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



About Henry

I’m a drinks writer. My day job is features editor at the Master of Malt blog. I also contribute to BBC Good Food, the Spectator and others. You can read some of my work here. I’ve done a bit of radio, given some talks and written a couple of books (Empire of Booze, The Home Bar and the forthcoming Cocktail Dictionary).
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2 Responses to Rum and reggae and ting

  1. nicollecroft says:

    I wanted to find a piece you did on the rise of the sommelier and a small ebook you mentioned about this. Can you help?

  2. Henry says:

    I’m not sure about an ebook. The previous article is about sommeliers. Here’s a link.

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