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MRS Authentic Jamaican Calypsos – The Mento Series and their sleeve notes.

Authentic Jamaican Calypsos & All Jamaican Calypsos – Stanley Motta’s 10″ Lp Output

In the 1950s Stanley Motta the early Jamaican record producer, released 5 x 10″ Lps, each a collection of Mento songs and instrumentals previously released only on 78rpm single. Rare and sought after they all host a collection of illuminating sleeve notes, which reflect the perceived exoticism of a Caribbean Island holiday destination to the nascent tourist and the long held traditions of Jamaica’s people in song.

They are indispensable to any collector of early Jamaican recorded music, folk music enthusiast, or lover of the Roots of Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae. Many of the lyrics, themes and songs feature in Jamaican popular culture today and once recognised one cannot ignore Mento’s influence on all styles of Jamaican music that followed because the first recorded Jamaican song was birthed on a Mento 78rpm record, one released by Stanley Motta in 1953.

Sleeve notes . . . 

Sleeve notes can tell the interested party so much about the time, the music and the people making it, that they are offered here for those of you interested in that history, but perhaps unable to get hold of the actual Lps themselves (yet).

Authentic Calypso?

Although labelled as Calypso, this is not, this is Mento, a distinct style and genre of music, related to Calypso, the form mainly of Trinidad, but that of Jamaica. In the 1950s though an audience in the USA who had fallen for the romanticism of Calypso would consume a variety of musics, providing it had the attraction of being called Calypso, hence much Mento has wrongly been attributed to this form. It’s something that annoys those that evangelise the Jamaican style, the peculiarly distinct sound of Mento.

The Series

Numbers 1-4 feature the same cover artwork in a variety of colours, the 5th edition has an entirely different cover and is actually called ‘All Jamaican Calypsos’ though it states ‘Series 5’ on the sleeve and shares catalogue and matrices with the other volumes, BUT different sleeve notes. And finally there was a collection, again with different variant artwork to the first 5 volumes and sleeve notes, released in the U.K. on London International Records. All are pictured below, and the accompanying sleeve notes transposed for volumes 1-4, then for Series 5 and finally for the London International  Record label release. It is thought that the sole London International release may have been part of a deal in exchange for pressing the other 1-4 Authentic Jamaican Calypso series and ‘All Jamaican Calypsos’ 10″ Lps for Jamaican release. Those releases all state ‘Made In England’. The London international release was only ever sold in England as far as I can find out.

Sleeve Notes Vols 1-4


The visitor to Jamaica can never quite forget the music of the island. He finds himself haunted by the memory of the soft murmur of the trade winds, and the breaking of the blue Caribbean on white sand shores. But more haunting than ever, above the music of nature, is the music of the streets, the endless varied obligato against which the life of Jamaica is lived. It is heard in the plaintive cal of the coconut seller, whose “Jell . . . oooooohhhh … Jell . . . oooohhhh” trumpets through the streets in the cool of the morning as he offers the tangy-sweet liquid of the green nut to thirsty passers-by. There is music in the short barking call of the fishmonger who pushes his squeaky-wheeled wagon or rides his laden bicycle from the flat of the plains to the twisted roads of the hills to bring is sparkling catch–grunts, snappers, jack, cutlass — all the glistening treasure of the deep. It is in the laughter tinged gossiping of the market-place, where broad-accented countrywoman and sophisticated city-bred higher meet to share the latest scandals.

Yes, there is music everywhere in Jamaica. It pulses in the traffic of the streets, where the brazen voices of modern auto horns argue with the sharp sudden accents of the donkey driver; it is in the quiet avenues of the suburbs where modern houses sprawl on cool green grounds; it is in the teeming slums where the crowded population finds expression in laughter, and in the provocative music-story of the island.

Jamaica’s music is the mento and calypso. Calypso is the general term that is applied to the ballad song of the islands, the song that tells a story and nudges laughter or amazement as the mood chooses. This is the fiery, fast sometimes risqué song of the troubadour who finds his inspiration in everyday happenings and spins his melodies and words to both intrigue and entertain the listener. Calypso is generally associated with Trinidad, but is a generic term, common to all the Caribbean islands.

