Sounds of saw

Observer senior writer

Friday, August 31, 2018

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Tenor Saw was one of the hardcore singers who emerged from the dancehall during the 1980s. These artistes recorded mainly on digital rhythms, often produced by Lloyd “King Jammys” James and played by Steely and Clevie.

With his distinctive yodel, Tenor Saw was king of the hill. Some of his songs, like Pumpkin Belly, got substantial airplay but he and his contemporaries got most attention in the dancehall because their songs were too edgy for mainstream radio.

Here are some of the singers who ruled during the dancehall's digital era:


* Nitty Gritty: Best known for the King Jammys-produced Run Down The World, he hailed from Liguanea in St Andrew and like Tenor Saw, was a protégé of Sugar Minott. He also shared an affinity for Jamaican proverbs, as heard on Hog In A Minty, another of his hit songs.

But Nitty Gritty could never top Run Down The World which remains one of the great dancehall songs. He was 34 years old when he was killed by Super Cat in June 1991 confrontation in New York City.


* Echo Minott: Echo Minott worked the sound systems and recorded periodically before taking off in 1985 with What The Hell The Police Can Do. That was followed by the Jack Scorpio-produced Lazy Body, a bona fide dancehall gem that features a timeless drum machine intro from Carl Ayton.

Now in his mid-50s, Echo Minott still has the chops as fans who saw his show-stopping performance at Rebel Salute will attest.


* Yami Bolo: Greenwich Farm born and bred, Yami Bolo also did some of his early recordings for Sugar Minott and King Jammys. His first big hit came in 1985 with When A Man Is In Love on the famed Stalag rhythm for producer Winston Riley.

Bolo's music became far more spiritual in the late 1980s when he accepted Rastafari and worked for Augustus Pablo and European producers. He had strong sellers in the 1990s with Love My Woman and Put Down Your Weapons.


* King Kong: A close friend of Tenor Saw, King Kong also got his start in the dancehall. His signature song is Trouble Again, produced by King Jammys and released in 1986.

Trouble Again was one of the dancehall songs that erupted in British dances through distribution from Greensleeves Records. Because of a similarity in delivery, King Kong is often confused with Tenor Saw, particularly on songs like Jumble Life.

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