Reggae music began its history in Jamaica during the late 1960s. This genre is distinguished by a distinctive rhythm – often accenting off-beats – and lyrics addressing social or political topics.
Bob Marley & the Wailers are perhaps the most celebrated reggae band. Their song ‘No More Trouble’ encourages listeners not to worry about finances or other problems in their daily lives.
What is Reggae Music?
Reggae music was developed by Jamaicans of African descent in the late 1960s. This form of musical expression combined elements from traditional Jamaican music, Caribbean styles such as mento and ska, American rhythm and blues music as well as soul music into one cohesive whole. Reggae music can be identified by its distinctive mix of percussive percussion and hypnotic bass lines, combined with melodic guitar riffs and lyrics in Jamaican English or Patois. Reggae music also incorporates an unconventional drumming style known as the “skank beat,” in which drummers use quick upstroke patterns on cymbals to emulate gunshot sounds in Kingston ghettos and express its rebellious nature. According to Oxford Dictionary of Music “chunking” was developed as an answer to gunfire sounds; thus reflecting reggae culture’s rebellious spirit.
Reggae music emerged from Jamaica’s capital city of Kingston during the late 1970s and quickly spread worldwide, reaching the United Kingdom and other parts of the globe. Black people worldwide identified with its themes of oppression, freedom and family unity expressed through roots reggae music – especially roots reggae which encouraged Black people to view themselves as part of an African nation.
Reggae music was used by the Rastafari movement as an avenue to assert Jamaica’s historic African nationhood and defend their rights, such as those associated with Michael Manley’s Democratic Socialism in Africa. Additionally, its songs promoted an African diaspora identity shared between all those living abroad and continental Africans alike.
Reggae music first made its debut with Toots and the Maytals’ 1968 song Do the Reggay by Toots and the Maytals, setting its own path of revolution across Jamaica and abroad. From its beginning, reggae has been revolutionary music with messages of truth and rebellion against established society; yet its spiritual dimension has helped transform millions of listeners lives – giving reggae its unique quality.
How is Reggae Music made?
Reggae music typically centers on a drum and bass line with vocals playing an instrumental supporting role. This contrasts to most Western pop music where vocals usually dominate. Reggae bass sounds are usually thick and heavy with upper frequencies removed leaving only lows to dominate; sometimes two bar riffs around its thickest note often form part of this type of instrumentation. When applied to reggae dub (an instrumental subgenre of reggae) bass becomes even more of a feature as other instruments fade in or fade out with big echo effects attached.
Reggae music reflects Jamaica’s cultural hybridity by drawing upon many diverse musical elements. Reggae draws from rhythm and blues, jazz, mento (a rural folk form that originated during slavery as an alternative to hymns and adapted chanteys used by church audiences), calypso and calypso – but also incorporates some traditional African musical forms – while one distinctive feature is its use of offbeat chords – staccato notes played on beats other than its primary beat – to create its unique sound.
Reggae organ shuffle, using a Hammond organ-type sound to play chords choppy-style, is another distinctive aspect. Reggae songs tend to be slower paced than its precursors such as ska and rocksteady and its rhythm may be accented with heavy bass drum bangs or rim shot on snare drum. Reggae also utilizes techniques from contemporary rock music such as using effects such as reverb and delay to create space and depth within its songs.
Reggae music typically incorporates not only electric guitars and basses but also keyboards and drum machines. Some artists add a horn section consisting of Saxophone, trumpet and trombone players; typically serving the same function as rock/blues saxophone solos: creating countermelodies against bass lines while providing support for vocalists.
What is the meaning of Reggae Music?
Reggae music serves to affirm social stance, transmitting values and expectations while denouncing injustices. Reggae originated from Jamaica’s political turmoil and poverty-stricken environment; artists who created it embodied their people’s aspirations while affirming a sense of identity with an anti-prejudice mentality.
Reggae music’s lyrics often reflect Rastafarian faith, an emerging spiritual movement originating in Jamaica. Songs typically incorporate spiritual references from Biblical tales or God as Jah, while symbols like Lion of Judah, Ethiopian flag, or dreadlocks serve to symbolize its spiritual nature – offering hope of returning home for those living abroad or diaspora black people who wish to return there from diaspora communities.
Reggae music features propulsive percussion and hypnotic bass lines that produce a distinctive rhythm known as the “skank beat.” Its steady beat can often be heard with up-strokes on rhythm guitar and downstrokes on bass; this style of “beat” has come to be known by fans of reggae music as its hallmark sound. Reggae songs may feature social critique and religion-themed lyrics; however, many also deal with lighter topics like love or socializing.
Bob Marley was often considered the epitome of reggae music with his spiritual messages and revolutionary anthems, popularizing it around the globe with songs like “No Woman, No Cry” and “Africa Unite”. Another major figure in reggae history was Sonia Pottinger who famously addressed Jamaica’s crime-riddled society through “Innocent Blood”. Her song called for greater social justice.
Today’s popularity of reggae music continues to expand worldwide with artists like Dennis Brown, Gregory Issacs, and Maxi Priest making waves globally. They promote messages of enlightenment and truth even when mainstream culture may not yet understand or accept them. At a time when many media outlets focus on entertainment or superficial topics only, reggae provides an outlet for those seeking deeper meaning – unlike other genres which water down their message to appeal more widely.
What is the sound of Reggae Music?
Reggae music’s sound is defined by rhythmic, propulsive, and hypnotic sounds that draw their inspiration from traditional Jamaican folk genres like mento, ska, rocksteady, calypso as well as American soul and rhythm and blues influences – including vocal harmony parts into its melodies, simple chord structures made up of only one or two chords – such as those used by Black Uhuru (for instance using A minor chords often) to produce songs with often hypnotic effects.
Reggae’s popularity can be attributed to its spiritual undertones, anti-establishment sentiments and calls for social change. Reggae was deeply impacted by Rastafarian beliefs as their influence seeped through with spiritual elements intended to achieve enlightenment resonating with immigrant communities all across the globe – including in countries like the UK where bands like Asad and Steel Pulse helped shape its sound for British listeners.
Reggae music may conjure images of dreadlocked reggae warriors playing syncopated guitar beats while smoking marijuana on idyllic islands, yet its universal themes of resistance and unity have made it a staple in various global movements, including those to combat apartheid in South Africa, where tracks by artists such as Bob Marley became the anthems for racial justice.
Reggae bass lines often utilize heavy, deep basslines characterized by two-bar riffs centered on the thickest note in each chord, often featuring distortion or equalization so as to emphasize lower notes while attenuating upper frequencies; Reggae bass players often also utilize harmonics in order to add greater depth and dimension to their melodies.
As far as vocal styles go, toasting has helped shape reggae’s identity by serving as a means of protest against oppression and rejection of established “white-man” culture. Other Jamaican styles like slang singing can convey sounds and stresses from ghetto life. All these sounds and lyrics together have given reggae its distinctive sound – making it a global phenomenon with iconic albums like Bob Marley & the Wailers’ Legend of Love album; Jimmy Cliff’s Redemption Song by Jimmy Cliff; and Steel Pulses Steel Pulses True Democracy by Steel Pulse all lend credibility.