Jamaica’s musical heritage remains relatively unexplored by tourists, despite the large number of British visitors to the island each year. Exploring Nine Mile where Roots, Rock Reggae was born and continues to flourish
STIRRING IT UP IN BOB’S HONOUR
It’s the road that has kept Nine Mile special. But for the forbidding, perilous dusty track, this little oasis would have become just another staging post on Jamaica’s tourist trail. Nine Mile is more like a million miles away from the all-inclusive, gated compound holidays where most visitors while away their time on the island. Through the red, yellow and green gate is the entrance of ‘Nine Mile’, the birth place (and burial ground) of the Right Honourable Robert Nesta Marley and home to a colony of self-sufficient Rastafarians, at one with nature and its glorious herbal offerings.
Perched nine miles up a treacherous windy road in the parish of St. Ann; this tiny, primitive village of Nine Mile survives solely on the success of its most famous export. Unsurprisingly, the speakers spurt nothing but Bob leading up to Mount Zion, Bob’s final resting place. Nine Mile is frequented by die-hard Marley fans from all over the world yet, luckily avoids the mass-Jamaican tourist market, thanks to their confinement in the dreaded all-inclusive. Conveniently, these mass operations tell their guests it is unsafe to leave the property thus guaranteeing maximum income for themselves and enabling people to enjoy the wonders of places like Nine Mile in relative peace and quiet. The atmosphere is so ‘One Love’ that you can feel the vibes oozing from all angles. Nine Mile remains primitive yet incredibly proud. Water is only available in a nearby reservoir and roads are littered with ladies performing enviable balancing acts with enormous vessels atop their heads. The gentle Rastafarian culture embraces nature and remains powerfully spiritual.
Inside Bob’s former home, is the outdoor area that provided inspiration for one of Bob’s most lucrative performances. Admiring the seductive bougainvillea and hypnotised by the sweet smell of the hibiscus, a Guide’s explanation turns into an impromptu performance of ‘Three Little Birds’ accompanied by X-Star on the harmonica and Iyana, Bob’s beautiful Rastafarian great-niece who, arrives just in time to do the bird sounds for the chorus. As a mark of respect for Bob’s Rastafarian beliefs, shoes are removed before entering his final resting place which has now become a shrine for global fans. Honouring his love of football, a Jamaican football shirt covers his colourful grave and despite the unusual quietness of the room compared to elsewhere in Nine Mile, a strong sense of joy surrounds as messages of love from fans and friends including the great Nelson Mandela and Lennox Lewis are read. Bob would be proud of the unchanged atmosphere here, unaffected by its new-found status as a global tourist attraction.
Spontaneous bursts of song and extemporaneous exhibitions of jovial dancing make up a regular day in Nine Mile where, time holds no importance and carefree conviviality are a way of life. Descent through the breathtaking lush countryside reminds one that Jamaica really does have so much more to offer than rum punch and wristbands and that Nine Mile really was the inspiration to the world’s greatest ever Reggae star.