Thursday, February 2, 2017

Music: Mento, the "Sweet Slackness" and other Intellectual Delights

For four consecutive Sundays in February, starting on the 5th, the annual Grounation series will celebrate mento music in the lecture hall of the Institute of Jamaica, East Street, Kingston. The theme of the ongoing analysis is 'MENTO: Is ow de Music Sweet So'.

 Grounation is staged each February by the Jamaica Music Museum, whose director-curator, Herbie Miller, says "I think it is time we take a look at the original progenitor of popular Jamaican music that has not, as far as I know, been given as much attention as it ought to have. We talk about rocksteady, we talk about reggae, but mento gets passing attention, even in the books."

While mento has been generally underserved, Miller notes that it continues to influence the Jamaican popular music genres which have succeeded it.
"All forms of Jamaican popular music, and gospel as well, have used mento rhythms from time to time," he said. "Today, we see it popping up in Jamaican gospel and dancehall."
Miller noted that mento was not only first at home, but also abroad. He said: "It was Jamaica's first mass music export, in that it was performed and distributed abroad as well as in Jamaica."
He said that from as far back as the 1950s, mento performers were travelling to North America, "promoting Jamaica as a tourist destination while at the same time building a name for themselves."

 Prior to the first session, the series, now in it 9th year, will have an official opening function at the Institute.

The opening session on Sunday, February 5, is titled 'Take Her to Jamaica (Where the Rum Come From): Mento and the 'Calypso' Phenomenon in Tourism'.
The Jolly Boys will perform after presentations by Dr Daniel Neely and Dr Matthew Smith. The following Sunday, Roberto Moore, Roy Black, Rick Elgood and Bill Monsted will discuss 'Collecting Mento: Knowing Mento Through Recorded Artifacts', with Dr Clinton Hutton moderating the session. The performance will be by Mento Sound System.

On Sunday, February 19, senior research officer at the African-Caribbean Institute of Jamaica (ACIJ) David Brown will host the session on 'Healing in the Balm Yard: Mento, Obeah and Other Jamaican Folk Forms and Culture', after which the Blue Glaze Mento Band will perform. Colin Channer is also confirmed for the Sunday.

Dr Karen Carpenter will do a presentation at the final event in the series on Sunday, February 25, which is named 'Noisy Spring: Mento's Sexual Innuendos, Double Entendre and Downright Slackness'. Mento Madness band will do the closing performance.

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