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This Jamaican legend has still got it

BANG DING DING!: Eek A Mouse played to a capacity crowd at a recent show in London

THERE ARE a few records that I remember very fondly from my childhood. Two of those are Doug E Fresh's The Show and Pink Floyd's Another Brick In The Wall.

Additionally, the Greensleeves label had three classics that will always bring me back to those times – Another One Bites The Dust by Clint Eastwood and General Saint, Ranking Dread’s Fattie Boom and Eek A Mouse with Wa Do Dem.

The latter was the most intriguing to me as a young kid under his older brother’s wing. How can someone singing a song make such a unique sound that shouldn’t please the ears, but it does.

Fast forward to February 2012, and that same voice would bless one of my BBC Freestyle sessions in Jamaica. Eek A Mouse – real name Ripton Joseph Hylton – was one of the 80s dancehall stars that help turn this session into a YouTube hit. Burro Banton, Peter Metro and Major Mackeral all played their roles, but it was the Mouse that harboured people’s attention.

Where had he been? What was he up to and was he the same artist that he was in the peak of his career? Just from the freestyle it was obvious that the “Black Cowboy” still possessed the signature Eek A Mouse sound.

He has been in the UK for the last few weeks completing a nationwide tour which proved that not only was the appeal still there, the stage craft and sound haven’t gone anywhere either.

“I did 10 shows whilst I’ve been here and the turnout has been excellent – thanks for that – Bang Ding Ding (his ending to many sentences and something that has become a often heard refrain in the BrukOut of ce these days)”.

“The audiences seem so much younger and they know every word,” he reminisces. I witnessed this myself at the London show, which saw a ca- pacity crowd play karaoke with Mouse and the hits.

The 6ft 6in legend stood on stage admiring his new generation of fans, and maybe slightly surprised at the depth of the love being shown to him. The unique name comes from an episode which saw his friends attempt to stop him from gambling on an oddly titled horse.

“I was at the track and the horse was called Eek A Mouse – I was going to put some money on it and my friends came and distracted me. I was broke, and they wanted me to save the money. Next time it ran I saw that it won so the third time I was gonna back it to the hilt, but after that second race it retired!”

So the name is now in the bag, but how did the one away style come about?
“I was literally singing, and just ran out of words so harmonised sounds til I started picking it back up with lyrics”, he says.

It sounds so simple, but is devastatingly effective. This slur, this ad lib, this style created a career for him. “I knew I was onto something because my friends used to request the Bang Ding Ding when I would sing.”

Not everyone was as enamoured with the refrain though. The legendary Joe Gibbs wasn’t feeling it, and Mouse explained that he recorded Wa Do Dem for him initially, but the producer wasn’t having it. Thankfully Junjo Lawes picked up the track and revoiced it.

“I was in the cross- road neighbourhood and there was a cinema show – I saw Jah Thomas, Barrington Levy and Junjo Lawes going to the screening. Jah Thomas introduced me to Junjo and I sang for him on the spot. After that he come to the sound system I was working with and that made us go straight to the studio, Channel One.”

Those times were historic in the story of Jamaican music. The album featured two worldwide massive tunes, the title track and Ganja Smuggling.

"Ganja Smuggling came about as one day I was in Orange Hill, Westmoreland and there was a cricket match being played by some police of ces and ministers.

"They were all involved in the Ganja trade and I just used that as inspiration. That’s where the line ‘they put it on a plane and it reach to Spain, money jus’ a flow like rain’ came from. I was just singing what I saw.”

It was real life, and to a certain extent it still is. Mouse resides in Jungle, a notorious area in the heart of Kingston, and the struggles are still there for all to see on a daily basis.

That is one of the reasons why seeing sold-out crowds lapping up his performances is very pleasing for fans like myself. This man is a true character, and the 1980s era that saw the likes of himself, Burro Banton, Peter Metro, Yellowman and others may never be recreated again, so enjoy the performances from these veterans when you see them roll into your town .Bang Ding Ding!

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