The Development of Reggae Music in Jamaica

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Reggae is a direction of contemporary music that emerged in Jamaica in the late 1960s and has been widely spread since the early 1970s.

Reggae can be simultaneously both dance and relaxation music. It is a protest music that follows the traditions of African culture, in which the rhythm, dance, and music coexist with other phenomena and events.

The formulation employed of instruments includes electric guitar, bass guitar, drums, electro; sometimes a group of wind instruments is used. The main features of reggae are a moderate pace, size - 4/4, the emphasis in the accompaniment on the 2nd and 4th lobe, syncopated bass pattern (downbeat ignored or shifted), breaks in high tones, or timbales.

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The acknowledged king of reggae is a singer and songwriter Bob Marley. Most of the reggae songs embrace Rastafarian ideology and it is saturated with symbols of this religious movement.

The Development of Reggae

In the first half of the XX century, the most common genre of music in Jamaica was Mento. These were the songs performed by roving musicians, representing a fusion of religious hymns, spirituals, work songs, calypso style, and the diversity of traditions of the Caribbean. Mento was folk music, similar to American country blues.

After the Second World War, the island has been penetrated by a lot of new music, mostly from the United States. This was mainly due to the fact that there was the massive use of radios and players. Jamaicans were particularly close to recording artists in the style of rhythm and blues such as Bo Didley, Fats Domino, Louis Jordan, James Brown, and then rock-n-roll - Chuck Berry, Little Richard, etc.

In the 1950s, there was a phenomenon in Jamaica, which was called “the Jamaican sound system” (Brunning, 1999). Most of the island's population that lived in extreme poverty, could not afford to have a player. Some enterprising and resourceful Jamaicans bought or personally designed fairly powerful sound systems, consisting of the player and amplification equipment. They placed the resulting set on the cart, and took it to the city or the countryside, arranging impromptu discos in the square, street corner, etc.

In the late 1950s, some entrepreneurs or owners of the famous "sound systems" began to open private music studios where local artists recorded and released their records. Since it was the beginning in developing their own Jamaican music industry, the center of which was the capital of country, Kingston.

Adapting an American rhythm and blues to the peculiarities of the Caribbean rhythms, Jamaican musicians have invented a new style. New style, dubbed ska, had typically the same wiggle and highlighting weak beat, which later moved to reggae.

During the playback of disco-ska songs, the owners of "sound systems" often accompanied the songs by their own comments, saying the phrases on top of the music. This is how the toasting genre was born.

To adapt the vinyl to the needs of disco, artists have tried every possible way to modify their original sound. They have taken out some instruments to the forefront while muting other. Thus, the dub, a new direction of Jamaican music, emerged.

In the second half of 1960s, as a consequence of the connection of ska and soul, a new style, rock steady, which is a precursor of reggae, was born. It had almost all the major features of reggae, with the exception of the fact that it had a faster tempo. The primary audiences of rock steady were poor young urban neighborhoods of Jamaica.

In the second half of 1960s, the top ranks of the Jamaican charts were occupied by groups such as the “Untouchables”, “Maytals”, “Maytones”, “Slickers” and “Heptones”. Among the performers were Desmond Dekker, Delroy Wilson, and Alton Ellis. Since then, the Jamaican music began to penetrate the U.S. and Europe. A typical example is the song of “The Beatles” - On-La-Di-La-On Yes, 1968, which is a simulation of rock steady. In the late 1960s, the rate of rock steady became slower and more unhurried. And gradually began to emerge a new style, which was called reggae (Veal, 2007).

Intensification of the struggle of black people for their rights in the United States, the time of the “Black Revolution”, and the heyday of the “Black Power” movement had an impact on the Jamaican music. Protest songs, written in the late 1960s, contained calls to return to the roots and resist the system that suppresses the black man. Reggae lyrics instead of being harmless became more filled with symbolism and biblical images and stories.

Bob Marley

In the early 1970s, a band of Bob Marley's “The Wailers” comes to the forefront. Their third album became a worldwide sensation (Veal, 2007).

Since the mid-1970s, style of reggae has become a worldwide cultural phenomenon, and Bob Marley became the symbol of this phenomenon. Elements of reggae interacted with various musical styles, and its rhythm attracts many listeners and musicians.

Reggae music is one of the most famous cultural aspects of Jamaica.

The largest contribution to the development of reggae music was made by Robert Nestor Marley, better known as Bob Marley.

Bob Marley, who died in 1981, at the age of 36 from brain cancer, became the most famous performer of reggae outside of Jamaica. He was born in the village of Sainte-Anne. In the early 70's, he moved to a small wooden house, which was a gift from Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records. But once in 1976 during a rehearsal he was almost shot in the house, he rarely lived in.

The house, in which he lived, has now been declared a museum of Bob Marley and it is being protected as a national heritage of Jamaica.