Reggae  

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Somewhere late in 1979 the Roots Radics laid down the riddims for Barrington Levy's first tunes for producer Junjo Lawes, credited at the time as the Channel One Stars. No one could envisage the importance of these sessions, but with hindsight we can point back to them as the inception of Jamaican dancehall music.

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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, although the word specifically indicates a particular music style that originated after the development of ska and rocksteady. Reggae is based on a rhythm style characterized by regular chops on the off-beat, known as the skank. The tempo is generally slower than that found in ska and rocksteady. Reggae is often associated with the Rastafari movement, which influenced many prominent reggae musicians in the 1970s and 1980s. Reggae song lyrics deal with many subjects, including faith, love, relationships, poverty, injustice and other broad social issues.

Contents

Precursors

Although strongly influenced by traditional African and Caribbean music, as well as by American rhythm and blues, reggae owes its direct origins to the progressive development of ska and rocksteady in 1960s Jamaica.

Ska music first arose in the studios of Jamaica over the years 1959 and 1961, itself a development of the earlier mento genre. Ska is characterized by a walking bass line, accentuated guitar or piano rhythms on the offbeat, and sometimes jazz-like horn riffs. Aside from its massive popularity amidst the Jamaican rude boy fashion, it had gained a large following among mods in Britain by 1964. According to Barrow, rude boys began deliberately playing their ska records at half speed, preferring to dance slower as part of their tough image.

By the mid-1960s, many musicians had begun playing the tempo of ska slower, while emphasizing the walking bass and offbeats. The slower sound was named rocksteady, after a single by Alton Ellis. This phase of Jamaican music lasted only until 1968, when musicians began to slow the tempo of the music again, and added yet more effects. This led to the creation of reggae.

The canon

King Tubby - Bob Marley - Lee Perry - Studio One

History

Reggae developed from mento, R&B, and Ska music in the 1960s. The shift from rocksteady to reggae was illustrated by the organ shuffle pioneered by Jamaican musicians like Jackie Mittoo and Winston Wright and featured in transitional singles "Say What You're Saying" (1967) by Clancy Eccles and "People Funny Boy" (1968) by Lee "Scratch" Perry. The Pioneers' 1968 track "Long Shot (Bus' Me Bet)" has been identified as the earliest recorded example of the new rhythm sound that became known as reggae.

Early 1968 was when the first bona fide reggae records were released: "Nanny Goat" by Larry Marshall and "No More Heartaches" by The Beltones. That same year, the newest Jamaican sound began to spawn big-name imitators in other countries. American artist Johnny Nash's 1968 hit "Hold Me Tight" has been credited with first putting reggae in the American listener charts.

The Wailers, a band started by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer in 1963, is perhaps the most recognized band that made the transition through all three stages of early Jamaican popular music: ska, rocksteady and reggae. Other significant reggae pioneers include Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker and Ken Boothe.

Notable Jamaican producers influential in the development of ska into rocksteady and reggae include: Coxsone Dodd, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Leslie Kong, Duke Reid, Joe Gibbs and King Tubby. Chris Blackwell, who founded Island Records in Jamaica in 1960, relocated to England in 1962, where he continued to promote Jamaican music. He formed a partnership with Lee Gopthal's Trojan Records in 1968, which released reggae in the UK until bought by Saga records in 1974.

Reggae influence bubbled to the top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in late 1972. First Three Dog Night hit #1 in September with a cover of the Maytones' version of "Black and White". Then Johnny Nash was at #1 for four weeks in November with "I Can See Clearly Now".

In 1973, the film The Harder They Come starring Jimmy Cliff was released and introduced Jamaican music to cinema audiences outside of Jamaica. Though the film achieved cult status its limited appeal meant that it had a smaller impact than Eric Clapton's 1974 cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" which made it onto the playlists of mainstream rock and pop radio stations worldwide. Clapton's "I Shot The Sheriff" used modern rock production and recording techniques and faithfully retained most of the original reggae elements; it was a breakthrough pastiche devoid of any parody and played an important part in bringing the music of Bob Marley to a wider rock audience. By the mid-1970s, authentic reggae dub plates and specials were getting some exposure in the UK on John Peel's radio show, who promoted the genre for the rest of his career. Around the same time, British filmmaker Jeremy Marre documented the Jamaican music scene in Roots Rock Reggae, capturing the heyday of roots reggae.

