Archive for the ‘Jolly Boys’ Category
Though often erroneously regarded as simply a variation of Calypso, Jamaican Mento is a distinct musical style that developed independently from its similarly styled Trinidadian cousin. The genre remained Jamaica’s most popular form of indigenous music from the post war years up until the development of Shuffle Blues and its immediate successor, Ska, in the early sixties.
The distinctive sound produced by early exponents of the style was a result of the combination of vocals, banjo, acoustic guitar, hand percussion and a rumba box, all frequently enhanced by homemade saxophone, clarinet or bamboo flute.
Mento, Not Calypso! features some of the earliest recordings in the genre, dubbed directly from the original Jamaican 78s, with many featuring on CD for the first time. Compiled by Mento aficionado, Mike Murphy, the 2CD set is unquestionably the most definitive collection of the style yet to see issue and as such will appeal to those seeking to discover the origins of modern Jamaican music as well as the less discerning buyer simply wishing to enhance their summer barbecue!
edited from http://jollyboysmusic.com:
Mento was the music of the Jamaican dancehalls before ska, rocksteady and reggae came along. A people’s music typically played in the countryside on acoustic–often homemade–instruments, it dates to the late 19th century. Its lyrics often dealt with rude or slack topics, or addressed the social issues of the day. Although often confused with calypso (largely because calling it “calypso” was a handy way of marketing it to tourists who didn’t know any better), it has a rawness and rhythmic feel that is uniquely Jamaican.
In winter of 1946, Hollywood star Errol Flynn purchased Navy Island for the princely sum of US$80,000. For the next decade that small swath of land, not even 100 yards from the beaches of Port Antonio, became the berthing place for Flynn’s yacht Zaca, and the staging point for his unending parties that is today the stuff of legend. The entertainment Flynn featured most often in those days was a small local group called the Navy Island Swamp Boys which consisted of Noel Lynch on guitar, Moses Deans on banjo and “Papa” Brown on rumba box. The mentos, calypsos and rumbas they played were the perfect soundtrack for Flynn and company’s bacchanalian excesses.
When this group broke up in 1955, Moses and Papa reformed the group with Derrick “Johnny” Henry on maracas & drum, Martell Brown on guitar, and David “Sonny” Martin on guitar. When Papa couldn’t make gigs, Allan Swymmer was brought in (he later became a permanent member). Legend tells us that Errol Flynn named this group “The Jolly Boys” after the vibe he caught from their playing. With Flynn’s imprimatur, the Jolly Boys music quickly defined mento and calypso entertainment in Port Antonio and set a high musical standard. (more…)
The Jolly Boys, a trio of elderly Jamaican musicians who play a rollicking type of folk music nearly forgotten by time, are enjoying an unexpected revival after nearly 60 years of entertaining tourists on the island’s hotels.
Playing on acoustic, sometimes homemade instruments, the group’s forte is mento — a Jamaican dance music created by the descendants of African slaves in the late 19th century. It features banjo, maracas, a rough-hewn wooden box with metal prongs to pluck bass notes, and often bawdy lyrics.
For Albert Minott, the group’s 72-year-old guitarist and gravelly voiced frontman, preserving the once vibrant musical genre and expanding its possibilities is a lifelong mission.
“Over the years, mento has been locked down in a cooking pot by these guys with their big amplifiers, big soundboxes. So it’s been quietly cooking, simmering,” said the dapperly dressed Minott, his brown eyes brightening in his deeply lined face.
“But now,” he said, “we the Jolly Boys take off the pot cover, spoon out the mento and serve up the good taste to the young people who didn’t know it. Nobody else can do it.”
“We’d been down all those years. It was rough. The officials in Jamaica, they don’t step forward to the mento. I don’t see why they turn their back on it,” said Derrick “Johnny” Henry, the band’s “rumba box” player who has worked as a fisherman when gigs were scarce.
Joseph “Powda” Bennett, a veteran Jolly Boy who is a member of Jamaica’s Maroons, whose ancestors were slaves freed by the Spanish in the 17th century to repel invading British forces, said their recent international success has effectively made them the biggest Jamaican band around.
“Over the years, we’ve stayed in the hotels preserving this mento. It’s finally paying off now,” said the 73-year-old Bennett, who has played in various incarnations of the Jolly Boys group, which has had at least 18 members over the decades.
“There are places we go now that we didn’t expect that we would ever know. Places that as a boy you read about in a comic book — Russia, Germany, France, Spain, England. And now we go to all those places. Isn’t that wonderful? To do that at this age,” said Minott, grinning. “Our grandkids brag about it.” (edited from David McFadden, Associated Press, http://repeatingislands.com)
The Jolly Boys sing “Bitter Cassava Killed Joe Brown”: