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Kingston Pop Culture

One of the most enjoyable elements of traveling is the imaginary trip you take before you even arrive at your destination. Make the most of your pre-trip daydreaming by immersing yourself in Jamaica’s music, literature and cinema. As far as music goes, if you’re a newcomer to reggae, you can’t go wrong with Bob Marley’s "Legend" album, a collection of his most famous recordings. You’ll hear these tunes almost everywhere you go on the island; this familiarity can be enjoyable—it can also sound like an endless tape loop. So think about varying your listening to include music from Jamaica’s various styles, including mento, ska, rock steady, dub, and dancehall. Standout performers include Peter Tosh, Toots & the Maytals, Yellowman, Shaggy, Elephant Man and Sean Paul. Jimmy Cliff is another one of Jamaica’s musical treasures. He’s also a movie icon, having starred in the 1972 cult favorite, "The Harder They Come." The movie chronicles the misadventures of an ill-fated reggae musician who turns to crime. The movie has great scenes of Kingston (lots of heavy patois with subtitles) and one of the killer soundtracks of all time. Put this one on your iPod—you won’t be sorry. For a light evening at the movies, rent "Cool Runnings," the story of the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team, and "The Mighty Quinn," with Denzel Washington playing an island police detective. When it comes to literature, check out the recordings of dub poets Linton Kewsi Johnson or Mikey Smith. Jamaica’s literary tradition is steeped in the spoken word, and these two pack a punch. For fun beach reading, pick up a copy of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel "Dr. No." Fleming was a resident of Jamaica and his love affair with the island is evident in his prose.
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