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The Reggae Influene

Updated on November 3, 2016

Jamaica is the cultural home of reggae

The genre

Reggae music has graced ears since the late 1960's. With roots in Jamaica, its smooth soul like sound and 'bopping' beat can be found in many of the songs we all listen to today. Before we get into that, what is Reggae?

Well the term reggae itself comes from the 1968 song 'Do the Raggay' by Toots and the Maytals, but the genre was alive before then. The exact start of Reggae is hard to pin point, with Jamaica being a self vibrant community in the 60's, but notable songs such as the aforementioned are great starting points as these are the singles that made reggae a phenomenon

So what defines reggae? defines it as:

'A form of pop music that originated in Jamaica, combining elements of calypso and rhythm and blues with a strongly accentuated offbeat.'.

The offbeat refers to the rhythmic beat being what would be deciphered as different to your typical beat pattern. That is the percussion would normally fall on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th beat of a bar, whereas in reggae it may fall in between the beats or in an unusual pattern. Also, reggae is renowned for using the bass as a percussion like instrument.

The most famous reggae artists are names such as Toots and the Maytals famous for sings such as the one mentioned as well as 54-46 Was My Number and Hey Louis, Bob Marley of One Love, Buffalo Soldier and many more fame, Desmond Decker of Israelites fame and even Shaggy of Mr. Bombastic, Wasn't Me and many more fame.

The coining of the term reggae

Disco has a lot to thank artists such as Bob Marley for

How did reggae birth other genres?

So how does a 1960's Jamaican born genre have influence in this day and age? well the use of bass in reggae is what has pushed genre's such as bassline, garage and now grime into reality. Bass heavy songs have a very direct thank you to make to the key figures in reggae, without them a percussion line formed from the bass instrument would be non-existent, ending the careers of many artists before they even began.

Disco, a 1970-80's phenomenon also has a great deal to thank its Jamaican counterparts for. With many smash disco hits having heavy reggae influence. Of course the community that thrived in disco is famously the black community, with many artists being black, and often these had Jamaican relatives or roots that exposed them to reggae as a genre. this disco influence then evolved into more recent genres such as house. Although direct links between reggae may be hard to see at first, again the bassline influence of reggae holds true throughout its path into house music. Also, the steps from disco to house would never have been possible without reggae first allowing the birth of disco.

Can you spot the reggae influence here?

Make it Bun Dem

No Problem

Prominent influence

Although the above memntioned influence does exist, it is not always easy to see. There are songs however that prove that reggae has influenced so many genre's so clearly.

The first of these is Skrillex and Damien Marley's 2013 dub step hit Make it Bun Dem. straight out the bat, Damien Marley's vocals being used on this track is an instant reggae influence. Throughout the song, his Jamaican roots are on full audio display. It is extremely difficult to deny any reggae influence here.

Secondly, Chase and Status' 2011 drum and bass hit No Problem is another reggae influenced track that smashed its way into the mainstream. the vocalist is undeniably reggae rooted, and the bass line throughout has an offbeat pattern that is easily comparable to that of reggae's percussion styled bass instrumental.

As you can see, these are two strongly influenced songs in the modern mainstream, but they are certainly not the limit of reggae's influence. Artists such as Craig David, Big Narstie, Boy Better Known and General Levy all display Jamaican influence whether it be through vocals, instrumentals or even in their lyrics. Not too mention notable artists such as Kano regularly refer to reggae and Jamaica and even pay homage to it in their songs.


To summarise my argument, reggae's 1960 Jamaican roots still ring true all the way to the 2010's. With the evolution of the genre into disco and then further into house, bassline, garage, grime and many other current forms of music it is an undeniable influence throughout all of them. With artists such as Craig David and Kano still paying homage to their influences from Jamaica, we cannot ignore it as a key reason for many of our current genres being in the form they are currently.

Long live its influence


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