Music pulls foreigners to inner-city areas

December 01, 2017
These dancers, guests of Orville Hall's Dance Xpressions group, were seen at at Fort Clarence Beach enjoying themselves earlier this year.
Orville Hall
Dennis Howard, general manager of radio services at the RJRGLEANER Communications Group.
Two members of the Watch Mi Step crew from Germany dance up a storm inside Yeng Yeng Fridayz.

Tourists visiting Jamaica throughout the year are now seeking a more deep-rooted community experience. Many have been relying on Airbnb to source accommodation within inner-city areas or places with strong entertainment and historical backgrounds.

Dr Dennis Howard, general manager of radio services at the RJRGLEANER Communications Group, told journalists at a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week that one of the highest concentrations of Airbnb

booking for local accommodations is in Trench Town.

"Persons are opening up their places for Airbnb to people who want to be there. They want to go into the little cubicle that Jamaican people used to live and experience how someone could live in a place like this and still be so creative, exists and seems so happy," Howard said.

"One of the critical things we have to highlight about creative tourism is that the stakeholder pool broadens. We are not speaking about big multinational hotels, we are talking about creative persons like dancers, sound system selectors, artistes and craft people, who are now earning a living as independent or sole proprietors. People are now earning from this new type of tourism product without having the big money to invest in hotels."

An example of such an economic spin-off is the creation of Dancehall Hostel. Approximately six years ago, Sylvester Gordon, a dynamic audio engineer and music producer, partnered with Dance Xpressionz director Orville Hall to establish Dancehall Hostel, which is located in the Kingston 13 area. The idea was developed out of Hall touring to engage in dance programmes internationally, and then deciding to create a dancehall camp in Jamaica.




"The camp and hostel provide a full package which includes transportation, trips to historic sites and, of course, dance lessons which may take place at my studio at Millbrook Plaza. I have always been wanting to do something like that which contributes greatly to community tourism," Hall said.

In its first year, Dancehall Hostel took 12 persons from Russia and most recently reached maximum booking with 34 persons visiting from 16 countries.

"Every year Syl does some form of development to his place to accommodate the groups. The hostel is actually booked up to January 2018, and for February next year, already we are counting 40 persons, so I am now engaging other people to fix up their own."

Dancehall Hostel was actually the home of a recording studio involved in the production of hard-hitting singles like Buju Banton's Not An Easy Road and other tracks from the 'Til Shiloh album.

For Kingston Music Week, which runs from Sunday to next Saturday, Dancehall Hostel has created an edutainment package that includes a tour of the location, dance class and admission to the Dance Xpressionz Musical, a unique theatrical production that chronicles the history of music and dance, including traditional folk forms, drama and poetry. The package costs $4,000.

Hall said that if five-star hotels take tourists into a neighbouring community every two months, or even form an alliance with persons living there, tourists would not be of the view that it is not safe to visit inner-city communities.

"The tourist dem want go roun' pon the corner an' eat a box food and just vibe with the residents. That's the kind of experience they want, so far I think we have done a great job with it. So much talent comes

from out of the communities not just dance and drama, but craft workers too."

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