A Bob Marley statue is located near the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica’s Trench Town. // © 2015 Debbie Olsen
Feature image (above): Jamaica, the “land of reggae,” has various sites that pay homage to Jamaican native Bob Marley. // © 2015 Debbie Olsen
Music is a powerful expression of cultural identity, and no visit to Jamaica would be complete without an exploration of the sites related to reggae music’s most famous ambassador, Robert “Bob” Nesta Marley.
Decades after his passing, there are murals and statues of Marley everywhere, and his music still rings through the streets. Reggae pilgrims and casual admirers alike will want to explore his legacy at these three key sites.
Bob Marley Museum
Marley’s former home has been turned into a museum in Kingston. He purchased the home in 1975 and lived there until his death in 1981. In 1987, it was converted into a unique museum that displays Marley’s personal treasures and provides insight into his daily life. Inside the home, visitors can see his gold and platinum records, Rastafarian religious cloaks, his favorite denim stage shirt and the Order of Merit presented by the Jamaican government (an award given for distinction in the field of science, the arts, literature or another endeavor). There’s also a recording studio and a replica of Marley’s original record shop where visitors can purchase CDs and records.
Another room is wallpapered with media clippings from Marley’s final tour. His bedroom has been left as it was, with his favorite star-shaped guitar by the bed and an open bible with his ganja resting inside it. The former recording studio out back is now an exhibition hall with photos of the singer and a theater that shows a 20-minute film at the end of a tour.
Admission to the Bob Marley Museum is $20.
Bob Marley was born in Saint Ann parish in the tiny village of Nine Mile a few miles south of Brown’s Town. It’s also the place where he was buried after he died of cancer at the age of 36.
Visitors to Nine Mile can tour the Bob Marley Mausoleum, which is managed by members of Marley’s family. There are many historical artifacts, including guitars, awards and photographs. There is also a “rock pillow” — painted in the Rastafarian colors of red, yellow and green — on which Marley laid his head when seeking inspiration, as well as two mausoleums on the property — one for Marley and one for his mother.
It is best to take a guided excursion from one of the nearby resorts. The roads leading to this site are very bad, and the vendors outside the mausoleum can be very aggressive.
Admission to the Bob Marley Mausoleum is $19. Commissionable tours are offered with Viator.
Trench Town Culture Yard
Trench Town Culture Yard in Kingston is the birthplace of the reggae and rocksteady music genres. During my visit to the Trench Town neighborhood and museum, a Jamaican National Heritage site, a small group of reggae artists was sitting on a walkway jamming as I wandered through, and I couldn’t help but stop to listen to their unique sound. It’s seemed so right to hear them play where Marley, songwriter Vincent “Tata” Ford, musician Peter Tosh, singer-songwriter Bunny Wailer and other famous artists developed their skills.
“This is our most prized possession,” said Sophia Dowe, our guide through the Trench Town Culture Yard Museum, as she pointed to an old guitar inside a glass case. “This was Bob Marley’s first guitar.”
The acoustic guitar was previously owned by Ford — perhaps best known for writing Marley’s hit song "No Woman, No Cry" — and is so sacred that the museum does not allow visitors to photograph it. As I stepped inside Ford’s simple room next door, I was remarkably moved — a feeling that caught me completely by surprise. The man who taught Marley how to play the guitar had a simple cell-like room with a single bed, a small dresser and an old bible. Biblical verses were scrawled on the cracked wall in his handwriting.
Visitors should contact this rustic museum in advance to arrange a guided tour. It’s safe to visit, but it’s not safe to wander around other areas of Trench Town on one’s own — it’s best to take a cab or join a tour group.
Admission to the Trench Town Culture Yard Museum is $10.