Where Reggae Music Originated

where reggae music originated

Reggae music hails from Jamaica and incorporates elements of mento, ska, rocksteady and American rhythm and blues into one genre. It can typically be identified by its slower tempo, offbeat guitar strums and prominent bass lines.

Lyrically, its lyrics speak of hope, love and rebellion; its roots lie within African culture as well as European musical traditions such as that of mento.


Ska and rocksteady, two musical genres which emerged in Jamaica during the late 1950s and 1960s, provided the basis for reggae. Both styles combined traditional Jamaican mento, calypso and R&B with American R&B influences as well as jazz and African rhythms to form more danceable music styles than their counterparts; also including offbeat rhythms, upbeat tempo and prominent horn sections – attributes often found among ska musicians like Prince Buster and Clement “Coxsone” Dodd played an essential role in helping lay down this foundational element that eventually evolved into reggae music today.

Rocksteady became popular during the mid 1960s. Although this craze only lasted a few years, it served as an important stepping-stone toward reggae music. Rocksteady had smoother sounds, more relaxed tempos, more consistent beats than ska, as well as several special effects including triplet delays on chord strums and drums; spring reverb; the “wah effect”, distortion effects.

By the 1970s, reggae had taken precedence as Jamaica’s primary music form. Its international fame helped launch popular Jamaican bands like The Wailers and Bob Marley and the Wailers; during this period reggae also became linked with Rastafarian movement which promotes migration back to Africa from diaspora populations while deifying Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I and endorses equal rights for blacks while endorsing ritualistic marijuana use.

Reggae songs often tackle social issues, including anti-racism and anti-colonialism. Many also explore Rastafarianism’s spiritual connection to nature and nature itself, among other subjects such as euthanasia, war sentiments, political system criticism and “Babylon.”

Reggae stands out from other genres due to its distinctive vocal style. Unlike other musical genres, reggae lyrics are typically sung using Jamaican patois, an amalgamation of Cockney and Jamaican slang. Additionally, many songs in reggae feature toasting vocal techniques originating in dancehalls that some consider the precursor for rap music.


Rocksteady emerged in Jamaica during the late 1960s as an alternative to ska and was notable for putting bass guitar front and center of their music. Its rhythm was strongly impacted by urban violence that pervaded lower-class Jamaican neighborhoods; here, police and gangsters known as rude boys made life extremely challenging in these neighborhoods. At this critical juncture in Jamaican history, there was an explosion of rebellion among lower-class Jamaicans who refused to accept their situation and instead celebrated life among “rough boys,” while protesting injustices within the political system. Rocksteady soon gained global appeal as artists like Carlton Barrett, Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff became household names outside their homeland Jamaica.

Rocksteady had a slower tempo than that of ska, yet still relied heavily on four-beat rhythm patterns. Additionally, melodic bass lines were added, replacing piano for electric organ use; horn sections faded into the background while guitar and piano accents added accents around its basic offbeat pattern; this rhythmic experimentation helped pave the way for reggae’s unique sound.

As rocksteady evolved into reggae during the late 1960s, several developments marked its transformation. Jackie Mittoo and Lynn Taitt’s migration to Canada greatly altered Jamaican musical arrangements; studio technology upgrades had an equally profound effect on music – drums became larger while African-style hand drumming saw increased use; chunking guitar rhythms appeared at end-measures while bass patterns became more intricate.

As reggae developed, several key elements that defined its origins such as rhythm and blues, jazz, mento (a celebratory rural folk form that provided an alternative to hymns and church singing chanteys) and calypso were integrated into its music. Reggae songs also often feature strong religious and social criticism elements.

Rocksteady music differs significantly from ska in that its ballads, love songs, and dance celebrations have greater depth and gravitas despite being shorter forms.


Dub, from Jamaican patois meaning double, means remix. Dub can refer to an instrumental or entire song remix, although most commonly associated with reggae in the 1960s; its popularity eventually led to dubstep which originated in London during the 1990s.

Reggae music evolved from ska and rocksteady, and today there are numerous subgenres such as early and classic reggae, roots music, lovers rock, dub music, dancehall music and dancehall music. Reggae was heavily influenced by Rastafari movement with messages about love, higher powers, human freedom as its core messages; deep bass guitars are used alongside drums to form what’s known as riddim beat.

Reggae songs typically feature a simple chord pattern with multiple repetitions of one chord; this gives it a hypnotic quality. For instance, Exodus by Bob Marley and the Wailers features almost entirely A-minor chords; lead guitar will often play melodies over bass lines, picking out lower frequencies with their pickers; occasionally an entire horn section may also add intros or counter melodies; dub effects may also be employed frequently to further heighten this effect.

Dub was made possible through advances in recording technology. Multitrack recording enabled engineers to record an instrumental rhythm track on one track while leaving another available for vocalists or solo instrumentalists, enabling a range of production techniques such as overdubbing and mixing; ultimately resulting in music that combined traditional Jamaican sounds with contemporary electronic ones.

The dub sound was an integral component of Jamaican culture, helping spread Rastafari’s vision of a better world through Rastafari Rastafari ideology. It was influential across North America and Great Britain. While foreign audiences initially took some time to adjust to it, its long-lasting influence can still be felt today with experimental genres being born as a result of it, not forgetting its profound effect on Jamaican society as an entire entity.


Roots reggae is a musical genre that evolved from the ska and rocksteady genres, distinguished by a deeper spiritual focus than either genre can deliver. Roots reggae often incorporates Rastafarian themes and ideas; lyrics may praise Jah (God), the importance of nature, gender equality or political systems causing economic injustice as well as criticisms thereof.

Toots and the Maytals helped establish roots reggae as a cultural touchstone in Jamaica with their 1968 hit, “54-46 (That’s My Number).” Later Desmond Dekker would pen “Israelites,” depicting Black people as modern-day Israelites enslaved by modern Babylon. These songs, and others by Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff among others were universal in appeal and reached audiences well beyond Jamaica’s borders.

Roots reggae music flourished to its creative peak during the 1970s with artists like Burning Spear, Horace Andy, Johnny Clarke, Barrington Levy and Linval Thompson joining producers such as Lee “Scratch” Perry and Coxsone Dodd to collaborate and produce masterpieces like organ shuffle technique that increased beat tempo while adding syncopation to music. One significant innovation during this era was development of organ shuffle technique which significantly upped beat tempo as well as added syncopated beat tempo allowing artists such as Burning Spear to collaborate in producing masterpieces from music produced during this era – another breakthrough was development of organ shuffle technique, which increased beat tempo while adding syncopated syncopations in tuneful tunes such as Burning Spear to Linval Thompson to collaborate in music making.

In the 1990s, Jamaica experienced a new wave of reggae music that featured female artists who addressed issues related to gender, faith and the natural environment. Artists such as Queen Ifrika (“Lioness on the Rise”), Hempress Sativa (“Skin Teeth”) and Etana (“People Talk”) brought an energy that embodied social responsibility and respect for Mother Earth into this genre of music.

Through the 1990s and into this century, a new generation of reggae musicians has kept its roots alive, spreading its message worldwide. These musicians have brought modern sounds while keeping classic elements from its origins alive; its style has had an influence across genres; for instance, its toasting style inspired hip hop and rap music while its funk-oriented beats and lyrics found their way into dancehall and lovers rock genres as well.