Various Artists

Mento Madness: Motta's Jamaican Mento 1951-1956

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When Stanley Motta branched off from his electrical appliance repair business in 1951 and began recording local mento performers on a single-track, mono tape recorder, releasing the results on his MRS Records label, he single-handedly jump-started the Jamaican recording industry. These early records were often termed calypso, but they were subtly different, drawing more on the collision of African and British music sources (as opposed to the merging of African with French or Spanish music prevalent in Trinidad), and they set forth a template that Jamaican music subsequently followed into a dizzying array of rhythmic forms, including ska, reggae, and dancehall. Initially a simple rural dance music, mento in its earliest incarnations usually featured banjo, rumba box, bamboo fife, and various percussion instruments, but reaching Kingston, it urbanized into a kind of street corner Dixieland with piano, clarinet, and saxophones soon factored in, and Jamaican jazz musicians like guitarist Ernest Ranglin and saxophonist Roland Alphonso got their start in mento orchestras. This anthology collects several of Motta's releases from between 1951 and 1956, and while it will undoubtedly be of little interest to the casual listener, collectors and students of Jamaican music history will find it fascinating.

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