Seeking to get away for a short 4-day vacation I chose Jamaica without much deliberation. Since I was raised in New York City and had so many Jamaican friends, you could say I felt like I practically knew the place. Jamaica had been on my to-do list but it had taken a number of years for me to get to that item. Working with a travel agent I quickly settled on a resort in Ocho Rios, one of the major Jamaican resort destinations.
I flew Air Jamaica and I must say the smooth flight and their hassle-free policies lived up to every bit of their advertising. In Jamaica the favorite expression in the hospitality industry is “No Problem Man” and Air Jamaica certainly exhibited that general attitude too. I hadn’t anticipated that the ride from the airport to the resort would be that long and at times bumpy, but I was in a minibus with about six other tourists and everyone was in such high spirits that we just went with the flow. En route to the resort we stopped to rest at a location that included a Jerk Chicken shack. I had tasted Jerk Chicken before but I wanted to try it in the place that invented it. I soon placed my order and as I enjoyed my lunch I reasoned that if this humble rest stop could turn out such first-rate specialties, a resort should have even greater fare.
Arriving at the resort I was greeted at the front gate by the management staff that included 3 musicians as part of the welcome entourage. I wasted no time relieving one of the guitar players of his “axe” and launching into my version of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry. They all got a big kick out of this and accompanied me on vocals and box bass. On a few of the choruses, one of the musicians even performed an extremely polished Dancehall style rap. I asked him if he had thought about a music career and he mentioned that the music industry in Jamaica was so competitive that he hadn’t really given it serious consideration.
There were 5 restaurants, each with a different cuisine, and the food was absolutely outstanding. One night while sitting in one of the many outdoor spaces I heard the house band do a cover of the great Gregory Isaacs’ reggae song, Night Nurse and I was so impressed that I caught up with the band leader between sets to compliment him on the performance of the band. He explained that they had been the house band for about 3 years and worked there 5 nights a week. The only words to describe the music are “authentic” and “organic”. Jamaica had given the world Reggae and it was no accident that the music and the musicians that played it sounded so good here: it was the sound being conveyed in its natural habitat. I reflected that this is also true of American musical forms too: other nationalities could play it but to really understand it, it helps to go to America and hear the music in the proper cultural context.
From that night on, on spotting me in the crowd, the band would always dedicate Night Nurse to me and I could not help but marvel at the profound statement their music made. The rest of the trip was packed with enough Pina Coladas to last a lifetime as well as visits to popular landmarks but nothing could rival the sound of the Night Nurse on a cool Jamaican night.