Few countries are as associated with a single person as Jamaica is with Bob Marley. Nearly 40 years after his death, visitors to the island find him everywhere.
I’ve had taxis drivers switch their music to Bob Marley when picking up my fare, on the basis that, as a foreigner, I knew no other Jamaican music.
The flattening out of Bob Marley the man into a ‘One Love’ cliché for holidaymakers as well as a brand to be exploited is nowhere more apparent than in Nine Mile, the farming town in the pretty hills of St Ann Parish where he was born and later returned for burial after his untimely death in 1981.
Hustlers mobbed me on arrival, hawking spliffs and space cakes.
I was travelling alone, but most visitors avoid the crush by arriving on the Zion Bus, a deliberately rickety, country-style ffair painted in Rastafari red, gold and green, with a sound system blasting out the hits on the long drive from the resorts.
It soon became clear, however, that the real hustlers were those found within the mausoleum complex.
Everywhere inside were market stalls and gift shops. We entered past one selling ‘Stir It Up’ Marley coffee, ‘Catch a Fire’ hot pepper sauce and cartoon Rasta figurines.
After all these shopping opportunities, we were then made to wait for our guide in a holding area that turned out to be a bar.
A barman loudly offered us flaming Bob Marley rum shots, and didn’t seem to mind that the singer’s Rastafari creed meant that he didn’t drink alcohol.