Dancehall pioneer Wayne Smith passed away recently at age 48. Smith was admitted to Kingston Public Hospital complaining of stomach pains and despite his health briefly improving, he died shortly after noon on Monday 17 February 2014.

While he sang many great tunes, Smith is best known for his role in producing the infamous ‘Sleng Teng’ riddim, a tune which changed the face of reggae practically overnight. Smith and friend Noel Davey built the riddim using a preset function on a simple Casio MT40 keyboard. With the help of Smith’s producer, King Jammy, the first digital dancehall riddim, the ‘Sleng Teng’ was born.

The riddim was an instant hit and other artists such as Tenor Saw and Johnny Osborne soon recorded big hits of their own. Now, thirty years later, even Smith himself could not have realised the lasting effect of that one riddim. Many artists, both in and out of the reggae industry, have produced tributes to this classic. In fact, a recent article in UK newspaper The Guardian speaks of more than 200 versions.

Smith was only 17 when he released his first LP, the King Jammy’s produced, ‘Youthman Skanking’ in 1983. The now famous ‘Sleng Teng’ cut came not long after his 1985 follow up LP, ‘Smoker Super’ and was released on a Greensleeves riddim compilation.

Here at NiceUp, our thoughts are with Smiths friends, family and fans as we remember his unparalleled contribution to reggae and dancehall music. As a pioneer, his work remains a huge influence and a crucial chapter in reggae history.

Wayne Smith’s recent performance of Under mi Sleng Teng live at the Dub Club in LA

More info:
Formal Announcement in Jamaica Observer
Wayne Smith on Wikipedia
Wayne Smith on Discogs

Winston Spliff