Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise 2017 – When The Culture Connect
I once asked my father for a BMW -- as a ballsy seventeen year old with a day old driver’s license and a dream. He entertained the idea. “Yes, I’ll get you a BMW,” he said happily, followed by “a Bob Marley and the Wailers CD.”
I laughed, sulked and then I held him to that gift.
Over the years my father, of West Indian heritage, introduced me to the culture, our culture. From the teachings of Marcus Garvey, to the rebellions of Rastafarians to the majesty of Haile Selassie I, whose first name my father gifted to my sister.
I’ve always loved the culture -- a potion equal parts Reggae, Rasta and Jamrock. But it wasn’t until 5 days aboard the Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise that I lived the culture.
The who’s who of reggae, and reggae-adjacent music, like Bounty Killer, Spice, Popcaan, Jah Cure, Big Youth and Di Captain along with the heirs to his nautical throne, Di Genius and Chino, gave us incredible performances each evening. Luciano brought the energy and blew our minds with a backflip. Pressure inspired the USVI flags to fly high on all white night. Busy Signal brought forth tears, mainly from me, during Jamaica Love, his prideful rendition of Alphaville’s 1984 hit Forever Young. And Tarrus Riley sang his heart out, through soulful tunes, directly into the hearts of each of ours.
Exclusive and boat-rocking drops from these same megastars were used like ammunition during the third annual Soundclash at Sea where Tony Matterhorn, King Turbo and the renowned selector David Rodigan aimed at the reigning champion sound system of Mighty Crown. All in attendance during the battle witnessed a competitive clash, a heavy music history lesson and barrage of destructive dubs played by the Japanese crew who kept their crowns again this year.
Selectors like DJ Norie, J Rocc and DJ Madout kept vibes high throughout the day and throughout the boat, literally ensuring that the music of Jamaica -- ska, dancehall and rocksteady included, reached us everywhere. Jamrock Radio with DJs like Yaadcore, Seani B and an incredible line up of interviews played throughout hallways 24/7 like lullabies and wakeup calls, or simply irie tunes in our rooms.
For those who rose with the sun, and the few of us who postponed sleep all together, the Nyabinghi Drummers chanted to and for H.I.M. The rest of us when not silently in awe, joined in, singing to the rising sun.
There was yoga, movies, football tournaments and painting classes to watch or join and a couple days to experience the land, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay specifically, that birthed many of the artists we know and love.
Damian Jr. Gong Marley, the creator of this incomparable weeklong experience, sonically transported us all to Stony Hill and concluded the highly anticipated performance with five heavy hitters sharing his stage -- Stephen Ragga Marley, Sizzla, Busy Signal, Cham and Kabaka Pyramid.
In 2007 on a cruise stop to “Ochi”, I jumped on a bus tour through the countryside to see the Nine Mile, St Ann Parish childhood home of our beloved Bob Marley. I sat on his twin bed, looked out of his bedroom window, walked the land, and hugged relatives -- some close and some distant. I took it all in, nearly photographically, while seated on a rock patriotically painted red, green and gold. Grateful for what the “King of Reggae” so selflessly gave to us all and optimistic about how we would use his messages, culture, music and movement to truly experience ONE LOVE in our lifetime.
Now, a decade later, still vibrating from my very first Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise, “all in the same boat,” as Bob would say, with people from around the world, I know that unity and one love are on our horizon.
Until next year, let’s keep sailing in this direction.