Archive | Reggae History

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Reggae Sub Genres


a style of Jamaican popular music blending blues, calypso and rock & roll, characterized by a strong syncopated rhythm and lyrics of social protest.

The term was thought to have been coined by Frederick Hibbert of ‘Toots and the Maytals’ in a song entitled ‘Do the Regay’, 1968. Rege meaning ragged! Since then, reggae music has been used as a rather broad term to encompass such a wide range of spin off genres and I wanted to introduce you to the more popular sub-genres that have now become so entwined with the name Reggae.


The documentary I posted on Reggae History offered a great insight on how Reggae music was born from ska, itself a Jamaican derivative of American Jazz and R & B. Ska is characterised by the leading horns and the ‘Skank’ guitar upstroke on the off beat while the drums keep a 4/4 beat. Following Jamaicas Independance from the UK in 1962, great Reggae artists such as Prince Buster, Derrick Morgan, Desmond Decker, Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson, The Skatalites and the Ethiopians produced something that took the country by storm.

Recomended Ska Listening:

The Beatmasters – Train to Skaville

Derrick Morgan – Tougher Than Tough

Desmond Dekker – Pretty African

The Skatalites – Guns Of Navarone

The Gaylads – Soul Sister


Dub is genre of reggae music that is highly, if not totally, instrumental. It is usually built around the use of electronic remixing equipment to add a number of effects to existing tracks and playing mixing them with a low pitch bass guitar. Dub was very influential in modern dance music and artists the world over will often have a dub version of at least one of thier tracks. Important names to know in the world of Dub are: King Tubby, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Scientist, Sublime and Augustus Pablo.

Recommended Dub Listening:

Iration Steppas – Locks

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – Rainy Night Dub

Scientist – The Golden Goal

King Tubby – Waterhouse Rock

Augustus Pablo – Pipers Of Zion

Roots Reggae

Roots Reggae, is undoubtedly the most popular form of reggae today; it is arguably my favourite. With lyrics carrying positive messages, mostly recognised thanks to Bob Marley, roots reggae also speaks of marijuana and Rastafari. Other highly admired roots reggae artists are: Peter Tosh, Horace Andy, Black Uhuru, Gregory Isaacs, and The Abyssinians.

Recommended Roots Reggae Listening:

Culture – Never Get Weary

Johnny Clarke – Crazy Baldheads

U Roy – Natty Rebel

Peter Tosh – Legalize It

Steel Pulse – Chant A Psalm

Lovers Rock

Lovers Rock was popular in the late seventies to the mid eighties and can be characterized by its soft, quiet and somewhat tender musical style, infused with a smooth reggae beat. With Origins highly tied to south London lovers rock is also known as British lovers rock and was essesentially Jamaican reggae artists doing reggae versions of popular love songs. Here are some good examples of Lovers Rock Artists – Janet Kay, Ken Booth, Trevor Walters, Boris Gardener, Sugar Minott, John Holt and Dennis Brown.

Recommended Lovers Rock Listening:

Gregory Isaacs – Loving Pauper

Dennis Brown – Money In My Pocket

Alton Ellis – La La Means I Love You

Sugar Minott – Good Thing Going

Trevor Walters – Stuck On You


Dancehall is a more electronic form of reggae music, with heavily synthesized rhythms or ‘riddims’. Otherwise known as ‘bashment’, dancehall usually involves some highly controversial lyrics and is widely accpeted as the predecessor to modern Hip Hop. Artists to look out for include Elephant Man, Buju Banton,  Shabba Ranks, Super Cat, Shaggy, Vybz Kartel, Capleton, Beenieman and Bounty Killer.

Recommended Dancehall Listening:

Wayne Smith – Under Me Sleng Teng

Tanya Stephens – Big Ninja Bike

Mavado – Gangsta For Life

Elephant Man – Pon De River, Pon De Bank

Capleton – Or Wah

Reggae Culture

Reggae Culture is a more modern form of Roots Reggae, with notable artists including Morgan Heritage, Freddie McGregor, Tony Rebel and Sizzla. It is a mixture of methods from both dancehall and reggae, giving emphasis on the singing than the more electric sounds of the dancehall. The message is still that of socially conscious issues and Rastafari practices.

Recommended Reggae Culture Listening:

Morgan Heritage – Don’t Haffi Dread

Freddie McGregor – I See It In You

Sizzla – Dry Cry

Natty King – No Guns Town

Stephen Marley – Mind Control

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Reggae History Pt. 5

Reggae has arrived! The penultimate part in the reggae history series covers Trojan Records, the skinheads, the racism and the English gateway for reggae music in the mainstream.

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Reggae History Pt. 4

Rudeboys and Rocksteady! Reggae Artists such as Desmond Dekker, take this reggae history lesson further still.

Reggae History Part One
Reggae History Part Two
Reggae History Part Three

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Reggae History Pt. 3

Part Three of Reggae History looks at the amazing amount of talented reggae and ska artists that were coming from the woodwork in Jamaica, with the help of Studio One and the Alpha Boys School. The defining band of the times were without doubt, The Skatalites.

Reggae History Part One
Reggae History Part Two

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Reggae History Pt. 2

So, here is part two of the fantastic series which details how reggae music evolved. Looking at Ska Music…and the legendary Studio One!

If you miss the first part of this reggae history, you can find that here – Reggae History Pt.1

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Reggae History Pt.1

So where better to start than the beginning right? I came across this great documentary and thought I’d share it with you all. Featuring the first hand experience of many famous reggae artists, this is well worth watching!

There are four more parts so stay tuned and I will get them posted for you. Don’t forget to comment too, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this series.

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