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By Tim Hazell

Prior to 1930, literature in the Caribbean was a diversion of the elite. Englishmen of the “Sugar Isles” promoted British imperialism. Anti-colonial consciousness marked the emergence of Caribbean voices finding their first expression in calypso. Calypso originated in West Africa and migrated to the islands, incorporating elements of calinda dance, shango, and work songs. Reggae sprang from these roots. Here is an excerpt by Jimmy Cliff:

Between the day you’re born and when you die
They never seem to hear even your cry
So as sure as the sun will shine
I’ll get my share now, what’s mine,
Then the harder they come, the harder they’ll fall
One and all…

Dub poet Derek Walcott won the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature, a dub landmark. Jamaican wordsmiths, along with the “Mouvement Négritude” in the French Caribbean, believed African emergence could rejuvenate Carib cultural histories.

Renowned Jamaican dub poet Jean Binta Breeze syncopates island life with “get flat”!


Wen storm come

yuh bawl

‘get flat’

an watch mountain

rub a dub

troo de sea

from Brixton

to Elleston Flats

yuh can see de wukkin riddim

ben de people dem back!

- from “Riddim Raving”


Jamaican cuisine is a potpourri of influences from native Arawaks to British, African, Indian, and Chinese colonists. “Jerk seasonings” are hot spice mixtures, wet- or dry-rubbed into meats, chicken, fish, shrimp, sausage, vegetables, or tofu. Take a “ride on de riddim” and experiment freely with this marinade!


Jerk Fish and Mango Salsa



4 whole fish, gutted and scaled, or fillets



2 tsp. allspice

2 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

2 tsp. brown sugar

2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or 3 tsp. dried.

1/4 cup coriander leaves, chopped

1 Scotch bonnet, habanero or serrano chilli, minced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 dried bay leaves, crumbled

One-inch piece ginger, minced

2 spring onion greens, chopped

Minced zest and juice of 1 lime

Olive oil



1 ripe mango, peeled and chopped

2 spring onions, sliced

1/2 cup fresh coriander, chopped

Pinch of salt, pepper and sugar

Juice of 1 lime

Olive oil



Lay whole fish or fillets in a shallow oven dish. If using whole fish such as red snapper, make three slashes in the flesh of each. Set aside. Combine allspice, black pepper and salt in a bowl along with cloves, sugar, thyme, coriander, chili, garlic, ginger and crumbled bay leaves. Add spring onion greens, lime zest, juice and a drizzle of oil. Mix well. Pour the marinade over the fish. Massage it in (rubber gloves will protect from burn). Leave in the refrigerator to marinate for a minimum of one hour. Prepare the salsa; combine mango in a bowl with the spring onions and coriander, add salt, pepper and sugar to taste, lime juice, a drizzle of oil, and toss. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Bake the fish for 15–20 minutes until tender, slightly charred if whole, and aromatic. Serve with mango salsa and lime wedges!


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