Eek-A-Mouse in make-over mode

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior reporter

Saturday, November 21, 2015

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"MI a do a interview. Cyaan talk now!" blares Eek-A-Mouse, reluctantly acknowledging the pounding on the office door at Sound Wave Studio in Kingston.

The veteran singjay, his bald head glistening, settled into a corner seat, his lanky legs at full stretch. He had plenty to say.

Eek-A-Mouse, one of the best touring acts in dancehall/reggae for the past 25 years, makes a rare major show appearance in Jamaica on Christmas Day at the Boom GT Taylor Christmas Reggae Extravaganza in Black River, St Elizabeth.

With a batch of new songs under his belt, he is determined to make a comeback in his homeland, at the age of 58.

"Right now mi a reinvent miself. Mi nuh old; when yuh old yuh ancient. Look pon man like Tony Bennett -- him a 87 an' still a run di place," he said.

Glory (with deejay Saba Tooth), the Jack Scorpio-produced Money Tree, and Bad Mind, with Blay Minott are some of the singles Eek-A-Mouse is pushing ahead of his appearance at 'Reggae Extravaganza'.

They have the distinctive yodel that has earned him thousands of fans in North America, Europe, Asia and South America.

It is a timeless sound, Eek-A-Mouse boasts.

"It different, it unique. Right ya now mi have the whole a di youth dem inna 'Jungle' a sing song wha' mi nuh release yet," he said before bursting into song.

Eek-A-Mouse is familiar with the 'Concrete Jungle' (Arnett Gardens) that inspired some of Bob Marley's greatest songs. He was raised there as Ripton Hylton, going to dances and kicking off his recording career in the late 1970s.

He had a breakout hit in 1979 with Wah Do Dem which topped Jamaican charts for a number of weeks. Songs like the 1981 weedman anthem Ganja Smuggling, produced by Henry 'Junjo' Lawes, gave him an underground following in the United Kingdom.

An outstanding performance at Reggae Sunsplash that year and a debut UK tour in 1982 put Eek-A-Mouse on the path to stardom. At his peak, he reckons he did 250 shows a year, including the biggest reggae and pop festivals.

He has had his share of controversy. He was jailed in 2013 in North Carolina on rape and drug possession charges stemming from a 2008 incident in that state. The charges were eventually dropped.

According to Eek-A-Mouse, the charges were unwarranted. "It was nothing but institutionalised racism," he said.

In August Eek-A-Mouse returned to the Jamaican stage after eight years -- on the Marcus Garvey Festival in Ocho Rios. He was pleased with the response to his set and expects similar reaction come Christmas Day when he performs in Black River.

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