Pear Tree Bottom: Land at a Crossroads


During the 1990s, I spent many weekends with friends at an old house on a hill, overlooking the Runaway Bay coastline on Jamaica’s north coast. One of my routines was a sunset walk at a place called Pear Tree Bottom, which by then had already experienced ‘development’ – the coast road had been moved inland, groynes had been built to trap sand, and Jamaicans living on the beach had been removed. There were five small coves with white sand beaches and the waves broke on a reef offshore. Later, I learned the breaking waves marked a spectacular wall dive; that a scuba diver could simply wade into the shallow water at Pear Tree Bottom, swim out to the reef, and then descend to blue depths along a living coral wall.  There was a fresh water marsh on the other side of the north coast road, an expanse of rippling reeds in flowing water, and then the land climbed to the Runaway Bay hills, where there were ordinary houses and tourist villas and a Great House called Belle Aire, which every Jamaican knew, because a long-running local soap opera, Royal Palm Estate, was filmed there. The Pear Tree River came down from the hills and meandered through the marsh to the sea. Every natural science student at the University of the West Indies (UWI) went to Pear Tree Bottom to learn about mangroves, seagrasses, rocky shores and coral reefs, because they existed together in a very small area, unique on the north coast. Pear Tree Bottom was a living university, containing remnants of what the whole north had once looked like.

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State Capture


The limits of the power elite have been exposed in South Africa. Jacob Zuma and his private sector cronies have finally been brought to book. Perhaps they got away with corruption for so long that they thought they were untouchable. In any case, their spectacular demise has put the term ‘state capture’ on the lips of millions of people around the world.

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A Brief History of the Word ‘Pree’


On the face of it, pree is not a Caribbean word. Pree is a Jamaican word. Press play on any dancehall song and you’ll hear a boastful deejay chatting about which ‘hot gyal ah pree him’ or how ‘im a pree di money’ or how ‘im nuh pree badmind people.’ Eavesdrop on any sidewalk conversation, rum shop debate, or single-sided phone call in Kingston and you are likely to hear the word pree often followed by ‘yuh zimme?’ This is because in Jamaica, to pree is to take a long, deliberate look or a careful, focused listen. When someone says pree, it is not a request; it is a gentle command that the listener take notice of something or someone new, important, significant. Listen to a song: ‘pree dis.’ Look at a prospective lover: ‘pree dat.’ Hear this story: ‘pree wah me a seh.’ And when Jamaicans encounter an amazing new online literary magazine: ‘my dawg, yuh affi pree di ting deh’ (OK, that last one nuh set yet, but it will!)

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Reggae’s Voice: The Accent of Difference


In February 2018 the new Netflix-BBC TV series Collateral debuted, its tense opening scenes unfolding to the throbbing beat of dancehall. No gyal can tell me ’bout my mudda, raps Stefflon Don in impeccable Patwa. She’s a grime artiste, ‘grime’ being the unequivocal outside child of dancehall in the UK.[1]

The following month, The New Yorker ran an online article on dancehall’s global avatars, ‘HoodCelebrityy and Dancehall’s New, Global Faces’, and later that month Jamaicans were transfixed by viral images of Beyoncé and Jay-Z riding a yeng yeng, or motorbike, through Trenchtown.[2] The couple were reportedly shooting a music video in Kingston. At this moment – when Jamaican music has established its global reach – it’s hard to imagine a time when Jamaican singers were obliged to sound anything but Jamaican.

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