Squeakin’ up a storm with Eek-A-Mouse
One of Vail’s reggae favorites makes a much-anticipated return to 8150 tonight, promising one very hot and busy night of high-energy music that’s just a bit more peculiar (and just a bit cooler) than your standard Jamaican offering.
Eek-A-Mouse has been squeaking his heart out since his international debut in 1981, producing sounds that seem just a bit out of place when they come from the mouth of a friendly 6-foot-6-inch giant. And combined with a penchant for strange costumes – not to mention his whole recent “black cowboy” phase – fans are never quite sure what to expect when Eek hits the stage.
Eek’s style, dubbed “sing-jay,” combines standard reggae vocals with DJ-styled toasting and rapping and a percussive style that’s probably influenced human beatboxes like Rahzel and even Bobby McFerrin.
A sound poet who uses his voice as an instrument, Eek-A-Mouse’s vocals are hard to explain. As the Washington Post accurately noted, “unlike most reggae artists, it’s not what he says … with a voice that’s the stuff of children’s nightmares, and often seems to have a life of its own, he squeaks, squawks, bing-bing-bings, and dem-da-dems ad infinitum.”
Growing up in Kingston’s brutal Trenchtown ghetto, Eek – born Ripton Hylton – began singing in elementary school and was already well-known in Jamaica by his mid-teens.
He cut his first singles in 1974 when he was only 17 years old (“My Father’s Land” and “Creation”), but didn’t capture international attention until 1981, when his single “Wa Do Dem” topped the charts in both Jamaica and England.
Eek landed a spot at 1981’s Jamaica Reggae Sunsplash Festival and was a huge success, returning for two nights at the following year’s fest. 1982 also brought him his first American record deal; he’s been busy for two decades, constantly touring and releasing material both at home and in the United States.
In the years that have followed, Eek’s made some headway in the movie world, appearing in “New Jack City.” He’s also enjoyed success with singles such as “Freak” (his own reinterpretation of the “Addams Family” theme music) and even a reggae version of Led Zeppelin’s “D’Yer Maker.” 2003 brought the release of a new greatest hits compilation.
Eek’s nasal singing style is probably best compared to singers from Africa and Brazil; as unusual as it may sound, it also makes him one of the most interesting reggae vocalists around.
8150’s upcoming shows include an appearance Monday by the North Mississippi Allstars and a huge show Tuesday with the Kottonmouth Kings, the Phunk Junkeez and Japanese rockers Rize.