Posted on April 27th, 2012

Small World – Kingston Jamaica

It’s a long way from Coventry, England (our stop in the last edition of Small World) to Kingston, Jamaica, and there are marked differences between the two cities. However, they do share some commonalities, one of them being a unique music culture that grew out of 1960s reggae. The genre is called dub, a stripped-down form of reggae where the vocals are removed and the drums and bass are amplified. Often there are elements of echo and reverb added to give greater effect. Coming of age in the 1970s in London underground clubs, the dub sound frequently mixed with the punk scene to grow a new sound known as post-punk in other parts of England. This genre was best known by artists such as The Police, The Clash and UB40.

Music is central to Jamaica, and most people associate reggae with the country. While there are many forms and many artists associated with the island nation, perhaps the most famous is Robert Nesta Marley (aka Bob Marley). In Bob’s short life, he brought reggae to the world. He mostly wrote about issues related to his homeland, giving voice to political and cultural concerns. Marley was also a devote member of the Rastafari movement, a new religious movement that came of age in the 1930s in Jamaica. While today Rastafarians make-up less than 5% of Jamaicans, the faith is still commonly associated with the island.

Kingston is the capital of Jamaica, and it resides on the southeastern coast of the island nation. Just fewer than 1 million people live in the city at the foot of the Blue Mountains, the largest mountain range in Jamaica. Its highest point is Blue Mountain Peak at ~7,400 feet. Kingston has a tropical climate with wets season during the summer and fall; and a dry season during the winter and early-spring.

Kingston was founded in July of 1692 as a place for survivors of the earthquake that crippled Port Royal. Port Royal was a commerce shipping center before hurricanes and other natural disasters struck it in the late 1600s. It was completely destroyed by a fire set by pirates in 1703. Kingston slowly grew in population during the next two centuries; and then became Jamaica’s capital in 1872, taking the title from Spanish Town.

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Christopher Columbus claimed Jamaica for Spain in 1494. In 1655, the English captured the island after the Spanish fled and freed their slaves. The slaves escaped to the mountains to live with the indigenous descendants of the South American Arawak and Taino people where they fought the British. These Jamaicans were known as Jamaican Maroons, and fought valiantly for 52 years until the 1737 peace treaty with the British rulers of the island. Slave trade was eventually abolished in 1807, leading to the import of Indian and Chinese workers as indentured servants. Descendants of these workers now make up approximately 2% of the island’s population.

The oldest school in the Caribbean is the Wolmer’s School founded in 1729 and located in Kingston, Jamaica. It consists of four schools from primary to secondary education and has produced 21 Rhodes Scholars. A theater still stands today that was first opened in 1774; but the first theater was actually built in 1682 and it helped to foster the city’s artistic community. Kingston is a vibrant city that has a lot to offer its residents and its visitors. While the city is not best known for its beaches, it is only a short drive to one of the most famous beaches on the island, Negril. Consistently rated one of the top ten in the world, Negril, affectionately known as “Seven Mile Beach,” has been written about in novels and travel logs for decades. So come experience what Kingston and the surrounding areas have to offer – you’ll fall in love with the beauty and pace of life on this Caribbean island.

Justin Harmon

Staff Writer

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