In the second half of the 1970s, the UK punk rock scene was starting to form, and reggae was a notable influence. The DJ Don Letts would play reggae and punk tracks at clubs such as The Roxy. Punk bands such as The Clash. The Ruts. The Members and The Slits played many reggae-influenced songs. Around the same time, reggae music took a new path in the UK; one that was created by the multiracial makeup of England's inner cities and exemplified by groups like Steel Pulse, Aswad and UB40, as well as artists such as Smiley Culture and Carroll Thompson. The Jamaican ghetto themes in the lyrics were replaced with UK inner city themes, and Jamaican patois became intermingled with Cockney slang. In South London around this time, a new subgenre of Lovers Rock, was being created. Unlike the Jamaican music of the same name which was mainly dominated by male artists such as Gregory Isaacs, the South London genre was led by female singers like Thompson and Janet Kay. The UK Lovers Rock had a softer and more commercial sound.

Other reggae artists who enjoyed international appeal in the early 1980s include Third World, Black Uhuru and Sugar Minott. The Grammy Awards introduced the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album category in 1985.

Related

black music - Channel One - dancehall - DJs - dub - homophobia in reggae - Island Records - Jamaica - lovers rock - marijuana - punk rock - rasta - r&b - remix - riddim - rocksteady - roots reggae - ska - sound system - Studio One - Trojan - version - Wackies

List of artists

Theo Beckford - Dennis Bovell - Sir Coxsone Dodd - The Clash - King Tubby - Bob Marley - Jackie Mittoo - Don Letts - Lee Perry - Roots Radics - Duke Reid - Sly & Robbie - Adrian Sherwood - Ernest Ranglin - Linval Thompson - Scientist


Connoisseurs

David Katz - Steve Barrow - Colin Larkin

Sound

Reggae is the only music that can successfully test any audio equipment -- Scientist

Etymology

As far as Jamaican record-buyers are concerned, the word reggae was coined on a 1968 Pyramid dance single, "Do the Reggay," (sic) by Toots and the Maytals.

The American Influence

There is an inescapable link between Jamaican reggae and US soul. Since the late 1950s, which saw ska born out of American R&B, the Jamaican reggae fraternity has always had a strong affiliation towards US soul, and later on, funk. --Chris King, amazon.co.uk

The European Influence

Reggae is a product of the union of West African rythms and European melody and harmony.

Dub

In 1971 the first real dub recordings began to appear, with The Hippy Boys' "Voo Doo" - the version to Little Roy's "Hard Fighter", which was mixed by Lynford Anderson a.k.a. Andy Capp - now widely acknowledged to be the first recording in the genre. -- Teacher & Mr. T.

Riddims

A rhythm, riddim in reggae vocabulary, is a rhythm pattern. It's basically a bassline and usually a special drumpattern is used with the bassline. Sometimes a short melody is associated with the riddim, but the main ingredient is the bassline. In other musical contexts it would be called a groove, and that pretty well sums up what it is about. Most riddims have originated from a hit tune, and usually the riddim has been given the name of that tune.

Ganja, marihuana

Herbal cannabis had always played a part in the medicinal and mystical rituals of ancient Africa and was probably well known to the slaves who worked the West Indian sugar plantations, but anthropologists contend that the herb didn't arrive in Jamaica until after slavery was abolished there in 1838, when it was brought by contract workers from the Indian sub-continent who were drafted in to fill the subsequent labour shortage. Certainly, the Jamaican term for herbal cannabis, 'ganja', is a Hindi word meaning 'sweet smelling', but also 'noisy'. Which is not a bad description of roots reggae. Easy Skanking

Lee Perry

The amount of work that Scratch has been involved with over a 35 year career is nothing short of staggering. Scratch's story is more or less the story of Jamaican music.

