LargeUp Interview: A Last Chat with Wayne Smith

February 28, 2014

Photo: David Corio

LU: Sleng Teng dropped and revolutionized dancehall and you were the first artist on itโ€”your and Noel Davey’s riddim. What happened after that now?

WS: After that it blew up big, big, big, and I started touring.

LU: Where was the first place you went on tour?

WS: Canada because, even whenย โ€œSleng Tengโ€ a mash up the place, I couldn’t come over here. I was blacklisted at the U.S. embassy because of a mix up with my name. Wayne โ€œSandokanโ€ Smith was a notorious gunman wanted by the police, even before he launched an attack on the Olympic Garden police station killing several policemen and stealing some guns. He was the most wanted man at the time. He was allegedly friends with Junior Reid, who was also my friend. Policeman Anthony โ€œTonyโ€ Hewitt raided my house and tore up my passport and threaten to kill me in due time, because of the name mix up and my association with Junior Reid. We were all from the same area.

After a while, my visa came through and I thought I was going to do a lot of shows. At the first, probably about 15 people turn up. Then someone explained people really never believe that I would come for the show:ย โ€œLook how many years your song hot hot and you just coming to America, nobody believes you are here.โ€ So I go on the radio now and promote my show. The next show was in snow, it ram packed!

LU: Where was that?

WS: Empire Skating Rink in Brooklyn. There was a long line of people around the block waiting in the snow same way. Those times it was me, Cocoa Tea, Bammy Man, Pad Anthony, Anthony Red Rose, all of us.

LU: Were you going to England?

WS: I never went to England at that time either, because the people I was moving with would say, Nah man, a America you fi go man. I never knew that my biggest fans were not in America, but in Europe. Now, every year I go on tour in Europe. I used to go a Japan too but the nuclear thing happen and I haven’t been back there. I also have a son in Japan I have to go and see. When I went to Europe, they wanted me to do songs I had recorded from 1981 and 82. I had to get the record transferred to CD so I could study it. All old songs I was performing. I have recorded a lot of songs. For King Jammyโ€™s alone, I had recorded around 80 songs beforeย โ€œSleng Teng.โ€ A lot of those tapes got destroyed in Hurricane Gilbert. At Channel One I did over 40 songs.

LU: Now youโ€™re in the process of moving back to Jamaica, how you feel that might impact your music?

WS: Itโ€™s not really music why I’m going back. I have to do music because music is my life, but the first thing is I like to be where nature is, and I donโ€™t want to lose touch with nature. If Iโ€™m in the country, I know I can come out and see the morning dew on the trees and get more vibes and dem tings deh. I’ve been for a little while in the cold and everything and I don’t like cold [laughs].