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One People – Jamaican Culture at a Glance

Whether it’s our history, language, music, food or movements, Jamaican culture is truly unique.

IndependenceDayOccupying a land space of just 4,243 square miles and home to some 2.8 million souls, Jamaica’s influence on world culture — especially in music and other performing arts, sports, food and fashion — belies its physical dimensions.

 

Speaking the Language

English is the official language, but most people speak the vibrant, expressive Jamaican Patois (also known as Patwa or Jamaican Creole), which is English-based but incorporates vocabulary and other elements of languages spoken by Africans, as well as borrowings from other sources.

 

Island Rhythms

Jamaican music has gone global. But today’s music and dance did not come out of nowhere; they have deep roots in the African folk culture. Traditional dances such as kumina, with its mesmerising drumming and movements, gerreh and dinki-mini are still practised today. Mento was Jamaica’s first popular music, and up until the 1950s, mento bands could be found in most rural districts. Of course, Jamaica’s biggest contribution to music is reggae, Bob Marley and all those he inspired. Its swaying rhythms and laid-back vibe embody the heart and soul of Jamaica.

 

Traditional Cuisine

Jamaican cuisine has humble beginnings. For example, the fruit from ackee trees brought from Africa and salted cod imported from Canada to feed the enslaved were creatively united in a dish called ackee and saltfish. The dish became so popular that it is now Jamaica’s national dish.

 

Jerk cooking, which originated with the Coromantee hunters of West Africa, is a speciality of the Jamaican Maroons, who escaped enslavement and still live in the mountains. They prepared the meat of wild pigs with a secret blend of seasonings and spices and roasted it underground. Referred to as pan chicken or drum chicken, because it is prepared in barbecue pits made out of steel drums or pans, it is a popular jerk offering at roadside eateries.