Then there is the music that is peculiarly Jamaican — the mento. This is the specific tempo of the island. The result of the meeting of Afro-Latin influences is a distinctive beat and rhythm in the music of Jamaica that identifies it to the tuned ear. To the foreigner there is little difference, but to the Jamaican, dancing his swivel-hipped measures to the reedy prodding of bamboo flute and guitar, bongo and mambo drums, to the tuned intervals of the marimba box, it is unique, a native tempo that has it’s route through the slave chants, the French quadrille, the Spanish flamenca, the English round, all the polyglot, pulsing beats of the many people who have blended their histories and lives to make the golden people of the Caribbean.

Jamaicans are proud of their music. They are proud because in the distinctive beat of their music lies all their own history. Here is the musical meeting ground of the Chinese, the English, Welsh, Irish, Scots, the Portuguese and Spanish, in fact, all the varied people who are hidden behind the designation “Jamaican.”

In this envelope you will find captured not only the music of the Jamaican, but all of the varied tempos of the Caribbean. They are performed by native musicians, often with handmade native instruments. But always they are played with the rollicking devil-may-care musicianship that comes so naturally to the West Indian. Here you have transfixed in a record, moments of pleasurable memory.
Here you have CALYPSO JAMAICA.

Sleeve Notes Vol 5


FullSizeRender 16. . . Jamaica’s carefree people have expressed in song all of the throbbing vitality that is so much a part of their country. Their songs are humorous, gay, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, but always enjoyable. It is music with a distinctive character that marks it as unmistakably Jamaican. Its distinctiveness is a combination of the musical dialect of Jamaican speech, the unique sound of native instruments and the subtle rhythm that marks it and separates it from the music of the other West Indian islands. The musical dialect of back country Jamaicans is basically English so interwoven with colloquialisms and the burr of local accents that is is almost unintelligible to anyone not familiar with the island’s speech. It is this distinctive Jamaican accent that gives added interest to the Jamaican calypso. There is also a unique character to the music itself which derives from the hand-made instruments played by calypso troubadours. These are the bambasax, an instrument wrought from bamboo by dextrous native craftsmen, with a bit of wood from a matchbox serving as a reed; the marimba, a deep-toned bass instrument that is just a simple box with bits of metal spring called “reeds” because of their similarity to harmonica reeds, and is normally used in place of the bass fiddle; the chattering marraccas, seed-filled gourds; and a whole family of drums from tiny, tenor bongos to big-voiced congo drums. Bamboo fifes and flutes, bambolins, a violin-like instrument comprised entirely from bamboo, and such conventional instruments as guitars, saxophones, trumpets and bass fiddles add their voices to the song of Jamaica. With voice and instrument, the Jamaican calypso troubadour regales, entertains and amuses, having a wonderful time himself as he brings you . . . CALYPSO JAMAICA.

Sleeve Notes – Authentic Jamaican Calypsos – LONDON International

FullSizeRender 19The visitor to the West Indies awakes to find himself in a tropical paradise — the birds sing and speak, the waters sparkle and laugh in the dancing sunshine, the leaves rustle to the tune of it all: and all is music. The people are happy — they rise with a song and they sing all day, even as they work. The Calypso which is the fold song of the West Indies is the pièce de resistance to this wonderful setting of life and beauty. The Calypso is the crux of it all — its fascinating, pulsating beat and rhythm remain forever in the heart of the visitor stirring up vivid memories of the romance of the West Indies.

No matter where you go among these islands — Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, Grenada, Antigua — in any one of the long chain of islands, and irrespective of the language, you will hear the Calypso. It is a common link — the link in this chain of jewelled isles.

The Calypso is a form of minstrel music. The singer, or Calypsonian, cites the chief events of the time, recounts the noble or infamous deeds, as the case may be, of some person past or present. He might sing of the latest scandal or the state o politics. On the other hand, as he frequently does, he might describe some amusing incident in the everyday life of the ordinary person or comically examine the behaviour and habits of domestic and indigenous animals. The Calypso always provokes laughter. it is witty, comic, subtle, ironic. It discusses human relationships in an intimate way, yet it is not vulgar. The spice of the Calypso lies in the ability of the Calypsonian to tell you even about the most intimate things in such veiled, juicy and allegorical language that stirs you, shocks or startles you and yet leaves you to say, “Honi soit qui mal y pense” or otherwise, “Whom the cap fits let him draw the string”.

