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 the iconic 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 word-spinners, along with the Mouvement Négritude in the French Caribbean, believed African emergence could rejuvenate Carib cultural histories.

Renowned Jamaican dub poet Jean Binta Breeze uses vibrant Jamaican patois to convey syncopated rhythms of daily life in her island paradise 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 “Riddym Raving” 


Jamaican cuisine is a potpourri of influences, from native Arawaks to British, African, Indian, and Chinese colonists. “Jerk seasonings” are hot spice and herb mixtures, 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



2-1/2 lb. (1 kg) firm fillets such as red snapper or salmon


1 tsp. allspice

1 tsp. nutmeg 

2 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. sea salt 

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

2 tsp. dark brown sugar

2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or 3 tsp. dried 

1/2 cup coriander leaves, chopped 

1 Scotch bonnet or Serrano chili, seeded and minced

3-4 cloves garlic, chopped

One-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced

2 spring onions, greens only, chopped

Minced zest and juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup olive oil



1-1/2 ripe mangos, peeled and chopped

1 red onion, chopped

1/2 red pepper, chopped

1/2 cup fresh coriander, chopped

Pinch of salt, pepper and dark brown sugar

Juice of 1 lime

Olive oil



Lay fish fillets in a shallow oven dish. Combine allspice, nutmeg, black pepper, and salt in a bowl along with cloves, sugar, thyme, coriander, chili, garlic, and ginger. Add spring onion greens, lime zest, juice, and olive 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 maximum of four hours. Prepare the salsa: combine mango in a bowl with red onion, red pepper, coriander, salt, pepper and brown sugar to taste, lime juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Preheat the oven to 375° F (190° C). Bake the fish fillets for 20-30 minutes until tender and aromatic. Serve topped with the mango salsa, warm tortillas for a Mexican touch, and lime wedges on the side.

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