Kingston – Caribbean’s cultural capital
It is astonishing that the small island of Jamaica offers such a big array of resort areas, each one with its own unique charm. Both north and south coast resort areas lavish in trademark luxuries to varying degrees – pristine beaches, romantic hideaways, audacious adventures, pulsating nightlife, and ravishing beauty spots. But Kingston, the island’s capital located on the southeastern coast, offers a little of all the elements that make Jamaica a magic magnet, plus a huge slice of exciting, colourful culture.
Kingston is seen as the cultural capital of the Caribbean. It is also a bustling metropolis that has become the epitome of Jamaica’s national motto, ‘Out of many, one people’. A drive around town will quickly show evidence of a multicultural mosaic with important contributions from West Africans, Europeans, Indians, Chinese, and Middle Easterners. The city has been rocking to ska, rock steady, reggae, and dancehall beats for decades. Visitors to the city can check out the Bob Marley and the Peter Tosh museums. There are almost as many recording studios as churches, and early music pioneers like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Millie Small, and Desmond Decker took Jamaica’s music to international markets, where it quickly became a devout obsession for music fans worldwide. Nowadays, recording artists from all corners of the globe, including France, Brazil, and Japan, come to Kingston to take advantage of that mystical studio sound. And music fans can enjoy the rhythms of the city seven days a week at bars, bistros, nightclubs, parties, and concerts.
Wherever there is music, there is dance, and Kingston abounds with indigenous dance groups that showcase their gravity-defying creativity throughout the year. The National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) has been around for over sixty years, and it has established itself as Jamaica’s premier dance company. But there are several other dance groups that can be seen, too, including L’Acadco, Movements Dance Company, and The Company Dance Theatre, and they generally incorporate traditional African forms like Dinka-mini, Ettu, and Kumina with modern expressions. In conjunction with a trained cadre of dancers from professional groups, there is also a wave of sizzling street dancers, mostly teenagers and young adults who glide to the beat of the latest dancehall songs. They are the ones who will most likely appear in music videos, and they continuously invent new dances that are quickly imitated and embraced by global reggae communities.
Art lovers visiting Kingston will be thrilled by a solid tradition of high-quality Jamaican visual art that goes back to the first half of the last century, with intuitive masters John Dunkley and Mallica Kapo Reynolds leading the way. Since then, aided in part by Edna Manley, the wife of a former premier (and in whose honour the School of Visual and Performing Arts is named), worked assiduously to deliver to Jamaica and the wider world a steady stream of superbly brilliant artists, many of whom are showcased in the National Gallery of Art in downtown Kingston.
The National Gallery also hosts themed exhibitions throughout the year. And as we move into 2023, an exciting new generation of versatile, entrepreneurial, and interactive artists are leading a new renaissance of visual art that has already changed the face of downtown Kingston with an explosion of tropical colours on almost 200 inner-city murals. The movement is called Kingston Creative.
The City of Kingston is home to one of the oldest performance theatres in the Americas, the Ward Theatre. For decades, the capital has enjoyed a robust array of theatrical performances, from Shakespeare to serious and salacious local plays, to roots comedy theatre. Over the past two years, COVID slowed it all down. But the curtains are up again. At least four new productions are on the entertainment schedule in Kingston right now. Among them is a play called ‘Guilty with Explanation’, starring Caribbean comedy icon Oliver Samuels at the Little Theatre. Next door is the Little Little Theatre, a Basil Dawkins high drama ‘No Hope for Hopie’ that opened two weeks ago to rave reviews. The Jamaica Musical Theatre Company (JMTC) kicked off the new year with ‘Nesta’s Rock’ at the Sir Phillip Sherlock Centre for the Performing Arts at Mona. And a fourth exciting production, Anancy and Pinocchio, is playing at the Courtleigh Auditorium, right in the heart of the New Kingston.