CD Sweet Sweet Jamaica Gilzene & The Blue Light Mento Band: Lanford Gilzene
Jamaica's best-kept treasure
With this new album, the Blue Light Mento Band is poised and ready to bring mento into the greater public consciousness overseas. Tune in to their musical skills and discover why mento music will live on forever.
Formed in the rural backwater of Trelawney in 1986, the Blue Light Mento Band is one of the best-kept secrets of Jamaican popular music. Prime exponents of mento, a distinctly Jamaican form of traditional folk music, the group has long been acclaimed on the island for its mastery of the genre, delivering bawdy humour and social satire with verve and zest.
On this debut recording, the Blue Light Mento Band make clear why mento is so beloved by devotees. As group members all come from remote and underdeveloped areas of Jamaica, their sound is unadulterated by urban influences, retaining the country feel that has always defined mento's original form. The album holds just the right amount of rawness, yielding an honesty that is lacking in most of the island's contemporary musical product.
In the best mento tradition, the fifteen songs cover a range of topics, featuring folk favourites, suggestive ditties and songs examining the finer points of human relationships. Audiences may already be familiar with songs such as 'Wings Of A Dove,' once adapted in ska by Bob Marley, 'Brown Girl In The Ring,' a children's ring game song adapted in disco by Boney M, 'Dream Of Me,' a big hit for Mac and Katie Kissoon in the mid-1970s, and the oft-versioned 'Sly Mongoose,' which references radical religious leader Alexander Bedward. 'Jammin Tonight,' which exhorts the listeners to join in the mento party, adapts a traditional number known as 'You Safe,' while in contrast, '10,000 Years' adapts a bible hymn within the language and symbolism of the Rastafari faith. The originals are equally captivating: the ballad 'Crying' relates a riverside tale of seeking to give comfort in times of hardship and distress, while 'Honey And Honeycomb' has Gilzene Lanford pledging eternal devotion to his sweetheart; 'Sweet Sweet Jamaica' naturally expresses the enduring appeal of the island for visitors. Perhaps most notable of all, the band's adaptation of Toots and the Maytals' much loved 'Sweet And Dandy' recasts the reggae hit as a mento country stomp, with none other than Toots himself contributing the vibrant harmonica.
With this new album, the Blue Light Mento Band is poised and ready to bring mento into the greater public consciousness overseas. Tune in to their musical skills and discover why mento music will live on forever. © David Katz 2009