Monte Blake remembers hotel suspicion

September 27, 2017
Monte Blake

Monte Blake of Merritone, the oldest active sound system in the world, easily recalls the suspicion its supporters faced when Merritone was booked for a date at the then Sheraton Hotel in New Kingston many years ago.

It is a far cry from the position Merritone is now in, as it celebrates its 67th anniversary. The sound system will host its 27th homecoming event at the Melia Braco Village in Rio Bueno, Trelawny, from October 13-16.

There has been a Kingston-based homecoming as well. However, there was a time when Merritone was not as welcome in a hotel as it is now, Blake putting the incident in the context of the discrimination sound systems once faced.

"It (sound system culture) was accepted at ground zero, where the roots people live. That was their culture. But when Merritone was booked for an event at the Sheraton, New Kingston, and went to the hotel, ending up sitting with the host, he was shocked to find out they were a sound system.

"The show was named 'Nuggets for the Ladies.' ... He said he thought Merritone was a band." He said a sound system would not work at all, but the date had been booked.

So, expecting thieves among the crowd00 that a sound system would attract, Blake said the hotel staff "didn't put out anything that could be stolen." All went well and, the weekend after the event, the sound system operators were called by the Sheraton's management, asking them to come and play again at the Sheraton.

Blake said Merritone remains as active as ever, whether or not they are booked for a particular event where they have a presence.

"We are out every night. If we are not playing we are supporting," Blake said.

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