The Calypso is not only an expression of little doings and things and of great happenings, it is in itself an expression and a manifestation of the local society and tradition and its very interesting historical background and intricate blend of peoples, For once upon a time these islands were the El Dorado of the West — the rendezvouz of the buccaneers, the chosen land of pioneers and the Empire builders and the glorious battlefields of the sea-faring powers, Spices, sugar, tobacco, cotton, cocoa made them prized jewels in the Crowns of Europe, as also did their strategic position as the gateway to the Americas. Thus it was that all manner of people settled upon these islands. The indigenous Amerindians were out-numbered, decimated, and soon practically disappeared. Labour for the plantations was drawn from Africa and India. Descendants of the latter to-day form the great bulk of the population together with large numbers of persons of mixed descent having the spicy complexions drive from fusions of Spanish, French, English, Scottish, Dutch, African, Indian, Portuguese, Chinese and may others who settled there and completely mixed themselves into one solid society. The Calypso is the common denominator of all these cultures.

The pulsating rhythm of the African “tom-tom” blends with the tempo of the Spanish “quarto” and is polished off by the lilting sing-song of the French accent. The old-time Calypsonians or “chant-wells” (note the combination of French and English) used to sing in Patois or broken French. English is now commonly used for Calypso, but with the original exciting accent and intonation. It is written in four-four time, yet very subtly the singer can get in a good many words and syllables to a bar — or very few when he chooses.

Some say, a long time ago slaves on the plantations were not allowed to gossip — so the chanted to the same rhythm as their tom-toms as hey worked. these chants became cities as hey added strange words not understandable by their masters, telling of what was going on, and, in fact gossiping about their masters and the village. When “dancing the cocoa” or cutting the sugar cane or celebrating after work, these ditties became their folk songs. the leader was the “chant-well” later known as the Calypsonian.

The Carnival in Trinidad , celebrated on the two days preceding Ash Wednesday, is a relic of the old Spanish customs. At that time there is universal frolicking, singing and dancing in the streets. All sing the Calypso. The custom has greatly fostered the art of the Calypso. Trinidad’s Carnival and her very cosmopolitan background made her the home of the Calypso. From there it spread to all the other islands — to Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada, etc. And now the world is getting to know of this sweet tantalising, minstrel music.


There are of course gaping holes in the tracery of the slightly amateurish musicology you see reflected in the sleeve notes, and yet some rather good early insights into the links shown in and around the Caribbean and it’s musical trade routes. For me the last set of notes on the purely U.K. only release on London International shows a mildly patronising attitude, awash with the kind of romantic notions that refused to engage with the pain of slavery, African servitude and the serfdom of other indentured ethnicities on the island. It also looks at the music therein from the angle of Calypso, and almost completely ignores the very Jamaican nature of the release, the differences between Mento and Calypso or the individuality of Jamaica.

In short all of the sleeve notes are much better than I would expect from what can be a rather blinkered and one dimensioned western approach to any and all cultural pursuits of non European ethnicity in a then 1950s world.

All the issues talk of the cultural influence of speech patterns, Patois, city hubbub and in mentioning the “chant-well” the notes are harking to the West African Griot praise singing and the very culture that helped give rise to Calypso in particular.

I’m also personally intrigued to find or see and more importantly hear a bambolin!
To my knowledge even with a large Mento collection at my listening disposal, I never have.


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No Computer could not compare.

Sly and Robbie

Hord Core Dub – Sly, Robbie and the Revolutionaries (the title is meant to be Hard Core Dub!)

Notes read –

This is Hard Core Dub from the world’s No1 Drummer, Sly Dunbar and the Revolutionaries. Listening to these tracks, one will find that these musicians were way ahead of their time both spiritually and mentally. There imaginations and vibes had lead the music world of Reggae to invent computer music, but until this day no computer could not compare these great musicians talent, vibes and skills. Anyway have a listen to thse human drum and bass and you will aknowledge Reggae at it’s best.

