ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Entertainment and Media»
  • Music

A History of Jamaican Reggae

Updated on October 20, 2011

Mention Jamaica and most peoples instant thought perhaps, is Reggae music, and most likely, especially for a non Jamaican, it will be the legendary Bob Marley.

However, the history of Reggae is much longer than this and started around the early 1950s with ‘mento’ music, which was a mix of European and African dance music.

As most Jamaicans lived in near poverty, for entertainment they would get today to play the records of the day, and often the people who operated the sound systems would become almost celebrities, often ‘toasting’ or adding lyrics over the record, perhaps and early forerunner of rap styles.

The first record label in Jamaica was formed in 1954 and musicians began to form bands leading to the first distinctive Jamaican music which was called ‘bluebeat’ which revolved around saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, drums and bass.

It wasn’t long before the prominent indentifying sound of Jamaican music came to the fore with the bass booming from the records at levels not commonly associated with European music. This rhythmic style eventually developed into what we know as Ska music.

The first Ska record to be recorded was ‘Easy Snapping’ by Theophilus Beckford in 1959 but the best known Ska singer was, without a doubt, Prince Buster who recorded such classics as ‘Al Capone’ and ‘Whine and Grine’.

Another popular, if perhaps unlikely hit, was Millie Small’s ‘My Boy Lollipop’. This was followed by Desmond Dekker with ‘The Israelites’.

Ska music became very popular with the skinhead movement in the UK

Eventually, Ska ran its course and developed into a more laid back yet highly political music known as Rocksteady, named after an Alton Ellis hit. Guitars came to the fore in this style, often replacing the horns which were previously so common.  The music became identified with youth movements such as the Jamaican Rude Boys and the Punks in the Uk, producing anthemic songs such as ‘Judge Dread’ by Prince Buster.  The other change in this form is that vocals came to the front of the music much more leading to groups such as the wailers and the Maytals coming forward.

The word Reggae, up until this point had not yet been heard of but came around 1960 to emphasise a looser form of dance music based on a syncopated beat which had become popular with the Rastafarians. This style of music reverted back more to the bass sound. This ‘dark’ sound was often identified with the criminal underworld and gang violence but songs like ‘Wonderful world, beautiful people’ by Jimmy Cliff brought the music to the attention of the ‘peace and love’ ear in the US.

Eventually, the music became sweeter and more suited to European ears which led to the massive success of Bob Marley and the Wailers, by far the most popular Reggae musician of all time.

 

There was still however, another less commercial side to the development of Reggae with the advent of Dub music which basically came about through sound engineers playing around with B sides of singles and adding echoes and sound effects to them. One of the best known of these was King Tubby. Whilst this type of reggae never became commercially popular, it undoubtedly had a major influence on many musicians.

Once again though, a more commercial style came to the fore and Jamaican artists started to earn a decent living. Amongst them Burning Spear, U Roy, Culture, Dennis Brown and Lovers Rock singer Janet Kay who recorded the classic ‘Silly Games’

British bands such as UB40 and Aswad also adapted the style for a British audience successfully in the 1980s and bands such as the Clash and the Slits used Reagge influences heavily in their music.

The music once again moved on and dancehall became the latest sound although this has often been criticised for its aggression and attitude towards women and homophobic lyrics.

 

Credited as the first Ska Record

Another early Ska record by the legendary Prince Buster

And onto some Dub Reggae

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Camille Harris profile image

      Camille Harris 6 years ago from SF Bay Area

      "As most Jamaicans lived in near poverty, for entertainment they would get today to play the records of the day, and often the people who operated the sound systems would become almost celebrities, often ‘toasting’ or adding lyrics over the record, perhaps and early forerunner of rap styles."

      Nice Hub! The sentence above was a little confusing

    • nightflight9 profile image

      nightflight9 6 years ago from Scandinavia

      Great, good to read + deep insight! NICE hub!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)