Mento Music began in the 19th Century as a continuation and variation of Pocomania (so that they existed and complimented each other side by side) as a fusion of traditional African music with some Western influence. Typically it features acoustic instruments such as Banjo, Acoustic guitar, Rumba Box and single hand Drum. Other instruments like the Harmonica, Fiddle and Fife (Penny Whistle) could be and were added. From the 1920s to the 1940s, many Mento songs were recorded such as those by Slim and Sam but it was not until the 1950s that Mento recordings came to the fore.
Artistes such as Theodre Miller Lord Flea, Lord Fly, Lord Power and Lord Lebby became renowned artistes with Lord. With these and later Count lasher, Harold Richardson, Hubert Porter, Miss Louise Bennett and Harry Belafonte, the 1950s became the golden age of Mento music in Jamaica. At this time many Mento records were sold as ‘Calypso’ music because the Trinidadian calypso genre was popular in Europe (and the US).
Although Lord Flea became a huge international hit even appearing in American movies and was seen as the Bob Marley of his day, (who died young as well), because he infused Mento with Calypso, for the die-hard Jamaican Theodore Miller was a more authentic Mento Artiste.
In the above Theodore Miller’s video you can see the full range of Mento music instruments been employed, i.e. the Fiddle, Acoustic Guitars, Rumba Box and Hand Drum.
Belafonte of Jamaican and St Martinque’s descent popularised the genre of Caribbean music in general in the 1950s but even then because of its identification with local folklore, the music was evolving into
Mento music represented Jamaican folk music and no one represented and promoted Jamaican (musical) culture folklore more than Ms Louise Bennett, known affectionately as Miss Lou(1919 – 2008). , Poet, Storyteller ,Writer and Educator.