Sound systems shaped Ninja
Ninja Man has performed at GT Taylor Christmas Extravaganza about 12 times in the concert's 17-year history, and if not for his life sentence for murder, would have been on stage for the 2017 staging on Monday at the Luana Sports Complex, St Elizabeth.
GT Taylor, who puts on the annual Christmas day concert, says that he never saw Ninja Man do the same thing twice - not even his famous pose, where Ninja Man would stand stock-still while the crowd cheered. "He knows how to create for the moment," Taylor told The Gleaner. "He is an artiste who studies his audience and knows what appeals to them, and that is what makes him different."
He attributed Ninja Man's showmanship to his sound system roots. "Ninja Man is an original dancehall deejay who has studied rhythms from that time to this time," Taylor said. Ninja Man is most famously associated with Killamanjaro sound system. Among the standout performances with the sound system was a clash with Silverhawk in 1987, when Ninja Man's stinging lyrics proved pivotal.
Four years after that, Ninja Man clashed with his former Killamanjaro deejay colleague Supercat at Sting, held at the National Stadium. One of Ninja Man's most famous performances, it ended when bottles were thrown at the stage. In 2013, Ninja Man told The Gleaner:
"If yu notice whe me do Supercat. A tree time Supercat mek mi shake pon di stage. When di man say 'warning warning, clear the way the Apache is coming', di whole a Stadium a shake y'know. When him draw de tune killing p ... an him kill dem fi fun, Stadium come een like a bomb drop in deh y'know. An all mi do, mi wait til him get well aggressive an mi jus' look pon him an seh 'Supercat, yu box mi, yu do anything, I gwine murder you wid lyrics'. An from him a talk him a de only man box mi, mi seh 'mi nah box yu back. Mi nah make de press write a morning seh me aggressive. Me a make de worl' know say you a dead wid lyrics. Di whole Stadium say murder him wid lyrics, Gorgon. So dem leave from ova da side deh whe Supercat a prove him badness an come ova di side whe mi say a lyrics wi a deal wid."
The murder conviction and sentencing have that come as a surprise, as Taylor said, he never saw that side of Ninja Man off-stage, although they go "way, way back." Taylor said, "the badness I know of Ninja is on stage. The badness I know, to me is an act. If you are an artiste in this business, you will create an image. And he created the image."
"I have never see him out there pushing badness," Taylor said. I would see him on stage with that, but it was lyrics. He is one of the humblest persons."
"Ninja Man is a true entertainer," Taylor said. "It is sad. He will be missed."