Reggae (/ˈrɛɡeɪ/) is a music genre that originated in
the late 1960s. The term also denotes the modern popular music of
Jamaica and its diaspora. A 1968 single by Toots and the Maytals,
"Do the Reggay" was the first popular song to use the word "reggae,"
effectively naming the genre and introducing it to a global
audience. While sometimes used in a broad sense to refer to most
types of popular Jamaican dance music, the term reggae more properly
denotes a particular music style that was strongly influenced by
traditional mento as well as American jazz and rhythm and blues,
especially the New Orleans R&B practiced by
Fats Domino and Allen
Toussaint, and evolved out of the earlier genres ska and
Reggae usually relates news, social gossip, and
Reggae spread into a commercialized jazz field,
being known first as ‘Rudie Blues’, then ‘Ska’, later ‘Blue
Beat’, and ‘Rock Steady’. It is instantly recognizable from
the counterpoint between the bass and drum downbeat, and the offbeat
rhythm section. The immediate origins of reggae were in ska and
rocksteady; from the latter, reggae took over the use of the bass as a
Stylistically, reggae incorporates some of the musical elements of
rhythm and blues, jazz, mento (a celebratory, rural folk form that
served its largely rural audience as dance music and an alternative to
the hymns and adapted chanteys of local church singing),
calypso, African music, as well as other genres. One of the most
easily recognizable elements is offbeat rhythms; staccato chords
played by a guitar or piano (or both) on the offbeats of the measure.
The tempo of reggae is usually slower paced than ska but faster than
rocksteady. The concept of call and response can be found
throughout reggae music.
The genre of reggae music is led by the drum and bass. Some
key players in this sound are Jackie Jackson from Toots and the
Carlton Barrett from
Bob Marley and the Wailers,
Lloyd Brevett from The Skatalites, Paul Douglas from Toots and the
Lloyd Knibb from The Skatalites, Winston Grennan,
Sly Dunbar, and Anthony "Benbow" Creary from The Upsetters.
The bass guitar often plays the dominant role in reggae. The bass
sound in reggae is thick and heavy, and equalized so the upper
frequencies are removed and the lower frequencies emphasized. The
guitar in reggae usually plays on the off beat of the rhythm. It is
common for reggae to be sung in Jamaican Patois, Jamaican English, and
Reggae is noted for its tradition of social criticism
and religion in its lyrics, although many reggae songs discuss
lighter, more personal subjects, such as love and socializing.
Reggae has spread to many countries across the world, often
incorporating local instruments and fusing with other genres. Reggae
en Español spread from the Spanish speaking Central American country
of Panama to the mainland South American countries of
Guyana then to the rest of South America. Caribbean music in the
United Kingdom, including reggae, has been popular since the late
1960s, and has evolved into several subgenres and fusions. Many reggae
artists began their careers in the UK, and there have been a number of
European artists and bands drawing their inspiration directly from
Jamaica and the Caribbean community in Europe.
Reggae in Africa was
boosted by the visit of
Bob Marley to Zimbabwe in 1980. In Jamaica,
authentic reggae is one of the biggest sources of income.
5 Musical characteristics
5.1 Drums and other percussion
5.6.1 Lyrical themes
5.6.2 Criticism of dancehall and ragga lyrics
Reggae 7" Single
Reggae outside Jamaica
7.4 Asia and the Pacific
7.5 Australia and New Zealand
8 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
The 1967 edition of the Dictionary of
Jamaican English lists reggae as
"a recently estab. sp. for rege", as in rege-rege, a word that can
mean either "rags, ragged clothing" or "a quarrel, a row". Reggae
as a musical term first appeared in print with the 1968 rocksteady hit
"Do the Reggay" by The Maytals which named the genre of
Reggae for the
Steve Barrow credits
Clancy Eccles with altering the
Jamaican patois word streggae (loose woman) into reggae. However,
Toots Hibbert said:
There's a word we used to use in
Jamaica called 'streggae'. If a girl
is walking and the guys look at her and say 'Man, she's streggae' it
means she don't dress well, she look raggedy. The girls would say that
about the men too. This one morning me and my two friends were playing
and I said, 'OK man, let's do the reggay.' It was just something that
came out of my mouth. So we just start singing 'Do the reggay, do the
reggay' and created a beat. People tell me later that we had given the
sound its name. Before that people had called it blue-beat and all
kind of other things. Now it's in the Guinness World of Records.
Bob Marley is said to have claimed that the word reggae came from a
Spanish term for "the king's music". The liner notes of To the
King, a compilation of Christian gospel reggae, suggest that the word
reggae was derived from the Latin regi meaning "to the king".
