February 25, 2010, at 1:12 am

Sleng Teng Extravaganza

Kudos to Heatwave for pointing out that it’s 25 years this week since Sleng Teng was played out in a dance. The story goes that on February 23 1985 Jammy’s Super Power met Black Scorpio at Waltham Park Road, Jammy’s dropped the Sleng Teng rhythm, the crowd went wild, and the rest is history.

Even if Noel Davey and Wayne Smith hadn’t found a pre-set rhythm on a Casio MT-40 keyboard and taken it to Jammy’s, digital sounds would have eventually dominated Jamaican music. The technology existed and it’s inconceiveable that enterprising producers and musicians wouldn’t have made use of it. Way before Sleng Teng Sly and Robbie were already building partially computerised rhythms, drum machines were all over many tunes by 1984 and in the same year the almost fully digital Every Posse Get Flat by Paul Blake And The Bloodfire Possie was creating waves.

The truth is that Wayne Smith’s Under My Sleng Teng and the rhythm it gave a name to were far more than a step on the road. Sleng Teng didn’t just influence a music, it revolutionised it, and things could never be the same again.

Under My Sleng TengSo happy 25th Sleng Teng – love it or hate it, you can’t fight it.

Sleng Teng played on a Casio MT-40. Thanks to blingdjango on Youtube.

The dub version of Wayne Smith’s Under My Sleng Teng from the Greensleeves 12″


Every Posse Get Flat by Paul Blake And The Bloodfire Possie from 1984

Postscript: Thanks also to the Chatty Mouth message board who actually picked up on the anniversary over a week ago, I really should pay more attention…

16 comments to Sleng Teng Extravaganza

  • the story is well known and told manuy time before, but sleng teng was released at least 1 week earlier than feb 23,’85 in the UK: new entry at number 5 in the Echoes disco 45 charts of februari 16, 1985. (see: http://www.xs4all.nl/~tapirs/1985.htm)

    so whats the deal with that?

    February 16, 1985

    1. Gregory Isaacs – GP – Full House
    2. Dennis Brown – Historical Places – Joe Gibbs
    3. Frankie Paul – Tidal Wave – Powerhouse
    4. Sugar Minott – Loving You – ET
    5. Paul Blake And The Bloodfire Posse – Pink Panther – Studio Works
    6. Tristan Palmer And Jennifer Lara – Love Has Come At Last – Fantastique
    7. Junior Reid – Babylon Release The Chain – ET
    8. Sly And Robbie – Maxi Taxi – Taxi
    9. Al Campbell – One Beer Bad Boy – Rocky 1
    10. Paul Blake And The Bloodfire Posse – Every Posse Get Flat – Studio Works

    Disco 45
    1. Barrington Levy – Here I Come – Time
    2. Paula – Jazzy Baby Lady – Rock And Groove
    3. Trevor Hartley – Call On Me – Sir George
    4. Sugar Minott – Herb Man Hustling – Black Roots
    5. Wayne Smith – Under Me Sleng Teng – Greensleeves
    6. Al Campbell – Really Got To Get You – Fashion
    7. Charisma – Something About You – NK
    8. Maxi Priest – Should I? – Level Vibes
    9. Junior Reid – Original Foreign Mind – Black Roots
    10. Johnny Osbourne – In The Area – Greensleeves

    1. Cocoa Tea – Wha Them A Go Do – Can’t Stop – Volcano
    2. Dennis Brown – Revolution – Yvonne Special
    3. Sugar Minott – Herb Man Hustling – Black Roots
    4. Leroy Smart – She Just Draw A Card – Worldwide Success
    5. Asher Senator And Johnny Ringo – JA To UK MC Clash – Fashion
    6. Sugar Minott – Riddim – Powerhouse
    7. Barrington Levy And Frankie Paul – Barrington Levy Meets Frankie Paul – Arrival
    8. Roland Alphonso – Roll On – Wackies
    9. Alton Ellis – Showcase – Studio One
    10. Saxon Studio Live – Coughing Up Fire – Greensleeves

    Compiled by Dub Vendor, 274 Lavender Hill, London SW11

  • Tim P

    Fair point it would be interesting to see if there are sound tapes of it being played before the Black Scorpio clash. It’s hard to believe that it wouldn’t have been played on a sound somewhere if the Greensleeves release was out there.

    I’ve always assumed that the Jammy’s 7″ came out before the Greensleeves 12″ but maybe not??

  • i dont know. I do know that a lot of music was only (or first) released in the UK ( from the pama-trojan days up to Jet Star & Greensleeves decline)

    because there was a huge market. so it is possible that Jammy first wanted to test the highly experimental sound of sleng teng on the UK market before release in in Jamaica.

    And greensleeve was right on the case releasing material of producers like junjo, jammys and george phang.

    Also i cannot beleive that if the JA 45 was releasedd before it wouldn’t turn up in the Echoes import 45 top 10..

    This one is for the people that were there..I was just a teenager in Holland.

    but now the deepen the mystery:
    First time i heard Sleng Teng was on Mikey Dread’s radioshow ‘Rockers In The Morning'(still have it on tape)
    I tried to find out the transmisson date for a reference. and this is what i read on Mikey Dreads homepage:

    Later in 1983-1984 Mikey Dread was employed at VPRO Radio in the Netherlands as a host and producer of a very successful weekly reggae program called “Rockers in the Morning.”He also presented a reggae show for Radio West in Bristol and produced reggae special reports for BBC Radio 1 for a national broadcast across the UK.