Boogu Yagga Gal – Jamaican Mento (Heritage HT CD 45) – Liner Notes

Boogu Yagga Gal – Jamaican Mento (Heritage HT CD 45) – Liner Notes. This cd is no longer in ‘print’ but is readily available if you look for it, particularly online.

Notes – Richard Noblett, supplemented by Daniel Neely, Herbie Millar and Ron Geesin.

Re-printed here by permission of Ron Geesin. Transcribed by Mike Murphy September, 2009


Although Jamaica is usually associated with Reggae, visitors’ first experience of live music will probably be of a Mento band, either at the airport or by their hotel’s pool or bar, or at one of the Government sponsored festivals found throughout the island. Mento is commonly refereed to as Jamaican Calypso but, although containing certain elements of Trinidad’s music, it is a distinct musical form which was the first commercially recorded Jamaican popular music.


Mento is a traditional secular dance style and genre of music typically played by small rural groups of musicians playing fife, banjo, guitar, maracas, a bass lamellophone called a rumba box and less often, violin, piano, clarinet, and PVC pipes as bass.
Its origins are somewhat obscure. Although clearly of African descent, it has obvious European influences. Cultural historians see Mento as deriving from an African-Jamaican adoption and adaptation of the popular European dance, the Quadrille, which arrived in Jamaica via the slave owners. Performed by slave musicians, generally on fiddles and fifes, it gradually spread throughout the Island. After emancipation in 1838, the Quadrille in Jamaica was danced in two ways: the Ballroom and Camp styles. Jamaican high society danced the Ballroom style to the formal choreography but the Camp style could be considered more rural with a looser choreography, broadly seen as incorporating African elements.
The Quadrille consists of five figures gradually accelerating in rhythm but, by 1900, Walter Jekyll reported that the popular dances of Jamaica were ‘the Valse, Polka, Schottische and the Quadrilles in five figures’. This fifth figure, see as the origin of Mento, is also reported by Jekyll as the most popular, or as they would say ‘sweet than most’. Although writer Ivy Baxter says the word Mento was known at least as early as 1800, Jekyll never used the word but most of the examples he gives of the fifth figure are well known Mentos and a part of every band’s repertoire. Thus a distinctly Jamaican element was added to a European form, as a means of self-expression and local social and cultural identity.


The use of the Banjo in many of these recordings is significant , bridging the gap between the early North American finger-styles and the later, more rudimentary, jazz plectrum styles. Here, the rhythmically complex single line work with plectrum sometimes reminds one of an extra tuneful W.African ‘Kalengo’ (hourglass/talking drum).
By the time these 1950s recordings were made, Jamaican musicians had incorporated a wide variety of music. Groups that reflected and older performance tradition, characterised by home-made musical instruments and exclusively local repertoire and dance, were no longer the only ones playing Mento.
A coexistent ‘dance band’ style had emerged that incorporated new, foreign repertoire and instruments (like Clarinets, Saxophones, trap drums, and Piano) to supplement the older tradition. These dance bands seemed to have greater aspirations: many of the bands in higher demand traveled throughout the island and later, as they grew in size, throughout the Caribbean.
There were many reasons for this development. In addition to the increased American military presence in the Caribbean in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the expansion of shipping routes throughout the area, an important reason was the introduction and spread of radio, which quickly became a disseminator of musical taste. Another reason was the increased local availability of imported foreign recordings. Both American Jazz and Trinidadian Calypso were popular in Jamaica, largely because both were recorded, distributed and marketed throughout the British Empire and United States.
Other styles from around the Caribbean were also influential: labour migration between Jamaica and Cuba’s eastern provinces brought son to the island which had a significant impact on Jamaican music as did Rumba, for example; migration to Panama and Nicaragua resulted in the exchange of repertoire and tradition, an influence still to be seen today in these regions.
in addition, by the time these recordings were made, tourism had become a cornerstone of Jamaica’s economy. Following World War II, tourists looked away from Europe for holidays and as the 1950s approached, tourism exploded. Famous people and commerce were attracted to Jamaica and when the Jamaica Tourist Board was established in 1954, it became clear that the government had made a commitment to the tourist industry. Jamaica was marketed as a destination both exotic and familiar.

