Reggae is a music genre first developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s.
While sometimes used in a broader sense to refer to most types of Jamaican music, the term reggae more properly denotes a particular music style that originated following on the development of ska and rocksteady. Reggae is based on a rhythm style characterized by regular chops on the off-beat, known as the skank. The tempo is generally slower than that found in ska. Reggae usually has accents on the 3rd beat in each bar, there being four beats in a bar; many people think it's accentuated on the 2nd and 4th, because of the rhythm guitar.
Reggae is often associated with the Rastafari movement, an influence on many prominent reggae musicians from its inception. Reggae song lyrics deal with many subjects, including faith, love, sexuality, relationships, poverty, injustice and other broad social issues.
R&B, Jazz, Blues, Mento, Calypso, Ska, Rocksteady
Late 1960s Jamaica, especially Kingston
Bass - Drums - Guitar - Organ - Brass instrument - Melodica
Early 1970s onward, varied
Dancehall - Drum and bass - Trip hop
Roots reggae - Dub - Dub poetry - Toasting - Lovers rock - Dancehall - Ragga
Reggaeton - Seggae - 2 Tone
African - Australia - Japan - Kanéka - New Zealand - Nigeria - Philippines
Music of Jamaica - List of reggae musicians
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".
The word reggae as a musical term first appeared in print with the 1968 rocksteady hit "Do the Reggay" by The Maytals, but it was already being used in Kingston, Jamaica as the name of a slower dance and style of rocksteady. As Reggae artist Derrick Morgan stated:
We didn't like the name rock steady, so I tried a different version of "Fat Man". It changed the beat again, it used the organ to creep. Bunny Lee, the producer, liked that. He created the sound with the organ and the rhythm guitar. It sounded like ‘reggae, reggae' and that name just took off. Bunny Lee started using the world [sic] and soon all the musicians were saying ‘reggae, reggae, reggae.
Reggae historian 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 it's [sic] 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 regis meaning "to the king."
Music of Jamaica
Kumina - Niyabinghi - Mento - Ska - Rocksteady - Reggae - Sound systems - Lovers rock - Dub - Dancehall - Dub poetry - Toasting - Raggamuffin - Roots reggae
Anglophone Caribbean music
Anguilla - Antigua and Barbuda - Bahamas - Barbados - Bermuda - Caymans - Grenada - Jamaica - Montserrat - St. Kitts and Nevis - St. Vincent and the Grenadines - Trinidad and Tobago - Turks and Caicos - Virgin Islands
Other Caribbean music
Aruba and the Dutch Antilles - Cuba - Dominica - Dominican Republic - Haiti - Hawaii - Martinique and Guadeloupe - Puerto Rico - St. Lucia - United States - United Kingdom
Although strongly influenced by both traditional African and Caribbean music, as well as by American rhythm and blues, reggae owes its direct origins to the progressive development of ska and rocksteady in 1960s Jamaica.
Ska music first arose in the studios of Jamaica over the years 1959 and 1961, itself a development of the earlier mento genre. Ska is characterized by a walking bass line, accentuated guitar or piano rhythms on the offbeat, and sometimes jazz-like horn riffs. Aside from its massive popularity amidst the Jamaican rude boy fashion, it had gained a large following among mods in Britain by 1964. According to Barrow, rude boys began deliberately playing their ska records at half speed, preferring to dance slower as part of their tough image.
By the mid-1960s, many musicians had begun playing the tempo of ska slower, while emphasizing the walking bass and offbeats. The slower sound was named rocksteady, after a single by Alton Ellis. This phase of Jamaican music lasted only until 1968, when musicians began to slow the tempo of the music again, and added yet more effects. This led to the creation of reggae.
Origins and development
The shift from rocksteady to reggae was illustrated by the organ shuffle pioneered by Bunny Lee, and featured in the transitional singles "Say What You're Saying" (1967) by Clancy Eccles, and "People Funny Boy" (1968) by Lee "Scratch" Perry. The Pioneers' 1967 track "Long Shot Bus' Me Bet" has been identified as the earliest recorded example of the new rhythm sound that would soon become known as reggae.
Early 1968 was when the first bona fide reggae records came into being: "Nanny Goat" by Larry Marshall and "No More Heartaches" by The Beltones. Music historian Piero Scaruffi credits American artist Johnny Nash's 1968 hit "Hold Me Tight" with first putting reggae on the American listener charts.
The Wailers, started by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer in 1963, are generally agreed to be the most easily recognised group worldwide that made the transition through all three stages — from ska hits like "Simmer Down", through slower rocksteady; and they are also among the significant pioneers who can be called the roots of reggae — along with Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker, Jackie Mittoo and several others. Some of the many notable Jamaican producers who were highly influential in the development of ska into rocksteady and reggae in the 1960s include Coxsone Dodd, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Leslie Kong, Duke Reid, Joe Gibbs and King Tubby.
Among these early producers was Chris Blackwell, who founded Island Records in Jamaica in 1959, then relocated to England in 1962, where he continued to promote Jamaican music. He formed a partnership with Trojan Records, founded by Lee Gopthal in 1968, which lasted until 1972. Trojan continued to produce reggae artists in the UK until 1974, when it was bought by Saga.