Reggae music was born out of Jamaica’s cultural hybridity and quickly gained notoriety as a powerful voice for oppressed individuals.
Roots reggae was heavily influenced by rocksteady and ska, yet it also developed its own distinct style. Songs often carried Rastafarian messages that spoke to the country’s racial heritage as well as political issues of the day.
Reggae music originated in Jamaica, where it evolved from an amalgam of American and African styles. With chantey-style vocals, bass-guitar riffs, and off-beat chords this form of Jamaican dance music achieved international renown.
Rastafarianism, the religion founded in Jamaica, became an influential influence on the music as it addressed issues related to racism, slavery and exploitation of Black people there.
Reggae music evolved out of a competition between two Jamaican styles of music: ska and rocksteady (Davidson, 2014). Ska featured dance moves and an electric guitar sound at the end of measures, while rocksteady had a slower-paced beat driven by bass drums.
In the 1960s, rivalry between ska and rocksteady gave birth to reggae music. This genre was heavily influenced by both ska music as well as mento – a traditional Jamaican folk form.
European music also had a profound influence on this genre, with bass-guitar-led riffs and offbeats similar to jazz fusions. Additionally, drums and horn sections played an essential role in creating this unique soundscape.
Another essential element in drumming is the one-drop style. This technique usually starts with an empty beat on the first note of a measure, which then gets filled by the snare and bass drum.
These beats are frequently punctuated with short drumming patterns known as skanks. These skanks can be played with any drum set, such as a percussion set or single hand drum.
Skanks are generally played in 4/4 time, though they may also be played with swing or quarter-note rhythms like rockers. Skanks may also be accompanied by other drumbeats.
These drumbeats are often accompanied by the use of a scraper, which is an instrument consisting of a corrugated stick that rubs against the snare or bass drum. This scraping sound often serves to underscore vocals and other instruments like electric guitar in reggae songs.
Scrapers, also known as skanks, are an integral component of reggae music; they emphasize the backbeat and create a distinct style from ska and rocksteady music. Furthermore, it helps create more complex sounds.
Reggae music began in Jamaica and eventually split off into subgenres such as “dancehall,” “reggaeton,” or “dub reggae.” Each style has its own characteristics that set it apart; roots reggae is characterised by lyrics covering Rastafarian spirituality and social justice issues, while dancehall tends to have an upbeat, hedonistic vibe.
Roots reggae originated in the ’70s and is often marked by lyrical themes of Rastafarian spirituality, social injustice, and resistance to racial oppression. Many well-known reggae artists such as Bob Marley were raised playing songs that had more spiritual undertones.
Reggae first gained international notoriety during the ’70s, especially with audiences outside Jamaica – particularly the United Kingdom. Early reggae bands heavily borrowed from soul and R&B genres of the 1960s, covering versions of Motown and Stax records to become a major Jamaican musical influence overseas.
At this juncture, drummers began creating more complex kick drum patterns; simple chord progressions created a contemplative atmosphere to complement the lyrical content of songs; and bass guitar became one of the hallmark features of reggae as an art form. These changes helped refine rhythmic patterns within songs and simplify chord progressions so they were easily recognized by listeners around the world.
Reggae music features more bass with double strums, giving the music a steady rhythm with its double strums. However, in comparison to ska and rocksteady music genres, reggae’s rhythms are faster and frantic due to added guitar upbeats known as “skanking,” as well as fewer horns.
Finally, reggae lyrics can be incredibly deep and evocative. Glasgow’s Champion Lover, for instance, famously used the erotica of reggae to craft a series of tracks that explored carnality and desire.
Reggae music is a synthesis of many genres and can be performed by virtually any group or artist. However, it should be remembered that reggae focuses more on the musical aspects of songs rather than vocal melody, with an impressive diversity in terms of lyrical themes as well.
Reggae music emerged in Jamaica during the late 1960s and draws influence from African musical traditions, American rhythm and blues, Caribbean mento, calypso and other popular forms. It’s distinguished by heavy bass lines, syncopated drums and guitar styles unique to this genre. Furthermore, its lyrics often address political or social topics; often serving as a platform for commentary on local or global issues.
Reggae is widely associated with Jamaica, but it has gained global influence. In Africa, for instance, it has played an integral role in building cultural unity between different groups of people. Lucky Dube from South Africa blends reggae with Mbaqanga while Alpha Blondy from Ivory Coast sings reggae infused with religious lyrics.
In Uganda, Papa Cidy and Arthur Lutta play reggae music. Ethiopia’s Dub Colossus and Invisible System fuse reggae with traditional instruments to create new sounds. Finally, Sudan has adopted some of the beats and rhythms from reggae for local production.
Reggae music was greatly influenced by Rastafari, a religion that promotes self-sufficiency and spiritual renewal. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, Rastafari became an important part of Jamaican culture. Renowned singers such as Desmond Dekker and Peter Tosh sang about how Black people in Jamaica had been oppressed and their need for liberation.
Reggae music evolved with songs like these, becoming an activist force for social justice in Jamaica and beyond. As such, it helped foster a deep sense of racialized belonging among African freedom fighters.
Reggae music was revolutionized by Jamaican artists such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and Toots and the Maytals – their songs being considered some of the finest ever written in this genre.
Reggae music was not widely popular until the 1970s, during the Windrush generation’s free access to Britain’s music industry. This enabled an emergence of a unique type of reggae which fused Jamaican patois with UK inner city themes and Cockney slang. Furthermore, an uptick in UK reggae recordings followed, ushering in an era of steady popularity that would last long into today.
Reggae music, born out of Jamaica and evolving over time, is an amalgamation of native Jamaican styles with elements from rock and soul music. It often includes socially relevant lyrics as well as a 4/4 time signature for added impact.
Drums are the most common percussion instrument used in reggae music, though other instruments like bass guitar and keyboards may also be employed. They play a 4/4 rhythm with the kick drum on the downbeat and snare drum on the backbeat. In many reggae circles, the bass guitar is referred to as ‘lead’ instrument while keyboards offer various sounds from basic chords to intricate solos.
Reggae music encompasses various subgenres. Popular ones include dancehall, reggae fusion and lovers rock.
Dancehall is an international genre born out of a combination of traditional Caribbean beats and electronic production techniques from Europe and North America in the 1970s. Its infectious energy has spread around the world, having an enormous impact on rap, R&B, and pop music genres alike.
Reggae songs are more than just rhythmic patterns; they serve as forms of activism that speaks out against social injustices and other socioeconomic problems. Many musicians have taken up Rastafarian culture in an effort to address these societal problems head-on.
Reggae music shares similar messages to other popular genres; it seeks to instill love and peace within society through its lyrics which aim to educate listeners on social issues and motivate them to become better members of their communities.
One major influence on reggae music has been dub, an instrumental style involving extensive remixing of recorded material. King Tubby and Lee Perry first popularized this technique in the 1960s and 70s, providing it with a more visceral, psychedelic vibe.
Reggae music has seen a dramatic impact due to the proliferation of digital instruments. This has made it simpler for producers to craft faster rhythms, leading to the popularity of dubstep, which draws heavily from early reggae recordings.