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|Mento A Foreign (From Other Countries)||
Last revised: 8/3/16
Reggae is said to be played in virtually every country that has music. While that is far less true of mento, there are some interesting examples. Perhaps the most striking is immediately below.
On Panama's Grecha label, a 45 by Black Majesty & The Mighty Bamboo Band, who recorded from 1958 through 1970.
As can be heard from the clips here (Mon Cherie) and here (The Pony), it's sung in English and the music is indistinguishable from Jamaican rural mento. (Only if you are looking for it will you notice a slight Latin inflection.)
With the singer and band all Panama born, how should this be so? The answer is in the waves of Jamaicans that migrated to Panama to work on the Panama Canal starting in the 1860s. By the time the canal was completed in 1914, an estimated 90,000 Jamaicans had moved there. These clips make clear that they brought mento with them.
Black Majesty was born Claude Morant, 1935, in Panama City, yet he sounds Jamaican. By 1945, he was already interested in music. All his records were original songs. Carlos Garnett was the sax player.
Both sides sound like late 1950s Jamaican mento, though both the singer and the hand drummer have a South American accent.
Yet another a single by Black Majesty And The Mighty Bamboo Band on Sally Ruth:
The album Panama! 3, on the Soundway Records label includes other examples of of Panamanian mento and songs influenced by mento.
Formed in 2002 in Manila by original members Count Kutu, Senyor Lucca, Don Ustollano, Lord Santadio and Doctor Turbo, the band plays strictly rural style Jamaican mento music, lead by Count Kutuís nasal voice and vintage acoustic instrumentation ranging from low end guitars, Tenor Banjo, maracas, catacoo, sand block, bamboo drum and rumba box. Over the years, the band released a handfull of limited edition CDs that were only available at their gigs, and after a short period of inactivity they reformed in 2010 around Count Kutu and Senyor Lucca, adding members Cardinal Jones, Lord Francis, Bob Marlou and female sessionist Atty. Justin. The band performs and records their own renditions of old mento and calypso songs such as Linstead Market, Big Bamboo, Night Food, and Jamaica Farewell, as well as original compositions recorded in their native tongue. In early 2012, the band came under the radar of Chicago based JUMP UP Records Ė who immediately offered to release a new album. "Simply put, We were amazed at the bandís ability to recreate the rural style of Jamaican mento."
Bustamento is a group out of Australia. Inspired by seeing
Stanley Beckford perform live, bandleader
Nicky Bomba put together a six-piece group that plays calypso, mento,
early reggae and ska.
Left, is their 2012 album, "Intrepid Adventures to The Lost Riddim Islands". For more on this band, visit www.bustamento.com.
2014, Bastien, of France informed me of Tribu' Acustica, a group out of
Italy. They play acoustic mento and reggae, including covers of Jamaican
folk songs and some originals with Italian vocals. They also recorded an
album with guest vocalist Max Romeo in 2000.
Left, is their 1999 self-titled album. For more on this band, visit http://www.tribuacustica.it. Bastien warns that there is another group by the same name that plays a ska-punk mix.
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