2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Musical genres, styles, eras and events

Stylistic origins: R&B, Jazz, Mento, Calypso, Ska, Rocksteady
Cultural origins: Late 1960s, Jamaica, especially Kingston
Typical instruments: Bass - Drums - Guitar - Organ - Brass - Melodica
Mainstream popularity: Early 1970s onwards, worldwide
Derivative forms: Trip hop - Drum and bass - Dancehall
Roots reggae - Dub - Dub poetry - Toasting - Lovers rock - Dancehall - Ragga
Fusion genres
Reggaeton - Seggae - 2 Tone
Regional scenes
African - New Zealand
Other topics
Jamaica - Rastafari movement - Haile Selassie - Marcus Garvey

Reggae is a music genre developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s.

The term reggae is sometimes used in a broad sense to refer to most types of Jamaican music, including ska, rocksteady and dub. The term is more specifically used to indicate a particular style that originated after the development of rocksteady. In this sense, reggae includes two sub-genres: roots reggae (the original reggae) and dancehall reggae, which originated in the late 1970s. Reggae is founded upon a rhythm style characterized by regular chops on the back beat, known as the skank. This rhythmic style is played by a rhythm guitar and a bass drum hitting on the third beat of each measure, known as the one drop. This beat is slower than that found in reggae's precursors, ska and rocksteady. Reggae is often associated with the Rastafari movement, which influenced many prominent reggae musicians in the 1970s and 1980s. However, reggae songs lyrics also deal with many other subjects, including love, sexuality and broad social commentary.


Music of Jamaica

Kumina - Nyabinghi- 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
Sound samples
Other Caribbean music
Aruba and the Dutch Antilles - Cuba - Dominica - Dominican Republic - Haiti - Martinique and Guadeloupe - Puerto Rico - St. Lucia - United States - United Kingdom

Reggae's origins can be found in traditional African and Caribbean music, as well as Rhythm and blues of the United States. Ska and rocksteady are 1960s precursors of reggae. In 1963, Jackie Mittoo, pianist with the ska band The Skatalites was asked to run sessions and compose original music by record producer Coxsone Dodd at his Studio One recording studio. Mittoo, with the help of drummer Lloyd Knibbs, turned the traditional ska beat into reggae, by slowing down the rhythm. Bob Marley, who popularized reggae worldwide, recorded rocksteady records early in his career. By the late 1960s, reggae was getting radio play in the United Kingdom on John Peel's radio show.

It is thought that the word reggae was first used by the ska band Toots and the Maytals, in the title of their 1968 hit Do the Reggay. Other theories say the term came from the word streggae, a Jamaican slang term for prostitute, or that it originated from the term Regga, which was a Bantu-speaking tribe from Lake Tanganyika.

Roots reggae

Roots reggae is the name given to explicitly Rastafarian reggae: a spiritual type of music whose lyrics are predominantly in praise of Jah (God). Recurrent lyrical themes include poverty and resistance to government oppression. The creative pinnacle of roots reggae may have been in the late 1970s, with singers such as Burning Spear, Johnny Clarke, Horace Andy, Barrington Levy, and Linval Thompson teaming up with studio producers including Lee 'Scratch' Perry, King Tubby, and Coxsone Dodd. The experimental pioneering of producers within often-restrictive technological parameters gave birth to dub music, which has been considered one of the earliest contributions to the developments of Techno music.


The style of reggae music known as Rockers began in the mid 1970s. It was pioneered by the then Studio One house band called The Revolutionaries. The so-called "Rockers Rhythms" were essentially updated versions of Studio One classics from the rock steady era. Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, the bass player and drummer, developed Rockers as a more militant style than the One Drop reggae of the early to mid 70s. It is also sometimes characterized as having a more mechanical sound than earlier reggae, with drum and bass working together to drive each song forward with aggressive persistence. Rockers soon became the preferred style by reggae musicians and fans alike. Sly and Robbie backed such reggae legends as Peter Tosh and Black Uhuru. Other Rockers artists include Jacob Miller & Inner Circle, Steel Pulse, Aswad, Sound Dimension, Johnny Osbourne, Augustus Pablo, and Cornel Campbell.

