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SAF 18 Screecha Nice
(C)Small Axe 1986 (C)Muzik Tree 1992
(C) Small Axe Reggae News 2002
By Beth Kingston All Rights Reserved

SCREECHA NICE This is the story about how Screecha Nice's style got popular. It started on September 28th 1983 in Toronto. Brigadier Jerry was in town doing some dances and it happened that his birthday fell during his stay. So Canada's Black Star organized a little private party in the owner's mother's beauty-salon basement. Along- side Toronto's top talents were Toyan, Little John and Echo Minott who had come earlier with producer George Phang for a promotional tour. Screecha arrived dressed in a plaid cap(worn backwards) and a black leather jacket - very informal.

Brigadier Jerry

Brigadier was sitting at the bar studying a Canadian beer bottle and djing softly to himself. Until Screecha took the mike. Brigadier was fascinated at once. He listened attentively, cheered, and when another DJ tried to take his turn at the mike, Brigi poked the poor DJ mercilessly until Screecha was reinstated.

Toronto dance fans were used to Screecha and his slightly maniacal style and hardly anyone had taken him seriously over the couple of years he had been a serious DJ. But Brigi had never heard anything like Screecha before. The 'Twang' style as Screecha named it, can be copied but only Screecha has the tone of voice and expression to make it real. Only Screecha has lived the life that led to such a unique delivery. It's an urban shock sound with touches of bizzare humour and strong elements of restrained hysteria.

Screecha's premier lyric at the time 'Digital'. "Everything's gone digital...." Including clocks, watches, radios, t.v.'s, computers, calculators, even phones. To hear Screecha recite the list is a horror show of modern technology gone mad. And all to the tune of 'Physical'.

Arriving in Toronto from Jamaica whilst still school age, Screech grew up in Toronto's worst ghetto, the government housing project which covers about a 5 block square radius, Regent's Park. The complex is made up of cement apartment buildings and single family condos with a playground in the centre, a variety store and a Fish'N'Chip place. The variety store is held up by armed robbers regularly and gun murders pop up in the papers from time to time. The major employer of youth is the drug trade. Regent is a pocket of slum in the middle of a rich city and is thus ignored and avoided by residents of all other areas.

How does one survive, or even thrive, in this environment? Screecha became a master stylist. His pronounced limp from an old gunshot wound in his hip became his style of walking. He supplemented this with hats, Sherlock Holmes caps, bowlers and suits, three piece, tuxedos, plastic sweat combinations, sunglasses of various designs, bow ties, a handkerchief in the breast pocket. And his own style of djing. Back And Belly: "Back to me - posse come back to me Circle me - circulate me body Touch Me back but don't touch me belly When me go to court me plead Not Guilty Them have fe try me with Judge and Jury..."

How The Style Spread. Soon people were coming back from Jamaica saying "Boy I heard Briggy on Jah Love and he's doing some pure Screecha styles." Soon, other DJ's caught on. But the first instance of a DJ putting the style on record was Toyan's 'Hot Bubble Gum' for George Phang. Toyan's lyrics but Screecha's pattern. One of the best examples to come out is Chaplin and Sugar's 'Four Wheel Wheelie' on Crown (incidentally produced by another Canadian named Tubby). But it was only Sugar Minott who gives credit. In 'All Kinda People' on Black And White, he gives a little of the Screecha style and then adds. "This style was originated by Screecha Nice."
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Sugar Minott

Right on the record! That made it the second record to mention 'Screecha's name, the first being the Tonto Irie 'Sleng Teng' - 'One A Penny Posse Run Come Ina This' where he says. "Me and Screecha Nice burn a ganja spliff."

Soon people in Canada began to give Screecha some recognition. but it was too little too late, as they say, so Screecha took himself off to Jamaica and stayed close to Jammy while he was building his sound back up for the official opening. And he appeared at most Youth Promotion dances too. In Jamaica, people loved him, especially other entertainers.

King Jammys: Photo by Beth Kingston
He fit right in and sounded great. Jammy took him into the studio in the summer of '84 and recorded a whole album's worth of material over his newest, crispest rhythms. The only one he released however, was 'Get Flat' following on the 'Lickshot' craze. In Screecha's version of the 'barrage of shots' however even the cockroaches have get down flat and "the dog and the cat have fe ge get down flat".

Jammy did later put a Screecha track on his second 'Sleng Teng Extravaganza' LP - Screecha doing his own terrifying version of the well know Grand Master Flash lyric. Myrie & Marshall then gave Greensleeves a Screecha B side to the Frankie Jones 'Get Out Of My Life' one of their first computerized rhythms with Screecha doing a 'Ghost Rider' story.

In March 1985. Screecha returned to Toronto to cool out for a while and prepare for his next excursion. When Screecha started being a regular guest on CKLN's 'Reggae Showcase' the reaction was violent. He caused one controversy after another. People either called to forward him over and over or they screamed to get him off the airwaves forever. No one remained neutral. People laughed at him, hated him, adored him, copied him but no one ignored him.

Even when Screech says the same thing other DJ's say, it just doesn't sound the same. Screecha's voice no longer expresses life in Jamaica. It expresses a Jamaican's life in a big strange cold city. That's why the sound can be a little disorientating. It's not the style the British MC's have developed - the quick witted fast talking style. It's something Canadian, something that describes the dull grey of the city, the repression of the people in it and the mediocrity and hopeless dullness of life here. Canadians are used to the coldness of the city - in terms of weather and psychological conditions. (It's not a friendly, lively or adventurous town) but Jamaicans aren't. The situation of Jamaicans in Canada was bound to find some form of expression eventually. Screecha has proven to be the pioneer of a Canadian sound.

A lot of people here aren't prepared to accept this new style yet but they have to admit it's something different and something that could not have emerged anywhere else. It will be interesting to see where time takes this style and that what will develop from it, here and abroad. Big Soup A Talk: "Back Off. back off when the big soup a talk... Thru me sell herb, money easy thru me new tune, me get girls plenty in case you never know, it's called digit with me..."
Screecha Nice's 'Twang' style did take root abroad. In Jamaica.
Around 85/86 Norman Jackson better known as Tiger, could be heard twanging away on Black Star to great effect. Tiger's updated the style a couple of times since, but his style is based on Screecha Nice's Twang. Screecha himself now is very low profile. He needs some music out now, to remind people just how good he is. He should not be forgotten, he deserves better than that. Screecha Nice - Come Forward.
Ray Hurford