October 23, 2023

Merritone to celebrate World Merri Music Day With open forum

article reposted by Chelsea

via jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 25 will once again be observed as World Merri Music Day, in honour of legendary sound system Merritone and its founder, the late Val Blake.

This year’s event will take the form of an open forum at the Alpha Institute, under the theme, ‘Music and Dances Through the Years’. Starting at 5:30 pm, the event is part of the 33rd annual Merritone Reunion and Homecoming, celebrating the pioneering entertainment outfit as “The Last Sound Standing”. The event is scheduled to take place in the beautiful courtyard of Alpha Institute – an institution similarly renowned for its teachings and preservation of music.

This year’s edition will take the form of an open forum with persons who have experienced the Merritone era and its distinctly identifiable music formula which has given much joy to music lovers around the globe; additionally persons have been invited to demonstrate dance moves through the years whether it be the yank, ska, reggae, slow steppers or the Electric Slide.

Monique Blake, daughter of Monte Blake and managing director of the historical movement, conceived of the World Music Merri Day initiative as a means of ensuring the preservation of the Merritone legacy, and honouring its history and unforgettable Merri moments.

“This date [October 25th] also has a special meaning to me, as it is the birth date of my grandfather, Val Blake, who laid the foundation for the Merritone sound system, in Morant Bay, St Thomas. I just could not let this opportunity pass to continue to highlight the Merritone legacy and the hard work of my ancestors as well as to take another opportunity to showcase the sound systems as a unique Jamaican musical innovation,” she said.

Monique is credited with the idea of a World Merri Music Day as she sent in a nomination to National Day Calendar, a US-based international promotional group that receives thousands of nominations from around the world and selects the most interesting and newsworthy subjects to be celebrated on its annual calendar of activities.

Merritone, Blake says, met all the criteria for selection and hence, October 25 has been designated as a national day around the world.

Moderator for the forum is Norma Brown Bell and among the panellists invited to participate are: journalist/radio host Jerry Small; music commentator, film-maker and author Julian “Jingles” Reynolds; and Monte Blake, director of Merritone Music. The discussion agenda includes such topics as ‘The 1950s: The importance of sound system innovation and the genesis of Merritone’; ‘The 1960s: The role of sound systems in the evolution of Jamaican music’; ‘The 1970s: Winston Blake’s VIP Talent Exposure and Turntable Club’; ‘The 1980s & 1990s: Merritone goes to Cuba’; ‘Turntable Thursdays and the birth of retro music night’; ‘Year 2000-the Present: the Evolution of Music’.

Val Blake passed away in 1956, leaving behind his four sons, Trevor, Winston, Tyrone and Monte. Trevor would eventually migrate to the US leaving Winston and his two younger brothers to continue Merritone. The Blake brothers stood out as the only sound that would feature a family of DJs. While all brothers played, Winston and Monte were the two most recognised selectors. Winston was instrumental in making the Merritone sound a Jamaican national treasure and a global phenomenon.Today, Merritone Music is still credited for directly influencing the rise of ska, reggae, rocksteady, and the present-day dancehall music culture.

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