Negril's "Seven-Mile" beach is often rated as one of the World's top ten beaches and a number of resorts hold nightly beach parties on it in rotation. At weekends, local people come to enjoy the beach and the parties turn into all-night affairs.
Jamaica – Been There

Eat, drink, dance, repeat

Photo by Jochem Wijnands

Jamaica – Been There Eat, drink, dance, repeat

Her hips roll sensuously to the Caribbean rhythms, arms swaying to the beat. Around her has gathered a crowd of eager spectators, pushing each other gently for a better view.

Kiki Deere
Kiki Deere Travel Writer

I poke my face through a small gap for a closer look. The pulsating sound of ragga, reggae’s naughty, raunchy younger brother, pumps out of a worn sound system and envelops the tiny square in the heart of Kingston.

Welcome to Jamaica, where such public shows are a common sight and music is the heart and soul of the people. Sound systems, essentially large mobile discos (see mini feature), kicked off in the 1940s, giving poor Jamaicans the chance to get together to listen to their favorite tracks and dance until the early hours. “Years back, they first played R&B,” says my Jamaican friend Roger. “There was food stands and beer stands on every corner and real money to be made. It was big business.” It still is, judging by the number of stalls I can see selling food and drink.

Roger’s speech has the musical Jamaican lilt and is peppered with “Ya no” (you know?) and “mon” (man). He says “dem” and “dere” instead of “them” and “there” and drops the letter “h” where it is needed and adds it when not. It is beautiful to listen to, but so relaxing that my attention wanders. I watch a group of young men leisurely cross the potholed street to join the crowd. Behind them comes a teenage girl carrying a patty, one of Jamaica’s much-loved meat and potato pastries. She wears a slinky top that shows off her figure to best advantage.

“You know the song: ‘Rise Jamaica, Independence Time is Here’ by Al T. Joe?” asks Roger. “When Jamaica became independent in 1962, that became one of the most popular records of the time. Everyone was singing and dancing. Our musicians copied American rhythm and blues, but gave it a real Jamaican feel. That was ska music, what they call the soundtrack of Jamaica’s freedom.”

Help others create better trips and earn money in the process. Here's how to become a TRVL Agent!

Other stories about Jamaica