Wayne Smith

b. 5 December 1965, Kingston, Jamaica, d. 17 February 2014, Kingston, Jamaica. Smith began singing while at school and in church, where he cultivated his unique vocal technique. After achieving his educational qualifications he began an apprenticeship as an electrical engineer. His training centred around the Papine region of St. Andrew’s, where many top performers began their musical careers, including Brigadier Jerry, Sister Nancy, Anthony Malvo and Chaka Demus. Smith spent his free time at King Jammy’s (then Prince Jammy) sound system, hoping for an opportunity on the microphone. His persistence came to fruition and, inspired by the audience’s response, Jammy recorded Smith’s debut, ‘Ain't No Me Without You’, followed by the dancehall favourites ‘Change My Mind’, ‘Life Is A Moment In Space’ and ‘Ism Skism’. Smith was featured in the UK’s Channel 4 television reggae documentary Deep Roots Music, where he is filmed recording in King Tubby’s studio. Like many artists, Smith began working with other producers, including sessions at Channel One, and a series of hits followed including ‘Smoker Supa’ and versions of ‘Karma Chameleon’ and Dennis Brown’s ‘No More Will I Roam’. In the mid-80s Smith returned to working with the newly promoted King Jammy, enjoying success with ‘Ain't No Meaning’ and ‘Come Along’. In late 1984 he was directly involved in what is considered by many to be a pivotal phase in the Jamaican recording industry. The occasion of Smith’s and Noel Daley’s tinkerings with a Casio music box has been well documented, although the unprecedented success of this event proved to be a turning point for both Smith and King Jammy. The resulting song, ‘Under Me Sleng Teng’, was a massive hit around the world and led to countless versions. From its initial release in 1985, the rhythm continues to provide the basis for a number of reggae hits. Having the distinction of introducing the most covered accentuation in the music’s history inevitably led to enormous expectations, which Smith endured with calm assurance. He demonstrated his talent for songwriting and singing, and drew on his formative training for programming on Sleng Teng with the tracks ‘Icky All Over’, ‘Love Don’t Love Me’ and ‘Walk Like A Granny’. He continued to produce hits, notably ‘Rapid Dem Love’ and ‘My Sweet Love’, before relocating to the USA, where he set up his own Sleng Teng label. After returning to Jamaica to live in 2013, Smith was admitted to hospital in February of the following year; after suffering a heart attack, he died on 17 February 2014 at the age of 48.

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