Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Fri November 13 2015

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  • Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | November 13, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    Exploring Kingston's Bob Marley Museum

    Exploring Kingston's Bob Marley Museum

    Photos by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

    Jamaica will always be associated with Bob Marley and there are few places on the island that display more of the musician's life and musical references than the Bob Marley Museum. The sprawling structure was once the house and studio that he lived and recorded in during the height of his fame, and personal artifacts fill the space. A popular pilgrimage for music and history fans, a visit to the legendary house on Hope Road is a must for any Jamaica traveler.

    Although the gritty Kingston streets that Marley sang about are pretty much the same, the area around the museum is safe and well preserved. Save for the notorious traffic, I didn't see anything menacing or sketchy during my visit. The house is surrounded by a long fence, accented with the requisite Rastafarian colors of red, gold and green and complemented with a bronze arch topped with Marley’s picture. Palm trees peek from the top of the fence, as if beckoning patrons to see the paradise inside. Before you even enter the museum, there are several creative displays outside that require attention.

    PHOTO: The museum as seen from the street.

    The most prominent is a bronze statue of Marley in front of the house. Captured in a familiar pose; with his guitar on his hip and a hand pointing towards the sky, the piece is the focal point for the entire complex. Lions flank both sides of the statue, representing the Rastafarian Lion of Judah and the base is painted with the faces of his backing singers: Judy Mowatt, Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths, called the I-Threes. Murals and enlarged photos of Marley and people significant to his story cover most of the inside fence. There's also a spot under a mango tree on the side of the house that’s designated as the place where Marley did a lot of composing (especially, according to our guide Ricky, when the neighbors complained of noise).  The classic reggae tune, “Crazy Bald Heads,” with the refrain, “chase those crazy bald heads out of town,” is supposed to be inspired by their insistence on calling the police on Marley.

    There are no photos or videos allowed inside the museum, which adds to the sacred air of the place. The studio and control board is on the first floor, along with a room crammed with all of Marley’s gold and platinum records. An eerie, life-sized (he was only 5”6) hologram of the singer claims a room off to the side and visitors are encourage to get close and touch his light-formed image. Upstairs, a room filled top to bottom with clippings of Marley’s tours cover the walls. In the corner, a replica of the record store that he used to frequent sells vinyl records, CDS and movies documenting his life and music.

    Marley’s simple bedroom, with just a bed and a rug, is preserved as it was when he was alive. But the most memorable room is the house's kitchen, that's decked with the sign, “Shot Room” and separated from the rest of the house. It's the notorious room where assassins attempted to kill Marley during the boil over of Kingston's violent political strife in 1976. Gunmen shot up the room and a bullet caught Marley’s arm, where it remained until he died, since a removal might have paralyzed his hand.

    PHOTO: The infamous "shot room."

    The bullet holes sprinkle the walls, outlined for visitors to see. The hour-long tour concludes with a 20-minute video and an optional visit to the One Love Cafe, which serves up Marley’s favorite Ital (fresh, vegetarian) dishes and juices. Even if you're not a reggae fan or aren't familiar with Bob Marley, a stop by the museum will supply more insight into Jamaica's culture and Bob Marley's legacy.

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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Far-Sighted Field Notes

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a journalist, author and blogger who specializes in travel and culture topics. She loves guiding readers through the richness of various cultures and discovering the essence of a destination. Her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, offers travel insights through the music, food, art and history of various countries and cultures. Join her on the journey at www.Rosalindcummingsyeates.
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