Get more stuff like this
Get the latest Jamaican stories in your inbox
Thank you for subscribing.
Something went wrong.
Origin of Reggae Music
The history of Reggae music dates back to the late 1960’s when it made its maiden venture in Kingston, Jamaica. The music genre made its presence felt almost all over the world within a decade of its origin. Focusing on promoting Pan Africanism, it incorporates various elements from other music genres like rhythm, mento, jazz, and blues. Musical instruments like bass guitar, piano, drum kit, synthesiser, and electric organ, just to mention a few, are played along with the music to make it as lively as possible. Today, the term Reggae is used to denote any popular Jamaican dance music. The authentic form of this music is one of the major sources of income for the island country.
Effect of Jamaican Music on Europe
Modernists or working-class people began to cut their hair close, appearing fashionable like the crew of the music band. At night, they dressed up in their best attire and visited Black night clubs and dance halls to dance to Afro-American music and early Reggae along with Jamaican rude boys. This street culture, in turn, initiated the skinhead movement.
Reggae music also had a strong impact on the punk movement. This was partly initiated by Don Letts, a London based black young man of Jamaican descent. He introduced the genre at The Roxy Nightclub in London where he was a DJ. This had a great influence on British punk bands such as The Sex Pistols and The Clash. The bands started mixing their punk rhythms with Reggae. Although both genres were completely different from a musical point of view, they started propagating the idea of rebelling against the set norms and the establishment to open the doors to freedom.
Effect of Jamaican Music on the USA
Like Europe, Reggae music had a major impact on the American music scene. The primary influence was on rap music. The 1960’s saw a multitude of Jamaican migrants making South Bronx in New York their base. However, they never lost contact with their home country and made frequent trips to their home island. Thus, when artists like U Roy and Big Youth introduced toasting, a genre derived from Reggae in Jamaica between the 1960’s and 1970’s, the migrants brought it over to New York and infused the same with popular American urban elements. This gave birth to two new genres – hip-hop culture and rap music. Interestingly, it was the Jamaican DJ Kool Herc who had moved over to South Bronx in 1967 who introduced rap music.
Very soon, Reggae and hip-hop cultures began to share a cultural relationship with each other. Both of them portrayed the lifestyle of the blacks and protested against the establishment. For years, artists like Public Enemy, Afrikaa Bambaataa, Burning Spear, and Big Youth have been depicting the social injustice experienced by the blacks in both the USA and Jamaica through their rap, toasting and Reggae music. These artists also rebelled against Eurocentrism while fighting for Pan-Africanism.
Effect of Jamaican Music on Africa
As the Jamaican population is mainly of African descent, it is no surprise that Reggae music has a great impact on Africa and has a heavy influence on early African musical forms. Most singers continue to pay tribute to their motherland, Africa, through their songs. One of them was the well-known singer Bob Marley who created a sensation in the continent in 1979 with his albums Zimbabwe and Africa United. He is credited with enhancing the rave for this music in Zimbabwe. Africans could associate themselves with Jamaicans for more than one reason; mostly because of being black, oppressed by the whites and living in very harsh conditions.
The West African country Cote d’Ivoire is one of the key places in Africa that has been widely influenced by Reggae. This music genre has been widely adopted as the medium to pinpoint the various atrocities in the country such as colonialism and neo-colonialism, corruption, tribalism, political manoeuvres and plunder of natural resources. A good example of this is ‘Bloodshed in Africa’ – an African Reggae song produced in 1986 by Alpha Blondy. Today, this music is very popular in South Africa.
Other places that support reggae
For nearly thirty years, most French people have patronised Rastafarian ideology and lifestyle leading to Reggae becoming an integral part of the French musical world. Recently, this music played a key role in redefining the British electronic music scene by incorporating the remix technique with Jamaican music to give birth to musical genres such as drum and bass, trip-hop and jungle.
Brazil in Latin America is credited with developing samba-reggae in the early 1980’s following the influence of this wonderful music. The surrounding areas of Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and Panama have welcomed this genre since the beginning of 2000. The Aborigines, Kanaks, and Maoris of Australia, New Caledonia, and New Zealand respectively have also accepted the music wholeheartedly. This is primarily because they have also faced colonialism and enslavement like the Africans and Jamaicans. In Asia, Rastafarianism and Reggae music is very popular in Japan while it is equally welcomed in the South American countries of Guyana and Venezuela.
The influence of Reggae in various parts of the world cannot be overemphasized. Ever since its evolution, it has been gaining popularity day by day and is considered a revolutionary music genre. In today’s world, the one-of-a-kind four-beat rhythm music has become an international style with unique influences on different social and music genres. Although the music has undergone various modifications, the Rastafarian influence has not undergone any change and inspires a global audience. It explores the various economic, political and social injustices through a narrative style of music.
The Rasta colours related to the genre also became an inspiration for the fashion sector. Soon after the immense popularity of Reggae music, dance steps began to be developed to match the genre. Most artists patronising this music have started their careers in the United Kingdom. Thus, it is no wonder why the source of inspiration of many European artists and bands is from Jamaica followed by the Caribbean community based in Europe.