The mouse is in the house |

The mouse is in the house

Wren Wertin
Special to the DailyEek-A-Mouse, a.k.a. Ripton Hylton, grew up in Trench Town, what he calls a first-class ghetto, in Kingston, Jamaica. He cut his first song at 17, and broke into the international reggae market seven years later. He's an irrepressible personality with as many costumes as voices, and he plays at 8150 tonight at 10.

Born Ripton Hylton, he is adept at donning a selection of vocal personalities and matching them with outlandish get-ups – gladiator, pirate, jockey, Mexican bandit, Chinese coolie or Vegas cowboy in head-to-toe crushed velvet. He’s got options, all of which are tailored to provide a sensory overload.

Hylton took the name Eek-A-Mouse after betting on a horse of the same name. He bet, he lost, he bet, he lost. After throwing away too much money too often, he learned his lesson and stopped betting. Naturally, the horse won the very next race against incredible odds, as he’d never finished a race before. His friends teased him with the name, and he took it as his own to show he could laugh at himself. He’s kept it with zeal.

Before Hylton came along, sing-jaying was unchartered territory. He is considered the originator of it, which is a combination of singing and DJing, referred to as “toasting” in Jamaica. He throws in his own assortment of inimitable vocal effects with a strong emphasis on social commentary and presto – it’s Eek-A-Mouse.

The 6-foot 6-inches tall musician is known for his elastic face. He’s a storyteller at heart, and his songs chronicle articulate dreams and scenarios. He might sing about eating sushi with a girl from Fiji, and follow it with a song detailing his desire to build castles for homeless people.

After Bob Marley’s death, musical mourners amassed at the Reggae Sunsplash in 1981. Hylton was not scheduled to play, but he convinced the organizers to let him open the festival, without pay. He took the stage with a, “Biddy biddy beng.” His snap-crackle-pop of sound rolled over the crowd, which echoed it back in a crescendo of agreement. “Biddy biddy beng” became the hallmark of the festival, and marked the moment when Hylton became an international star. He was booked for two consecutive nights for the 1982 festival.

Alona Wartofsky wrote in The Washington Post:

“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-di-dems ad infinitum.”

The enormous performer will be in Vail at 8150 tonight at 10. For more information call 479-0607.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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