20 years of Diwali

The exotic Diwali rhythm, produced by musician Steven “Lanky” Marsden, turns 20 on May 21. The beat catapulted a number of artistes to international prominence.

Cassius “Gammo Speng” Grossett, a former broadcaster who produced and presented radio shows on London’s Choice FM, recalled the impact of Diwali in the United Kingdom.

Cassius “Gammo Speng”Grossett

“There was an air of excitement in the United Kingdom for the Diwali riddim as it had a great infusion of African, Asian meets dancehall. It was a must-have for not only reggae DJs but DJs across the UK music scene,” he told the Jamaica Observer’s Splash.

“This was a producer’s dream, as most of the tracks on the riddim were played quite frequently in clubs and on radio here in the UK, it was standard to start with Wayne Wonder’s No Letting Go, followed by which ever song that floated your boat at the time as they all were winners. Even Brick & Lace (released in 2007) had quite a few spins too,” Gammo Speng added.

The Diwali was a production breakthrough for Marsden, a keyboardist who made his name as a session musician with Sly And Robbie’s Taxi Gang. It produced two massive singles – Sean Paul’s Get Busy and Wayne Wonder’s No Letting Go.

Sean Paul

Get Busy peaked at number four on the UK chart, number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and made charts in several European countries. No Letting Go topped out at number three in the UK, number 11 in the US and was a hit in Europe.

Brick and Lace’s Love is Wicked was released five years later and became a hit overseas.

Diwali was so huge in the United Kingdom that independent label Greensleeves Records released the various artistes compilation of the same name as part of its Rhythm Album #27 series.

In Jamaica, almost every song on the beat enjoyed solid radio rotation.

Kurt Riley

Kurt Riley was a broadcaster with FAME FM when the Diwali was released.

“I think it caught most people by surprise. There was nothing like it. For me as a disc jockey, I knew it was huge; what it did even though I think the producer was rejected by a few artistes whom he approached initially. You just couldn’t go around it yaah man,” said Riley.

He noted that, “The riddim brought a happy vibe to the listeners yaah man. It was simple but melodic at the same time. It gave you a certain joy plus the first set that we got was perfect. And they were perfect for radio, parties, clubs and in the streets. Even the songs by Bounty Killer, Wayne Marshall, Spragga Benz and Assassin felt happy and what they were saying wasn’t happy but suppen about the riddim that hide all of that. Plus, some of the songs had their own identity even though its all on the same riddim.”


Riley listed the Diwali songs by TOK, Elephant Man, Wayne Wonder, Danny English and Egg Nog, Sean Paul, General Degree and Hawkeye as his favourites.

Respect Yuh Wife, a song written by Tanya Stephens and recorded by Ce’Cile, was another song that got huge traction.

“I actually heard Tanya’s song (Can’t Touch Me No More) first, and she said, ‘You gotta come on this beat’. I didn’t have a song ready and it was going to be released and she wrote Respect yuh Wife. It’s one of very few songs I’ve sung from anyone else because Tanya is just that writer who is amazing. At the time this was the type of cheeky vibe we were going for. It’s a massive riddim that’s so fresh every time I hear it. To this day, that riddim and Coolie Dance could juggle right now and still be a hit,” Ce’cile shared.

Brick & lace

Other hit songs featured on the Diwali were Ruffest and Tuffest by Assassin, Elephant Message by Elephant Man, Party Time by Danny English and Egg Nog, Overcome by Wayne Marshall, Sufferer by Bounty Killer, and Galang Gal by TOK.

Tra La La by Buju Banton, Inna by General Degree, Bubble and Wine by Hawkeye, Da One Ya by Spragga Benz, Zumjay is My Name by Zumjay and Make it Real Good by Crissy D were also radio favourites.

BY KEVIN JACKSON Observer writer

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