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by Jenise Tyson

After living in Jamaica for 3 years, I initially thought that returning home to Trinidad would be a culture shock, having fallen deeply in love with Jamaican food, culture and music. However, after being home for a few days, I started to question whether I had ever left Jamaica at all. If it wasn't for the long plane ride, I could have been fooled.

Everywhere I went, pieces of Jamaica bombarded me. The majority of radio stations played dancehall, with some stations even dedicating entire days to 'celebrate dancehall culture'. It was the same situation at the local clubs. And don't make the mistake of thinking that the songs I was hearing were somehow outdated due to distance. Songs produced in Jamaica were getting airplay in Trinidad within 2 to 3 days of their release in Jamaica. 

At first I was surprised at how quickly Trinidadians lapped up anything Jamaican, but it soon started to make sense. As a country whose major musical production was soca during December and February, what were we supposed to listen to for the rest of the year? The dancehall trend is further fuelled by the never-ending stream of Jamaican artistes who fly in for shows on a weekly basis. Beenie-man, Busy Signal and Jah Cure are our most frequent imports. 

As any follower of Jamaican culture can tell you, the music cannot come without the dances. We in Trinidad are all too happy to copy any dance that comes out of Jamaica. In any club you could find people "swagging", dancing to Vybz Kartel's 'Summertime", or even some older ones like daggering and signaling the plane. But I did wonder how we knew what dance to do. That's easy! A local channel has a weekly show dedicated to highlighting the latest dance crazes out of Jamaica. We're never out of the loop.

The adoption of all things Jamaican was even evident in food. Most supermarkets stock at least 2 brands of Jamaican Patties, and one of our most popular hangout spots, Ariapita Avenue in Port of Spain, even boasts a pan chicken man.  Needless to say, he and I quickly became friends.

The Caribbean has had its political, and traditional rivalries, but in Trinidad and all over the rest of the Eastern Caribbean it has become clear that Jamaican music sews us all together. Many countries even feature popular reggae songs and rhythyms in their tourism campaigns. Young and old relate to reggae and dancehall music, which is rooted in our shared Afro-Caribbean history. Perhaps we can find other this to agree on as well.

I hope that the Jamaicans don't mind that we borrow from them so often, as we adopt their culture as if it were our own. In any case dancehall and reggae have filled a very necessary gap in our musical calender. A heartfelt thank you to Jamaica for providing us with entertainment outside of the soca season.
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