Although strongly influenced by traditional mento and calypso music,
as well as American jazz and rhythm and blues, reggae owes its direct
origins to the ska and rocksteady of 1960s Jamaica. The generic title
for Jamaican music recorded between 1961 and 1967, ska emerged from
Jamaican R&B, which itself was largely based on American R&B
Rastafari entered some countries primarily through
reggae music; thus, the movement in these places is more particularly
stamped by its origins in reggae music and social milieu. The
Rastafari movement was a significant influence on reggae, with Rasta
Count Ossie taking part in seminal recordings. One
of the predecessors of reggae drumming is the
Nyabinghi rhythm, a
style of ritual drumming performed as a communal meditative practice
Ska arose in Jamaican studios in the late 1950s, developing from
American R&B, mento and calypso music.
Ska is characterized by
a quarter note walking bass line, guitar and piano offbeats, and a
drum pattern with cross-stick snare and bass drum on the backbeat and
open hi-hat on the offbeats (with nothing on beats one and three). It
is also notable for its jazz-influenced horn riffs.
Jamaica gained its
independence in 1962, and ska became the music of choice for Jamaican
youths seeking music that was their own.
Ska also became popular among
mods in Britain.
In the mid-1960s,
Rocksteady emerged, a genre slower than ska
featuring more romantic lyrics and less prominent horns. The name
was later solidified after the release of a single by Alton Ellis.
There are many theories as to why Jamaican musicians slowed the ska
tempo to create rocksteady; one is that the singer Hopeton Lewis was
unable to sing his hit song "Take It Easy" at a ska tempo. Many
rocksteady rhythms were later used as the basis of reggae recordings.
The "double skank" guitar strokes on the offbeat were also part of the
new reggae style.
Reggae developed from ska and rocksteady in the 1960s. Larry And
Alvin’s ‘Nanny Goat’ and the Beltones’ ‘No More
Heartaches’ competed for the status of first reggae record. The beat
was distinctive from rocksteady in that it dropped any of the
pretensions to the smooth, soulful sound that characterized slick
American R&B, and instead was closer in kinship to US southern
funk, being heavily dependent on the rhythm section to drive it
along.Reggae’s great advantage was its almost limitless flexibility:
from the early, jerky sound of Lee Perry’s ‘People Funny Boy’,
to the uptown sounds of Third World’s ‘Now That We’ve Found
Love’, it was an enormous leap through the years and styles, yet
both are instantly recognizable as reggae. The shift from
rocksteady to reggae was illustrated by the organ shuffle pioneered by
Jamaican musicians like
Jackie Mittoo and Winston Wright and featured
in transitional singles "Say What You're Saying" (1968) by Eric
"Monty" Morris and "People Funny Boy" (1968) by Lee "Scratch" Perry.
The Pioneers' 1968 track "Long Shot (Bus' Me Bet)" has been identified
as the earliest recorded example of the new rhythm sound that became
known as reggae.
Early 1968 was when the first bona fide reggae records were released:
"Nanny Goat" by Larry Marshall and "No More Heartaches" by The
Beltones. That same year, the newest Jamaican sound began to spawn
big-name imitators in other countries. American artist Johnny Nash's
1968 hit "Hold Me Tight" has been credited with first putting reggae
in the American listener charts. Around the same time, reggae
influences were starting to surface in rock and pop music, one example
being 1968's "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" by The Beatles.
The Wailers, a band started by Bob Marley,
Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer
in 1963, is perhaps the most recognized band that made the transition
through all three stages of early Jamaican popular music: ska,
rocksteady and reggae. Over a dozen Wailers songs are based on or use
a line from Jamaican mento songs. In 1951, recordings of mento music
began to be released. These recordings showcased two styles of mento:
an acoustic, rural style and a jazzy, popular style. Other
significant reggae pioneers include Prince Buster,
Desmond Dekker and
However, another pioneer was
Millie Small (born 6 October 1946), a
Jamaican singer-songwriter, best known for her 1964 blue-beat/ska
cover version of "My Boy Lollipop" which was a smash hit
Notable Jamaican producers influential in the development of ska into
rocksteady and reggae include: Coxsone Dodd, Lee "Scratch" Perry,
Leslie Kong, Duke Reid, Joe Gibbs and King Tubby. Chris Blackwell, who
Island Records in
Jamaica in 1960, relocated to England in
1962, where he continued to promote Jamaican music. He formed a
partnership with Lee Gopthal's
Trojan Records in 1968, which released
reggae in the UK until bought by Saga records in 1974.
Reggae's influence bubbled to the top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100
charts in late 1972. First
Three Dog Night
Three Dog Night hit #1 in September with a
cover of the Maytones' version of "Black and White". Then Johnny Nash
was at #1 for four weeks in November with "I Can See Clearly Now".
Paul Simon's single "Mother And Child Reunion" - a track which he
recorded in Kingston,
Jamaica with Jimmy Cliff's backing group - was
ranked by Billboard as the No. 57 song of 1972.
In 1973, the film
The Harder They Come
The Harder They Come starring
Jimmy Cliff was
released and introduced Jamaican music to cinema audiences outside
Jamaica. Though the film achieved cult status its limited appeal
meant that it had a smaller impact than Eric Clapton's 1974 cover of
Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" which made it onto the playlists of
mainstream rock and pop radio stations worldwide. Clapton's "I Shot
The Sheriff" used modern rock production and recording techniques and
faithfully retained most of the original reggae elements; it was a
breakthrough pastiche devoid of any parody and played an important
part in bringing the music of
Bob Marley to a wider rock audience.
