Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Treasure Beach, Jamaica, part two

My husband pointed out to me that there were a few errors in my previous post on Treasure Beach, so I'd like to correct them before turning my attention back to Tuscany and Umbria.

I'll begin with Chris Blackwell and Bob Marley: I've noticed that when reading about Chris Blackwell, many references state that he "discovered" Bob Marley -- and the quotation marks are not mine. I'd wondered why the quotation marks were used, and I only recently learned that it's because Blackwell didn't actually discover Marley, who had at the time already recorded several albums on several different labels. Marley was apparently being ripped off and not getting enough exposure, and Blackwell opened things up for him in the UK and introduced him into the U.S. It is more accurate to state that Blackwell was responsible for bringing Marley to the U.S. market, which is a pretty major credit even if it isn't an actual "discovery."

My second error is nothing more than a typo, but it's significant: I wrote Peter Henzell instead of Perry Henzell. It's definitely Perry, who was born in 1936 in St. Mary's Parish in Jamaica and who sadly passed away in 2006 in Treasure Beach. As I noted, Henzell directed the film 'The Harder They Come,' released in 1972, but beyond seeing the film and loving the title song by Jimmy Cliff, I didn't know much else about it, and perhaps you don't, either. From a Website called Reggae Zine (http://www.reggaezine.co.uk/) I learned much more in a piece written by Geoff Parker in 2001. In an interview with Parker, Henzell related that in Kingston the film was "an instant sensation" but in London "it was a difficult sell." Henzell had to print flyers and hand them out at the underground station in Brixton, but it worked, and Henzell added that "time and time again, everywhere, the film would just have died without a lot of hard work." Parker himself believes that 'The Harder They Come' is "indisputably the greatest Jamaican film ever made," but apparently despite critical and popular success, Henzell earned little or no money from it. Henzell envisioned the film as the first part of a trilogy, but the second film, 'No Place Like Home,' was never finished due to lack of finances. He went on to write a novel, Power Game (Hastings House, 1997), that was supposed to be the third installment of the trilogy. (Henzell also wrote a historical novel, Cane (10-A Publications, 2004, fourth printing) that is set in the Caribbean during the years 1780-1815.) Parker concluded his interview with Henzell by writing, "Jamaica needs men like Perry Henzell to articulate what it knows about itself. The rest of the world needs what Jamaica has to say about itself, in cinema as well as in music." (And speaking of music, the Rough Guide to Jamaica features an excellent overview of Jamaican music, which is much more than Reggae. Using this section of the book, my husband has now amassed literally hundreds of Jamaican tunes, which he added to his iTunes library. He learned a lot about the styles of Jamaican music and he learned of the lesser-known musicians, some of whom are just as talented as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Jimmy Cliff. Most of the tunes he now has were burned from discs he borrowed from our local library system, which has a tremendous inter-library loan service.)

Lastly, I'd like to say more about Jakes, the very cool hotel I mentioned (with enthusiasm) in the Island Outpost group (http://www.islandoutpost.com/). Here's what I've noticed: sometimes the inn is spelled with an apostrophe, as Jake's, but on the site http://jakeshotel.com/ it's spelled without one. Since the site states that Sally Densham Henzell (who by 1991 had married Perry) named the restaurant, hotel, bar, and pool she built after the family parrot, Jakes, I am from here on out going to refer to the hotel as Jakes without an apostrophe. And here's a synopsis of the background story of the hotel as gleaned from the site: The Densham family fell in love with Treasure Beach around the time of the (first) Wall Street crash. Sally's Uncle Lionel was a navigator on a boat owned by a wealthy American, and the around-the-world cruise they were supposed to be on ended in Miami due to lack of additional funds. However, the stop just before Miami had been Jamaica, which Uncle Lionel loved, so he sent a telegram to his brother (Sally's father) requesting him to "sell everything" and come to the island. Basil Densham did indeed come to Jamaica, where he met his wife, Joyce, and they settled in Mandeville, where they raised their daughters Sally and June Gay. In the 1940s, the Denshams bought an acre of land in Treasure Beach. They built a home and named it Treasure Cot (short for "cottage") and it became a "pitch-perfect getaway." In 1991, by which time Sally and Perry had two kids, Justine and Jason, Sally purchased a property nearby the Densham family paradise and, as stated above, Jakes came into being over the course of the following years. Jakes has become "the antithesis of a mega-resort," and Sally personally oversaw the planning, construction, and look of the 30 rooms, cottages, and villas. "Each distinct in its own way, the inspiration from Moroccan, Indian and Adobe influences, as well as the touches of Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi, are the ties that bind." Like I said, Jakes is hugely appealing! (The photo at the top of this post is one of the individual abodes)

Today, Jason Henzell carries on the tradition, and in 1998, he founded the BREDS Treasure Beach Foundation. BREDS is short for "bredren," the word many Treasure Beach residents use when they greet each other, and the charitable foundation promotes education, sports, cultural heritage, and emergency healthcare. To quote once again from the site, "Jakes is about love. Love for the place, and love for its people."

Staying at Rainbow Tree (http://www.rainbowtreevillas.com/) allows us the best of both worlds, I think: we have our own large and comfortable house with a lovely and wonderful staff, but when we want a little change of scenery, a little more variety in our meals, and the opportunity to mingle with fellow travelers who've discovered Treasure Beach, we can go to Jakes and watch the sunset from Dougie's Bar or have a meal at Jack Sprat's or on the outdoor patio, which is lit by calabash lanterns with colored bulbs at night and is positively festive and intoxicating.

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