Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Story of the Song | From S-90 to Yeng Yeng

Published:Sunday | February 26, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
DJ Tiger (left) and Johnny P in action at a past Irie Jam radio anniversary celebration in NYC.
Tanya Stephens

There are as varied uses of the motorcycle as there are variations of the two-wheeled motorised transportation. Used for delivering pizza or toting three people (illegally) on a trip to school, for spirited riding with a woman carrying the appropriately ample bumper leaning over the rider or ensuring maneuverability for officers of the law, the bike slices through traffic with ease.

And with the lowest cost, motorcycles being an entry level for motorised transportation, it is small wonder that it crops up in the lyrics of Jamaican popular music artistes. It is in the visuals as well, Jimmy Cliff using a motorcycle on his weed-toting jaunts in, The Harder They Come. And there are those who ride, deejay Tiger suffering long-term effects from a crash in Kingston in the early 1990s.

Now Ding Dong has marked the proliferation of cheaper motorcycles across the island (a matter of grave concern to police and health officials in western Jamaica) with Yeng Yeng, a common term for the small bikes imitating their engine note rather than make like Jamco and Jailing.

The tune comes complete with a video in which the performer and supporting cast play out the bike theme with helmets.

The new song adds to a long list of motorcycle references in Jamaican popular music, in which the motorcycle is deployed in many ways. In the early 1970s Big Youth's S-90 Skank paid homage to a particularly popular model, although the warning about riding like lightning and crashing like thunder covers all types of bikes and eras of riding.

The sports bike is tailor-made for displaying the heft of a female pillion rider's buttocks as she leans over to clasp the rider. Johnny P records the delight of the sight in Bike Back, when he deejays that "it is a beautiful sight I man love to watch". Vybz Kartel revisited that setting to deejay that "me love it like that" when a woman is on a bike back.

The man and woman are inseparable on the motorcycle, as in Good Ride, Tanya Stephens demands an early morning bout by asking the gentleman to "back out de bike an gimme some good ride."

One of the more popular low-cost motorcycles has been the Honda 50, and it is that Professor Nuts turns to, when he is having woman problems and goes to check Dr Ken, who is the "ol' psychiatrist outa May Pen."

Running though an assortment of possible maladies, the doctor gets to transportation and asks if the problem is a car and Nuts replies, "me no waan no cyar. Me Honda 50 done a mad dem."

And now the small motorcycles are 'madding' the cops and doctors, as well as other motorists who have to keep a keen eye out for them as they zoom around the country.