KINGSTON, Jamaica – Winston ‘Merritone’ Blake was one of the awardees at the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) Honour Awards, held last Sunday at the Courtleigh Auditorium, New Kingston. His was not the only posthumous award, as Alton Ellis was also honoured, with Dr Rita Marley, GT Taylor, Half Pint, and Kevin Downswell among the other recipients.
Monte Blake collected the award “with tears in my eyes” on his deceased brother’s behalf, the day before the first anniversary of Winston’s death.
Although he is able to vote for the awards, on principle, he did not when his brother’s nomination came up as “I am Blake and Winston is Blake.” And he was scheduled to go to Trinidad the day before the awards ceremony was held, but “they said since you did not vote for him you have to collect it”.
“People get awards who don’t deserve it. But he deserved it,” Blake said. He noted that Winston was awarded for his work with the VIP Talent Series, in which people like Cynthia Schloss, Beres Hammond, Ruddy Thomas, and The Tamlins participated. Winston and members of Inner Circle Band also visited prisons to entertain the inmates.
From the Courtleigh, the Merry people went over to the nearby Deck on Trafalgar Road, where Fabulous Five – a band with which Merritone is indelibly associated – was on the stand.
The award turned out to be the first day of an extended celebration of Blake’s life and work, as ‘Live and Merry: A Musical Festival for Winston ‘Merritone’ Blake’ had already been planned. Starting last Monday, the anniversary of his death, three continuous days were staged at the Alibi on Upper Waterloo Road, St Andrew. The first focused on upcoming artistes and was titled ‘Young Surprises’. On Tuesday, it was time for ‘The Bands’, and Wednesday was named ‘Singers’ Paradise’.
On Thursday, Merritone’s regular weekly event was held at Waterfalls in Liguanea.
Monte said ‘Live and Merry’ will be held annually and streamlined as it is developed. In addition, he said, the Merritone Foundation is almost officially ready. On the celebration’s second night, the Pembroke Hall Family Band, which has the Pembroke Hall High School at its core, was one of the performers.. Merritone, through a donation by the late Lorna Best, assisted with its Mento Roots CD, on which songs such as Eastern Standard Time and She’s Royal are given mento treatment.
Blake also said the sound system continues to get dates outside Jamaica. On August 6, the sound system will play at the Toronto Caribbean Carnival. that event planning to support the foundation’s efforts and other organisations. Before that, there is a US date for the St George’s College Old Boys, and next month, Blake will be going to Cuba to explore venues for Merritone resuming its parties in that country.
“We started going to Santiago 20 years ago. We did that for five years, then we went to Havana,” Blake said, an adjusted US attitude to the Communist country making the parties even more feasible.