is genre of music that originates from Jamaica. It started in the1960’s as an offspring of calypso music and traditional mento thatwas found in Jamaica (Donald 30). Other genres that contributed toits formation are jazz, rhythm and blues, rockstesdy and ska that areof American origin and also some elements of African and LatinAmerican music. Some characteristics that make it different fromother genres include: offbeat rhytms and a slow tempo. It also hasthe call and response property.
Likemany other genres, reggae music employs the use of musicalinstruments. The most dominant instrument used is the bass guitarwhich produces thick and heavy bass with minimized high frequenciesand emphasized low frequencies (Barrow 9). There is also the normalguitar that is often played on the off beat of the rhythm.Originally, these two instruments were the ones that were usedwhenplaying reggae but with time the use of drums became common forthe genre. There are also other instruments that are beingincorporated into the genre over time and as it spreads from onecountry of the world to others (Haskins 77).
Trackingthe development of the genre from the time it was formed to thepresent will show that it starts with ska and rocksteady. This is notto mean that other genres did not contribute, but rather it meansthat these two genres contributed the most. Ska originates fromJamaica where the reggae type of music also originates from. It ischaracterized by guitar and piano off beats,quarter note walking baseline and drums. The only difference between this and reggae is thatreggae is played at a slower tempo. The bass patterns are alsosyncopated and reggae bands are smaller compared to ska bands(Jamaica Journal 13). From the early nineteen sixtees, the genre hasgrown throughout the world, especially in Europe. It was also madepopular in Africa by the genre’s legend and icon Bob Marley.
Ifone is to go into the specifics of the musical characteristics of thegenre, it is played in 4/4 time. It has a symmetrical rhythmicpattern that does not allow any other kind of signatures to bepalyed. The off beat rhythms are a factor that are quicklyrecognized. It has a lower tempo compared to its parents, ska androcksteady. The slower tempo allows for the use of melodic andsyncopated bass lines and emphasis on the third beat thatdifferentiates this genre from others. The vocals are usually not asimportant as the rhythm and the instruments that are used in a reggaesong. Therefore, any song can be done using this style although theJamaican dialect is the most commonly used. An interesting factorabout vocals in reggae is that rather than using pitch oscillation,most artists will use volume oscillation. This is a factor that isunique to this genre.
Themessages in reggae songs have always been the kind that criticizesocial injustices in society. Many reggae artists always sing aboutthe wrong things that are being done, the things that should be donepolitical factors. These are the key themes in many reggae songs.There are also other artists like UB40 who sing about love, forexample in their hit single,’The Reasons’.
Thereare many reggae fans out there who claim that this genre of music isthe best that there is. Comparison of reggae to other genres can bedone on many grounds. These include: musicality the ryhthm that isassociated with reggae is one of the most common and unique ryhthms.It is easily identifiable from other genres and is liked by manypeople all over the world. It is however not possible to say thatthis type of musicality is the best because this is purely subjectiveand it depends on the tastes of the person listening.
Thethemes of the songs reggae songs are usually associated withmessages that touch on what is going on in society. Other genres ofmusic may also have songs about social and political issues but it isreggae that is mostly known for this (Velma 57). Some reggae songsare about love but such messages are mostly associated with rhythmand blues. Therefore, we can say that reggae distinguishes itselffrom other genres through the dominant theme in most of its songs.
Authenticityreggae is an offspring of rocksteady and ska. Therefore, as a genre,one cannot say that it is purely original. However, many other genreshave a similar characteristic of originating from older moreestablished genres. A good example is the modern ragga dance hallwhich borrows elements of reggae, hip hop, club and trance.
Popularityreggae is not the most popular genre in the world. There are morepopular genres like rhythm and blues and hip hop. However, in somecountries like Jamaica and other Carribean countries, it is the mostpopular genre. It is also popular in Europe. In fact, Europe was thefirst place where reggae broke out on a global scale. There are manyreggae artists whose careers have blosomed in Europe, particularlythe United Kingdom. An example of such a group is UB40 who are basedin the United Kingdom. Their career as reggae artists has flourishedand they are known all around the world. Their albums are some of themost sold albums around the world.
Everygenre has its icon or legend. For hip hop there is 2 Pac Shakur, pophas the legendary Michael Jackson and reggae has Bob Marley nad LuckyDube. Both artists are legends because of their popularity all overthe world. They also sold millions of records and spread messages ofpeace, love and harmony throughout the world using their music. Onecannot discuss the genre of reggae without discussing the input ofeither of these two artists.
LuckyDube began his music career with a band called the Skyway Band. He isalso the one who started the rastafari movement which is purelyinvolved with reggae music. The initial bands which he sang in playedzulu pop music. He later changed to reggae after the release of thefifth album with the band. It is at this time that he launched a solocareer after realizing that the fans were reacting well to reggaesongs. The first reggae mini album that he recorded was called RasteNever Die. It did not do so well because the genre was not verypopular at that time. His second album however, Think About TheChildren, had platinum sales status.
LuckyDube started his career in South Africa at a time when socialinjustices such as apartheid were very common. There was alsodiscrimination against skin colour and the general state of thepeople he was around was depressing. He used his music as a tool foractivism and this made him even more popular especially among theblacks who felt that they could relate to whatever he was that he wassaying. His songs had socio-political messages that were relevant toAfrican audiences. He is the one who made reggae popular in Africa.
is a unique genre compared to other types of music. There is a lot ofculture that is associated with reggae music. The Rastafarai movementis evidence of the rich culture that is associted with reggae. Themessages that are found in reggae music are also strong messages thattouch on social issues. In the years when it started, it was a meansthrough which artists talked about the evils that were going on insociety. Most reggae songs are usually touching and moving. Theirmessages, the rhythm of the songs and the mode of delivery make thempowerful tools through which artists can deliver their messages. Itis unique because even though other genres are changing with time, ithas succeeded in staying the same for a very long time. Most songs inin other genres are usually short lived but most reggae songs aretimeless. The songs that were sang back in the days still evoke thesame emotions years later. is not just a type of music but itis also a type of lifestyle. It is indeed a genre of music unlike anyother.
Hill,Donald R. CaribbeanFolklore: A Handbook.Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2007. Print.
Barrow,Steve, and Peter Dalton. TheRough Guide to .London: Rough Guides, 2004. Print.
JamaicaJournal.Kingston: Institute of Jamaica, 1967. Print.
Haskins,James. OneLove, One Heart: A History of .New York: Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children, 2002. Print.
Pollard,Velma. DreadTalk: The Language of Rastafari.Barbados [Jamaica: Canoe Press, 2000. Internet resource.