Everyting is Everyting

Leonard Lea Frazer

The map of Jamaica.
The map of Jamaica.

“Down the way where the nights are gay

And the sun shines daily on the mountaintop

I took a trip on a sailing ship

And when I reached Jamaica I made a stop.”

 

These are the words of Irving Louis Burgie, also known as Lord Burgess, from his “Jamaica Farewell” - a song recorded by singers including Harry Belafonte, Jimmy Buffett, Carly Simon and the Kingston Trio. Most of the lyrics of this particular song are in plain English. However, one of his other songs, also created for Belafonte, “Day-O,” contains words that reflect what is known as Jamaican Patois (pronounced “patwa”). This language was developed in the 17th Century by imported slaves who came from Africa, so it’s a mix between English and African tribal dialects. Today this language is spoken in Jamaica, Costa Rica and Panama. In total there are 3.1 million speakers.

A friendly greeting in Patois may be, “You! Wuapen?” or “Hi! What’s Happening?” If you want to present a more personal and sincere opening line when you meet a Jamaican, just say, “Rispeck!” which is also “Hi” but a very respectful “Hi.” An appropriate response could very well be, “Everyting is everyting” (“All is well” or “It’s all good”), or just, “Everyting cool!” (“Everything nice!” or “All is well!”).

While the Jamaican slaves of different African tribes developed Patois as a communication tool, the British exploited this labour force to work on their colonial sugar plantations. The abolition of slavery in 1834 brought an end to the harsh conditions that existed with the workers. However, the British transported Chinese and Indian migrants to the island as indentured labourers. Their backgrounds merged with the African and British to help form the Jamaican culture.

Jamaica was a British colony from 1654 to 1962. Today Jamaica is part of the Commonwealth of Nations, many of which were also past colonies of Britain.

The predominant religion in Jamaica is the Christian faith. The Anglican Church, Catholic Church, Baptists and the Church of God are present throughout the country. Elements of ancient African religions still remain in small isolated congregations. Because of their practices many Christians and non-Christians visit these groups, seeking an experience they have not found in the conventional churches. It is estimated that as much as 40% of the Jamaican population secretly enlist the services of the African traditional religious healers when confronted with a serious health problem that conventional medicine cannot remedy.

In the 1930s the Rastafarian movement started, highlighting aspects of Jamaica’s African-Caribbean culture. Rastafarians are most recognized for wearing their hair in dreadlocks, Reggae music, and the spiritual smoking of Cannabis. Recording artist Bob Marley became the highest exponent of the Rastafarian culture and belief in the 1970s.

Also connected to early Jamaican history are the early tales of Caribbean pirates and the infamous “Port Royal.” When the English captured this town in 1655 from the Spanish it quickly became a haven for pirates and buccaneers. Most of the site of Port Royal was destroyed in a 1692 earthquake.

Today’s Jamaica draws almost a million people every year disembarking from Jamaica Cruises. Also, the country’s largest International Airport, Sangster, sees 1.7 million visitors arriving to Jamaica every year.

Popular Jamaican tourist adventures include: a visit to Bob Marley’s birthplace at Nine Mile, a cruise on 

the Luminous Lagoon, a zipline tour in a rainforest, a Catamaran Cruise, river-rafting on the Rio Bueno, the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, a Reggae Summer Fest, crocodile-spotting in Black River, swimming with dolphins, riding a camel, and the Jamaica Bobsledding Tour.

Of the 14 ports in Jamaica, large cruise ships dock at Oco Rios and Montego Bay on the North side. The capital city of Kingston lies on the south coast of the island. The remains of Port Royal and remnants of the Pirate Era are close by Kingston.

And, as the sun sinks slowly in the west, we say “Farewell” and sing…

 

“Down the market you can hear

Ladies cry out while on their heads they bear

‘Akey rice, salt fish are nice

And the rum is fine any time of year.

 

But I’m sad to say I’m on my way

Won’t be back for many a day

My heart is down, my head is turning around

I had to leave a little girl in Kingston town.”

 Tour Guide explains the ‘Breadfruit’.
Tour Guide explains the ‘Breadfruit’.
Leonard Lea Frazer photo

Giant bean pods found in several tropical countries.
Giant bean pods found in several tropical countries.
Leonard Lea Frazer photo

 Ruminants of an English garden statue on a Jamaican plantation.
Ruminants of an English garden statue on a Jamaican plantation.
Leonard Lea Frazer photo

A musician entertains at dock-side in Oco Rios.
A musician entertains at dock-side in Oco Rios.
Leonard Lea Frazer photo

 Fruit sample at an active plantation.
Fruit sample at an active plantation.
Leonard Lea Frazer photo

A Jamaican interpreter/travel guide.
A Jamaican interpreter/travel guide.
Leonard Lea Frazer photo