Got back yesterday from spending a week in Kingston, Jamaica at the aptly named “Global Reggae Conference” held at the University of the West Indies, Mona. There, I presented a paper about mento music’s role in the 1968 Festival Song Competition on a panel that included Ken Bilby (from the Center for Black Music Research) and L’Antoinette Stines (of L’ACADCO). It went great, and a great honor for me to share a panel with two really important thinkers. I also met with a publisher about getting my dissertation published and picked up a couple copies of the new issue of Caribbean Quarterly in which I have an article about the earliest days of Jamaica’s recording industry (“Calling All Speechmakers” about mento and the aesthetics of the early recording industry – pick it up if you can!).
The panels were really outstanding and brought together a BUNCH of people doing really interesting work on all facets of Jamaica’s music (folks like Herbie Miller, Lara Elizabeth Putnam, Louis Chude-Sokei, Marvin Sterling, Klive Walker, Amon Saba Saakana [aka Sebastian Clarke to reggae fans], Dennis Howard, Michael Veal, Carter Van Pelt and Clinton Hutton among many, many more). Roger Steffens did a few really interesting presentations about his work, as well. Complementing the academic work was a series of concerts. Lunchtime events included performances by the Alpha Boys Band, the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, the Blue Glaze Mento Band (it’s leader and banjoist Nelson Chambers is shown below, left) and a kumina group led by the fantastic young drummer and singer, Bongo Shem (below, right):