1985: The Sleng Teng History

Science dropped by Martini & Jopparelli. Nov-14-2010

Today we’re gonna talk about a record that has been said to be “a point of no return for Reggae As We Know It”.

Why? Well, let’s see.

(pic by Beth Lesser)

If you’re familiar with Roots Reggae, or at least you’ve heard a Bob Marley tune once, you can’t help noticing a deep change from the Dancehall Reggae tunes coming out today. It’s a whole different kind of music. Dancehall Reggae sounds heavy, electronic, and the lyrics tend to be violent and explicit.

Wayne Smith – Under Me Sleng Teng

This tune was the shifting point of it all, the  first fully computerised dancehall riddim . Moreover, for the first time the tune had no bassline: the keyboard worked as lead instrument and bass at the same time, a trait still present in Dubstep music today.

Kromestar – Ghostown

The Sleng Teng was created in 1983 by King Jammy and Wayne Smith on a small Casio keyboard. This was a revolutionary aspect: being able to make hits without expensive equipment.

The synthetic-sounding timbres of the finished tune experienced a huge success since the first time it was played, on February the 23rd, 1985, at the historic sound clash between Jammy’s and Black Scorpio at Waltham Park Road, Kingston JA. The Sleng Teng riddim then dominated the scene for ages, and it’s still big today. Hundreds of tracks have been released over the years on this milestone production. It made some appearences in Hip Hop music also, like in 2 Live Crew’s “Reggae Joint”.

cutty ranks sleng teng riddim

Now comes the interesting part, at least for me. I recently discovered  that the riddim was a built-in preset on the Casio MT-40 keyboard. It was labeled as the “rock” preset, and it was based on a Eddie Cochran song called “Somethin Else”.

A classic Rock And Roll tune reprogrammed by some obscure Casio Engineer in Japan started the whole Digital Reggae movement! Now that’s peculiar, isn’t it?

Eddie Cochran Somethin Else

Jammy added a couple of chords over the main riff and mixed everything together in the studio, blenging in the now legendary vocals by Wayne Smith about his beloved herb.

Video from My Phone Casiotone Sleng Teng

“With its catchy and thoroughly novel-sounding timbres, ‘ Sleng Teng’ promoted a departure from the overused Studio One classics, whose dominance in the earlier years has been cited as a sign of conservatism, or less charitably, lack of imagination…”

Sleng Teng riddim analog live version

(if you want to get deep, check this accurate paper about Jamaican music and its influences)

Well, this is pretty much all about the origins of this riddim…the Sleng Teng started the so called’s Reggae “Digital Era”.

T.O.K. – Keep It Blazing ( Version On Sleng Teng Riddim)

Therefore, to end this post properly I cannot help dropping a killer Digital Reggae mix, showcasing some obscure tunes from this influential branch of Jamaican music… (if you are looking for the original Wayne Smith tune check out our “25 Essential Reggae Tunes” post)

LISTEN! Check it out here: DEAD STOCK MIX (Soundbwoy Killing Digital Reggae Selection)










3 Responses to “1985: The Sleng Teng History”

  1. So Swizz Beatz was a biter’s biter

  2. [...] sound system, King Jammy revealed a totally digital reggae riddim for the first time : the famous Sleng Ten riddim. The most known version is of course the Wayne Smith‘s “Under Me Sleng Ten“, but [...]