Newer styles and spin-offs

In Jamaica, newer styles of reggae have become popular; among them, dancehall and ragga (also known as raggamuffin). The toasting style first used by artists such as U-Roy and Dillinger had a worldwide impact when Jamaican DJ Kool Herc used it to pioneer a new genre that became known as hip hop and rap. In Jamaica, the term Dee Jay or DJ is equivalent to the rapper or MC in American hip hop culture. Mixing techniques employed in dub music (an instrumental sub-genre of reggae) have influenced hip hop and the musical style known as drum and bass. Another new style is new reggae, made popular by the ska band Sublime.

Lyrical themes

Social and religious issues

One of the main themes of reggae music has been social liberation. This has both political and religious aspects. The music attempts to raise the political consciousness of the audience:

The American dream
Is not what it seem.
Why do you slumber? ( Jimmy Cliff, "American Dream" 1983)

It also militates for freedom from religious delusion:

Most people think
Great God will come from the sky
Take away everything
And make everybody feel high
But if you know what life is worth
You would look for yours on earth
And now you see the light
So stand up for your right. (Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, " Get Up, Stand Up")

Lyrics often discuss repression of many kinds, including that linked with the prohibition of ganja ( cannabis), which is considered a sacrament by Rastafarians.


Some of the lyrical themes in reggae music have been viewed as controversial. The most controversial of these themes have been cannabis and homophobia. Other topics that have been seen as controversial include: black/African militancy, anti-racism, misogyny, anti- colonialism, anti-capitalism, criticism of political systems, and criticism of the colonial education system. Some of these themes — like marijuana use — have been prevalent in reggae music throughout the history of the music, whilst others — such as homophobia — are a more recent phenomenon. Dancehall music has also included themes of violence, sexism, and misogyny.


The promotion of cannabis use (through lyrics, images and lifestyle) has been a staple of reggae since its inception. The prominence of marijuana in reggae music primarily stems from the Rastafarian religion, which considers marijuana use a sacrament. Jamaica, incidentally, has some of the harshest anti-marijuana laws in the world. Bob Marley's Catch a Fire album cover, showing him smoking a spliff, was controversial at the time the album was first issued. Peter Tosh often performed with a spliff in hand, and lobbied for the decriminalization of marijuana. His most famous song is titled "Legalize It", and he was imprisoned multiple times in Jamaica for marijuana possession.


Dancehall music has come under increased criticism from Jamaican and international organizations for homophobic lyrics. Dancehall music has incited instances of gay bashing. Anti-homosexual themes have been associated with dancehall music throughout its history. To some degree, these themes stem from the anti-homosexual (though not necessarily violent) sentiment of Jamaicans in general. Homosexual activity is illegal in Jamaica, as in most former British colonies in the Caribbean (see LGBT rights in Jamaica). J-FLAG, a Jamaican gay rights organization, has described homophobic lyrics as a "widespread cultural bias against homosexuals and bisexuals." The dancehall artists in question believe that legal or commercial sanctions are essentially an attack against freedom of speech.

The increased criticism of dancehall music by international organisations is often attributed to the increased international exposure of the music, especially with regards to international media and the Internet. Dancehall has always included themes of not only homophobia, but of violence, sexism, and misogyny as well, which have come under their share of criticism: "Whether the homophobia and misogyny (that also blight almost all current reggae) are carryovers from tight-assed, purse-mouthed, colonial-era Brit sexual fear or personal limitation, the result was lyrical statements too stupid to be spoken." (Elena Oumano, "Fire Down Below:Capleton's Still Blazin in The Village Voice )

Reggae music festivals

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