“Unda mi sleng teng, mi unda mi sleng teng, unda mi sleng teng, me unda me, eh eh!”
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Birthed on the corner streets of Waterhouse, the Sleng Teng Riddim, was the first of digital rhythms and for many marks the beginning of modern dancehall in 1985. It was through the collaborative effort of Noel Davey (owner of a Casio keyboard), vocalist Wayne Smith (Noel's friend) and Lloyd ‘King Jammy’ James (producer, tastemaker, label owner) that gave birth to the first digitized rhythm. Although there have been many truths to the origin of this rhythm, ‘tis but one that has remained constant over the years. That “truth” is that fact that the rhythm was discovered by Wayne Smith while he and Noel Davey were6 “fooling around” on Davey’s keyboard. The rhythm was later taken to King Jammy, in hopes that it would catch the King's ear. And rightly so, the rhythm took flight, landing itself the honour of being the most rerecorded of Jamaican rhythms. The rhythm has produced over 380 versions or rerecordings.
The success of the SlengTeng rhythm contrasts with the roadblocks that preceeded its genre changing position in reggae music. After recorded the first tune on the riddim, the reaction from the bredrin in the studion was less than positive. Smith told Jamaica Gleaner music journalist Mel Cooke, "the man them say Jammy's, it no right". Many did not want to see the rhythm released let alone become so famous. Indeed, that it turned out more than right rubbed some the wrong way. “Some people even vex up to this day about what happen," says Smith, "seh it change the whole thing”.
Well, where one door closes, another opens, right? The rhythm rejected by so many, yet accepted by a few, gave dancehall a new face, a digital face, or faces, ranging from Wayne Smith, Tenor Saw, Super Morris, Johnny Osbourne to Bounty Killer.