In one of my past lives, I was a music blog editor. This is not a music review, but just a confession that I learned more about music from my travels to Treasure Beach, Jamaica than in the hundreds of hours of listening to new indie rock albums in Brooklyn. Think of Jamaican music and think of Bob Marley, and for good reason, of course. Though in Treasure Beach I think I got a taste of that “One love,” feeling he sings about.
It’s always tough to arrive somewhere in the dark. After flying into Montego Bay around 6 p.m. (customs was CRAZY – We got the tip to avoid flying into Jamaica on Saturday, it’s when many of the resorts all-inclusive patrons arrive) we hopped in a friend’s car and drove for three hours to Treasure Beach. The sun was setting as we began, so I only got a quick glimpse of the skinny strips of pavement between potholes as we exited Mo’Bay center. I love these kind of death-defying rides, truthfully – and since I couldn’t see much, I dared close my eyes and luxuriated in the smell of cookfires and the sounds of cicadas as we whizzed by.
When we arrived in the community of Treasure Beach, and found our guest house, the first thing my partner noticed was the sound of a drum set not far off. He’d brought his guitar, and immediately set out wandering the dirt roads until he came upon “The Tree,” a tiny bar that was the source of the sound. A neighborhood kid was playing the drums, set up on the dirt in front of the place, and so he joined in, no questions asked.
Though I can vouche for my partner’s talents, the music was not technically excellent. It was a jam session, and people were enjoying it. I’m reminded of our blogger, Colin, and documentary on Jamaican music, THIS is what he must have been inspired by.
He was also probably inspired to tell the story of our tendancy to judge music as ‘good’ or ‘cool,’ really worthy of making money off of. This music was played for simply the joy of it. Sharing a vibe, a community. And the community was there. More than one night, musicians from the community would gather here. Mostly locals, some tourists, and a random expat dubbed “Indian” because he was from India. No place for BS here.
This was my first time to Jamaica, and I feel truly blessed to have ended up in Treasure Beach. There is one hotel considered a ‘resort,’ and only probably because of the price of its rooms, not its size. There are a few cute guesthouses, I recommend The Calabash House. The one thing I wish I had found was a veggie and fruit market so we could cook for ourselves – though there is a fish market near The Calabash House. Also one thing I was surprised to have is amazing food! We ate lobster almost every night, the spices were not hot but incredibly flavorful, and if you avoid the ‘festival’ (basically a fried donut) it’s quite healthy. (I’ll definitely be posting about Jamaican food asap.)
Sadly, it seems like Jamaica has been written off as a “true travel” destination because so many people go there just to drink away their days with rum punch and Red Stripe rather than explore and meet the locals. In fact, I often hear about how travelers should avoid meeting the local people, because “it’s dangerous.” There is so much history to that island, and you can just feel it, though I have yet to even dive into the rich history.
Music was our gateway to an understanding of this place. Our culture is different, yet at the same time so similar it’s hard to draw the lines anywhere. By sharing music, we were able to connect with Jamaicans with that deep truth and intention any traveler desires.
Have any of you been to Jamaica and chosen to vacation off the beaten track?