Reggae

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. Reggae usually has accents on the 2nd and 4th beat in each bar, there being four beats in a bar.

History
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Vivien Goldman: An interview with Bob Marley’s biographerReggae’s origins are in traditional African and Caribbean music; American rhythm and blues; and in Jamaican ska and rocksteady.

The word reggae may have been first used by the vocal group the Maytals, in the title of their 1968 rocksteady hit Do the Reggay. The Oxford English Dictionary says the origin of the word is unknown, but may be derived from the Jamaican-English word rege-rege, meaning quarrel. Other theories are that the word means torn clothes or that the term came from the word streggae (a Jamaican slang term for prostitute).

Music of Jamaica
Kumina – Niyabinghi – Mento – Ska – Rocksteady – Reggae – Sound systems – Lovers Rock – Dub – Dancehall – Dub poetry – Toasting – Raggamuffin – Roots reggae

Anglophone Caribbean music
Anguilla – Antigua and Barbuda – Bahamas – Barbados – Bermuda – Caymans – Grenada – Jamaica – Montserrat – St. Kitts and Nevis – St. Vincent and the Grenadines – Trinidad and Tobago – Turks and Caicos – Virgin Islands
Sound samples
Other Caribbean music
Aruba and the Dutch Antilles – Cuba – Dominica – Dominican Republic – Haiti – Hawaii – Martinique and Guadeloupe – Puerto Rico – St. Lucia – United States – United Kingdom
As far as Jamaican record buyers were concerned, the origin of the word reggae was the 1968 Pyramid single by Toots and the Maytals “Do the Reggay” (sic). By the mid 1970s, reggae was getting radio play in the United Kingdom on John Peel’s radio show, and Peel continued to play much reggae during his career. Reggae has always had a fairly large following in the United Kingdom, especially during the 1970s and 1980s. In the second half of the 1970s, the UK punk rock scene was starting to take off, and some punk DJs played reggae records during their DJ sets. Certain punk bands, such as The Clash, The Slits and The Ruts incorporated reggae influences into their music. Reggae includes several subgenres, such as, roots reggae, dub, lovers rock and dancehall.

Newer styles and spin-offs
The toasting style first used by 1960s Jamaican artists such as U-Roy and Dennis Alcapone influenced Jamaican DJ Kool Herc, who used the style to pioneer a new genre that became known as hip hop or rap. In Jamaica, the term Deejay or DJ is equivalent to the rapper or MC in American hip hop culture, while it is the selector who actually mans the turntables. Mixing techniques employed in dub music have influenced hip hop and drum and bass.

Dancehall
The dancehall genre developed around 1980, with exponents such as Yellowman, Super Cat and Shabba Ranks. The style is characterized by a deejay singing and rapping or toasting over raw and fast rhythms. Ragga (also known as raggamuffin), is a subgenre of dancehall, in which the instrumentation primarily consists of electronic music and sampling. Reggaeton is a form of dance music that first became popular with Latino youths in the early 1990s. It blends reggae and dancehall with Latin American genres such as bomba and plena, as well with hip hop. Reggae rock is a fusion genre that combines elements of reggae and rock music. The bands Sublime and 311 are known for this reggae rock fusion, as is singer Matisyahu, a Hasidic Jew, who blends it with traditional Jewish music. Billboard magazine named him “Top Reggae Artist” of 2006.[

Musical characteristics
Reggae is always played in 4/4 time or swing time because the symmetrical rhythm pattern does not lend itself to other time signatures such as 3/4 time. Harmonically, the music is often very simple, and sometimes a whole song will have no more than one or two chords. The Bob Marley and the Wailers song “Exodus” is almost entirely comprised of A-minor chords. These simple repetitious chord structures add to reggae’s sometimes hypnotic effect. However, Marley also wrote more complex chord structures, and the band Steel Pulse have often used very complex chord structures.

[edit] Drums and other percussion
A standard drum kit is generally used but the snare drum is often tuned very high to give it a timbale-type sound. Some reggae drummers use a separate additional timbale or high-tuned snare to get this sound. Rim shots on the snare are commonly used and tom-tom drums are often incorporated into the drumbeat itself. During the late 1980s and onwards, electronic instruments such as synthesizers and samplers were also used by reggae musicians for the same purpose, especially by reggae artists that write in the Stepper and Dancehall styles.

Reggae drumbeats fall into three main categories: One Drop, Rockers and Steppers. With the One Drop, the emphasis is entirely on the third beat of the bar (usually on the snare or as a rim shot combined with bass drum). Beat one is completely empty, which is extremely unusual in popular music. There is some controversy about whether reggae should be counted so that this beat falls on the 3 or whether it should be counted half as fast so that it falls on the 2 and 4. This article places the beat on the 3. Many credit Carlton Barrett of The Wailers as the creator of this style though it may actually have been invented by Winston Grennan. An example, played by Barrett, can be heard in the Bob Marley and the Wailers song, “One Drop.” Barrett often used an unusual triplet cross-rhythm on the hi-hat, which can be heard on many recordings by Bob Marley and the Wailers, such as “Running Away” on the Kaya album.

An emphasis on beat three is in all reggae drumbeats, but with the Rockers beat, the emphasis is also on beat one (usually on bass drum). One example is in “Night Nurse” by Gregory Isaacs. The Rockers beat is not always straight forward, and various syncopations are often included. An example of this is the Black Uhuru song “Sponji Reggae.”

In Steppers, the bass drum plays four solid beats to the bar, giving the beat an insistent drive. An example is “Exodus” by Bob Marley and the Wailers. The Steppers beat was often used (at a much higher tempo) by some of the 2 Tone ska revival bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Examples include “Stand Down Margaret” by The Beat and “Too Much Too Young” by The Specials. The Beat and The Specials are both Ska bands, not Reggae. Another Common name for the Steppers beat is the “four on the floor”.