By the mid-1970s, authentic reggae dub plates and specials were
getting some exposure in the UK on John Peel's radio show, who
promoted the genre for the rest of his career. Around the same
time, British filmmaker
Jeremy Marre documented the Jamaican music
scene in Roots Rock Reggae, capturing the heyday of Roots reggae.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the UK punk rock scene flourished,
and reggae was a notable influence. The DJ
Don Letts would play reggae
and punk tracks at clubs such as The Roxy. Punk bands such as The
Clash, The Ruts,
The Members and
The Slits played many
reggae-influenced songs. Around the same time, reggae music took a new
path in the UK; one that was created by the multiracial makeup of
England's inner cities and exemplified by groups like Steel Pulse,
Aswad and UB40, as well as artists such as
Smiley Culture and Carroll
Thompson. The Jamaican ghetto themes in the lyrics were replaced with
UK inner city themes, and
Jamaican patois became intermingled with
Cockney slang. In South London around this time, a new subgenre of
Lovers Rock, was being created. Unlike the Jamaican music of the same
name which was mainly dominated by male artists such as Gregory
Isaacs, the South London genre was led by female singers like Thompson
and Janet Kay. The UK
Lovers Rock had a softer and more commercial
sound.Other reggae artists who enjoyed international appeal in the
early 1980s include Third World,
Black Uhuru and Sugar Minott. The
Grammy Awards introduced the Grammy Award for Best
category in 1985.
Females also play a role in the reggae music industry personnel such
as Olivia Grange, president of Specs-Shang Musik; Trish Farrell,
president of Island/Jamaica; Lisa Cortes, president of Loose Cannon;
Jamaican-American Sharon Gordon, who has worked in the independent
reggae music industry.
Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding made February 2008 the first
Reggae Month in Jamaica. To celebrate, the Recording Industry
Jamaica (RIAJam) held its first
Reggae Academy Awards
on February 24, 2008. In addition,
Reggae Month included a six-day
Reggae conference, a reggae film festival, two radio station
award functions, and a concert tribute to the late Dennis Brown, who
Bob Marley cited as his favorite singer. On the business side, RIAJam
held events focused on reggae's employment opportunities and potential
Skank guitar rhythm often considered "'the' reggae beat" Play
straight (help·info) or Play shuffle (help·info).
Stylistically, reggae incorporates some of the musical elements of
rhythm and blues (R&B), jazz, mento, calypso, African, and Latin
American music, as well as other genres.
Reggae scenes consist of two
guitars, one for rhythm and one for lead—drums, congas, and
keyboards, with a couple vocalists.
Reggae is played in 4
4 time because the symmetrical rhythmic pattern does not lend itself
to other time signatures such as 3
4. One of the most easily recognizable elements is offbeat rhythms;
staccato chords played by a guitar or piano (or both) on the offbeats
of the measure, often referred to as the skank.
This rhythmic pattern accents the second and fourth beats in each bar
and combines with the drum's emphasis on beat three to create a unique
sense of phrasing. The reggae offbeat can be counted so that it falls
between each count as an "and" (example: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, etc.) or
counted as a half-time feel at twice the tempo so it falls on beats 2
and 4. This is in contrast to the way most other popular genres focus
on beat one, the "downbeat".
The tempo of reggae is usually slower than ska but faster than
rocksteady. It is this slower tempo, the guitar/piano offbeats, the
emphasis on the third beat, and the use of syncopated, melodic bass
lines that differentiate reggae from other music, although other
musical styles have incorporated some of these innovations.
Harmonically the music is essentially the same as any other modern
popular genre with a tendency to make use of simple chord
Reggae sometimes uses the dominant chord in its minor
form therefore never allowing a perfect cadence to be sounded; this
lack of resolution between the tonic and the dominant imparts a sense
of movement "without rest" and harmonic ambiguity. Extended chords
like the major seventh chord ("Waiting in Vain" by Bob Marley) and
minor seventh chord are used though suspended chords or diminished
chords are rare. Minor keys are commonly used especially with the
minor chord forms of the subdominant and dominant chord (for example
in the key of G minor the progression may be played Gm – Dm – Gm
– Dm – Cm – Dm – Cm – Dm). A simple progression borrowed
from rhythm and blues and soul music is the tonic chord followed by
the minor supertonic chord with the two chords repeated continuously
to form a complete verse ("Just My Imagination" by
The Temptations C
The concept of "call and response" can be found throughout reggae
music, in the vocals but also in the way parts are composed and
arranged for each instrument. The emphasis on the "third beat" of the
bar also results in a different sense of musical phrasing, with bass
lines and melody lines often emphasizing what might be considered
"pick up notes" in other genres.
