Merritone celebrates a ‘triple’ this weekend - Today marks Winston ‘Merritone’ Blake’s 80th birthday
Everybody knows that Merritone memories are forever, whether they take place in the real or the virtual world. The year 2020 is a big one for the sound system which the founders and followers agree has been “the vanguard of quality entertainment from day one, spawning and inspiring more DJs and discos than anyone can imagine”.
In commemoration of this year’s exciting triple anniversary, Merritone, in association with collectorscorner.com, will this weekend stage Reunion 2020: the Virtual Edition, which will celebrate a milestone 70 years of great Merritone music, 30 years of bringing the family back together, and last, but not least, the birthday of a legend. It is Winston ‘Merritone’ Blake’s 80th birthday, and that is a significant ‘merri’ moment, his brother Monte, one of the renowned quartet of Blake brothers, told The Gleaner.
Winston Blake, the co-founder of the world’s oldest continuously active sound system, was also a club operator, talent search originator and selector. He was born on November 19, 1940. His name is synonymous with the sound system that his father, Val, started in St Thomas 70 years ago. Though deceased (February 2016), Winston’s larger-than-life presence fills the dance floors and hearts of Merritone fans worldwide. In 1995, Winston was invested with the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican Government for his contribution to music.
With so much to celebrate, and it being a pandemic year, which distressingly pressed pause on the roll-out of the highly anticipated season of activities, Monte Blake was determined not to roll over and play dead. Not even when the first round of COVID stay-at-home restrictions for those 75 and over coincidentally fell on his 75th birthday in March. He says he had to rise to the occasion.
“We have a huge overseas fan base, and they are all wrapped up at home in the cold. We are happy to take the music to them to keep them warm. This weekend we are inviting everybody – at home and across the globe – to be a part of our first virtual show,” he said.
From Friday to Sunday, Merritone will stream live and will feature some of Jamaica’s best selectors, among them DJ Jermaine, Craig Ross, Mikey Thompson, Norman ‘Muggy’ Lake, Junior Cyrus, Val and Ossie Chung, Glen ‘Titus’ Campbell, Monte Blake and Richie Clarke.
Adhering to the exceptionally high standards for which Merritone is known, Blake has already done a test run to ensure a seamless production. “We saw where we are going to need more lights, so we will be sorting that out. But I want to make it clear that persons can enter the site for free even though we are asking for a donation. If the music hits you, then we will pass around the collection plate,” Monte Blake said, laughing.
The collection, he explained, will be used to defray the costs of staging the event, and also share among music industry persons such as selectors and musicians who are experiencing financial challenges as a result of the pandemic. But, for this weekend, COVID-19 will have to take a far back seat as Merritone unleashes two intense party nights, Friday and Saturday, and their signature ‘lagniappe’ or ‘brawta’ on Sunday.