The original ‘Rude Bwoy’ Toaster (Deejay) of Roots, Rock Reggae music muses over his life long career in the business – An exclusive interview by Melissa Sinclair
The Ska era of Jamaican music that was the 1950s and early 1960s had established the mighty Sound Systems; part and parcel of that was the innovation of the ‘Deejay Phenomenon’ then known as the ‘Toaster’ and now commonly referred to as the ‘Sing-Jay’. This was where the instrumental of Dub versions (normally the flip or B side) of a tune were used as the basis on which the ‘Toaster’ could do his thing. The Chanters’ creative yet spontaneous lyrical flow was often determined by the music being played and the type of vibes that was going down in the dances at the time. Back in the day, the likes of Count Matchukie, King Stitts, U-Roy, I-Roy, Big Youth and Dennis Alcapone had laid the foundation of this ‘Deejay Phenomenon’, and it is still the most popular segment of the versatile Reggae genre today.
Notably, one name is missing from the awesome list of ‘Dub Poets’ above and that is Tappa Zukie, the funniest and most dynamic character of them all. Born in the Waltham Park area of Kingston, Jamaica, Tappa Zukie (nee David Sinclair) grew up around the Greenwich Town, Tivoli Gardens and Trench Town areas of the city; a territory renowned for its innovation and origination of the island’s music. During the time that Tappa was growing up, the ‘Rude Bwoy’ culture was the lick and he became a favourite amongst them as he was ‘wicked on the Mic’. He started out with the Sound System, ‘Iosis Discotheque’ where, because he was so small, they had to put him on a box so that he could reach up to ‘chat’ on the set! “I was a yout dat jus loved music. Before I started to toast on the Sounds dem, I used to hang out at a place name Black Supreme where Kofex, a man who had a band would allow me to play the drums sometimes. In fact, I could have been a drummer but Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace [now a world renowned drummer] used to ‘bad me up’ at the time and wouldn’t let me play but it was ‘Toasting’ that I was really good at so I left the drums alone. Whenever I went to the dances, I would hold the Mic as my friends really boost me up and encouraged me to do this until I became the resident ‘Toaster’.
I remember being inspired by Big Youth as I loved the way he used to talk on the Mic. Tippertone used to play at a dance hall name The Furness which was in Salt Lane and all Rude Bwoys used to follow that Sound. Even though I was too young, I would run away from home to go to that dance becah Big Youth was the regular Toaster for Tippertone. In dem days, the ‘dance hall’ was where we had to go to hear the tuff music. These days, they are trying to put what goes on in the dance hall on record and are calling it a ‘Dancehall’ style but, to me, that’s not right becah it was there from creation. That’s how Dub music came about becah at the time, Dub was only being played in the dance. What they are calling ‘Dancehall’ is just modern Reggae even though it’s not true Reggae music but just a beat on which the deejay chants. Real Reggae can be written down and musicians can play from it but you can’t do that to the modern stuff becah it’s just one or two beats. Some of these young guys don’t know anything about the dance hall cah they’ve never been to a real Sound System session”.