    In 1984 Mikey Dread hosted live events including “Miss Black UK pageant” in Birmingham.

    In 1985 Mikey Dread produced and presented a Reggae Radio special for Australian Broadcasting Corporation 105.7 FM JJJ Radio Sydney, Australia.

    So if he hasn’t mixed up any dates it has to have been 1984!!

    I will go in a Holmes mode and aks the radiostation, maybe they can look up any old transmission dates and solve this riddle

  • don cosmic

    as far as I know, Sleng Teng was played the very first time ina dance by Blacka Dread on 11th of January 1985 (Sir Coxsone vs Saxon). Coxsone got the Under Me Sleng Teng pre-release from Jammy (different mix as the JA 45) and they also had a dubplate on Sleng Teng by Junior Reid called Under Sir Coxsone. my friend who was an active part of the Sir Coxsone crew in those days told me that they had the dubplate a couple of months before the pre-release. anyway, this claim opens a new topic – what was the first tune on Sleng Teng? 🙂

    Jumbo: I’m not sure if Mikey Dread played it in 1984. But let me know if you find out the transmission date.

    here’s the Sleng Teng part from the Sir Coxsone vs Saxon clash

  • @ Don cosmic,very interresting. You’ve been able to push forward the release with at least a month.

    I’ve written to the national media archive here in the Netherlands, hopefully they can provide me with exact transmission dates of the Rockers In The Morning Show.

  • Tim P

    Yes this is great so thanks for that Don Cosmic. I haven’t seen that tape before, I don’t suppose you could put the entire tape up to download?

    I intend to ask a few people about this but suspect that the answer is going to be that no one really remembers!

  • i did get a reply from the Media Archive, they have 2 undated Rockers In The Morning shows in their possession. so unfortunately i cannot find out the transmission dates. THe arent allowed to copy them for me, but i could go there and listen at a 45 euros an hour rate.. which is a bit much.

    hpoefullw someone else will add with some new information.

  • Tim P

    45 euros an hour! hmmm. Oh well thanks for trying! I’ll report back if I can get further info.

  • 45 Euros is a bit steep if they search you on the way in

  • don cosmic

    Jumbo: I didn’t push the release date forward. Sir Coxsone played a pre-release (with an intro) and not an already released tune. I know you didn’t mean it like that, I just want to be precise. I’m sure you know that any detail matters.. 🙂

    Tim P: throw a mail to doncosmic(at)peppa(dot)biz, I’ll give you a link for the whole tape.

  • true, but in the UK the term pre-release is usually used for a Jamaican import 45 (blank or printed)and a release a UK printed 7 or 12″.

    So if he spinned a JA pressed 45 pre, it would have been pressed and thus available at least a few days before( manufacturing and transport time minimized)in Jamaica.A nd if a UK sound would have it i am sure Jamaican sounds would be able to play it as well eventhough it wasn’t available to the general public, thus not pushing the official release date further, but in the same time shedding doubt on the february soundclash sleng teng debute myth.
    If on the other hand Coxsone played an UK pre-release/testpress they obtained from Greensleeves, Coxsone could well be the sole sound worldwide to play that chune on that moment(except for Jammy’s Superpower offcourse)

  • Tim P

    The version on the tape is off dub plate surely and not a vinyl issue, as well as the spoken intro it sounds like the mix is different though I could be wrong about this as its hard to tell if the sound is being manipulated by Blacka on the sound. So it’s a pre but not in the sense of a Jamaican vinyl issue.

    As such this proves nothing concerning what date the UK or Jamaica issue was released but it certainly corrects when it was first played out in a dance.

  • Tim P


    Ive listened to the rest of that tape thanks to Don Cosmic. It’s certainly very early 85 but unfortunately there is nothing on the tape to indicate a definite date (no announcements of future dances etc). That said I don’t doubt the information given by DC so 11th of January 1985 is the probable date. It’s credible to think that Jammy’s may have let a dubplate of Under my Sleng Teng go to Coxsone in the UK (but not to any Jamaican sound) knowing that would have little impact on what he done when re-lauching Jammy’s Supa Power at the dance with Black Scorpio.

    I spoke to Champian from Jamdown Rockers about Sleng Teng the other day, he thinks the Greensleeves 12″ did come out first and also that it wasn’t the first tune released on the rhythm with Pumpkin Belly, for one, coming first. This again probably causes more questions than it does answers as Under My Sleng Teng is in the UK reggae charts on 16 February 1985 yet Beth Lesser puts Tenor Saw voicing Pumpkin Belly on exactly the same day!

  • Dave Home

    There was a very entertaining Keith Lawrence interview with Blacker Dread on Colourful Radio recently where ‘Sleng Teng’ was discussed. Tim P asked Blacker who played it first…..
    You can listen to it here;
    ..show number 75 from 24/11/2010

  • Dave Home

    ….Show number 74 is really entertaining too. Blacker Dread talks about joining Coxsone Sound and plays a great Bunny Wailer special. A really great show.

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