Reprint from the Jamaica Gleaner Paul H. Williams Hospitality Jamaica Writer
FROM SATURDAY, February 2, to Sunday, February 10, a group of reggae enthusiasts from the USA were in the island on a mission called ‘Inside Reggae Music – The Ultimate Journey into a Jamaican Cultural-Musical Immersion’.
It was a result of collaboration between Jamaican master percussionists Maroghini; Matt Jenson, music professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts; and the experiential travel professionals at ‘Travel To Do Good’, whose chief experiences officer, Roslyn Parker, was part of the touring party.
Maroghini, who was instrumental in arranging the itinerary for the group, lives in Kingston. The author, lecturer, sound therapist, and vocalist, a former percussionist for Jimmy Cliff, has played for numerous studio recordings for a long list of internationally acclaimed musicians including Lauryn Hill, Eddy Murphy, Ziggy Marley, and Stephen Marley, to name a few.
Matt Jenson is a professor of piano at Berklee College of Music, where he has created the Music and Life of Bob Marley course/ensemble. He has worked with Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt, and members of Steel Pulse. He leads his reggae group, The Liquid Revolution, and is touring with reggae band, ‘Grounation’. He is currently developing a reggae educational platform called The Art of Reggae.
This trip came out of Jenson’s previous visits to Jamaica, after which he would go back with great stories about the birthplace of reggae. His friends/associates/former students then requested that he take them along, and that is exactly what he did through ‘Travel To Do Good’, which described the tour as a celebratory journey into reggae music intertwined with service, history, culture and what would be the 74th birthday of reggae icon Bob Marley.
Some of the places, people, and events they visited in the Corporate Area and St Catherine were Hope Botanical Gardens; Pinnacle, former home of the founder of Rastafari Leonard Howell; the Institute of Jamaica; Mystic Revelation of Rastafari rehearsal in Rockfort, with Count Ossie’s son; Sizzla’s Judgement Yard; the Jessie Ripoll Primary School; the Edna Manley College; the Bobby Digital Studio; the Bob Marley Museum; and the Trench Town Culture Yard.
En route to Portland, the entourage witnessed the drama and spiritedness of kumina in St Thomas. In Portland, they stayed at Great Huts Resort, where they had a bonfire, and dined at the Cliff Hanger Restaurant at Ross Craig, Soo Soom Ba Vegetarian Restaurant at Hope Bay, and Boston Jerk Centre. It was a cultural explosion at Charles Town Maroon village and the Rastafari School of Vision in the Blue Mountains.
Hospitality Jamaica caught up with the group of 16, including Maroghini, Jenson and Parker, while they were soaking up some of the culture in Portland on Friday, February 8. In reflecting on the mission, Maroghini said, “I am hoping participants left further convinced that Jamaica, despite its small size, is culturally and spiritually a force to be reckoned with on this planet … I am also hoping that the participants’ reggae performance instilled a sense of national pride, assuring the Jamaican audience that Brand Jamaica is large abroad.”
Parker, who said she is a social entrepreneur, said, “The bigger picture is for me to support small social enterprises that are for the greater good. When you are promoting understanding and helping people to really understand that at the end of the day we are all one, I think there is so much value in it.”
In his assessment, this time around, Jenson said, “It was a blessed trip, coming from a professor.”
As for the participants, the youngest of the lot was Leila Goodrum, who majors in professional music, with a focus on vocals and dance, at Berklee. She said, “So far, it’s the most spiritual place I’ve ever been. I have never felt so much energy, and I feel like I am coming away much more conscious of the story of humanity on this planet.”
Kevin Paris lives in Los Angeles but is from Milwaukee. The professional musician of about eight years said it was a pleasure to be here to see the roots of the music (reggae) that he loves. “All around it is so positive. It’s been such a blessing to be here … The food is my favourite part,” the reggae enthusiast said.