What Is Reggae Music?

Reggae music evolved from two closely related Jamaican styles known as ska and rocksteady. The backbeat rhythm and simple chord progressions distinguish it. The lyrics are usually sung in Jamaican patois, which is an English dialect. The Wailers and Bob Marley are two of the most well-known reggae musicians.

Reggae was influenced American rhythm and blues (R&B), American jazz, and Jamaican mento, despite its origins in a mix of ska and rocksteady. Reggae was recognized as a distinct musical genre in both Jamaica and the United States the late 1960s. The Pioneers’ 1967 single “Long Shot Bus’ Me Bet” is widely regarded as the first specifically reggae recording.

Reggae music is distinguished its rhythm, or riddim, which sets it apart from other genres. The songs are in 4/4 time, with the emphasis on the offbeats. A guitar or the bass drum frequently emphasizes the third beat of each measure, giving the music a distinctly African feel.

A drum set, tom-tom drums, and high-tuned snare drums or timbales are commonly used for percussion. A guitar, bass guitar, and organ, piano, or keyboard layer a simple chord structure on top of the drums. In contrast to the vocals, many reggae bands use a trumpet, trombone, or saxophone to play short riffs or countermelodies.

The majority of reggae lyrics are sung in Jamaican patois, a dialect of English that many American and British listeners struggle to comprehend. Some of the lyrics are about Rastafarianism, a Jamaican religion that uses cannabis as a religious sacrament. Cannabis, also known as Ganja in Jamaican slang, is the plant from which the psychoactive drug marijuana is made.

Bob Marley, the singer and guitarist, was a famous Rastafarian convert. Marley, along with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, became internationally famous as a member of The Wailers in the early 1970s. Jimmy Cliff, Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker, and Jackie Mittoo are all well-known reggae musicians.

Reggae has influenced a wide range of musical genres. The effects can be heard in Jamaican dub, American ska, and dancehall music, as well as British bands like UB40. Reggae rhythms influenced hip-hop and rap as well.

Reggae music is associated with Jamaican street culture, including youth, rebellion, and rude boys. The term “rude boys” refers to the disgruntled, unemployed, and violent young men who frequented the dance clubs where reggae first gained popularity in the 1960s. Reggae music distanced itself from the rude boy culture as it became a globally recognized genre, but it is still considered rebellious in nature.