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Trenchtown Rocks! Images of Trenchtown

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Uploaded on Apr 1, 2009

If one area on the planet could be said to have given rise to the most musical superstars per square inch, it has got to be Kingston's notorious ghetto area of Trenchtown. All three original Wailers, Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh were from here, as were Alton Ellis, Toots and the Maytals, the Wailing Souls, The Skatalites and scores of other legends and lesser-known reggae artists.
Right on the outer edges of Trenchtown is the real 'government yard' as featured in Bob Marley's song, No Woman No Cry. Now a heritage centre and local community hangout spot, this is the yard that Bob dwelled during his pre-fame years as a struggling singer living in one of the toughest ghettos in the world.
Government Yard literally means dwellings thrown up by the local authorities, the equivalent in the UK being council housing or in the US probably the projects. Basically its a little couryard with some rooms around the outside. The vibe is everything you would hope to get... fun, friendly and seriously chilled. Lots of dreads hanging out at the gate and kids demanding your attention. The boys in the picture are identical twins called Biggie and Little and the little girl is their sister. They were hilarious and needed no encouragment to throw the poses seen here! When asked what they wanted to be later in life they gave answers like 'mathmatician' and 'banker.' I hope they manage to make it out of Trenchtown.
The yard, known locally as 'Bob Marley Yard' and 'Culture Yard' has various historical artefacts, such as the rusting shell of the VW campervan you can see, which allegedly was Bob's old van in the 1960s. There has been a pledge by Volkswagen to restore it, although it looks to me like it might be beyond salvation. There's a room with Bob's old acoustic guitar in a glass case, and another room with a single bed that is apparently where Bob and Rita conceived Ziggy. You can also see the spot where "Georgie would make a fire light, logwood burning through the night." (logwood being an indiginous tree).
There's also a brightly coloured statue of Bob outside, with obligatory ganja plant beside it. Right by the statue is a craft workshop belonging to a fiery rasta woman called Blackstarliner (red hat, knitting) , who was sweet as pie to me and my friends but cussed like the devil to the brethren around.
We were taken for a walk round the neighbourhood by an ancient rastaman called Benji (with the big tam, concealing dreads down to his knees). He showed us various Marley landmarks such as the house Bob once lived in (I think its the one with the washing line right across the front at 2 mins.40). At one stage he pointed to a rock on the ground and said that this is the very spot that Bob slept rough one night, and wrote the lyric 'cold ground was my bed last night and rock was my pillow too' (from Talkin' Blues).
The locals there were really chuffed that we had made an effort to come down and told us to put the word out that this is a safe place to come. Apparently the only people who make it down there are German and Japanese reggae obsessives, as the place is off the conventional tourist map. But a cab driver will probably take you down to 'Trenchtown Culture Yard' and wait an hour for you, and it'll be worth every penny. Just watch out for the 'hi-grade' ganja spliffs... you want to still have your wits about you in Trenchtown!
(footnote: the image of Dennis Brown's grave was taken later that same day in National Heroes Park, as was the two soldiers and the party scene was a street festival celebrating Jamaican Independence).

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