Live, recorded mento hit the spot
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
In coordinating the mento move to the 2010 Festival de L'Imagimairie, in Paris, France, in April, Herbie Miller was asked if there was a sound system which plays that genre of music. He said while mento is not generally played in dances anymore, Merritone could provide that.
This year, Merritone celebrates its 60th anniversary and Winston 'Merritone' Blake said that he presented not only mento but also ska, rocksteady and a little reggae. He was on familiar mento ground, as over half a century ago he was playing swing, R&B and mento. In France, "they were out to have a good time", he told The Sunday Gleaner.
That apart, though, Blake remarked on how knowledgeable the people were about Jamaican music and music personalities.
"It brings us to understand how much appreciation there is for us all around the world and the excellence that was maintained before what is happening now," he said. "We played to packed audiences. We thought it was so refreshing that the people came and wanted to be a part of our culture."
He lamented, though, that "there are so many bands out there that don't have a mento repertoire". Noting that mento preceded ska, Blake said "we treat it like a bastard child when it is the first-born child". At the same time, however, he said, "We find that reggae is not grabbing the people as it used to. People complain about musical content and melodic content. The music is moving away from the music.
"What France did is remind us that all is well. We still have a lot to offer the world. We are going back to the beginning. We have to improve what we are offering to the world. We are not just making a song for us and our brethren on the corner," he said, "they (the audience) has a great idea of what is happening and what is not happening. They know the standard that is out there."
Paul Stone of Blue Glaze Mento Band said coming from Festival de L'Imagimairie, there is the possibility of the band going back to not only France, but also Germany, though there is nothing concrete yet. In Jamaica, Blue Glaze visits schools, the Clarendon-based outfit taking mento to Rock River and Thompson Town Comprehensive High. In addition, Stone said they play at weddings and functions for returning residents.
The band now has seven members and Stone said they are recruiting young people.
He said, though, that much of what is being played as mento at nine-night events currently "is not really mento. They have the feel of the mento, but it is not really mento".
- Marriott show to honour icons
The May 20 premiere of Louis Marriott's updated 1980s one-man show, Over The Years, will be dedicated to Jamaican cultural icons over the age of 70.
Marriott said that this gesture was prompted by the recent rapid succession of deaths of icons straddling all areas of the visual and performing arts and his desire to bring together those who remain to celebrate life and pay tribute to their contributions.
Marriott said he has identified more than 40 visual and performing artistes whom he has invited to be special guests at the May 20 show at The Theatre Place in New Kingston, starting at 8 p.m.
The actor/writer, who first appeared onstage in early 1938 at the age of two, will perform Over The Years to mark the 75th anniversary of his birth, on May 22. The show comprises 22 items, including short stories, poems, skits, excerpts from plays, songs and a radio programme, all authored by Marriott. The music was composed by Grub Cooper and recorded by Fab 5's keyboard artiste and synthesist, Sidney Thorpe. While the oldest piece was written in 1953, some of the items reflect Jamaican life more than two centuries ago. Most, however, especially the comic episodes, were lived and/or observed by the author, and much of it is contemporary.
When Marriott first performed Over The Years at the age of 50, to a packed auditorium at the Institute of Jamaica in 1985, the response was overwhelming.
Gleaner critic Michael Reckord, reviewing a 1988 revival, wrote: "Few other persons in Jamaica - if any - have written plays, songs, poems, short stories and prose for performance at the professional level Marriott has. Like a decathlon champion, Marriott is probably not the best in any single area of theatrical endeavour; but the package of his talents is well nigh unbeatable."