Deejaying

Count Machuki

Toasting, chatting, or deejaying is the act of talking or chanting, usually in a monotone melody, over a rhythm or beat by a deejay. The lyrics can be either improvised or pre-written. Toasting has been used in various African traditions, such as griots (storytellers) chanting over a drum beat, as well as in Jamaican music forms, such as dancehall, reggae, ska, dub, and lovers rock. The combination of singing and toasting is known as singjaying.

In the late 1950s deejay toasting was developed by Count Machuki. He conceived the idea from listening to disc jockeys on American radio stations. He would do American jive over the music while selecting and playing R&B music. Deejays like Count Machuki working for producers would play the latest hits on traveling sound systems at parties and add their toasts or vocals to the music. These toasts consisted of comedy, boastful commentaries, chants, half-sung rhymes, rhythmic chants, squeals, screams, and rhymed storytelling.

Osbourne Ruddock (aka King Tubby) was a Jamaican sound recording engineer who created vocal-less rhythm backing tracks that were used by DJs doing ‘toasting’ by creating one-off vinyl discs (also known as dub plates) of songs without the vocals and adding echo and sound effects.

Late 1960s toasting deejays included U-Roy and Dennis Alcapone, the latter known for mixing gangster talk with humor in his toasting. In the early 1970s, toasting deejays included I-Roy (his nickname is an homage to U-Roy) and Dillinger, the latter known for his humorous toasting style. In the late 1970s, Trinity became a popular toasting deejay. The 1980s saw the first deejay Toasting duo, Michigan & Smiley, and the development of toasting outside of Jamaica. In England, Pato Banton explored his Caribbean roots humorous and political toasting, and Ranking Roger of the Second Wave or Two-Tone ska revival band the Beat from the 1980s did Jamaican toasting over music that blended ska, pop, and some punk influences.

The rhythmic rhyming of vocals in Jamaican deejay toasting influenced the development of rapping in African-American hip-hop, and the development of the Dancehall style. Jamaican deejay toasting also influenced various types of dance music, such as jungle music, and UK garage. Dancehall artists that have achieved pop hits with toasting-influenced vocals include Shabba Ranks, Shaggy, Lady Saw, and Sean Paul.

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