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Voice of the 'Sleng Teng' goes quiet - Wayne Smith, orchestrator of dancehall's most notable rhythm, dies

Published:Wednesday | February 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Wayne Smith - Photo by Mel Cooke

Sadeke Brooks, Entertainment Reporter

Following his death, producer and singer Wayne Smith was remembered most for the major impact he had on dancehall music.

Smith, who was also referred to as 'Sleng Teng', died Monday afternoon at the Kingston Public Hospital. He was 48.

Speaking with The Gleaner, Lloyd 'King Jammy's' James said he is extremely saddened by the death of Smith with whom he worked closely in the past.

"I can't even explain the feeling, I feel down since I heard. I don't do nutten substantial since then. It is a great loss for us because he is part of the foundation," he said.

"The relationship was coming from youth. I was older, but him grow under my regime. He is one of the notable singers that came out of the Jammy's camp."

Smith's return

James said he spoke to Smith late last year, but was unaware that he had returned to Jamaica and was gravely ill.

"Yesterday, (Monday) doctors told his parents that he was coming along and then he had a minor heart attack. His parents were asked to return shortly after," James told The Gleaner.

Smith was mostly remembered for his work on the 'Sleng Teng' rhythm, the first fully computerised rhythm in dancehall. It is said that the rhythm came about in 1985 when Smith and his friend, Noel Davy, were playing around with Davy's Casio MT 40 keyboard.

Eventually, the beat was brought to James, who worked on it at the Waterhouse-based King Jammy's Studio with Davey and Smith.

Smith was also the first to record on the rhythm, doing the popular Under Mi Sleng Teng. This was followed by other songs such as Pumpkin Belly by Tenor Saw, Trash and Ready by Supercat, Buddy Bye by Johnny Osbourne and Call The Police by John Wayne. Several songs and remakes of the rhythm have followed in later years.

Professor Nuts, who recorded Kangal A Knock on the 'Sleng Teng' rhythm in 1987, also remembered Smith as a pioneer.

"Mi just a get the news. Today you are here, tomorrow is not promised. Mi sorry fi hear that. He is a pioneer in this thing. Wayne Smith is the first one who really change that dancehall evolution of rhythm. He has the first song on that new computer rhythm. That's where everything change," he said.

"It still shake me up fi know that another artiste drop out. He is still very young. My condolences to his family. He is gone too soon."

Sound system operator Winston 'Wee Pow' Powell also did work with Smith in the early days, cutting dubplates at Smith's studio.

"He was a nice person, easy to get along with. I feel sad to know that we have lost another icon. He made a big impact. Regardless of how it come about, that 'Sleng Teng' rhythm was a big turnaround. It put dancehall on a different level. His voice is incomparable," he told The Gleaner.