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Take Me to Jamaica: The Story of Jamaican Mento 1951-58 ( CD )

Various Artists-Take Me to Jamaica: The Story of Jamaican Mento 1951-58
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Various Artists: Take Me to Jamaica - The Story of Jamaican Mento 1951 - 1958 CD

1.Ten Penny Nail — Hubert Porter
2.Samfi Man — Count Lasher & His Quintet
3.Monkey — Lord Messam & His Calypsonians
4.Mussu & John Tom — Alerth Bedasse & Chin's Calypso Sextet
5.Medley: Mango Walk/Give Me Back Me Shilling/Sweetie Charlie — Lord Tickler
6.Gal A Gully/Matilda — Lord Composer & The Silver Seas Hotel Orchestra
7.Reap What You Sow — Everart Williams & Chin's Calypso Sextet
8.Mass Charley Bell (Medley: Iron Bar/Mass Charley Bell) — Hubert Porter
9.Jamaican Medley #5 (Jackass/Ya Ma Mama Ma Ma) — Lord Tickler
10.Guzoo Doctor — Alerth Bedasse & Chin's Calypso Sextet
11.I Don't Know — Lord Fly with Dan Williams & His Orchestra
12.Green Guava — Lord Tickler
13.Monkey's Opinion — Alerth Bedasse & Chin's Calypso Sextet
14.The Naughty Little Flea — Boysie Grant & Reginald's Calypso Clippers
15.Names Of Funny Places — Hubert Porter
16.Industrial Fair — Alerth Bedasse & Chin's Calypso Sextet
17.Parish Gal — Harold Richardson & The Ticklers
18.Limbo — Lord Tickler
19.Wheel And Tun Me — Lord Flea
20.Big Boy Instrumental — Chin's Calypso Sextet
21.Tracer Gal — Hubert Porter with George Moxey & His Quintet
22.Come To Jamaica — Alliandro Clarke & Chin's Calypso Sextet
23.Medley: Linstead Market/Hold 'Im Joe/Dog War A Matches Lane/Emanuel Road
24.-- Lord Fly with Dan Williams & His Orchestra
25.Let's Play Ring Jamaican Style (No.1 Sally Water)
26.-- Alerth Bedasse & Chin's Calypso Sextet

Mention Jamaican music and people immediately think of Reggae. Anyone with half an interest in the subject will tell you that the roots of the music lie in the U.S.A. through Jamaican Rhythm & Blues and on from Ska to Rock Steady but a knowledge of the influence and importance of the music known as Mento has, until recently, remained the sole preserve of musical scholars.

Mento began as a simple rural dance music but as it moved to the cities, following the migration of country people in the nineteen forties, it became the backing for highly erotic dance performances in Kingston’s bars and nightclubs. It was usually performed by small groups of musicians playing banjo, guitar, fife, maracas, and a ‘rumba box’ occasionally augmented by a bamboo saxophone and violin and, in its later urban based context, violin, clarinet, saxophone and piano. Mento’s origins are, naturally enough, of African descent but the music also demonstrates considerable European influences. If you were fortunate enough to be have been frequenting one of the many bars and clubs in Kingston in the fifties there is a good chance you would have heard some of the music on this CD. Jamaican Mento is witty and playful and slightly less obviously commercial than Trinidadian Calypso but definitely a musical cousin.

The credit for the first ever Jamaican record goes to a medley of Mento songs by Lord Fly (Bertie Lyons) released on the MRS (Motta’s Recording Studio) label in 1951. There were three main players in the Mento business: Stanley Motta, Ivan Chin and Ken Khouri and we have highlighted their work on ‘Take Me To Jamaica’.

Before Stanley Motta opened his recording studio on Hanover Street in downtown Kingston in 1951 and began cutting Mento sides by local artists there was no indigenous Jamaican recording business. Ivan S. Chin, another stalwart champion of Mento music, owned Chin’s Radio Service in Kingston where he recorded over eighty Mento sides featuring Chin’s Calypso Sextet. Ken Khouri’s catalogue of Mento recordings is not as extensive as that of Stanley Motta or Ivan Chin but his work within the genre has been under represented until now. Ken Khouri would go on to establish Federal Records and play a pivotal role in the Jamaican recording industry.

Tracks such as ‘Samfi Man’ by Lord Lasher, ‘Names Of Funny Places’ by Hubert Porter and ‘Guzoo Doctor’ by Alerth Bedasse are stunning, evocative songs of daily life in Jamaica. The musical dexterity displayed on some of these records is simply brilliant and, with the music being recorded straight on to lacquer in a one take no overdubbing format, nothing could be left to chance. Arrangements and songs had to be of the highest order.

The recordings made by these pioneers represent the beginnings of a musical phenomenon whose influence would eventually reach all around the world and back again. They were the first Jamaicans to record local music and the first to realize the importance of releasing and promoting it internationally. By presenting this esoteric art form in a sophisticated and readily accessible way they enabled their music to reach an international audience outside the confines of Jamaica.

The accompanying booklet contains a wealth of contemporary archive material and interviews with some of the leading figures involved in the Mento phenomenon but this release represents far more than an exercise in nostalgia, a collection of historical artefacts or a socio-anthropological musical history lesson. These recordings have a meaning, life and vitality all of their own. Yes. They are important but that does not start to begin to explain why they are so exhilarating and so good to listen and dance to…