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Wayne 'Sleng Teng' Smith assists digital change

Published:Sunday | August 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Wayne 'Sleng Teng' Smith - File

Shereita Grizzle, Gleaner Writer

He grew up in Waterhouse, St Andrew, and began recording in his teenage years. His illustrious career saw him working with producers such as Lloyd 'King Jammy' James, and his talent helped in the establishment of dancehall music.

For he is also credited with heralding the digital age of Jamaican music. He is Wayne 'Sleng Teng' Smith.

Smith was only 19 years old when he recorded Unda Mi Sleng Teng, for producer King Jammy, in late 1984. That recording, done to an adjustment of a preset rhythm rhythm on a Casio MT40 keyboard, would mark the beginning of the digital age in Jamaica's music industry. King Jammy and keyboard player Noel Davey are also key figures in the establishment of the digital sound.

Released in early 1985, Smith's Unda Mi Sleng Teng was an instant sensation in the dancehall. So far-reaching was its effect that some of Jamaica's most popular entertainers seized the opportunity to record on the ground-breaking rhythm. They included Tenor Saw with his hit Pumpkin Belly, John Wayne with Call The Police, and Anthony Red Rose with Unda Mi Fat Thing. The rhythm's local and international success also inspired other producers to record computerised beats.

Smith recorded the albums Youthman Skanking (1982) and Smoker Super (1985). He left Jamaica for New York in 1989, a move which allowed him to establish his own record label, Sleng Teng Records. He reestablished a consistent presence in Jamaica in 2013 but became ill shortly thereafter. On February 14, 2014, Smith was admitted to Kingston Public Hospital, suffering from severe stomach pains.

He passed away on February 17 of a reported heart attack. Wayne Smith was 48 years old.