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Vision for a new Trench Town, Jamaica

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Nov 4, 2014 - 9:39:47 AM

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Master musician Yekengele shows new Trench Town recording studio with star student DJ Lance. He’s a prime example of the education and training they are doing with the revitalization of the birthplace of reggae music. Photo: Nisa Islam Muhammad

“We come from Trench Town, Come from Trench Town;
We come from Trench Town.  Lord we free the people with music (sweet music);
We free the people with music (sweet music);  We free our people with music,
With music, oh music (oh music)!”

Kingston, Jamaica ( - The above lyrics from reggae music legend Bob Marley’s tribute to his hometown speak to the new plans underway for a new vision of Trench Town. And it is a long time coming.

In 1967 Rastaman Vibration is released by Trench Town’s native sons, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston known as Bob Marley and the Wailers. 

It is their highest charting Billboard album at number 8 and reggae music takes the world by storm.  Since then the music has spread worldwide and can be found in South America, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.


The music captivates the globe and Trench Town became widely known for reggae music, famous sports and religious figures as well as professional, business and political leaders.  It is the home of Jamaica Philharmonic Orchestra leader Dr. Andrew Marshall, Cricket player Collie Smith and Mortimer Planno, a revered Rastafari elder.

But with all the millions of dollars generated by the international music craze of reggae the town of its birth continues to suffer from indescribable poverty.  Combined with the political violence of the 1970s when the little section of Kingston saw an all-out war take place between political parties, the fallout impacted Trench Town greatly.

A literal line was drawn in the sand between warring political factions the People’s National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party. 

“Seventh Street divided the town into two sections and anything that crossed the line, whether it was person, chicken, dog or goat was shot, “ said Yekengele, head of Jamaica Music Institute (JAMIN), which is leading the current restoration efforts in Trench Town.

“People were forced to walk long distances to avoid crossing the line.  Parts of the area were called ‘no man’s land’ because of the violence,” the celebrated Rastafarian and master musician told The Final Call.

That was yesterday and now Yekengele has joined forces with social entrepreneur Dr. Henley Morgan and Junior Lincoln, a music industry executive who is a force behind many of the largest reggae concerts around the world in the creation of the Trench Town Development Organization.

“I grew up there, went away and was gone for 20 years.  I came back because I’ve always wanted to contribute to the revitalization of Trench Town.  I saw the impact of Trench Town around the world in the music.  This music has impacted the world.  There’s something special about the place,” Mr. Lincoln told The Final Call.

“What made God choose such a place to have this kind of impact on the world?  There’s something spiritual about Trench Town.  We want to redevelop it as a cultural village that will bring industry there.  We are getting help to revitalize the area and bring jobs to the community.”

The plan is to turn Trench Town into a tourist attraction with a theme park, cultural center and performance theatre but their motto is, “The community must benefit first.”  The plans include jobs for residents that center around reggae music and its culture. They’ve received grants to develop a recording studio with the most up-to-date equipment.

“We’re delivering education programs with a school for audio engineers.  They learn editing and animation.  The local high school has a feeder program for animation,” Yekengele said.

“We’ve been stock piling music for the past two years.  Some will be released by the end of the year.  Bunny Wailer (an original member of the Wailers) will be recording here.  We want to go back to the time before the undeclared civil war.  We want to widen what people know about us, not just Bob Marley and Marcus Garvey.  Trench Town is a Jamaican Harlem and we’re in the middle of our renaissance.”

Oh-y, my head,
In desolate places we’ll find our bread,
And everyone see what’s taking place, oh-oo-wo! -
Another page in history.

They say it’s hard to speak;
They feel so strong to say we are weak;
But through the eyes the love of our people,

They’ve got to repay.