King Tubby

Today the remix and dub version are commonplace in popular music; less widely appreciated is the fact that these techniques were pioneered in a tiny studio a Kingston, Jamaica district called Waterhouse. That pioneer of dub was an electronics engineer and sound system operator named Osbourne Ruddock, but to the crowds who flocked to his dances, and the countless singers and record producers who utilised his skills, he was known as King Tubby. Steve Barrow

DJs

It is generally forgotten that the very first DJs were Jamaicans operating the mobile sound systems during the fifties and sixties. At that time, the DJ was the person talking live over the records, the 'selector' spinned a selection of American black dance music from the South and East of the United States. It was only when American radio started broadcasting rock 'n roll - a genre the Jamaicans liked less - that the Jamaicans started to produce their own music, ska in the early sixties, then rocksteady and by the end of the decade, reggae. DJ Kool Herc is credited with bringing this to the United States, when he left for New York in 1967, creating rap music in the process.

Reggae and disco

There is a link between reggae and disco that may not be that obvious, but which started when Kool Herc moved from Jamaica to New York and started to spin funk records in stead of his Jamaican hits. Later still, Larry Levan played an eclectic mix (including reggae) at the Paradise Garage. There is however, one decisive studio-moment where reggae and disco meet: The Padlock EP on Garage records, mixed by Larry Levan from original Island material by Sly and Robbie. "Seventh Heaven", "Peanut Butter", "Getting Hot", "Hop Scotch" are hybrid disco-reggae tracks played by Jamaican musicians, recorded at the Compass Point Studio with Gwen Guthrie on vocals.

Reggae and postmodern practice

There is no truth, there are only versions

Studio One

Studio One was one of the leading labels in Jamaican music industry. Its owner and founder Clement Seymour Dodd started producing music in late 1950s. Their tiny studio was located in 13 Brentford Road in Kingston. Many of Jamaica's leading artists have been part of Coxsone's musical family in some stage of their career, for example Bob Marley & The Wailers, Horace Andy, Bob Andy, Dennis Brown, Freddie McGregor, Lee Perry etc.

Disco mixes

Studio One Showcase albums

During the [late] seventies in Jamaica the 12" mix of popular songs came into fashion. As a result of the popularity of these 12" singles Coxsone Dodd compiled and released some "Showcase" albums.

Always a hit factory, [Studio One] came close to completely dominating the Jamaican dance floor with the emergence of the long-playing 12-inch “discomix” in the [late] 1970s. Studio One capitalized on the extended discomix format, successfully recycling some of its best material from the 1960s. Older hits were updated simply by mixing in lengthy instrumental endings. The popularity of the discomix allowed the label to prolong its reign, even after its most creative period had passed. Because a discomix filled up an entire side of a [12"] record, a hit song had the power to keep competing records off the DJs turntable for a good long time.

[Studio One produced about 50 12" mixes, Wackies about 50 too.]

Punk

"Here comes Johnny Reggae... Punk and Reggae poles apart one would think. Heavy slow bass driven toons versus tinny white boy thrash. Quasi mystical ganga based black man beat versus white swastika toting amphetamine driven nihilism.. Punk and reggae became intertwined because to two of punks influential stars, Mr Rotten and the boys in the Clash, reggae was very much a part of their musical scene and growing up and each vied to say they loved it more than the other as an influence." -- Paul Marko

Dancehall

Somewhere late in 1979 the Roots Radics laid down the riddims for Barrington Levy's first tunes for producer Junjo Lawes, credited at the time as the Channel One Stars. No one could envisage the importance of these sessions, but with hindsight we can point back to them as the inception of Jamaican dancehall music.

Adrian Sherwood

When British producer Adrian Sherwood started his On-U-Sound label in 1980 as an outlet for scruffy punks and righteous rastas infatuated with reggae and its experimental spectrum of dub, he just wanted to make good records. In the process, he influenced a legion of producers, decimated the boundaries of funk, noise, and reggae, and as a member of Tackhead, made the position of the live mixing engineer a viable band member in terms of creative input.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Reggae" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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