When I think of Jamaica, the first things that come to mind are the gorgeous beaches and reggae. These are two of the most representative aspects of the island, according to popular perception. It is not wrong since there are gorgeous beaches and Jamaica is reggae’s place of birth.
When I visited Jamaica, I noticed that people listened to reggae in the interior, and that dancehall and ska were more prevalent in the capital city of Kingston. However, it is in the capital that the Bob Marley Museum is located. I don’t think I need to explain who he was, do I?
The museum belongs to the Rita Marley Foundation and is housed in the Marleys’ former family home. The family moved to this beautiful 19th-century property in 1975. Bob used to sit under his favourite mango tree to write or play music. Or smoke ganja, whose revolting smell pervaded the garden while I was taking photos.
The house can be visited with a tour guide only. My guided tour was scheduled to begin at 1:30. I had a half hour to spare, so I went around the garden and snapped pictures. Be advised that photography is not allowed inside the house. Luckily, I didn’t stray too far, as the guide decided to start the visit at 1:15.
The visit was entertaining and informative. Our guide would burst into song to illustrate a point. She had a wonderful voice, whereas we did not, but that didn’t stop her trying to make us sing along.
Marley had a recording studio built at home, Tuff Gong International’s forerunner, where the band recorded famous songs. It was really cool to be able to stand next to his original mixing table. His gold, platinum, and diamond records, as well as his Grammy, are displayed in the room next door.
Marley used to lie on a hammock and play bongos in a gallery upstairs, which looks the way he left it, as does his bedroom. Even though Marley could afford anything he wanted, he had a somewhat austere lifestyle.
Marley’s favourite denim shirt, which he wore to his concerts, is displayed upstairs, as are his cutoffs. I wish someone had put them in the washing machine first!
Let me share some of the things I learned during my visit to the Bob Marley Museum:
- His father was a white soldier from Manchester, England, called Capt. Norval St. Claire Marley. He was 55 and Bob’s mother 18 when they met. He died when Bob was 10.
- Bob Marley was 5’ 6”; he looked taller on stage.
- Marley died of melanoma.
- He was born in Nine Mile, where his mausoleum is located, and grew up in Trench Town, a massive shantytown.
- In 1976, two days before the One Love concert, Marley and the Wailers were rehearsing in his house when a group of armed men burst in and opened fire at the band. No one died that day but a bullet grazed Marley’s chest and another was lodged in his left elbow. He didn’t have it removed because doctors said he would lose some range of movement. To this day, no one knows who wanted him dead or why. After the concert, Marley and his family went on a voluntary exile to London. They lived in Notting Hill for 8 months.
- The rehearsal room, called The Shot Room, is located on the ground floor and has a separate entrance. Two big holes on the wall are a constant reminder of that night.
Admission is US$25, which is on the higher side for Jamaica, and, on top of that, your guide will request tips. I loathe that practice because it works. I gave her JA$500.
I came in with low expectations but went away happy that I learned new things and had the chance to see a bit of Jamaica’s recent history.