quick and exciting. The first Ska record was cut in 1959. Millie Small’s “My Boy Lollipop” (1964) was the first worldwide ska hit.
Rocksteady originated in Jamaica around 1966 as a successor to Ska and a precursor to Reggae. Dances performed to Rocksteady are less energetic than the earlier Ska dances. The first international Rocksteady hit was “Hold Me Tight” (1968) by the American soul singer Johnny Nash. This hit reached number one in Canada.
The Reggae genre evolved in the 1960’s from the Rocksteady and Ska musical styles. The term Reggae was derived from rege-rege, a Jamaican phrase meaning “rags or ragged clothing,” and was used to denote the raggedy style of music.
Reggae music is recognised by its lament-like chanting and emphasises the syncopated beat. It is distinguishable from other genres in the heavy use of the Jamaican vernacular and the African nyah-bingi drumming style.
Bob Marley is the world’s best known and loved international Reggae ambassador. Marley’s career began in 1963 with Rocksteady band, culminating with the release in 1977 of his internationally acclaim Reggae solo album “Exodus”. Marley was not only a Reggae singer, but a committed Rastafarian and a political activist. Through his music, his words and his actions, he earned forever a place in Reggae fans hearts around the world.
A seminal moment for Reggae was the 1973 release of the movie “The Harder They Come” starring Jimmy Cliff. The movie soundtrack consisted of only reggae hits.
Since the early days in Jamaica, and through to the present day worldwide, Reggae is filled with Social commentary, reflections on life (often by the poor and those marginalised by society), musings on systemic corruption (living in Babylon), a call to love, raising African consciousness, repatriation, teaching self-reliance, and of course rejoicing the blessings of life, and giving praises and exaltations to Jah Rastafari.
Reggae has also been shown to help our canine friends relax.
Reggae is Jamaica’s largest cultural export, and since its humble beginnings from the ghettos of Kingston, reggae has grown to become a worldwide cultural and musical expression. There are reggae bands from every habitable continent of the world.
At its heart and root, Reggae music is still “Rebel Music”, not always easy to pigeon-hole into a neat category or label. Enjoy this Reggae video.