Held on street corners, in town squares, local rum shops or empty car parks across the island, street dances make up an important part of modern Jamaican culture. Drive anywhere across the island and you are bound to see a brightly decorated sign tacked to a lamp-post or hear a local “town crier” (a car with massive speakers attached to its roof) blaring news of a neighbourhood street dance. Raw, earthy and intensely atmospheric, these (typically free) dances attract huge crowds who dress to impress and come to hear a local sound system spin reggae, dancehall, oldies and other popular hits. In Kingston these street dances are immensely popular with dancehall and reggae aficionados who come to hear the island’s best selectors as well as rub shoulders with the big names in the dancehall fraternity – from dancers who come to “bring out” their latest move to Jamaica’s best-known DJs, who might take to the mic for an impromptu performance.
Your security at a street dance is pretty much guaranteed – anyone foolish enough to ruin everyone’s fun by starting trouble or attempting a robbery will inevitably be swiftly dealt with by irate locals. Nonetheless, it’s obviously sensible to keep your wits about you, leave your valuables at home and, if possible, go with a local escort. Similarly, avoid street dances if there’s been recent trouble in any of the areas – just ask around.
Parties come and go, and every town and village in every parish have their own events (both weekly and occasional) but at the time of writing, the main jams in Kingston were: Early Monday at Savannah Plaza (Constant Spring Road); Cadillac Saturday at Limelight (Half Way Tree); Dubwise on Wednesday (no fixed location, check facebook.com/dubwisejamaica); and Old Hits Sunday (Rae Town). Weddy Wednesdays, staged at Stone Love’s headquarters on Burlington Avenue, is the only regular uptown street dance; the action doesn’t start until the small hours of Wednesday morning, though, and there’s not much point turning up before 1am.