Drums and other percussion
A standard drum kit is generally used in reggae, but the snare drum is
often tuned very high to give it a timbales-type sound. Some reggae
drummers use an additional timbale or high-tuned snare to get this
sound. Cross-stick technique on the snare drum is commonly used, and
tom-tom drums are often incorporated into the drumbeat itself.
Reggae drumbeats fall into three main categories: One drop, Rockers,
and Steppers. With the One drop, the emphasis is entirely on the
backbeat (usually on the snare, or as a rim shot combined with bass
drum). Beat one is empty except for a closed high hat commonly used,
which is unusual in popular music. There is some controversy about
whether reggae should be counted so that this beat falls on two and
four, or whether it should be counted twice as fast, so it falls on
three. An example played by Barrett can be heard in the
Bob Marley and
the Wailers song "One Drop". Barrett often used an unusual triplet
cross-rhythm on the hi-hat, which can be heard on many recordings by
Bob Marley and the Wailers, such as "Running Away" on the Kaya album.
An emphasis on the backbeat is found in all reggae drumbeats, but with
the Rockers beat, the emphasis is on all four beats of the bar
(usually on bass drum). This beat was pioneered by Sly and Robbie, who
later helped create the "Rub-a-Dub" sound that greatly influenced
dancehall. Sly has stated he was influenced to create this style by
listening to American drummer Earl Young as well as other disco and
R&B drummers in the early to mid-1970s, as stated in the book
"Wailing Blues". The prototypical example of the style is found in Sly
Dunbar's drumming on "Right Time" by the Mighty Diamonds. The Rockers
beat is not always straightforward, and various syncopations are often
included. An example of this is the
Black Uhuru song "Sponji Reggae".
In Steppers, the bass drum plays every quarter beat of the bar, giving
the beat an insistent drive. An example is "Exodus" by
Bob Marley and
the Wailers. Another common name for the Steppers beat is the "four on
the floor". Burning Spear's 1975 song "Red, Gold, and Green" (with
Leroy Wallace on drums) is one of the earliest examples. The Steppers
beat was adopted (at a much higher tempo) by some 2 Tone ska revival
bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
An unusual characteristic of reggae drumming is that the drum fills
often do not end with a climactic cymbal. A wide range of other
percussion instrumentation are used in reggae. Bongos are often used
to play free, improvised patterns, with heavy use of African-style
cross-rhythms. Cowbells, claves and shakers tend to have more defined
roles and a set pattern.
Reggae drummers often involved these three tips for other reggae
performers: (1) go for open, ringing tones when playing ska and
rocksteady, (2) use any available material to stuff the bass drum so
that it tightens up the kick to a deep, punchy thud, and (3) go
without a ride cymbal, focusing on the hi-hat for timekeeping and thin
crashes with fast decay for accents.
The bass guitar often plays the dominant role in reggae, and the drum
and bass is often the most important part of what is called, in
Jamaican music, a riddim (rhythm), a (usually simple) piece of music
that's used repeatedly by different artists to write and record songs
with. Literally hundreds of reggae singers have released different
songs recorded over the same rhythm. The central role of the bass can
be particularly heard in dub music — which gives an even bigger role
to the drum and bass line, reducing the vocals and other instruments
to peripheral roles.
The bass sound in reggae is thick and heavy, and equalized so the
upper frequencies are removed and the lower frequencies emphasized.
The bass line is often a repeated two or four bar riff when simple
chord progressions are used. The simplest example of this might be
Robbie Shakespeare's bass line for the
Black Uhuru hit "Shine Eye
Gal". In the case of more complex harmonic structures, such as John
Holt's version of "Stranger In Love", these simpler patterns are
altered to follow the chord progression either by directly moving the
pattern around or by changing some of the interior notes in the phrase
to better support the chords.
The guitar in reggae usually plays on the off beat of the rhythm. So
if one is counting in 4
4 time and counting 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +, one would play a downstroke on
the "and" part of the beat. A musical figure known as skank or the
'bang" has a very dampened, short and scratchy chop sound, almost like
a percussion instrument. Sometimes a double chop is used when the
guitar still plays the off beats, but also plays the following
eighth-note beats on the up-stroke. An example is the intro to "Stir
It Up" by The Wailers. Artist and producer
Derrick Harriott says,
“What happened was the musical thing was real widespread, but only
among a certain sort of people. It was always a down-town thing, but
more than just hearing the music. The equipment was so powerful and
the vibe so strong that we feel it.”
From the earliest days of
Ska recordings, a piano was used to double
the rhythm guitar's skank, playing the chords in a staccato style to
add body, and playing occasional extra beats, runs and riffs. The
piano part was widely taken over by synthesizers during the 1980s,
although synthesizers have been used in a peripheral role since the
1970s to play incidental melodies and countermelodies. Larger bands
may include either an additional keyboardist, to cover or replace horn
and melody lines, or the main keyboardist filling these roles on two
or more keyboards.
