Reggae is a type of music that comes from Jamaica. At first, American music was very popular in Jamaica. Later, musicians began experimenting with music themselves. Ska was made, then rocksteady until reggae was finally made in 1968. The religious and cultural movement rastafarian is closely linked to reggae.
Types of reggae
Reggae originated from the ska and the rocksteady. The first ‘own’ Jamaican music is ska. One of the most famous ska performers are the Skatalites. When the ska slowed down a little bit, they spoke of rocksteady. Both ska and rocksteady are often based on soul and rhythm-and-blues songs that are played with a different rhythmic basis (onedrop and skank).
There are many different types of reggae. The main distinction is made between roots reggae and what is called commercial reggae. Roots reggae refer to the music that has been made since the 1970s and has a strong relationship with rastafarian. Famous roots reggae performers include Bob Marley, Black Uhuru, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Eek-A-Mouse, Bunny Livingston, King Kong and Freddy McGregor. Also, roots are often sung by groups, which is vocal harmony. Well-known examples here are the Abyssinians, Israel Vibration and Culture.
A separate movement within reggae is the dub. These include remixes of songs that are almost exclusively bass and drums, occasionally supplemented by fragments of sound from other instruments, or by sound effects. Dub versions were used as background music for announcements by disc jockeys, or as accompaniment to toasters (toasting is the Jamaican precursor to rapping). People like Lee Perry, King Tubby, Prince Jammy, Scientist, and the Mad Professor have made this movement great
‘Commercial’ or modern reggae is getting bigger from the 1980s with the rise of raggamuffin and ragga. Later this grows into the dancehall. Nowadays, modern reggae is once again a strong revival of its roots with Morgan Heritage and Luciano, for example. The dancehall (e.g. Sean Paul) has also rediscovered its roots with the conscious dancehall of Capleton, Sizzla, Sean Kingston, Babylon Circus, Junior Kelly, Damian Marley and Warrior King.
The most important instruments in reggae are the bass and the drums. Together they lay down the basis of the song; the riddim. A bass drum accent on the second and fourth counts, rather than the first and third, is characteristic of a typical reggae drum rhythm. The drummer’s ‘kick’ comes on the 3rd beat, which is often complemented by syncopian patterns on the snare drum. The bass is more prominent in reggae than in most other music styles, especially in the lowest frequencies.
Often there is a lead guitarist who plays with the bass and drum. The percussion guitarist plays the chords in the signature reggae battle, on the second and fourth beat. It is also called skanking or strumming. Reggae music uses a lot of percussion instruments. Examples of percussion instruments are the conga, bongos, steel drum and triangle.