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Another Green World: From Belfast to Kingston

I’m part Irish-American, but that doesn’t mean I want to spend Saint Patrick’s day in leprechaun-themed restaurants guzzling pints of Guinness until I smell like the Pogues’ Shane MacGowan. Beyond the cartoon version of Ireland, this day provides the opportunity to celebrate the culture and history of a charismatic and embattled island nation stepping out of the shadows of the British Empire. I also feel a sudden urge to pop open a Red Stripe (now owned by Guinness), trade corned beef for curried goat, and listen to some angry white guys covering a Bob Marley song.

This isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds. The Irish arrived in Jamaica more than 350 years ago, and the first Prime Minister of Jamaica, Sir Alexander Bustamante, was part Irish. Lloyd Bradley’s excellent book on the history of reggae, Bass Culture, describes music events in late-1950s West London in which only the Irish would join the Jamaicans. My own reason for linking Ireland and Jamaica is more personal: my first real exposure to the genius of Bob Marley came from hearing Belfast band Stiff Little Fingers kick the living daylights out of Marley’s “Johnny Was.”

Stiff Little Fingers, “Johnny Was”

Bob Marley, “Johnny Was”

From → Quick Shots

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