Jamaican Mento Revived Image

by Dominic Bell

Over the past couple of decades, music has been Jamaica's most recognizable product worldwide. "The Mixer" is a blog focusing on the past, present, and future of Jamaica's music. In this mixer we look at the sampling of Harry Belafonte by contemporary artistes.

Harry Belafonte is a New York born singer and actor of both Jamaican and Martiniquan descent. He spent much of his early childhood in Jamaica where he lived with his grandmother before moving back to New York City. It was here that eventually Belafonte would fall in love with the arts and pursue dual careers in both acting and singing. The latter choice spawned a discography that includes his groundbreaking album Calypso.

Calypso, as the title suggests, is an ode to the Caribbean music form based in Trinidad and Tobago. Calypso would become the first album to sell over a million copies upon release. The biggest and most iconic hit from Calypso ironically, was not a calypso song, but one of Jamaican mento origin called Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).

Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) was Harry Belafonte's version of a widely covered traditional work song that originated from workers in the Jamaican banana industry that would load bananas onto ships during graveyard shifts.

After Belafonte's version, Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) would go on to be covered by a countless number of acts internationally, and last year was sampled in two hit singles by Jason Derulo and Lil' Wayne.

Jason Derulo's Don't Wanna Go Home featured an interpolation of lyrics from the chorus of Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), while Lil' Wayne's 6 Foot 7 Foot incorporated the lyrics of Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) "six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch" as a repeated loop in the song's instrumentation courtesy of 6 Foot 7 Foot producer Bangladesh.
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