The reggae organ-shuffle is unique to reggae. In the original version
of reggae, the drummer played a reggae groove that was used in the
four bar introduction, allowing the piano to serve as a percussion
instrument. Typically, a Hammond organ-style sound is used to play
chords with a choppy feel. This is known as the bubble. This may be
the most difficult reggae keyboard rhythm. The organ bubble can be
broken down into 2 basic patterns. In the first, the 8th beats are
played with a space-left-right-left-space-left-right-left pattern,
where the spaces represent downbeats not played—that and the
left-right-left falls on the ee-and-a, or and-2-and if counted at
double time. In the second basic pattern, the left hand plays a double
chop as described in the guitar section while the right hand plays
longer notes on beat 2 (or beat 3 if counted at double time) or a
syncopated pattern between the double chops. Both these patterns can
be expanded on and improvised embellishments are sometimes used.
Horn sections are frequently used in reggae, often playing
introductions and counter-melodies. Instruments included in a typical
reggae horn section include saxophone, trumpet or trombone. In more
recent times, real horns are sometimes replaced in reggae by
synthesizers or recorded samples. The horn section is often arranged
around the first horn, playing a simple melody or counter melody. The
first horn is usually accompanied by the second horn playing the same
melodic phrase in unison, one octave higher. The third horn usually
plays the melody an octave and a fifth higher than the first horn. The
horns are generally played fairly softly, usually resulting in a
soothing sound. However, sometimes punchier, louder phrases are played
for a more up-tempo and aggressive sound.
UB40's former frontman
Ali Campbell performing in 2009.
The vocals in reggae are less of a defining characteristic of the
genre than the instrumentation and rhythm, as almost any song can be
performed in a reggae style. However, it is very common for reggae to
be sung in Jamaican Patois, Jamaican English, and
Vocal harmony parts are often used, either throughout the melody (as
with vocal groups such as the Mighty Diamonds), or as a counterpoint
to the main vocal line (as with the backing vocalists, the I-Threes).
More complex vocal arrangements can be found in the works of groups
The Abyssinians and British reggae band Steel Pulse.
An unusual aspect of reggae singing is that many singers use tremolo
(volume oscillation) rather than vibrato (pitch oscillation). Notable
exponents of this technique include
Horace Andy and vocal group Israel
Vibration. The toasting vocal style is unique to reggae, originating
when DJs improvised spoken introductions to songs (or "toasts") to the
point where it became a distinct rhythmic vocal style, and is
generally considered to be a precursor to rap. It differs from rap
mainly in that it is generally melodic, while rap is generally more a
spoken form without melodic content.
Reggae is noted for its tradition of social criticism in its lyrics,
although many reggae songs discuss lighter, more personal subjects,
such as love and socializing. Many early reggae bands covered Motown
or Atlantic soul and funk songs. Some reggae lyrics attempt to raise
the political consciousness of the audience, such as by criticizing
materialism, or by informing the listener about controversial subjects
such as Apartheid. Many reggae songs promote the use of cannabis (also
known as herb, ganja, or sinsemilla), considered a sacrament in the
Rastafari movement. There are many artists who utilize religious
themes in their music — whether it be discussing a specific
religious topic, or simply giving praise to God (Jah). Other common
socio-political topics in reggae songs include black nationalism,
anti-racism, anti-colonialism, anti-capitalism and criticism of
political systems and "Babylon". .
In recent years, Jamaican (and non-Jamaican) reggae musicians have
used more positive themes in reggae music. The music is widely
considered a treasured cultural export for Jamaica, so musicians who
still desire progress for their island nation have begun focusing on
themes of hopefulness, faith, and love. For elementary children,
reggae songs such as "Give a Little Love," "One Love," or "Three
Little Birds," all written by Bob Marley, can be sung and enjoyed for
their optimism and cheerful lyrics.
Criticism of dancehall and ragga lyrics
See also: Stop Murder Music
The wide cultural exposure which has enhanced the recognizability of
reggae has been achieved primarily through a corporate
commercialization effected at the expense of both the lyrical and
instrumental essence of the music. This process has involved coerced
or voluntary assimilation of more commercially compatible
characteristics, appropriation by white mainstream artists, and an
overall dispersal of ideological and musical meaning and creative
value.The mainstream Euro-American audience has continually
demonstrated a propensity for adopting reggae-oriented material on the
basis of its aesthetically pleasing surface qualities rather than for
explicitly political or deeper musical content, causing authenticity
problems for reggae fans.
Some dancehall and ragga artists have been criticised for
homophobia, including threats of violence. Buju Banton's song
"Boom Bye-Bye" states that gays "haffi dead". Other notable dancehall
artists who have been accused of homophobia include Elephant Man,
Bounty Killer and Beenie Man. The controversy surrounding anti-gay
lyrics has led to the cancellation of UK tours by
Beenie Man and
Canada has also seen the cancellation of concerts due
to artists such as Elephant Man and
Sizzla refusing to conform to
similar censorship pressures.