Local entrepreneurs followed suit. In fact, many of the recordings made in the emergent recording industry weren’t marketed as Mentos at all, especially those produced for tourists. By the 1950s Calypso was a style more familiar to holiday makers. Consequently, recordings were often labeled Jamaican Calypsos, mainly to capitalise on the international popularity of Trinidad’s national music. Most, if not all, of the musicians on this CD made a significant portion of their individual livings working in tourist entertainment.


Although recording in Jamaica started later than other Caribbean Islands, its recorded music history starts much earlier, certainly pre-dating the Ska era when it is popularly believed to have commenced. Jamaican repertoire had been recorded in 1918 by the Trinidadian musician Lionel Belasco. A Jamaican artist had probably been recorded as early as 1924 in New York and a group of Caribbean artists, which probably included Jamaicans, had recorded for Victor in 1927. However, the first mention of Mento on records is found on the recordings of the Trinidadian, Sam Manning, who recorded ‘Mentors’ between 1925 and 1933 for various recording companies in the U.S. Therefore, by the time Mento came to be recorded in Jamaica in the early 1950’s it had a long history and, indeed, was about to be superceded by a new form of Jamaican popular music.
The beginning of the Jamaican recording industry resulted from the pioneering efforts of entrepreneurs Ken Khouri, Stanley Motta, and Stanley Chin, all of whom were associated with local stores. It was Stanley Motta, founder of a chain of electrical appliance stores on the Island, who started recording local artists in Jamaica. Born October 5, 1915, Motta began his working life as an apprentice at his uncle’s garage. At the age of 16 he opened his first radio-parts shop at 10C East Street, Kingston. Three years later, in 1934, he became a pioneer in his field by introducing the popular Sylvania lighting systems to the island, and subsequently established a successful electrical appliance shop at 109 Harbour Street. Motta’s first recordings featured Lord Fly (Bertie Lyons) and it is believed that this is the first Jamaican recording although the guitarist Ernest Ranglin claims to have recorded Hawaiian guitar music on wax cylinders for another entrepreneur before the Motta 78s. Motta’s first recordings were probably made straight to disc. Since no processing facilities were then available in Jamaica, all acetates or soft waxes were sent to the UK where the recordings were mastered and pressed. The finished shellac 78s were then sent back to the island.

