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