After lobbying from the
Stop Murder Music
Stop Murder Music coalition, the dancehall
music industry agreed in 2005 to stop releasing songs that promote
hatred and violence against gay people. In June 2007, Beenie
Capleton signed up to the
Reggae Compassionate Act, in
a deal brokered with top dancehall promoters and Stop Murder Music
activists. They renounced homophobia and agreed to "not make
statements or perform songs that incite hatred or violence against
anyone from any community". Five artists targeted by the
anti-homophobia campaign did not sign up to the act, including
Elephant Man, TOK, Bounty Killa and Vybz Kartel.
Buju Banton and
Beenie Man both gained positive press coverage around the world for
publicly renouncing homophobia by signing the
Reggae Compassion Act.
However, both of these artists have since denied any involvement in
anti-homophobia work and both deny having signed any such act.
Reggae 7" Single
For many years vinyl has been of central importance to the Jamaican
music industry, playing a significant cultural and economic role in
the development of reggae music. "In the early 1950's (sic),
Jamaican entrepreneurs began issuing 78s" but this format would
soon be superseded by the 7" single, first released in 1949. The
first 7" singles to appear in
Jamaica around this time were often
covers of popular American RnB hits, made by Kingston sound system
operators to be played in the dance. "Meanwhile, Jamaican
expatriates started issuing 45s on small UK independents, typically
featuring graphics-free logos. Though the quality of foreign pressing
was typically better, some were actually mastered from Jamaican 45s
and many were totally unauthorised".
The quality of 7" singles produced in
Jamaica took a dramatic turn for
the worse following the oil crisis of the 1970s.
45 rpm adapter
45 rpm adapter
45 rpm adapter is crucial when playing 7" singles which feature a
cut out middle.
Reggae outside Jamaica
Haile Selassie I
My Life and Ethiopia's Progress
The Promise Key
Royal Parchment Scroll
of Black Supremacy
in the U.S.
Twelve Tribes of Israel
Lion of Judah
Reggae has spread to many countries across the world, often
incorporating local instruments and fusing with other genres.
Toots and the Maytals
Toots and the Maytals performing at the 2017 Coachella festival
Reggae en Español
Reggae en Español spread from mainland South American Caribbean from
Guyana to the rest of South America. It does not have
any specific characteristics other than being sung in Spanish, usually
by artists of Latin American origin.
Samba reggae originated in Brazil
as a blend of samba with Jamaican reggae.
Reggae also has a presence
in Veracruz, Mexico. The most notable
Jarocho reggae group being Los
Aguas Aguas from Xalapa. Some of the most popular reggae groups across
Latin America come from the Southern Cone, such as the Chilean band
Gondwana, and the Argentinian band Los Cafres. The Puerto Rican band
Cultura Profética is also widely recognized in the region. Hispanic
reggae includes three elements: the incorporation of the Spanish
language; the use of translations and versions based on known riddims
and background music; and regional consciousness. It is a medium of
rebellious contestation rising from the underground. Hispanic reggae
is related to rap, sharing characteristics that can be found not only
in the social conditions in which they developed in the region but
also in the characteristics of social sectors and classes that welcome
Brazilian samba-reggae utilized themes such as the U.S.
African-American civil rights movement and the Black Soul movement,
and especially the Jamaican independence movement since the 1960s and
its messages in reggae and Rastafarianism. Thus, the sudden popularity
of reggae music and musicians in Bahia, Brazil, was not the result of
the effects of the transnational music industry, but of the need to
establish cultural and political links with black communities across
the Americas that had faced and were facing similar sociopolitical
Musically, it was the bloco afro Olodum and its lead percussionist,
Neguinho do Samba, that began to combine the basic samba beat of the
blocos with merengue, salsa, and reggae rhythms and debuted their
experimentations in the carnival of 1986. The new toques (drumming
patterns) were labeled "samba-reggae" and consisted basically of a
pattern in which the surdo bass drums (four of them at the minimum)
divided themselves into four or five interlocking parts.
In the United States, bands like Rebelution, Slightly Stoopid, Stick
SOJA are considered progressive reggae bands sometimes
referred to as
Cali Reggae or Pacific Dub. The American reggae scene
is heavily centred in Southern California, with large scenes also in
New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Miami, and Honolulu. For
decades, Hawaiian reggae has had a big following on the Hawaiian
islands and the West coast of the US. On the east coast upstate NY
has seen a rise in original roots reggae bands such as Giant Panda
Guerilla Dub Squad and
John Brown's Body
John Brown's Body who were inspired by Jamaican
reggae bands that performed in the area back in the 80s and 90s.
Matisyahu gained prominence by blending traditional Jewish themes with
reggae. Compounding his use of the hazzan style, Matisyahu's
lyrics are mostly English with more than occasional use of Hebrew and
Yiddish. There is a large Caribbean presence in
Toronto and Montreal,
Canada, with English and French influences on the reggae
genre.[clarification needed] Canadian band Magic!'s
2013 single "Rude" was an international hit.