For later sessions Motta probably switched to tape recording as a first stage and used connections made through the Jamaican Jazz musician Bertie King, resident in London since 1935, to get his records manufactured. When King returned to Jamaica in late 1951 to lead a band at the Hotel Casablanca in Montego Bay, he recorded the Ticklers in Motta’s small Hanover Street studio. The recordings were then sent to London to be processed and pressed by UK major Decca, through the auspices of Emil Shalit’s London based Melodisc company, which had previously issued Jamaican music recorded in London. Released in Jamaica in summer 1952, the Tickler’s record ‘Healing In The Balm Yard’ became one of the first really big Jamaican hits and the MRS (Motta’s Recording Studio) label went on to become the major recorder of Mento. Motta devoted considerable time and effort to the marketing of Mento abroad and for the tourist trade, producing records for local hotels as well as for his own label.
Motta’s great rival in recording Mento was Ken Khouri but although he was not as dedicated to Mento as Motta and only issued a few sides, his long career with Federal Records means he has a far greater significance to the rise of the later generation of Jamaican recording artists. Khouri had become involved in recording almost by accident when he bought a disc recorder around 1949. He used this home-based system to record people’s voices for 30 shillings and soon found the demand for music so great he started that as well. He moved out of his home to a club at Red Gal Ring in St. Andrew and made an agreement with Decca in London to make records from the discs. He recalls that, ‘The first song I did was Lord Flea’s ‘Naughty Little Flea’. I contacted Alec Durie of Times Store to help me distribute records and we started Times Record Label. Durie advertised the records in the Saturday newspapers. This first attempt was a real gamble. But when I got to King Street the Saturday, I saw a line two blocks long.. We sold out in less than two weeks. I ordered 5,000 more records and we sold them for between four and five shillings.’
Khouri’s memory is faulty here unless he is referring to an earlier recording not issued on Times. The first record on the label is credited to the jamaican Calypsonians with Lord Flea (Norman Thomas) on vocal ‘Time So Hard Old Lady’ / ‘Solas Market Water Come From Me Eye’ which was recorded early in 1954. this success encouraged Khouri to start manufacturing records himself. He contacted a factory in California which sold him two presses and sent an expert to teach him about the record business. In late 1954 he started Records Ltd. at 129 King Street. By November of that year he had available the first locally pressed records on the Island. These were not local recordings but records manufactured under franchise from Mercury Records in the US. He then acquired a mono recording machine and, with Grahame Goodal’s help, converted a ‘maids quarter’s’ into Jamaica’s first recording studio. The small wooden building with a zinc roof was right beside the pressing plant. Recordings were mainly done at night. In 1957 Records Limited moved to 220 Marcus Garvey Drive and became Federal Records Manufacturing Co. Ltd. Khouri probably had the proposed but ill fated Federation of the West indies in mind and saw wider Caribbean possibilities. Soon he purchased some old Ampex equipment which had a new feature of reverberation. It was still monaural format and everything had to be done in one take. If a singer was recording and an instrumental solo was needed, the singer had to get out the way quickly and smoothly to allow for the solo.
With the exception of Count Lasher’s all the recordings on this cd were originally recorded and pressed by Records Ltd., the majority for the third pioneer in this era, Stanley Ivan Chin. Owner of Chin’s Services, he is less well known, and issued his recordings on the Chin’s label which were probably mastered in England and pressed in Jamaica. Many of these records were also issued on a Melodisc subsidiary called Kalypso where they appear to have been pressed by Levy’s a pressing plant associated with the English Oriole label. The English Kalypso label is not to be confused with the Khouri label, Kalypso which issued recordings of Count Owen in Jamaica. Kalypso is a label name with a complex history, the details of which are still being worked out.
The Jamaican recording industry changed for good when Dada Tawari (spelt a number of different ways) opened Caribbean Recording Company (CRC) around 1957 as this operation had mastering facilities. The price of producing a record fell and the whole process became local. The stage was set for the massive explosion in Jamaican music which characterised the following decades. Mento continued to be recorded and CRC issued many on it’s Caribou label, most notably by Count Lasher (featured on this cd) and, of course, the great Laurel Aitken whose career encompasses the history of Jamaican music.


If the early history of Jamaican recordings is a tortuous story most of the artists who recorded at this time are shrouded in mystery.
Along with Lord Flea and Lord Fly, Count Lasher is one of the best known artists with a long recording career that started with MRS and stretched into the early Ska period. Suprisingly little is known about him but it is suspected that his real name is Terence Perkins. Nothing yet is known about the accompaniment leader Charlie Binger.

Lord Lebby is known for his cover of Louis Jordan’s ‘Caladonia’, a seminal Jamaican R&B recording released in the UK.
Chin’s Calypso Sextet gives the appearance of being the most rural of the groups. The vocalist is variously credited as A. or E. Bedasse about whom nothing is known*. It’s almost certainly true that there is only one vocalist , possibly using a pseudonym. He is identified as ‘Alert’ Bedasse in ‘Calypso Pepperpot’. Significantly, the composer credits on all Bedasse recordings here are E. or E.F. Williams. He is also credited on the Ticklers MRS recordings, reputed to the the first Jamaican hit records, and on other MRS recordings. This is almost certainly Everart Williams who was recorded by the BBC in November 1953 singing ‘Greetings to the Queen’ during her tour. His compositions whilst not conforming to current notions of political correctness, are sophisticated and show a degree of self-conciousness artistry. these are not simple dirty songs but contain complex imagery reflecting the concerns of a society in transition.

* Much more, since the original release of this Cd and accompanying notes, is now known about Alerth Bedasse.

These cd notes were transcribed October 6, 2009 by Mike Murphy – Thanks to Ron Geesin.