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Album Review

Lord Flea and His Calypsonians – "Swingin' Calypsos" – [Penny Records]

aarbor   9/29/2021   12-inch, International

Lord Flea was the stage name of Norman Byfield Thomas who was a Jamaican mento musician credited with helping start the calypso craze in U.S. With his band The Calypsonians, Flea toured the U.S. throughout the late 1950s, and released just this 1 album before he died (before the age of 30) in 1959.

Mento is a style of Jamaican folk music that predates and has greatly influenced ska and reggae music. It is a fusion of African rhythmic elements and European elements, which reached peak popularity in the 1940s and 1950s. Mento typically features acoustic instruments, such as acoustic guitar, banjo, hand drums, and the rhumba box — a large mbira in the shape of a box that can be sat on while played. The rhumba box plays the bass part of the music.

Mento is often confused with calypso, which is from Trinidad and Tobago. Although the two share many similarities, they are separate and distinct musical forms. During the mid-20th century, mento was confused with calypso, and mento was frequently referred to as calypso. As in calypso, mento uses topical lyrics with a humorous slant, commenting on poverty and other social issues. Sexual innuendo is also common. Mento draws on musical traditions brought by enslaved West African people. AArbor

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