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GOING AGAINST THE NORM

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"Steelie and Clevie try to re-create old dancehall- germaine smith
Steelie, right, and Clevie.

TWO OF DANCEHALL'S founding producers have cut straight across the grain for their first 2005 venture.

Steelie and Clevie, the duo named Wycliffe Johnson and Cleveland Brownie respectively, are known as proven hit makers in the dancehall business. Their rhythms have stood the acid test. Remember the 'Street Sweeper', 'Bitterblood', and 'Nine Night' rhythms?

Added to this are several songs from the 1980s and production work with several international acts.

Their names were high in the ranks on the charts for the '80s and '90s, and even post 2000. Last year however, tragedy struck which made their plans take a nose dive, making them far from active in 2004 as they have been in previous years.

Manslaughter charges

In January last year, Steelie was slapped with manslaughter charges after the SUV he was driving hit Merlgrove student Shakara Harris as she tried to cross Constant Spring Road. The impact killed her, and for this Steelie is reportedly still shaken, and is still attending court sessions.

Clevie told THE WEEKEND STAR recently that the accident capsised all the plans they had made last year, as the mental impact on them was tremendous.

"Mentally, we were not in the frame of mind for the rhythm building in 2004. We want to build them with a happy feel and we were not happy, so we took a break," he explained.

By the final quarter of last year however they decided to go to 'therapy' sessions inside their Studio 2000 labs, and came out with a rhythm which seems to be going straight against what has become a norm in dancehall.

It is tentatively titled the 'Sleepy Dog' rhythm, and like its name, it is a slow-paced, laid back rhythm, which though not putting you to sleep, is bound to bring back memories of the bamboo lawns and old fashioned rub-a-dub dancehalls.

This is in direct contrast to a barrage of dancehall rhythms which have adopted speedy paces to support the dance moves, the rushing pulse, and everything else that has come with the rhythms.

"This one is kind of an old school dancehall which is much slower, because the beats now are going past 130 beats per minute," Clevie explained.

Doing things differently

Why would two dancehall producers go against what seems to be working for the present crop of producers?

According to Clevie, they never fear failure by doing their things differently. The duo say that another reason they created the rhythm was the ability for musicians to easily re-create it whenever they perform live.

"We are from the old school where we believe you must be able to build the rhythm live. We used computers to put it together but being musicians, we put in place the instruments that we would play and use the computers to programme them, so that when musicians play it on stage it will be easier for them."

The 'Sleepy Dog' features acts like Assassin, Elephant Man, Sean Paul, Kiprich, Hawkeye and upcoming act Famous Face.

The producers feel that dancehall's now prevalent racing tempo may be driving it to form another type of music.

In Clevie's view, similar to the explosion the music blasted off with in the '80s, dancehall music may just be changing again into something else.

"Maybe an evolution is taking place, maybe the music is changing and we don't know, but we just wanted to maintain what we started with.

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January 7, 2005
 

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