Origin of Reggae Music

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The lyrics that are found in Reggae, helps to calm and sharpen the mind about what the world is really like. In a sense Reggae music is like a teacher West Indian singers who have made it to the international music charts serve as an inspiration to my generation. Therefore only fitting that I research Reggae, it origin and what it has to offer to those who do not know its value.

Reggae is a stem of Caribbean music which represents Caribbean and African culture and the Rastafarian religion. It is becoming increasingly popular in the present world because of its influential power.

It originated in Jamaica in the late 1960’s. The word reggae itself is a Jamaican term for Ragga which could mean Ragged, Street rough and in some ways it signifies poor people struggling. The word reggae may have first appeared in the song “Do the reggay” by the Jamaican group, the Maytals.

This is a quote from the singer Derrick Morgan speaking about the origin of the word Reggae “We didn’t like the name rock steady, so I tried a different version of “Fat Man”. It changed the beat again…. It sounded like ‘reggae, reggae’ and that name just took off. Bunny Lee started using the word and soon all the musicians were saying ‘reggae, reggae, reggae.'”

Lead singer of the Maytals, Toots Hibbert, says about the creation of the word Reggae “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 name. Before that people had called it blue-beat and all kind of other things. Now it’s in the Guinness World of Records.”

This style of music is also associated with the Rastafarian Movement and is seen through the lyrics which deal with matters such as Love, Faith, Religion, Poverty, and Political Injustice. The Rastafari Movement is a religious development that accepts Hailie Selassie as Jah, the God Incarnate. This movement also advocates Marcus Garvey’s teachings to its followers. The Rastafarians’ belief also includes the spiritual use of Cannabis (Ganja), the love and respect for all living things and black supremacy.

Reggae was and is still used as a channel to promote the Rastafari Movement. It is a form of music derived from other West Indian music like Rock-Steady and Ska. Although Ska is a type of Caribbean music, it is actually a hybrid of Rhythm’n Blues (R&B) out of New Orleans mixed with Jamaican folk music. American R&B served as a stepping stone for Jamaica’s music. When the songs were broadcasted over the radio, Jamaicans appreciated its style and merged it with their own music. Before reggae was invented there were other popular styles of music in the Caribbean other than Rock-Steady and Ska. There were also Mento and Calypso.

Reggae first gained international popularity through the work of Jamiacan Jimmy Cliff. Research shows that he became very popular from the movie, “The harder they come” (1973) and the song “The harder they come” he sung on the movie’s reggae soundtrack.

Although Jimmy Cliff was the first to gain such popularity, Reggae did not stop there. The second and most likely the most influential, memorable, artistic and significant Reggae singer of them all was Robert “Bob” Nesta Marley who we all know as Bob Marley. He was a singer, guitarist and songwriter and in the 1960’s Bob Marley along with The Wailers recorded albums which received international acclaim and took Reggae to another level.

The group was started by Bob Marley and also included Bunny Livingston and Peter Tosh. Together they recorded hit albums like Catch A Fire (1972), Burnin’ (1973), Natty Dread (1975), and Live (1975). Eventually, the group broke-up but this did not stop either Marley or the others from performing. Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston both became successful soloists.

However, Marley remained the most significant artist of the former group and through Marley’s work Reggae became a global phenomenal. Marley had already received the image of a rebel in society. The politcians considered his brand of Regae to be rebel music because his lyrics amounted to political militant songs that made mockery of Governments and opposed their policies in some ways. Marley backed the Rastafarian Movement and also implemented elements of Spiritualism and Mysticism into his lyrics.

He is world renowned for his music. He composed the top reggae albums Exodus (1977), Babylon by Bus (1978), Kaya (1978), and Uprising (1980). During this era, Reggae was impressively successful and was adored worldwide by Bob Marley’s fans. He opened a channel of success which served as a guide light for other Reggae singers in the Caribbean.

Recent years have shown a degree of Reggae music taking on different shapes and styles to some degree. One evolution is a new genre called Dancehall, a more upbeat style that the majority of the younger generation seem to enjoy. But although the Reggae world is changing, many persons still cling to the Rastafari Movement and classify traditional Reggae as Classical.

Reggae is “Rasta music” to the Rastafarians, cultural music to other West Indian,s and of course evokes a sense of History for African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans. In today’s world, the love of Reggae is celebrated in Reggae fests and some persons mourn the death of Black leaders and idols by playing reggae songs on the date of their death or birthday.

Reggae – Not Just Limited To Jamaica

Music from the Caribbean Islands has long entertained fans world over. Music such as Calypso, dance hall, and ska have evolved from each other and over a period of time have got fused into what is known as reggae.

Reggae has been influenced a lot by African rhythms and American blues. This genre of music is characterized by strong bass line and bass drum beating which end up giving reggae its own unique flavor.

Reggae originated on the island of Jamaica. This island nation is home to numerous musicians and record producers from Jamaica have launched careers of many reggae musicians. Reggae musicians like Horace Andy and Burning Spear have achieved international fame. However, the most popular artiste from this genre of music is none other than Bob Marley. He enjoyed legendary status and was accorded a state funeral in Jamaica upon his demise.

Then there is Johnny Nash, Desmond Dekker and Jimmy Cliff who have had tremendous success in the British pop charts. Bands like UB40, The Clash, The Police and Selector have managed to fuse reggae with rock and roll. UB40 is one of the first and most successful multi-racial groups in the UK promoting a fusion of reggae and rock.

Reggae music covers a lot of social issues like political freedom and poverty. These songs have become synonymous with people who grow up in shanty towns and struggle to make ends meets. Some of the songs from this genre are about Rastafarian religion, which was made popular across the world by the legendary Bob Marley. However, some songs are controversial as they defend the use of cannabis.

Reggae has influenced many other forms of music. However, music experts agree that reggae needs another alluring and captivating figure like Bob Marley to spread the music even further.

Written by: Kail Whyte of Karizmedia

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