Life, Travel, West Indies

Trench Town, Jamaica and the Symbol of One Love.

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 A Dreadly Rockin’ Morning in Trench Town, Jamaica, was written after an inspiring visit to the iconic urban ghetto in Kingston, Jamaica. The story was first published on The Expeditioner travel website on the 20th of February, 2016.


Reggae music pulses from inside the compound as wafts of marijuana smoke float skywards under the blazing morning sun. The enormous sign, painted in the Rastafarian colors red, green and gold outside the gate at 6-8 Lower First Street reads, “Welcome. Trench Town Culture Yard. Birthplace of Jamaica’s Legacies.” It stands alongside a huge black and white portrait of the late Robert “Bob” Nesta Marley O.M., the acclaimed Jamaican-born rock star who took reggae to the world.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect the morning I ventured into the heart of Trench Town in Kingston, Jamaica. Since the late 1960’s (in the aftermath of Jamaica gaining independence from Britain in 1962), this poverty-stricken area of West Kingston has maintained a reputation as a dangerous, crime-ridden neighborhood. For much of the last half of the 20th Century, politically motivated violence between militant gangs aligned to rival parties — the JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) and the PNP (People’s National Party) — left urban Kingston reeling. Some guidebooks still warn against visiting. Though things have improved and shootings are less common, it’s still one of the Jamaican capital’s poorest neighborhoods, worlds away from the beachfront resorts that lure most visitors to the tropical Caribbean island.

But lured I was on a recent odyssey through spellbinding Jamaica, compelled to pay tribute to the place that inspired many of the world’s great reggae artists. In the bleak, violent reality of ghetto life, the Trench Town community fostered pockets of incredible creativity and spirituality. And it was here, in this hotspot of humanity, where opportunities to lift oneself out of the zinc-fenced yards were almost non-existent, that reggae and its musical predecessors rocksteady and ska were born.

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