Jamaica Gleaner / Boosting founder Val Blake’s aphorism that “things of quality have no fear of time,” the 27th edition of the Merritone Homecoming and Family Reunion had a typically convivial and fulsome launch at the Waterfalls lounge (15 years as the HQ for Merritone) in Kingston, recently.

Gathered to help mark the occasion was a cross section of age groups, professions, and social stations befitting an institution such as Merritone, notching 67 unbroken years this year.

While Emcee Michael Hall kept the proceedings flowing with his usual calm aplomb, complemented by music from Mikey Thompson, historian and former public official Arnold ‘Scree’ Bertram gave his own personal recollections of the Merritone experience, which, of course, resonated with many in the capacity audience.

“This creative genius of the Blake family has shaped the evolution of the cultural phenomenon that we continue to enjoy as Merritone music,” Bertram said.

By the beginning of the decade of the 1960s, the explosion of ska completely transformed Jamaica’s popular music, and by the end of the decade rock steady and reggae had placed Jamaica on the global musical stage. Ska, he pointed out, was the music of the masses, and the masses lived below Cross Roads.

“It was Winston and the Merritone Discotheque that took Jamaica’s popular music above Cross Roads and broke the barriers of race and class to establish a loyal following in all social classes.

The immense popularity of Merritone music can be judged by the fact that at a time when there were no social media platforms, news of a Merritone fÍte spread with equal facility by word of mouth,” Bertram added.

Minister of Gender Affairs, Entertainment, Culture and Sports Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange gave the main address, in which she announced a number of measures and developments with respect to the entertainment sector. These include a commemorative compilation CD, featuring past Festival Song winners and iconic songs which were not adjudged winners. The proceeds from the sale of the record, the minister indicated, would go toward the insurance plan to support artistes.

Merritone director Monte Blake, outlined a week chock-full of activities, beginning with a thanksgiving church service on Sunday, October 8, at the Webster Memorial Church, followed by the first of several “lymes”: the Merritone “Lagniappe” at “2wooA” (2A Strathairn Avenue) on Monday, October 9, featuring an evening of alternative music with Merritone DJs.

The live vibe enters the picture on Tuesday, October 10, with the first of two dates at the Alibi lounge (next to Megamart in Kingston), then following on Wednesday, October 11, as part of the weekly “Cocktails and Jazz” series, featuring Ozuone and the Pon Fyah band.

There are no cover charges for the two Alibi dates. The Waterfalls venue also plays its regular role during Homecoming Week with a ‘Turntable Thursday’ session, at $700 per person.

The grand climax takes place at the MÈlÓa Braco Resort in Trelawny (already sold out), which itself will play host to a wide variety of performances and other activities complemented by the Merritone sound.


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