The History of Reggae: A Timeline

Reggae is a genre of music that has long been a part of Jamaican culture. It is a style of music that has been embraced around the world and has influenced a variety of different genres. To better understand the development and evolution of reggae, let’s take a look at a timeline of its history.


The roots of reggae can be traced back to the late 1800s, when the African-influenced music of the Jamaican Maroons began to emerge. The Maroons were a group of people who had escaped slavery and settled in the mountains of Jamaica. They created a unique blend of traditional African rhythms and the ragtime music that had become popular in the US. This early form of reggae was known as mento and it was the foundation for the reggae sound.

In the late 1800s, Jamaican music began to evolve into ska, which is a faster form of mento. Ska was heavily influenced by jazz and calypso music, and was the precursor to rocksteady, the first true form of reggae.


In the 1960s, rocksteady was born in Jamaica. This new style of music was slower and more soulful than ska, and it was heavily influenced by American R&B. Reggae began to emerge in the late 1960s, and was characterized by a slower tempo and a heavy emphasis on rhythm and bass. This new style of music quickly gained popularity in Jamaica and began to spread around the world.

In 1968, the song “Do the Reggay” by Toots and the Maytals was released and is widely considered to be the first reggae song. This song was a major milestone in the development of reggae and helped to popularize the genre.


In the 1970s, reggae began to gain more international exposure as it spread to the United States and Europe. The most popular reggae artists of this era were Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, and Burning Spear. These iconic musicians helped to popularize reggae around the world, and many of their songs remain popular today.

The 1970s also saw the emergence of the roots reggae subgenre, which was characterized by its slower tempo and spiritual lyrics. This style of reggae was heavily influenced by the Rastafarian movement, and some of the most popular roots reggae artists included Lee “Scratch” Perry, Max Romeo, and Burning Spear.

1980s and Beyond

In the 1980s, reggae began to diversify into a variety of subgenres, including dancehall, dub, and ragga. These subgenres were heavily influenced by hip hop and electronic music, and they helped to keep reggae relevant in the modern music scene. Reggae also continued to gain popularity in Europe and the United States, and some of the most popular reggae artists of this era included Shabba Ranks, UB40, and Shaggy.

Today, reggae is still popular around the world and continues to evolve and diversify. Some of the most popular reggae artists of today include Sean Paul, Shaggy, and Damian Marley. Reggae has also had a major influence on a variety of different genres, including hip hop, rock, and pop.


Reggae is a genre of music with a long and varied history. From its early beginnings in the late 1800s to its modern-day popularity, reggae has been an influential force in popular music. Its unique combination of African rhythms and soulful melodies has captivated audiences around the world, and it continues to evolve and diversify. The next time you listen to reggae, take a moment to reflect on its fascinating history.

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