Rum and reggae and ting

Music and booze go together. Just think of Keith Richards in the 1970s with his Jack Daniel’s. There’s the love affair between hip-hop and luxury French booze: Busta Rhymes wrote a song called ‘Pass the Courvoisier’. And think of Puff Daddy and his Cristal champagne, though he later changed his name to P Diddy and started drinking Moscato d’ Asti — not so cool.

What about reggae and rum? As Jamaica’s two most famous exports, you expect them to have an affinity. But they’ve had an uneasy relationship. Rums from former British territories trade on images of piracy and the Royal Navy, as if still marketing to a Victorian audience.

It might have something to do with Jamaica’s third biggest export, ganja. Many reggae artists are Rastafarians for whom alcohol is against their religion. There are hundreds of songs written about the joys of the herb but the very few rum songs, like ‘Rum Drinker’ by Mike Brooks, invariably highlight its negative side. One could achieve communion with God by smoking ganja whereas rum was the devil. This diabolical association has a long history. An archaic name for rum was ‘killdevil’. Think of the song of the pirates inTreasure Island: ‘Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest…/ Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum/ Drink and the devil had done for the rest.’ Rum is used in voodoo ceremonies in Haiti. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, who produced some of Bob Marley’s greatest early work, used to sprinkle white rum around his studio as a way of purifying it of ‘duppies’ — evil spirits or vampires. ‘The duppies like the white rum,’ he said in a recent interview.

That white rum would almost certainly have been J. Wray & Nephew.

To read more on the Spectator website, click here



By Henry

I worked in the wine trade and publishing before becoming a freelance writer and broadcaster. My work has appeared in the Spectator, the Guardian, the Oldie and Food & Wine magazine. I now works as features editor on the Master of Malt blog. Ihave been on BBC Radio 4, Radio 5 and Monocle Radio, and a judge for the BBC Radio 4’s Food & Farming Awards and for the Fortnum & Mason food and drink awards 2018. My book Empire of Booze: British History through the Bottom of a Glass won Fortnum & Mason debut drink book 2017. My second, The Home Bar, was published in October 2018.

2 replies on “Rum and reggae and ting”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s