Deejay (Jamaican)

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In Jamaican music, a deejay (DJ) is a reggae or dancehall musician who sings and "toasts" to an instrumental riddim.

Deejays are not to be confused with DJs from other music genres like hip hop, where they select and play music. Dancehall/reggae DJs who select riddims to play are called selectors. Deejays whose style is nearer to singing are sometimes called singjays.

The term deejay came about as a result of the act of some selectors of the 1960s and 1970s such as U-Roy or King Stitt toasting to the version side of popular records of the time. The version came about when the record company produced the 45 record with an instrumental version of the song on the flip side. This gave the deejays the chance to make up on-the-fly lyrics to the instrumental music. This occurrence gave rise to deejay toasting and the term has been used in that context ever since.


Toasting, chatting (rap in other parts of the Anglo Caribbean), or deejaying is the act of talking or chanting, usually in a monotone melody, over a rhythm or beat by a deejay. Traditionally, the method of toasting originated from the griots of Caribbean calypso and mento traditions.[1] The lyrics can either be improvised or pre-written.

Toasting has been used in various African traditions, such as griots chanting over a drum beat, as well as in the United States and Jamaican music forms, such as ska, reggae, dancehall, and dub; it also exists in grime and hip hop coming out of the United Kingdom, which typically has a lot of Caribbean influence. Toasting is also often used in soca and bouyon music. The African American oral tradition of toasting, a mix of talking and chanting, influenced the development of MCing in US hip hop music. The combination of singing and toasting is known as singjaying.

In the late 1950s deejay toasting was developed by Count Matchuki.[2] He conceived the idea from listening to disc jockeys on American radio stations. He would do African 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, half-sung rhymes, rhythmic chants, squeals, screams and rhymed storytelling.

Osbourne Ruddock (a.k.a. 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.[3]

Late 1960s toasting deejays included U-Roy[4] 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 in homage to U-Roy) and Dillinger, the latter known for his humorous toasting style. In the early 1970s Big Youth became popular. In the late 1970s, Trinity followed.

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[5] while 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 of African American toasting influenced the development of toasting in Jamaica and development of the dancehall style[5] (e.g. hip-hop pioneer and Jamaican expatriate DJ Kool Herc and Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest). 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, Sean Paul, Terror Fabulous and Damian Marley.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Roots 'N' Rap". Retrieved 2014-08-08.
  2. ^ Lloyd Bradley. This is reggae music: the story of Jamaica's music . ISBN 978-0802138286
  3. ^ Charles R. Acland. Residual media, p. 104, at Google Books
  4. ^ "DJ/Toasting". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
  5. ^ a b "Deejay Toasting". Retrieved 2006-08-04.