Entertainment

One jolly set of boys

Mento band tops global reggae charts

BY STEVEN JACKSON Observer staff reporter

Friday, September 24, 2010    

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THE Jolly Boys are out-charting all living reggae/dancehall artistes online, including Gyptian, but at least one stakeholder isn’t surprised.

It makes mento the music of the moment with Great Expectations by the Jolly Boys charting in eight European countries within the top-10 versus six countries for Gyptian’s Hold You, the previous album leader.

“Reggae and dancehall must give respect to the grandpa,” said Michael Garnice, the creator of mentomusic.com in a written response to Splash’s queries. “The popularity of The Jolly Boys' new release, video and tours will give mento greater attention than perhaps it has ever received. I can't wait to see how far it goes!”

Specifically, Great Expectations was No 1 in Austria, No 1 in Belgium, No 1 in Switzerland, No 1 in Spain, No 2 in Ireland, No 3 in UK, No 4 in Germany, No 5 in Greece, No 6 in Netherlands, on iTunes reggae albums chart, as at Tuesday. These results are better than Gyptian, Damian Marley, Sean Paul and Shaggy. Each had no more six titles in the Top 10. Digital sales account for one-third of global music sales and iTunes is the dominant online music store, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) Digital Report 2010.

“Though it's been a long time coming, I am not surprised,” stated Garnice, whose website is described as the only online mento site. “The Jolly Boys have devoted their lives to playing mento at home and around the world. And after all, mento is the seed that grew into ska, rocksteady, reggae and dancehall, each popular in their own right.”

The Jolly Boys, a rough-andtumble band of brothers, have been performing for 60 years. Foundation members include Albert Minott on vocals and guitar; Joseph ‘Powder’ Bennett on backing vocals, maracas and ‘vibes’ Derrick ‘Johnny’ Henry on rumba box and backing vocals; Allan Swymmer on percussion; and Egbert Watson on banjo. New members include Donald Waugh on banjo; Lenford ‘Brutus’ Richards on guitar and Dale Virgo on percussion.

It’s rare that a mento group releases an album marketed by a music label. Geejam Records included a cover of Amy Winehouse’s hit single Rehab, in order to introduce mento to a new generation.

“Rehab is the best thing out there right now,” noted Garnice whose website chronicles mento from post-emancipation to the present. The album is produced by Jon Baker and Dale Virgo with executive producers Mark Jones and Steve Beaver. It was mixed by Tom Elmhirst with featured guest including Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks (flute, tenor sax) and Daniel Neely (banjo).

Garnice reasoned that The Jolly Boys are simply reflecting an untapped market for mento.

“There are pockets of interest in mento around the world. For example, it has followings in Germany and France from many years [due to] tourists visiting Jamaica and bringing home memories of the mento bands that entertained them. Another example is Japan. They are very interested in all styles of Jamaican music, including mento,” he said.

Most mento bands still exist in Jamaica, unlike ska or reggae bands.

“Though there are some Jamaican expatriates abroad who perform mento, and even some Europeans that dabble in the sound, make no mistake, mento is firmly based in Jamaica. Just as much of Jamaica's music is firmly based in mento,” he noted.

Geejam management, when contacted, was unavailable for comment up to print time. Long before Marley brought reggae to the world, the Jolly Boys were making mento melodies in Port Antonio. And though the former has become synonymous with Jamaica, mento — rife with African-derived rhythms, folklore and poignant puns — is that indigenous sound, which informs its successors to this very day.

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