The Legacy of Culture
I get such a rush when I write about the place where I grew up, one among all the things I am passionate about…The legacy and the culture is so tangible that it brings a smile to my lips just thinking about it. It’s like biting into a sweet juicy fruit and reliving the first time you tasted it.
My childhood home is in Trench Town and memories of growing up are filled with street dances, concerts and celebrities visiting. After all, this was the place where Reggae music was born.
Trench Town is a small community in Kingston, Jamaica and is sometimes referred to as an inner-city community or even a ghetto. It is where the likes of Joe Higgs, Alton Ellis, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and many more, whom I can’t even begin to name, got their inspiration and their start as iconic Singers.
Today, the community can say that it proudly has that rich legacy to share with the world.
In the early 2000s the Trench Town Development Association (TTDA) along with Sister Grace Yap of the Franciscan Ministries brought to life a much-needed community heritage project – the Trench Town Culture Yard.
To start off establishing the project, the tenement yard where Bob’s mentor Vincent “Tata” Ford lived, where all the aspiring, budding singers went to hang out and jive as young men or teenagers back in the sixties, was emptied of any residents and secured to be used as a museum. Once the residents were relocated, the rooms were repainted and the wooden floors polished until you could see yourself as clearly as if you were staring into a mirror.
The very guitar that was used to play the first cords of music during the writing of “No woman Nuh Cry”, now belonging to Tata, was secured as the first item to be on display in the museum. Bob’s old blue Volkswagen, that he often used to travel the island, was the second item. It was convenient that the van was already there in the yard under the watchful eye of Tata.
The association decided not to have the Volkswagen restored because they thought it would take away the nostalgic aura of the van. So, against her better judgement, Sister Grace went along with the decision because it was the community’s call to make about what they wanted to get done for the museum as well as how they wanted it done.
Tour Guides were chosen from the community’s locals. They were trained and certified by the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) in a joint partnership with the community’s association as well as the Franciscan Ministries. The tours included the Culture Yard and the community of Trench Town as a whole. Now, each room in the yard and every street in the community had its own story to tell.
After all Trench Town is the home of Reggae, Rocksteady, Roots Reggae and Ska.
The yard’s history is one that includes the fact that the rooms were small single room dwellings that were sometimes home to families of nine. Believe me, as I kid you not, because my grandparents lived in one of those rooms with their seven children.
The yard’s amenities were basic and meant to be shared by all its residents. The amenities included two shared kitchens along with four outside toilets, two separate shower stalls and two wash sinks. They were all located at the back of the yard. This meant that the numerous residents had to take turns using these limited amenities, hence the famous “Tenement yard” reference in one of Bob Marley’s songs.
The community’s streets each yield their own tales and you can bet on seeing some of Jamaica’s music icons’ old childhood homes including where Peter Tosh grew up, where Bob Marley lived with his mother and many more. You can even visit Mortimer Plano’s old meeting ground where the Nyabinghi drummers once gathered to play their ritual Rastafarian music and talk about the teachings of Marcus Mosiah Garvey.
These days, the Trench Town Culture Yard gets regular tours and most recently saw Jay-Z joining the many celebrities who have taken the trip to get a feel of that special place where so many of Reggae’s talents were nurtured and their music given life. The Marley siblings, mainly the brothers - Stephen, Damian “Junior Gong”, Julian and sometimes Ziggy, Ky-Mani and Rohan - stop in whenever they get the chance, if only to sit and talk with the community’s youth.