Every January 6, Maroons from all over the island celebrate the anniversary of the 1739 peace treaty. Like everything else in Jamaica, Accompong festivities start late. Under a towering mango tree (known as the Kindah Tree), a male pig (according to Maroon tradition) is roasted or boiled and eaten communally – bringing luck to all that partake. The highlight of the day (at around 10am) is when Maroon leaders, adorned by the vines used as camouflage by their ancestors, make their way up from the Peace Cave, where they have drummed, danced and chanted since dawn. Goombay drums beat complicated rhythms in anticipation, and a hornblower sends the haunting tones of an abeng horn (a cow horn once used as a means of communication) echoing across the hills, signalling the approach of the elders. The drumming reaches a climax and the assembled mass joins in with call-and-response Akan war songs. At around 2pm, the procession moves through the village, paying respects at the homes of former colonels and those too old to participate, finishing at the Bickle Village parade ground for speeches and whirling dancing, sprinkled with a traditional dash of white rum. Eventually, drums make way for towers of speakers, and the party continues all night, sometimes with live reggae. Note that there’s an entry fee (usually around US$10 for foreign visitors) to the village festival, and that timings vary – get there in the morning, and go with the flow.

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