Reggae – [Reg-ay] – noun
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, 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 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 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
Popularity: 39% [?]