Toots and the Maytals
Toots and the Maytals became the second reggae-based group to
ever perform at the Coachella festival, after
The UK was a primary destination for Caribbean people looking to
emigrate as early as the 1950s. Because of this, Caribbean music in
the United Kingdom, including reggae, has been popular since the late
1960s, and has evolved into several subgenres and fusions. Most
notable of these is lovers rock, but this fusion of Jamaican music
into English culture was seminal in the formation of other musical
forms like drum and bass and dubstep. The UK became the base from
which many Jamaican artists toured Europe and due to the large number
of Jamaican musicians emigrating there, the UK is the root of the
larger European scene that exists today. Many of the world's most
famous reggae artists began their careers in UK. Singer and Grammy
Award-winning reggae artist
Maxi Priest began his career with seminal
British sound system Saxon Studio International.
Three reggae-tinged singles from the Police's 1978 debut album,
Outlandos d'Amour, laid down the template for the basic structure of a
lot of rock/reggae songwriting: a reggae-infused verse containing
upstrokes on guitar or keyboards and a more aggressive, on-the-beat
punk/rock attack during the chorus. The end of the 1970s featured a
ska revival in the UK. By the end of the '70s, a revival movement had
begun in England, with such bands as the Specials, Madness, the
(English) Beat, and the Selecter. The Specials' leader and
keyboardist, Jerry Dammers, founded the 2 Tone record label, which
released albums from the aforementioned racially integrated groups and
was instrumental in creating a new social and cultural awareness. The
2 Tone movement referenced reggae's godfathers, popular styles
(including the genre's faster and more dance-oriented precursors, ska
and rocksteady), and previous modes of dress (such as black suits and
porkpie hats) but updated the sound with a faster tempo, more guitar,
and more attitude.
UB40 perform in Birmingham, 2010
Birmingham based reggae/pop music band
UB40 were main contributors to
the British reggae scene throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The achieved
international success with hits such as "Red Red Wine," "Kingston
Town" and "(I can't Help) Falling in Love with You."
Other UK based artists that had international impact include Aswad,
Misty In Roots, Steel Pulse, Janet Kay, Tippa Irie,
Smiley Culture and
more recently Bitty McLean. There have been a number of European
artists and bands drawing their inspiration directly from
the Caribbean community in Europe, whose music and vocal styles are
almost identical to contemporary Jamaican music. The best examples
Alborosie (Italy) and Gentleman (Germany). Both Gentleman and
Alborosie have had a significant chart impact in Jamaica, unlike many
European artists. They have both recorded and released music in
Jamaica for Jamaican labels and producers and are popular artists,
likely to appear on many riddims.
Alborosie has lived in
the late 1990s and has recorded at Bob Marley's famous Tuff Gong
Studios. Since the early 1990s, several Italian reggae bands have
emerged, including Africa Unite,
Reggae National Tickets, Sud Sound
Pitura Freska and B.R. Stylers. Another Italian famous reggae
singer was Rino Gaetano.
Reggae appeared on the Yugoslav popular music scene in the late 1970s,
through sporadic songs by popular rock acts.
Reggae saw an
expansion with the emergence of Yugoslav new wave scene. The bands
like Haustor, Šarlo Akrobata, Aerodrom, Laboratorija Zvuka, Piloti,
Du Du A and others recorded reggae and reggae-influence songs. In
the mid-1980s appeared Del Arno Band, often considered the first real
reggae band in Yugoslavia. Throughout the following decades they
remained one of the most popular and influential reggae bands in the
region. In the 1990s and early 2000s, after the breakup of
Yugoslavia, appeared a new generation of reggae bands, like Serbian
band Eyesburn, which gained popularity with their combination of
reggae with hardcore punk and crossover thrash, and Croatian band
Radikal Dub Kolektiv, alongside bands which incorporated reggae into
their sound, like Darkwood Dub,
Kanda, Kodža i Nebojša
Kanda, Kodža i Nebojša and Lira Vega
Dubioza Kolektiv in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Late
2000s and 2010s brought a new generation of reggae acts in the
The first homegrown
Polish reggae bands started in the 1980s with
groups like Izraelario. Singer and songwriter
Alexander Barykin was
considered as the father of Russian reggae. In Sweden, Uppsala
Reggae Festival attracts attendees from across Northern Europe, and
features Swedish reggae bands such as
Rootvälta and Svenska Akademien
as well as many popular Jamaican artists. Summerjam, Europe's biggest
reggae festival, takes place in Cologne,
Germany and sees crowds of
25,000 or more. Rototom Sunsplash, a week-long festival which used to
take place in Osoppo, Italy, until 2009, is now held in Benicassim,
Spain and gathers up to 150,000 visitors every year.
