As this is the last part of our series, I’ll use less words and more pictures. Feel free to inquire for more details in the comments!
Tuesday, March 15th 2016
Everybody is up early today, as a lot of things have to be arranged. I experience first-hand the preparations undertaken for the Level Up! – Tuesday that is happening tonight at the Nanook. Motto: Kings who honour Queens. Yeah!
While everybody around me seems busy organizing stuff, I do a little shopping trip on my own and come back in the early afternoon to a Nanook bustling with activity. On top of everything else, the artist called Tuff Like Iron is here with Supa Nova to shoot a video for her track “Tune In”. After her part is through and Nova films her son doing a set of Yoga practices, she tells me about some of her plans and projects, as she is not only a singer, but also a designer and self-made business-woman. You should definitely check her out! www.tufflikeiron.org
Around 5 pm, the fire is lit once more and a veggie soup is prepared for a team dinner before the official evening starts at 8 pm. As last week, there are panel discussions first, discussions that center around the empowerment of women and their meaning for society and mankind on a whole. I am impressed by the positivity of it all – the panelists Ibby Lion and Abebe Payne really mean what they are saying! Positive also is the musical program: first up, there is an all-female drumming group with Ouida Lewis and Afia Walkingtree. Next, a singer called Asante Amen performs some of his songs with a relaxed acoustic set-up for almost an hour, and then DJ Linear takes over for a night of music and dance.
Wednesday, March 16th 2016
I will spend the day in the welcome and pleasant company of Matthew McCarthy. He picks me up around noon, and we first take a highly anticipated trip to 41 Fleet Street, the beautiful result of a project called Paint Jamaica which Matthew helped to make happen. The area close to the infamous General Penitentiary is not the best in Kingston in terms of security and living standards, but thanks to the efforts of Paint Jamaica, it has improved quite a lot. Opposite of the ruins that now display a fine collection of Jamaica’s contemporary art, the “wardens” of this open art exhibition have developed a place called Life Yard, and that’s where we are headed first. We enter a paradisiac little garden, where, as I am told, food is grown organically and serves as ingredient for the freshly cooked meals that can be eaten in the little vegan restaurant they created there. Awesome!
When we cross the street to look at the paintings, Matthew is enthusiastically greeted by a few children. He takes his time to chat and play ball with them, while I am speechlessly wandering around, marvelling at the colourful outburst of creativity. I strongly advise you to visit this place whenever you are in Kingston, as the photos transmit but half of the vibrancy there is to behold.
From the magic of art to the magic of nature: our next stop is “The River”, as everyone calls it, and especially Jik has been continually singing praises of the place . Already the trip there is an adventure, leaving inner Kingston (after we picked up a friend of Matthew’s to accompany us) and ascending into its mountain slopes to the North. We park the car when we can’t drive no further and walk the last bit of way. I realize how much I have missed the Jamaican landscape, its smells, sounds and feel – with everything going on in the city, slowing down and letting your soul breathe becomes an exercise too often neglected. Well, here we are, ready to do just that. And when my two companions finally tell me to climb down a rock, I am, for the second time of the day, lost for words. Almost invisible from the path above, there is a waterfall that has washed out a little pool below it, just deep enough to swim, as I immediately set out to find. Matthew is getting a little fire going, and we spend a peaceful afternoon right there.
When dusk is beginning to gather, we reluctantly leave, and Matthew brings me back to Joan’s, where I eat something and get ready for yet another evening at the Nanook, this time with Yaadcore’s Dubwise Jamaica. Again, it is a highlight of music and encounters, and again, a few spontaneous interview partners tell me their story, among them Azizzi Romeo (son of Max Romeo), Asante Amen and the artist called Vybrant whom I’ve seen (but not spoken to) at last week’s Dub School. A scheduled interview is to be held as well, with T.O.K.-member Craigy T. With that, “work” is done for the day and I succumb to the mixed sensation of today’s relaxation and agitation within and without.
Thursday, March 17th 2016
This can’t really be my last day in Kingston! Sad as this realisation is, I am looking forward to the time ahead. The first trip takes me to Vineyard Town once more, following an invitation of the Jah Ova Evil family to get to know their movement better. The time spent at their yard is one full of insights and inspiration, as these people really move things with the little means they have, creating safe havens for artists to display their creativity – not only music (you can access the full interview here as soon as it’s online).
After almost two hours of reasoning, I go to the Nanook once more to bid the place farewell and meet Peter. Together, we buy some stuff for the diner planned tonight, and immediately set to cooking once we are back home. Most of the UP-Tour family will be there to send me off, as well as other friends, old and new alike. I’m glad that Italee could make it, along with her three beautiful children. We talk for a while (an interview that will become the basis of my article about this amazing singer in the current issue of the Riddim Magazine), then go to the garden to join the others in the setting sun. The food is delicious, the people dear and I kinda wish this evening would never end.
Friday, March 18th 2016
Time to say good-bye! With a last stop-over in Montego Bay, where I spend half a night at Anne Heese’s Spring Garden Cottage, this trip is over. Certainly, it wasn’t my last visit to this heavenly island. See y’all again soon!!!
Text & Photos: Gardy Stein-Kanjora