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Tinga talks Ninja

By Sade Gardner
Observer writer

Monday, January 01, 2018

IN 1988, fledgling Ninjaman collaborated with singer Tinga Stewart on the track Cover Me. The song, a remake of the Percy Sledge's 1967 single of the same name, would give the dancehall deejay his first number one.

Stewart recalls the period with great fondness.

“Oh God man, you couldn't even imagine. We did so many shows overseas. We went to Brixton Academy, we did all of the islands, we went to so many places, Canada — I mean it was just Ninja and Tinga in the 80s. Anywhere you went it was just us... in 1988 and 1989,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

According to the singer, the Lloyd Dennis-produced track was recorded in one take.

“He (Ninjaman) always see me and say him want to do a song with me. So one day I met him at Jimmy Cliff's studio and I had a riddim playing, just bouncing. I said: 'Alright I'm ready' and he was on a different side of the mic. He introduced me and I started singing. It took one take and that was it, that was the first song,” he said.

Several collabs would follow: Save the Last Dance (1988); Take Time to Know (1989): Keep Me Hanging (1996): and Ghetto Genocide (2016).

Ninjaman (given name Desmond Ballentine) was sentenced to life imprisonment on December 19 for the 2009 death of Ricardo “Ricky Trooper” Johnson. He will have to serve 25 years before he will be eligible for parole. His son Jahneil, alongside Dennis Clayton, were also given life sentences for the murder and will be eligible for parole in 15 years.

Stewart was at a loss for words to describe his feelings towards the deejay's life sentence.

“It's a blow to the business. He was very talented, but also...I don't know how to put it, but is a good yute. Is just some obstacles in his way and through his life that make badness involve with him, you know, and some company lead him in the wrong direction,” said Stewart.

In the meantime, Stewart is encouraging Ninjaman to be positive and pray.

“Bwoy Ninja, hold tight. I would really like if he can come back into the world and record, but at this time, I don't know...” he said.