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With golden beaches, misty mountains and russet sunsets, Jamaica is a postcard perfect paradise born out of the blood, sweat and tears of slavery and colonialism. Thousands of holidaymakers flock to the Caribbean island every year to soak up a laid back lifestyle sold on the seductive beats of dread locked reggae legend Bob Marley. But behind the rumbling bass lines and the scented smoke of ever-present marijuana reefers, Jamaica is still a country coming to terms with its difficult past. Gun and knife-wielding gangs make parts of the capital Kingston a no-go area, with high poverty levels creating a desperate underworld of hustlers and criminals who often target tourists. These troubles, however, nurture a vibrant music scene that allows Jamaica to punch way beyond its weight, exporting fresh new hip-hop and dance hall sounds - alongside regular reggae - to a world thirsty for its tropical beats. Mobile sound systems carry the rhythms of Kingston's newest artists onto the streets, where those visitors who do escape their fenced-off beach resorts will find often find themselves welcomed to what seems like a series of impromptu street parties. And while the island has its problems, Jamaica's people remain as warm as the waters lapping its shores, as lively as the spiced dishes sold in its colorful restaurants and as easy going as the rum cocktails mixed in its ramshackle bars.
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