Jamaica Bans Smoking Tobacco, Marijuana Is Another Matter

Smoking
Project Zaldivar26/Flickr

Banning smoking in public places is not all that uncommon as popular destinations worldwide look to promote a healthy environment for visitors to enjoy. But to some in the Bob Marley-induced culture of Jamaica, tobacco smoke is not the issue.

The new law of the land goes into effect on July 15, when visitors will no longer “have to involuntarily inhale tobacco smoke, with its over 40 carcinogens,” said Jamaica’s minister of health Fenton Ferguson in a Jamaica Observer article. Jamaicans get that, responding with support for the move to ban cigarette smoking.

On another smoke-related front, Jamaica’s Ganja Law Reform Coalition (GLRC) argues that marijuana is a plant with various uses, including environmental and recreational. They propose for marijuana to be taxed and regulated, something not on the agenda of minister Ferguson.Choosing instead to address other health concerns including excessive alcohol consumption and identifying the contents of fast food, Ferguson insists that “tobacco is the one that a little bit of smoke, a little puff every now and again is dangerous for you.”

Meanwhile, in Amsterdam…

Amsterdam Restaurant Offers Tables Only For One

Load up your iPod with local music before your trip

What’s the one thing that connects all people in every country on Earth? If you said “a dislike for Crocs footwear,” that’s a good guess but you’re wrong. It’s music.

Yes, before television or the internet or even the written word, there has always been music. A country’s music is an extremely important component of its culture, but it’s often neglected by travelers, even those who wish to truly experience the place they’re visiting.

Now, I’m not saying you should load up your iPod with two-hundred-year-old polkas and mazurkas and Gregorian chants. Those are neglected for good reason, in my opinion. (Sorry Mrs. Peters, my eighth-grade Music Appreciation teacher.) No, I’m referring to a country’s popular music– its rock bands, folk singers, indie artists, and even its bubblegum pop.

Sure, you’ll probably hear more Bob Marley or Guns ‘n Roses than anything else on your trip, depending on where you go, but most countries have scores of talented local artists. The trick is knowing where to find them. For my money, the folks over at Perceptive Travel have the best reviews and recommendations of world music that you’ll ever come across. Head on over there to check out what they have to say about your next destination.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer a few of my own recommendations on international songs. Here are a couple of my favorites, with their country of origin in parentheses:

Dubbed “Islam’s biggest rock star” by Time Magazine, Sami Yusuf sings hauntingly spiritual songs about faith, mercy, and compassion.

Cambodia meets Los Angeles, literally, in the band Dengue Fever. Lead singer Chhom Nimol, straight out of the musical mecca that is Cambodia, combines her unique voice with LA’s Zac Holtzman’s on this song about love separated by a world but connected– barely– by a phone card.

Slate’s Stephen Metcalf calls Swedish singer-songwriter Jens Lekman a “fully realized pop genius.” His song “A Postcard to Nina” illustrates the typically quirky, funny, and often poignant Jens Lekman tune.

For musical chart-toppers from all over the world, go here. For streaming audio from everywhere, try this.

And be sure to check out Gadling’s series Sounds of Travel for more great songs.

Ten musical destinations that will rock your world

Music has a way of taking you on a journey. Like any great trip, the songs that inspire us are filled with joyous highs and sobering lows, unexpected revelations and exotic uncertainties. It’s only natural then that each of us seeks out music during our travels. Whether it’s a CD stand in a bustling market in Morocco or a classically-trained violinist playing on a street corner in Paris, music offers travelers a visceral way to cut through the confusion of language and custom, revealing the true essence of a destination.

Wherever we go, melodies both familiar and exotic burst out of speakers, vibrate in concert halls, groove around city streets and drip off the walls in sweaty dance clubs. Yet it’s only in a few select spots around the world that the culture of music becomes a truly tangible attraction. These are the special places where a unique confluence of cultural cross-pollination, inherent creativity and a critical mass of kick-ass musicianship coalesces to create something truly special.

In the course of our journeys here at Gadling, we’ve uncovered some of the world’s most unique and memorable destinations for music. The following list is by no means the end-all-be-all of musical places to visit, but each of the ten spots we’ve chosen is without a doubt one-of-a-kind and a true musical hotspot. Did we choose any of your favorites? Click below for our picks…
Number 10 – Mali’s Festival in the Desert
At first glance, it would be easy to mistake Mali’s Festival in the Desert as a cruel mirage. Yet every year this wind-swept country in Northwestern Africa puts on one of the continent’s best musical events, featuring traditional Tuareg tunes as well as music from around the globe.

Number 9 – Pitch-perfect karaoke in Manila
Love it or hate it, Karaoke has spread its melodies around the world, from the drinking dens of Tokyo to the back streets of New York. But to truly experience Karaoke talent, head to Manila. Filipino cover bands are legendary for their pitch-perfect renditions of Western pop songs. In fact, if you closed your eyes, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference from the originals.

Number 8 – Concert hopping in Austin, TX
They like to say everything is bigger in Texas, and Austin’s annual South by Southwest music festival certainly doesn’t disappoint. Each March, over a thousand bands from around the world descend on the state’s capital for four days of drinking, dancing and music industry schmoozing. If you’re hoping to catch rock’s next great thing or simply looking for a good time, South by Southwest is definitely one of the USA’s best music events.

