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Mento Bands At Jamaican Hotels and Elsewhere   

 

Page last revised: 8/28/16

 

It has been a long standing practice for hotels in Jamaica to feature a mento band. (In the past, sometimes the hotel gave the resident mento band their name, such as in the case of The Hiltonaires,  Silver Seas, or the Shaw Park Calypso Band). Happily, this practice continues today, as rural mento bands perform daily in Jamaica's resorts, though the groups are still billed as "calypso" bands.

Usually, a hotel band will eschew drums and emphasize maracas for percussion. This may be to
keep the overall sound from getting too loud for the environs of a hotel.

Many of these band members have been playing mento their entire lives. And anyone under the age of sixty would have to be considered a young buck. With younger Jamaican musicians typically attracted to other styles of music, there is the frightening prospect of mento some day becoming extinct. I raised this in case you were waiting for just one more excuse to vacation in JA and hear some live mento. Go deh! And by all means, please contribute your photos and impressions. And if you ask, the band will often have a CD-R for sale, replacing the vinyl souvenirs of the past.

For a good sampling of what today's mento sounds like, the best CD you can purchase is The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s 2000 release, "Mento Music In Jamaica, Volume 1".

This page features just a few of the mento bands performing at Jamaican resorts today. Thanks to all the of vacationers who sent me their photos and impressions.
 

 

 

Here is
The Mighty Beeston
Mento Band
.

 

Here's an unusual appearance.

Courtesy of Rob Cole, of Melbourne, Australia, here is an ad for JBL speakers that appeared in a 1960 issue of Hi Fi/Stereo Review magazine. It uses a photo of a mento band to symbolize "the universal urge to make music".

 

   

Courtesy of S. Misenheimer of North Carolina in the US, here are pix of two unidentified bands from February, 1974 in Port Antonio:

Left, the guys at Dragon Bay played covers of stuff made popular in the US by Belafonte ("Jump In De Line," etc). The guys at the Blue Hole (a cruise ship group had come there) were playing old songs we had never heard (except "Banana, Banana, Banana" or others possibly heard before on Lord Kitchener records from the 50s).

 

 

Courtesy of Barry Lauterwasser of Louisville Kentucky in the US, here is a great shot of The Goldenaires performing "Shaving Cream" for Barry and his wife Leslie at the Grand Lido Braco in Trelawny, Jamaica in 2008. Barry noticed that on this day, one of the elder band members was missing.

For more on The Goldenaires, click here.


 
  From September 2007, courtesy of photographer Charlene Collins, of Kingston, Jamaica, here is an unnamed mento band at Crystal Springs in Portland (just outside of Buff Bay). To see larger versions of the four photos below, and much more of her visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wisugar/ and http://charlenecollins.aminus3.com/  
   

 

 

This photo comes courtesy of Larry Maleszewski of the US, who vacations in Jamaica each year and never fails to return with a photo of the resident mento band for this site.

This 2006 photo is of one of several mento bands that roam the beach and perform for vacationers at the Couples resort in Negril. Below are several more from the same resort.

 
From 2006,
The Sunshine Mento Band,
Couples Resort,
Ocho Rios

   


An unknown mento band.

 

 

Courtesy of Gary Million of Viejo, California, is this picture of B.B. King and the Westerners. Says Gary,

Not 'the'  B.B. King but the Jamaican version! They played in September at some of the lunches and dinners at Couples Negril. They said they also played at Couples Swept Away. Two guitars, a rumba box and maracas, but they have a banjo and some sort of sax on their CD. They played mento (including "Day-O" and "Big Bamboo"), calypso, a few covers such as John Denver's Country Roads. Then at Sunday's lunch they did a Gospel flavored set."


 


 
 

 

As of January 2005, the resident mento band at Couples Resort in Ocho Rios was called Scotch Bonnet. These photos are courtesy of Larry Maleszewski of the US, who also picked up their CDR, as seen below.

 

 

 

 

 


"Spanish Town" is actually
a cover of Count Lasher's
"Talking Parrot".

The previous year, Larry saw this band performing under a different name:


 

The Cibonites, January 2004, Couples Resort, Ocho Rios, again courtesy of Larry Maleszewski of the US. Larry especially enjoyed their version of "Zombie Jamboree". Looks like there have been line up changes from previous incarnations.
 
 

The Triangles,
Half Moon, Montego Bay, April 2003.

The Triangles perform every evening at a hotel that chooses to bill them as "The Calypso Boyz" on their blackboard. Percy is on lead vocals, maracas and dancing; Earl is on rumba box and vocals (he's on a six week fill-in stint for an ill Triangle); and Motherless (also possibly know as Mitch) is on banjo and vocals.

 

When we arrived, they were playing Bob Marley covers to an indifferent audience around the bar. But, when we requested mento, they absolutely came to life and put on a most enthusiastic and humorous show. Amongst the many familiar mentos were two that I had never heard before. (Percy later explained that they were Trinidadian in origin.) Lazy Man challenged any country to prove that they had a man lazier than the singer, who was "too lazy to wash me feet, too lazy to smell the stink"! The Woop Wap Man was the tale of a man who could only last one minute in bed. "Woop, wap… and I done. Woop wap, and she want the next one." Great stuff! I've since heard the Lazy Man done calypso-style on the Dennis Sindry LP, "Hot Calypsos Under The Sun" and Woop Wap Man done rural-style on the Lord Antics LP, "Too Hot To Hold".
 


 


 
 

Here is an earlier Triangles line up from a hotel postcard. Percy is on banjo and is joined by two other musicians. The guitarist departed to join another group some time ago. After that, Percy became the guitarist in the band, before recently switching over to maracas.

Thanks to Brian Keyo, who seeing this entry on The Triangles, supplied some welcome information. First, the banjo player, called Motherless or Mitch, is actually named Cecil Mitchell. He, Lord Myrie (on guitar and vocals) and James Convery (on rumba box) were recorded on LP on July 26, 1960 by Emory Cook. Only 1000 copies were released on the Cook-Microfusion label, yet it's readily available on CD today. Visit the Can I Buy Mento? page for details. 

Below is a non-Triangles hotel CD that features Mitchell: "The Banjo Man Live!" by Motherless. Though dated as a 2003 release, the recording is from a decade or more earlier. Motherless plays the pictured electric banjo that sounds much like an electric guitar on this live recording from Montego Bay. Though its heavy on American songs, there are some calypso-y takes on "Yellow Bird", "Day-O/Matilda" and "Calypso Medley" includes "Ben Wood Dick".

   

  The Jolly Boys,
Dragon Bay Hotel, Port Antonio, December 2001.

After a long stint at Port Antonio's Trident Villas, The Jolly Boys moved down the road to the Dragon Bay Hotel. For more on this storied band, visit The Jolly Boys page.

The Cibonites,
Couples Resort, Ocho Rios, 2002...
 




... and again
, in 2003.

Here are two more Cibonites pix from 2003. This time, they are playing in Ochi at a docking bay for cruise ships. These come courtesy of Steve Brentford of the Netherlands, who recognized the rumba box player as being part of a later Hiltonaires line up.
 

 

For more on hotel bands, also see this site's:

 

email me at:
mike@mentomusic.com

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