Defining ourselves

We run tings, tings nuh run we

Don’t let them change you/ Or even rearrange you … We’ve got a mind of our own…” So Bob (Marley) say an so mi sey tu.

People are lamenting the February 17 passing of the god-daddy of deejaying, U-Roy, labeling him a toaster. Toasting is what THEY might define as his action but the fraternity defined themselves as deejays, DJs.

You can argue till yu blue about the difference between a selector and a toaster and an MC but if any outside influence determined the name it’s the old fashioned US radio disc (disk) jockey, DJ. The mic artistes might have been toasting when introducing the R&B, jazz and ska standards in the old 1963 dance halls but in the era of version and dub, the jocks were riding di riddim.

We invented ska, you call it blue beat. It’s ska. The riddim riders called themselves DJs. They’re deejays. If yu tink a lie, listen to The Ugly One, the late great King Stitt (nee Winston Sparkes, September 17, 1940 to January 31, 2012):

No matter what the people say
These sounds lead the way.
It’s the order of the day
From your boss Deejay, I King Stitt.
Haul it from the top
To the very last drop.

In some circles, African Americans have taken the the degrading definition nigger and embraced it as as their own harrowing and denigrating term of endearment. Stitt, on the other hand, took his naturally crossed eyes and malformed teeth and beautifully recast himself as “The Ugly One” based on a character from the old Western, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

So “don’t let them fool you/ Or even try to use you … We’ve got a mind of our own… So go to hell if what you’re thinking is not right.” (Bob Marley, Could You be Love?”) Our “toasters” are DJs. We like it like that.

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Mark Lee

About Mark Lee

Editor, author and writer with career spanning print, radio, television and new media.

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