Merritone slice into 60th anniversary schedule
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
There was a pause in the dancing at Retro Recall, held at Waterfalls, Liguanea, St Andrew, in late February. The full house did not seem to mind keeping their dancing shoes still for a minute or two, as the break was for an entity which has provided reason to shake a leg for many a decade.
Members of the Merritone family, under the instructions of Michael 'Mikey T' Thompson, cut the sound system's 60th anniversary cake, officially setting off the celebratory activities.
Monty Blake of Merritone told The Gleaner that hitting the landmark, which further extends their record of being the oldest sound system which is still active, is "a wonderful experience". He pointed out that most young people do not deal with the history of the music, but "there is a little Merritone splish-splash in every sound you hear. Maybe the disc jocks don't know it. One of the greatest assets of Merritone is how the records flow, from the older stuff to the more current".
Blake pointed out as well that "there is the gospel and secular in Merritone" even when people do not categorise the popular songs as gospel, noting songs such as David Rudder's High Mas, I'll Take You There by the Staple Singers and Sam Cooke's Change Gonna Come as Merritone staples.
"We're always mixing up the genres so when you come, you will hear something you like. We don't like one thing playing all nightlong. You must have variation. Life is variation," Blake said.
And there will be some variation in Merritone's normal slate of anniversary activities this year, Blake saying that 'The Greatest After Champs Party' will be held at The Deck, New Kingston, on Sunday, March 28. Blake said they would be celebrating their alma mater, Kingston College, but also schools such as St George's College, Jamaica College and all the institutions which have made the annual Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships a great experience over the century it has been held.
Mento and ska in Paris
In mid-April, Winston Blake will be playing mento and ska in Paris, France, and there will be a weekend in Havana, Cuba, between June and July, finalisation of the date dependent on the carrier which takes up the route after the Air Jamaica situation is resolved. The Merritone Family Fun Day in Connecticut, USA, always a huge favourite, is on the second Sunday in July.
Also on the schedule is the Tribute to Cynthia Schloss and Blake said that during this year's edition of the annual trip to Morant Bay, St Thomas, where the family is from, they will be visiting the graves of the Blake generation before them. There is the possibility of kumina being involved, Blake saying that "the spirits guide us".
After the standard three-day weekend getaway over the National Heroes Day holiday weekend in October, the Merritone 60th anniversary celebrations end with Las Lick at The Deck on National Heroes Day, Monday, October 18.
And to make all the history of Merritone public and accessible in the anniversary year, Blake said there would be a supplement on the sound system in The Gleaner.