Mento, or as it
was was often generalized, calypso, was popular enough with tourists in
Jamaica to be the basis of a variety of souvenirs. First and foremost were
the mento records for sale in stores such as
Stanley Motta's, Chin's Radio Service
and Times Store, as well as the hotels and
resorts where the music was performed for visitors to the island.
(Today's mento bands
who perform at Jamaica's vacation resorts continue this tradition by selling CDRs of their
music.) But mento souvenirs did not end
with these recordings, as a
variety of other items were available..
|A tourist in Jamaica
during the 1950s could have been so impressed with the local music
that he was moved to purchase a calypso Rayon shirt by Dadlani's of
Jamaica, British West Indies.
Below is another Jamaica/Calypso shirt. Though
not new, I do not know what decade this Gala Wear cotton shirt is from, nor
do I know if it was made or sold in Jamaica. It quotes from the touristy
mento song, "Take me to Jamaica Where The Rum Comes From" along with a drum,
maracas and the legend, "Calypso Band". Other legends and illustrations
include "Jamaica", rafting on the "Rio Grande", "Blue Mountains", and other
A 1950s tourist might have chosen to enjoy
Cigars", a product of
Company Ltd, Jamaica B.W.I.
Two choices to to light up: a "Calypso Singers, Jamaica" lighter,
or the matches below.
Still intact after all these years is
this souvenir book
of matches that commemorates The Arawak resort and its live Jamaican
Thanks very much to
Dan Neely for the scans of this great, rare
Middle Period Album Scans for more on the Arawak hotel's mento
Postcards are the most ubiquitous of
souvenirs. Some (though not enough) Jamaican postcards feature mento bands.
The one on the left, featuring The Triangles
is from the late 1990s. The others are earlier.
Here's a postcard of uncertain origin along with
the band excerpted:
Here's a postcard from the Victoria Crafts Market with
the band excerpted:
Here is a postcard with a mento band from The
Gloucester Hotel. Though undated, it looks like the late 1950s or the early
mento band is
featured on this
deck of playing cards.
Notice that the photo same session gave
us the postcard above.
Also check out this
mento postcard with something extra.
Here's a good indication as to how important mento was to Jamaica's
It's a brochure from 1957 for "Jamaica Calypso Cruises". Though the
bands are not described, a number of hotels associated with releases on
this page and elsewhere on this site are pictured and described inside.
These include The Tower Isle, Arawak, Silver Seas, Shaw Park, Plantation
Inn and Montego Beach hotels.
In case you are curious, 1957
pricing is fully described. The Arawak is the most expensive hotel of
those described in the brochure. Also, the text recommends spending the
extra $13.40 to upgrade the flight from coach to first class. I don't
think that offer is still valid! Click on a leaf to see a large,
Perhaps Jamaica's calypso music
made such a strong impression on you the tourist, that you were
looking for a way to be reminded of it back home, say, at each and every meal. Well
then your souvenir shopping would have ended once you discovered
these "Calypso Jamaica" wooden salt and pepper shakers.
"Calypso Notes" is mento
themed stationary from
The Novelty Trading Co, Ltd
of Kingston, Jamaica. The
artist is Margaret K. Rhodes.
Of obscure origin is what appears to be a collection of mento
musician dolls. There are male dolls with what look like banjo,
guitar, maracas and percussion, plus female dancer dolls.
Unfortunately, a larger image is not available.
Courtesy of Francesca Zahrai of Edmond,
Oklahoma, here is a 28" x 15" mento souvenir linen towel. In
addition to the musicians, its ringed with song titles: Chi-Chi Bud
Oh, Hill and Gully, Island in the Sun, Water Come to Me Eye, Love
Love Alone, The Big Bamboo, Sammy Dead Oh, Yellow Bird, Linstead
Market, Matilda, Maryann, Day Oh.
Francesca would love to hear from anyone
who could help her date this item.
Here are some Jamaican
tourism posters featuring mento. First a reproduction of a
Trans-Canada Air Lines add with a a mento duo. Next is the rumba box shot from the 1960s.
Third is a nice
vintage 1957 poster from the Jamaican Tourist Board promoting
Jamaica as "land of calypso" with a mento duo and a pair
vintage touristy mento poster that I did not encounter until 2016.
It promises mento music as well as beaches and service to
But not every mento memento
is tourist-aimed. To the left is a print of "Two Mento
Players", by Jamaican artist Joshua Higgins. For more on this
Below is the work of self-taught artist Richard Hugh Blackford
specializes in scenes of Jamaican life such as the two paintings below.
Original oils and prints are available at
Here are some more souvenirs that skew far closer to fine to art than to
On the left is a collection of a friend to this site, Jeremy Collingswood of
London. The figurines come from Montego Bay Pottery. The rumba box player on
the right may also come from there.
The ubiquitous entertainment of live mento
inspired many tourists to bring home not just recordings, but scaled down
renditions of rural mento instruments as a reminder.
A visitor to Jamaica in the 1950s, perhaps
inspired by the fine hand drums of Boysie Grant and Reynolds Calypso
Band, could pick up some souvenir hand drums of their own. Hand
painted single and double drums were available to the souvenir buying
Hey, this one sort of looks like the same drummer as above but
wearing a different outfit!
Below, left, is three views of a single drum,
painted with "Jamaica", "Calypso" and a stylized pineapple that was
not uncommon on these souvenirs. In the middle is a double drum, with
"Calypso", "Jamaica" and two dancers painted on it. Right is another double, with
"Jamaica, W. I.", "Calypso Joe", and, dating this item, "Ska". Rasta
colors appear in the stylized palm tree.
Left is a multipurpose drum, as it bears
the following text:
Jamaica Minto Rumba Ska
One side is ribbed for additional
|A similar souvenir was
the scaled down rumba box, often sold, as in this case, under the
name "Calypso Joe". These were about a foot and a half across and
not very deep, perhaps to assure that they fit in a vacationer's
Though not pictured, the sides if this
rumba box are painted with the legend, "Jamaica".
Two more souvenir rumba boxes. First is one
with a "Calypso", Limbo", Day-O" theme and a maraca player. Second is
celebrating "Lord Flea and His Calypso
|Here is a
more complete view of a somewhat less impressive rumba box, or as it
reads, "Rhum Box". It has fewer tines and the painting is a bit
crude. It features what I think are supposed to be bananas in a
variety of colors, the word "Ska" (dating this as from the mid 1960s
or later) and, for no ascertainable reason, "Roy".
More souvenir rumba boxes. These
items measure 15" x 11.5" x 6".
This specimen includes the names of the members
of an unnamed band. One name, Horace Johnson, is familiar and
Another style of painting adorns
this rumba box, picturing a drummer and a female dancer, musical
notes and the legend, "Calypso Jamaica W.I.".
One Lord Pepper and His Calypso Band are celebrated on this
rumba box, along the the legends, "Banana Day", "Cha Cha Cha" and
"Jamaica W.I.". In addition to musical notes, a dancer and a
pineapple are pictured.
Maracas or ridged claves were a more portable
musical instrument souvenir. The maracas have "Jamaica" worked into the finish
or painted on.
The claves have Jamaica W. I Cha Cha" painted on them.