UNSUNG: Tenor Saw still ringing on

Howard Campbell

Friday, May 18, 2012

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!n commemoration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain, the Jamaica Observer’s Entertainment section recognises 50 persons who made significant, yet unheralded, contributions to the country’s culture. This week we feature...


IN an arena where copycats roam aplenty, Tenor Saw was one of dancehall's originals.


The distinctive yodel, which made songs like Pumpkin Belly and Ring The Alarm dancehall standards, emerged in the early 1980s with the dawn of reggae's computer age.


Tenor Saw came from the Payne Land/Cockburn Pen/Olympic Gardens radius which produced the bulk of dancehall talent during that period.


Though he had other hit songs like Lots of Sign, Roll Call and Fever, it is Pumpkin Belly and Ring The Alarm which are his signature pieces.


Pumpkin Belly, done on the Sleng Teng rhythm, recalls the singer's first lesson about the benefits of perseverance, which came from his grandmother.


Ring The Alarm, produced by Winston Riley on his Stalag beat, has been used by many a selector to kill opposing 'sounds'.


Sadly, Tenor Saw's voice went silent in August 1988. His decomposed body was reportedly found in an alley in the United States, murdered at the height of a promising career.


Several graduates of dancehall's Class of the 1980s have also passed on, but many of their songs have become dated.


Not so for Tenor Saw, whose tale of a grandmother's wise words became a hit song and helped make him a dancehall legend.


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