Homecoming crowd earns Merritone, JTB support - World's oldest active sound system marks 67 years
Four days of recorded and live music at the Melia Braco Village in Rio Bueno, Trelawny, anchor Merritone's 67th anniversary celebrations from October 8-16. That extended weekend at the all-inclusive, ending on National Heroes Day, caps off the Merritone Family Reunion and Homecoming, now in its 27th year.
Monte Blake of Merritone, tells The Gleaner, that the weekend (from Friday, October 13, to Monday, October 16) has been sold out, with about 90 per cent of the 'merry people' coming in from overseas. This consistent support has already caught the Jamaica Tourist Board's (JTB) attention.
"The JTB is now a major sponsor," he says.
It is the homecoming's second consecutive time at Melia Braco Village.
And while there are those persons whose stay at a hotel coincide with the Merritone
celebration and decide to return for it specifically the following year (Blake tells The Gleaner, about one man in that situation who decided to come back with his entire family), the overseas support is rooted in in the event's planning and Merritone's history.
"It was primarily done for for Jamaican people living abroad. Winston Blake (who died in February 2016) thought it would be fun for them to come home to a resort. In the old days, people would come home, they would go to Kingston or wherever. By the time the two weeks were over, they didn't see Jamaica as a tourist would," Blake said. Also, the annual Merritone celebration is close to the birthday of its founder, Val Blake.
Also, when many Jamaicans left the country during the turbulent 1970s, their yearning for a piece of home led to Merritone playing all over North America, a Jamaican diaspora fan base foundation that has lasted.
At the Merritone Braco stay, the entertainment by the sound system and its guest performers will be interspersed with the resort's regular offerings. On the first day, Friday, October 13 over the four days Merritone will play and performers include Ozou'ne with Pon Fyah Band, Harold Davis, Everton Pessoa, Benjy Myaz, Fab Five Band, Althea Hewitt, Dwight Richards, Strangejah Cole, and Michael Schloss. On Heroes Day, there will be simultaneous Las Lick sessions at Braco and The Deck in New Kingston.
The anniversary celebrations preceding the Braco Village weekend are largely Kingston based, beginning with a church service on Sunday, October 8, then Merritone's Lagniappe at 2a Strathairn Avenue on Monday.
On Tuesday, October 10, Live and Merry is at The Alibi, Upper Waterloo Road, with Boris Gardiner and Mary Isaacs, where Ozou'ne also plays the following night. On Thursday, October 12, there is the regular Turntable Thursday session at Waterfalls in Liguanea, St Andrew.