Mento is a distinct style of Jamaican music that emerged in the early 1900's and is not to be confused with Jamaican calypso. A mento band typically consists of a banjo, an acoustic guitar, hand drums and rhumba box and is characterized by a 3:3:2 rhythm with an emphasis on the fourth beat in each bar.
Mento draws its traditions from African slaves brought to Jamaica and some European folk culture. Salves were sometimes made to play music singing European folk songs which largely influenced the development of Mento. Inevitably, the slaves would infuse their own traditions with the music and it became common practice to sing Mento songs about social lives of the people. In Jamaica, Mento is sometimes referred to as country music, because of it light hearted and simplistic lyrics as well as the omitting of electric instruments.
Mento came to real prominence in the 1940's and 1950's before being displaced by ska, rocksteady and reggae. It was not until the 1950's that the first recordings were made and many of the more popular songs were pressed by Stannley Motta and Ivan Chin.
Mento is still listened to in Jamaica today, but mostly be heard in tourist destinations. Early recordings of traditional mento are difficult to find.
Some early mento practioners were Slim and Slam, Count Lasher and Everard Williams.
For more on mento music be sure to check out our articles section . You can also watch great mento videos in our videos section.