An unusual characteristic of reggae drumming is that the drum fills often do not end with a climactic cymbal. A wide range of other percussion instrumentation is used in reggae. Bongos are often used to play free, improvised patterns; with heavy use of African-style cross-rhythms. Cowbells, claves and shakers tend to have more defined roles and a set pattern.

[edit] Bass
The bass guitar often plays a very dominant role in reggae, and the drum and bass is often called the riddim. Several reggae singers have released different songs recorded over the same riddim. The central role of the bass can particularly be heard in dub music, which gives an even bigger role to the drum and bass line; reducing the vocals and other instruments to peripheral roles. The bass sound in reggae is thick and heavy, and equalized so the upper frequencies are removed and the lower frequencies emphasised. The bass line is often a simple two-bar riff that is centred around its thickest and heaviest note (which in musical terms is often the harmonic root note) – the other notes in the bassline often serve simply to lead you towards the bassist note. An example of this can be heard on “Sun is Shining” by Bob Marley and the Wailers.

[edit] Guitars
The rhythm guitar in reggae usually plays the chords on beats two and four, a musical figure known as skank or the ‘bang’. It has a very dampened, short and scratchy chop sound, almost like a percussion instrument. Sometimes a double chop is used when the guitar still plays the off beats, but also plays the following 8th beats on the up-stroke. An example is the intro to “Stir it Up” by The Wailers.

The lead guitar will often add a rock or blues-style melodic solo to a song, but much of the time it plays the same part as the bass line; an octave higher, with a very muted and picked sound. This adds definition to the bass line (which is usually devoid of upper frequencies) and emphasizes the bass melody. Sometimes the guitar will play a counter-melody to the bass line instead.

[edit] Keyboards
From the late 1960s through to the early 1980s a piano was generally used in reggae to double the rhythm guitar’s skank, playing the chords in a staccato style to add body and playing occasional extra beats, runs and riffs. The piano part was widely taken over by synthesizers during the 1980s although synthesizers have been used in a peripheral role since the 1970s to play incidental melodies and countermelodies. Larger bands may include either an additional keyboardist, to cover or replace horn and melody lines, or the main keyboardist filling these roles on two or more keyboards. The latter has become increasingly popular as keyboard technology improves.

The reggae-organ shuffle is unique to reggae. Typically, a Hammond organ-style sound is used to play chords with a choppy feel. This is known as the bubble. There are specific drawbar settings used on a Hammond console to get the correct sound. This may be the most difficult reggae keyboard rhythm. The 8th beats are played with a space-left-right-left-space-left-right-left pattern. The right-hand part coincides with the rhythm guitar and piano. It makes the music sound faster than it really is. The organ often also plays melodic runs and extra beats. The organ part is typically quite low in the mix, and is often more felt than heard. Examples include the songs “Natural Mystic”, “Is This Love” and “Midnight Ravers” by Bob Marley.

[edit] Horns
Horn sections are frequently used in reggae, often playing introductions and counter-melodies. Instruments included in a typical reggae horn section include saxophone, trumpet and/or trombone. In more recent times, real horns are sometimes replaced in reggae by synthesizers or recorded samples. The horn section is often arranged around the first horn playing a simple melody or counter melody. The first horn is usually accompanied by the second horn playing the same melodic phrase in unision, one octave higher. The third horn usually plays the melody an octave and a fifth higher than the first horn. The horns are generally played fairly softly, which usually results in a soothing sound. However, sometimes punchier louder phrases are played for a more uptempo and aggressive sound.

[edit] Vocals
The vocals in reggae are less of a defining characteristic of the genre than the instrumentation and rhythm. Almost any song can be performed in a reggae style. Vocal harmony parts are often used either throughout the melody (as with bands such as the Mighty Diamonds) or as a counterpoint to the main vocal line (as with the backing group I-Threes). The British reggae band Steel Pulse used particularly complex backing vocals. An unusual aspect of reggae singing is that many singers use tremolo (volume oscillation) rather than vibrato (pitch oscillation). Notable exponents of this technique include Dennis Brown and Horace Andy. The toasting vocal style is unique to reggae, originating when DJs improvised along to dub tracks and it is generally considered to be a precursor to rap. It differs from rap mainly in that it is generally melodic while rap is generally a more a spoken form without melodic content.


[edit] Lyrical themes
Reggae is noted for its tradition of social criticism, although many reggae songs discuss lighter, more personal subjects such as love, sex and socializing. Some reggae lyrics attempt to raise the political consciousness of the audience, such as by criticizing materialism or by informing the listener about certain controversial subjects such as Apartheid. Many reggae songs promote the use of cannabis (also known as marijuana or ganja), which is considered a sacrament in the Rastafari movement. There are many artists and songs that utilize religious themes in their music, whether it be discussing a religious topic or simply giving praise to the Rastafari God Jah. Other socio-political topics in reggae songs include: black nationalism, anti-racism, anti-colonialism, anti-capitalism, criticism of political systems, and criticism of the colonial education system.

[edit] Roots reggae
Main article: Roots reggae
Roots reggae is the name given to a spiritual type of music whose lyrics are predominantly in praise of Jah (God). Recurrent lyrical themes include poverty and resistance to government oppression. Many of Bob Marley’s and Peter Tosh’s songs can be called roots reggae. The creative pinnacle of roots reggae was in the late 1970s, with singers such as Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs, Freddie McGregor, Groundation ,Johnny Clarke, Horace Andy, Barrington Levy and Linval Thompson teaming up with studio producers including Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Coxsone Dodd.

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