In Iceland reggae band
Hjálmar is well established having released
six CDs in Iceland. They were the first reggae band in Iceland, but
few Icelandic artists had written songs in the reggae style before
their showing up at the Icelandic music scene. The Icelandic reggae
scene is expanding and growing at a fast rate. RVK Soundsystem is the
first Icelandic sound system, counting 5 DJ's. They hold reggae nights
in Reykjavík every month at clubs Hemmi og Valdi and more recently in
Faktorý as the crowd has grown so much.
In Germany, the three successful
Reggae JSnrfti mer Jam open-air
fastivals were crucial parts of the renaissance of Caribbean music in
Germany but at that year (1990) war broke out between the two main
German promoters who had cooperated so well during the previous
seasons. With a lot of infighting and personal quarrels, each of them
pursued his own preparations for a big summer festival. The result was
that two open-air events look place on the same day.
Reggae Sammer Jam '90 was staged as usual, but this year for only
one day. The event took place at the Lorelei Rock amphit heater with
artists like Mad Professor's Ariwa Posse with Macka B and Kofi,
Mutabaruka, the Mighty Diamonds, the Twinkle Brothers, Manu Dibango
and Fela Kuti.
The other, ex-partner of the onceunited promoters succeeded in
bringing the original Sunsplash package to
Germany for the first time.
Close to the Main River in the little village of Gemaunden deep down
in rural southcentral Germany, they staged a two-day festival that
drew the bigger crowd. About 10,000 people came from all over the
country as well as from neighboring states like trance and, for the
first time, East
Germany to see the lineup of top reggae artists.
Reggae in Africa was much boosted by the visit of
Bob Marley to
Zimbabwe on Independence Day 18 April 1980.
Nigerian reggae had
developed in the 1970s with artists such as
Majek Fashek proving
popular. In South Africa, reggae music has played a unifying role
amongst cultural groups in Cape Town. During the years of Apartheid,
the music bonded people from all demographic groups. Lucky Dube
recorded 25 albums, fusing reggae with Mbaqanga. The Marcus Garvey
Rasta camp in Phillipi is regarded by many to be the reggae and
Rastafari center of Cape Town.
Reggae bands play regularly at
community centres such as the Zolani center in Nyanga.
Papa Cidy is very popular. In Ethiopia, Dub
Colossus and Invisible System emerged in 2008 sharing core members,
and have received wide acclaim. In Mali, Askia Modibo
fuses reggae with Malian music. In Malawi,
Black Missionaries produced
nine albums. In
Ivory Coast a country where reggae music is extremely
Jah Fakoly fuses reggae with traditional music. Alpha
Ivory Coast sings reggae with religious lyrics. In Sudan,
beats, drums and bass guitar from reggae music has been adopted into
their music as reggae is a very popular among the generations from
young to old, some spiritual (religious) groups grow their dreadlocks
and have some reggae beats in their chants.
Asia and the Pacific
In the Philippines, several bands and sound systems play reggae and
dancehall music. Their music is called Pinoy reggae. Japanese reggae
emerged in the early 1980s.
Reggae is becoming more prevalent in
Thailand as well.
Reggae music is quite popular in Sri Lanka. Aside
from the reggae music and
Rastafari influences seen ever more on
Thailand's islands and beaches, a true reggae sub-culture is taking
root in Thailand's cities and towns. Many Thai artists, such as Job 2
Do, keep the tradition of reggae music and ideals alive in Thailand.
By the end of the 1980s, the local music scene in Hawaii was dominated
Jawaiian music, a local form of reggae.
Famous Indian singer
Kailash Kher and music producer Clinton Cerejo
created Kalapi, a rare fusion piece of
Reggae and Indian music for
Coke Studio India. Other than this high-profile piece,
confined to a small, emerging scene in India. Thaikkudam Bridge, a
neo-Indian band based in Kerala, India is known for inducing Reggae
into Indian regional blues.
Australia and New Zealand
Reggae in Australia
Reggae in Australia originated in the 1980s. Desert
Reggae is a
developing contemporary style possibly originating in Central
Australia. Lyrics are often sung in Australian Aboriginal
languages. However, possibly the best known Australian reggae
groups are Sticky Fingers (band),
Blue King Brown
Blue King Brown and Astronomy Class,
who both use
English language lyrics.
New Zealand reggae
New Zealand reggae was heavily inspired by Bob Marley's 1979 tour of
the country, and early reggae groups such as Herbs. The genre has
seen many bands like Fat Freddy's Drop, Salmonella Dub, The Black
Katchafire emerging in more recent times, often involving
fusion with electronica.
List of dub artists
List of reggae compilation albums
Sumfest- Containing more than 70 acts, was created in just six weeks
in 1993 by a consortium of successful Montego Bay businessmen after
Reggae Sunsplash, relocated from the resort to
Reggae Sumfest has established itself as Jamaican music's
premier annual live showcase. Fifteen years on-despite a proliferation
of U.S. and European summer reggae festivals-label A&Rs and live
promoters from the United States, Europe, Japan and the Caribbean say
that Sumfest remains the most reliable reggae event at which to spot
new artists and book talent for upcoming shows.
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