Number 7 – Tokyo Record Collecting
Tokyo, Japan is one of the world’s great cultural epicenters, consuming and re-creating pop culture trends at a furious pace. This intense consumption is particularly true of music, where the Japanese excel as the world’s consummate music collectors. If you need proof of Tokyo’s status as the crown jewel for record shopping, one need only stroll the back alleyways of Tokyo’s bustling Shinjuku district. Along the narrow side streets you’ll stumble upon hidden second floor record shops packed floor to ceiling with obscure vinyl and out-of-print rarities.

Number 6 – New Orleans gets Jazzed

New Orleans is known as the birthplace of Jazz music. It was the city’s unique mixture of French, Spanish and African traditions that allowed the city to develop this particularly unique musical heritage, one that is evident even today. One of the best ways to experience the Big Easy’s Jazz culture is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, perhaps the world’s best showcase of this distinctly southern-tinged style.

Number 5 – The London Remix
London has a reputation as a musical chameleon, a city that takes on the world’s constantly evolving musical styles, remixing and reinterpreting in a uniquely British way. Whether it’s Punk or Techno, Indie Rock or Dubstep, London has something to suit the tastes of about every music lover. Check out this list of London music venues, this rundown of record stores, or top-notch dance clubs like Fabric if you’re looking to jump along to the beat.


Number 4 – Kingston sound system parties
Jamaica holds an outsize reputation in the world’s musical lore, having birthed world-famous artists like Bob Marley along with hundreds of other equally talented Jamaican singers, producers and musicians. Though the laid-back vibe of Tuff Gong has long-since morphed into the raw sounds of Dancehall and Ragga, you can still experience Jamaican music at its finest at some of Kingston’s weekly sound system parties like Passa Passa and Weddy Weddy Wednesday. These rough and tumble affairs take over Kingston’s parks and streets with huge speakers, raucous dancing and plenty of fun.


Number 3 – All night techno in Berlin
Something happened when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. As a divided city was slowly mended together, music fans began to take over the city’s abandoned buildings and spaces for semi-legal dance parties. It was the beginning of Techno, a music scene that would soon sweep the capital and most of Europe. Berlin today is ground zero for electronic music fans, with some of the world’s best DJ’s playing parties that can last all night and into the next day and beyond. Check out the events list at Resident Advisor for a good listing of what’s happening.

Number 2 – Shake to the rhythm of Brazilian Carnival
Much like New Orleans and Jamaica, Brazil is the product of a unique confluence of cultures, bringing together Portuguese, African and indigenous influences. Nowhere does this unique cultural history make itself better felt than during Brazil’s annual Carnival festivities, when cities across the country like Rio de Janeiro and Salvador erupt in wild displays of samba dancing and furious drumming. Check out this Rio Carnival guide to get started.



Number 1 – Find what’s new in New York City
It’s hard to even describe how important New York has been to 20th Century musical innovation. Jazz. Punk. Disco. Hip hop. Whatever your preferred style of music, you can find it here…whether its an Indie Rock show at the Bowery Ballroom or killer night of Jazz over at Blue Note, New York’s got it all. Spend a day browsing through record stores like Other Music and A-1 Records before catching a show at Mercury Lounge, S.O.B.’s or Lincoln Center.

Did we pick your favorite musical destination? Think we forgot one of the best? Leave us a comment below to continue to the debate.

We are the World and Black and White: Ideals that bring us together

In my post yesterday on Michael Jackson’s death, I mentioned two songs that have stuck with me because of the feelings I’ve had from living in other countries where I’ve developed friendships and have called various addresses home. In a way, I see “Black and White” and We are the World as fitting tributes to the ideals of what can bring us together.

In recent year’s we’ve had Matt Harding’s dancing videos to bring us a sense of the best of humanity through the simple joy of a crazy dance. Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds has a similar feel. Then there’s the Playing for a Change project that has produced wonderful renditions of “Stand By Me” and “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” among others.

For me, Michael Jackson’s Black and White is a wonderful expression of individuality blending into community, and back to individuality in a pattern where we are each other, but remain unique.

“We are the World,” co-written by Jackson with Lionel Ritchie, as commercial as a venture as it was, did raise loads of money for Africa. And as sappy as it might be, still has powerful moments. If nothing else, seeing all those musical powerhouses singing together in harmony instead of taking center stage speaks volumes to the power of sticking together.

I’m wondering who will be creating the visions of togetherness in the future? Who will stick it out long enough to see their visions come to life? On his best days, Michael Jackson knew the way. Click here to see “Black and White.”

Playing for Change album hits stores TODAY

After four long years of filming and recording musicians around the globe and featuring them in their wildly popular documentary, “Playing for Change,” the organization’s 10-song CD and 7-track DVD entitled “Songs Around the World” is being released TODAY. You can buy the recording online HERE or purchase it from your local Starbucks café.

This music compilation demonstrates that the world can unite through music regardless of race, gender, religion and politics. The proceeds to the music compilation goes toward helping to spread music to disadvantaged youth around the world.

Here is one of their newest videos which features U2’s Bono singing Bob Marley’s “War/No More Trouble.”

I was also pleasantly surprised to discover the Playing for Change website has experienced some really nice upgrades! There is a very sleek and frequently updated blog, as well as an online shop where you can buy cool clothing and accessories.

I absolutely love this organization and encourage you to check it out or give what you can.

NOTE: You can stream all of Playing For Change on AOL Music for free through May 4, 2009.