Posts Tagged ‘Mento’

Sweet and Dandy

August 16, 2012

Check out this beautiful rendition of “Sweet and Dandy” by the Blue Glaze Mento Band.

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Theodore Miller: Mento Fiddler

August 13, 2012

Pimento and Hot Pepper

June 1, 2012

Pimento and Hot Pepper” is a documentary about mento music by Rick Elgood.  The following is from the Bilmon Productions site:

Mento music is a fusion of African and European musical traditions that began in Jamaica in the 19th century. Although widely played throughout the island for many years, it wasn’t until the early 1950s that the first mento recording appeared on a 78 RPM disc. This decade was mento’s golden age, as a variety of artists recorded mento songs in an assortment of rhythms and styles. It was the peak of mento’s creativity and popularity in Jamaica and the birth of Jamaica’s recording industry.

Interviews include commentary from leading political, cultural and musical personalities. Musical performances include a panorama of existing mento bands from all across Jamaica, some of which have been playing continuously for 45 yrs.

Jolly Boys

December 8, 2011

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”:

Tom Dula

October 12, 2011

Thomas C. Dula (June 22, 1845 – May 1, 1868) was a former Confederate soldier, who was tried,convicted, and hanged for the murder of his fiancée, Laura Foster. The trial and hanging received national publicity from newspapers such as The New York Times, thus turning Dula’s story into a folk legend.  A local poet named Thomas Land wrote a song about the tragedy shortly after Dula was hanged. This, combined with the widespread publicity the trial received, further cemented Dula’s place in North Carolina legend. The song written by Land is still sung today throughout North Carolina.

Several recordings were made of the song in the twentieth century, with the first in 1929 by Grayson and Whitter.  The most popular version was recorded by The Kingston Trio in 1958.  It sold over 6 million copies, an is widely credited with starting the “folk boom” of the 60s.

The song “Tom Dooley” also migrated to the Caribbean in the late 50’s, and was beautifully interpreted by the mento band, “The Hiltonaires.”

That’s where my money goes to buy silk camisoles …

September 5, 2011

Mento

September 5, 2011

For an exhaustive collection of resources related to traditional Jamaican string band music, see http://www.mentomusic.com/index.htm

The classic mento sound is the acoustic, informal, folksy rural style. Still sometimes referred to as country music in Jamaica, it’s easy to imagine farmers and their families celebrating harvest with a mento dance. Typical instruments included banjo, acoustic guitar, a home-made saxophone, clarinet or flute made from bamboo, a variety of hand percussion and a rumba box.  Fiddle was occasionally used.  (edited from mentomusic.com)
Listen to the the 4th tune in the medley below for an outstanding example  of Jamaican country  fiddling. The recording is “Quadrille Figures 1-2-3-4 No. 8,” by Chin’s Calypso Sextet (more of their music is available on iTunes and cdbaby.com)