Lonely Planet review
For many, Jamaica means reggae, and reggae means Bob Marley. If this sounds like you, a visit to Kingston definitely means a visit to the reggae superstar’s former home and studio. The large, creaky colonial-era wooden house on Hope Rd where Marley lived and recorded from 1975 until his death in 1981 is the city’s most-visited site. Today the house functions as a tourist attraction, museum and shrine, but much remains as it was during Marley’s day.
The house is shielded by a wall painted in Rasta colors – red, green and gold – and adorned with photos and Rastafarian murals, including those of his seven sons (though not his daughters). Dominating the forecourt is a gaily colored statue of the musical legend; when conducting interviews, Marley used to sit on the front step behind the statue. Some of the guides are overly solemn (focusing with eerie earnestness on the room where Marley survived assassination, the bullet holes left untouched), but the hour-long tour provides fascinating insights into the life he led after moving uptown. His gold and platinum records (Exodus, 1977; Uprising, 1980; and Legend, 1984) are there on the walls, alongside Rastafarian religious cloaks, Marley’s favorite denim stage shirt, and the Order of Merit presented by the Jamaican government. One room upstairs is decorated with media clippings from Marley’s final tour, with prominence given to concerts played in Africa. Another contains a replica of Marley’s original record shop, Wail’n Soul’m, and his little kitchen showcases the blender he used to make fruit juices. Perhaps most powerfully, Marley’s simple bedroom has been left as it was, with his favorite star-shaped guitar by the bedside.
The former recording studio out back is now an exhibition hall with some wonderful photos of Bob on tour and playing football, and a theater, where the tour closes with a 20-minute film composed of footage from the ‘One Love’ concert and snippets of interviews. There is another recording studio inside the house, which his sons occasionally use for solo projects. A recently upgraded shopping court offers ‘official’ Marley products, including Bob’s Honey, produced by a hive of bees that’s been buzzing on the site since the musician adopted them in the mid-1970s, and the excellent ‘Catch a Fire’ line of clothing designed by his daughter Cedella.