J-A-M, Jamaica! You likely already know, but a trip to the island is always a vibe. EBONY recently hopped on a flight to partake in the 30th anniversary of the Reggae Sumfest, and it did not disappoint.
The weeklong festivities began with a host of community events including a family day, an all-black party as well as the annual Global Sound Clash at Montego Bay's Pier 1. If you aren't familiar with Caribbean culture and sound clashes, they're essentially an intense DJ battle where the selectas (DJs) go head-to-head in a series of rounds using customs dubs featuring some of the world's hottest dancehall and reggae artists. This year, there were four talented folks competing from Jamaica, South Sudan and even Japan. In the end, DJ Dynamq from the Mother Continent took the crown.
Then, on July 21, 2023, the official Reggae Sumfest began. For two nights, dancehall and reggae lovers gathered on the venue grounds to whine their waists and let the tunes move them, well into the early morning hours—literally, the concerts ended at 8am. Some of the hottest artists—old and young—who were born and bred in the country hit the stage to give fans a show. Everyone from Jada Kingdom, Tanya Stephens, Masicka, Jah Vinci, Freddie McGregor, Valiant, D'Yani and so many more.
"We are always looking for new and innovative ways to position Jamaica as a destination people want to visit," Jamaica Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett tells EBONY. "Reggae Sumfest is engrained in our culture and resonates with our international audiences as well as our brothers and sisters of the Diaspora."
During our time on the island, we also got to explore a little more of what MoBay had to offer. From spending a day in a Rastafarian village to kicking back at a Black-owned beach club, here's how we spent our time in Jamaica.
What we did
While all the Reggae Sumfest action happened from late night into the early morning, we still wanted to spend our days immersing ourselves in the tranquility of the island. During our first full day, we spent time at Tropical Bliss Beach, a locally-owned beach club and bar. We kicked back in our rented cabana as we sipped rum punch and frozen cocktails as the soothing ocean waves relaxed us. The spot also offers watersports, a full menu, Wi-Fi, vendors as well as bathrooms and showers.
The next day, we headed up to the countryside to experience a day with some of the island's remaining Rastas. Tucked away in the lush green hills and mountains, Rasta Safari was definitely a highlight. The tour started with an overview of the company and the history of how they came to own and care for the land. From there, we hopped on ATVs to drive deeper into the property, where we then stopped at a natural blue swimming hole—said to have healing properties—to take a dip and feast on fresh-picked mango.
After the tour, we sat down to a homecooked ital (plant-based) meal prepared by locals.
What we ate
We were in the land of all-things jerk, so of course, we had to partake. After our trek from the Rasta Safari, we stumbled upon a local spot called Border Jerk. We ordered a heavy helping of fresh-off-the-grill jerk chicken, festival, roasted sweet potatoes, breadfruit, and passion fruit, mango and ginger juices. Our bellies were very happy.
Beyond Border Jerk, we indulged in oxtails from Peppa's, steamed and fried fish with rice and peas from Tropical Bliss Beach, and so much more.