Music » Livewire

Eek-a-Mouse

Saturday, December 13, at Oberlin College.

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Reggae rodent Eek-a-Mouse first burst onto the international charts in the early '80s with the thoroughly catchy "Wa Do Dem," a lightweight novelty tune celebrating the singer's love for a young and modest "virgin" girl. His nasally, Oriental-sounding "Bidi bidi bong bong" approach became a trademark for a career spanning two decades, but the tune is remarkable for a number of other reasons as well.

First, his half-scat/half-sung delivery was the perfect amalgamation of traditional reggae singing coupled with the art of DJing, or Jamaican rap. With "Wa Do Dem," reggae's own "sing-jay" style was born -- a phenomenon that remains popular today. Eek-a-Mouse was making his initial impact just after the death of Bob Marley, which had dealt a devastating blow to the global reggae community. While fans over the world were searching for the "next reggae king" in Marley's mold, singers such as Eek-a-Mouse forged ahead, creating a new secular style known as dancehall. Roots reggae's apocalyptic concern was now being replaced with an emphasis on enjoying oneself in the here and now, where Eek-a-Mouse felt most at home. Still, it's remarkable that the Mouse has remained relevant for over 20 years -- no small feat when one considers the enormous burnout rate of dancehall artists.

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