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“A perspective of Reggae as a music Genre, History, and the Legendary.”
Caribbean music has entertained many music fans and has a great influence on the rest of the world. Music from the Caribbean islands such as ska, rock steady and dancehall have changed from each other and combined into what we know as “reggae” music. This music genre has also been influenced by parts of African rhythms and American blues. In the midst of all these influences, there rises a perspective of Reggae as a music genre, history, and the Legendary.”
The word reggae may have been first used by the vocal group the Maytals, in the title of their 1968 hit “Do the Reggay” (Wikipedia, 2007). Although a definition of the word ‘reggae' is controversial as the Oxford English Dictionary says “the origin of the word is unknown.” On the other hand, Piero Scaruffi (2003) claim that the word "reggae" was coined around 1960 in Jamaica to identify a "ragged" style of dance music, that still had its roots in New Orleans rhythm'n'blues.
Reggae was an evolution of what had been happening in Jamaican music, and was the next evolution step up from the other types of Jamaican music that had been enjoyed before it. These styles were ska, and rock steady.
Wikipedia (2007) has indicated that compared with rock music, reggae music basically inverted the role of bass and guitar: the former was the lead, the latter beat the typical hiccupping pattern. 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 or as a counterpoint to the main vocal line.
Reggae lyrics 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 perception of the audience, such as by criticizing materialism or by informing the listener about certain controversial subjects such as apartheid. There are many artists and songs that use religious themes in their music, whether it be discussing a religious topic or simply giving praise to the Rastafari God, called 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.
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. However, Bob Marley also wrote more complex chord structures, and the band Steel Pulse has often used very complex chord structures. The bass guitar often plays a very dominant role in reggae, and the drum and bass is often called the riddim. A rhythm, riddim in reggae vocabulary, is a rhythm pattern. It's basically a bassline and usually a special drum pattern is used with the bassline (Jam2jamdis, n.d.)
Reggae music had its origin with ska in the late 1950's right about the time Jamaica got it's independence from England. Though this style of music is original only to Jamaica, it's known and loved globally. The Reggae beat has been through many stages since its formulation in Jamaica in the early 1960s. It began with the Ska beat which derives from a strong influence of rhythm & blues, and then Rocksteady, before reaching its worldwide appeal as Reggae during the Seventies to early Eighties.
Jamaica first started their own label of music in the 50s. Edward Sega, the man who was to become the president of Jamaica, was first known as the founder of a company called WIRL, or West Indian Records Limited, this company began releasing the work of local artists. Many more recorders began to follow suit, once the pressing plants were established on the island, the Jamaican recording industry was born.
An independent label, Island, distributed Jamaican records in the UK throughout the 1960s, but reggae became popular in the UK only when Prince Buster's Al Capone (1967) started a brief "dance craze". Jamaican music was very much a ghetto phenomenon, associated with gang-style violence, but Jimmy Cliff's Wonderful World Beautiful People (1969) wed reggae with the "peace and love" philosophy of the hippies, an association that would not die away. In the USA, Neil Diamond's Red Red Wine (1967) was the first reggae hit by a pop musician. Shortly afterwards, Johnny Nash's Hold Me Tight (1968) propelled reggae onto the charts. Do The Reggay (1968) by Toots (Hibbert) And The Maytals was the record that gave the music its name. Fredrick Toots Hibbert's vocal style was actually closer to gospel, as proved by their other hits (54-46, 1967; Monkey Man, 1969; Pressure Drop, 1970).
It was in the 1970's that the late Bob Marley took this art and made it an international craze with roots reggae, which was a heavy, spiritual and conscious sound. Roots reggae is the name given to a spiritual type of music whose lyrics are mainly in praise of Jah (God). On the other hand, roots music, which had a heavy Reggae bass line and lyrics to match, really captured the mood of what life is like living in the ghetto.
The 70's saw the creation and international success of Roots Reggae. With this style, the tempo was slowed down even more, and the electric bass was lower and more important in the mix. Along with this change in musical approach was the increased intensity and depth of the lyrical content. Influenced by suffering, corrupt politicians and police, and the religion of Rastafari, the lyrics of Roots music ranged from powerful protest music to beautiful spiritual music. It had a passion that moved and still moves people around the globe (Jeff Reiss n.d.)
Jeff Reis (n.d.) also has indicated that in the 90's, Reggae history is moving right along, dancehall began to show influence of Roots rhythms and ideology. With a focus back to Rastafari, artists such as Sizzla, Capleton, Anthony B, and Buju Banton, have become world famous musicians. In the twentieth century Jamaica was famous with reggae, the Rastafarian's and Bob Marley. Here constantly reggae concerts, music of love and revolution take place. Nowadays, when every fiftieth person on the Earth is Rastafarian, Jamaica became their Mecca and a house-museum of Bob Marley becomes a temple at the date of his death.
Reggae music has moved through many different variations. Performances have been seen and heard from rhythms such as Dub, Ska, Congo, and Dancehall. The dancehall genre developed around 1980, with artists 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. As mentioned on Music Lesson Online (n.d.) with the loss of its biggest name, Bob Marley, reggae seemed to strike a slow period, when the music had no direction. That changed in the mid 1980s with the advent of dancehall. This was faster than reggae, the rebellious music of youth that also drew influences from American hip-hop.
Ragga 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. Reggae rock is a genre that combines elements of reggae and rock music. The bands Sublime and 311 are known for this reggae rock. The Reggae beat also became faster and more sophisticated musically, to keep up with the new sound coming in from the USA called Funk which used the aid of the new electronic musical instruments and included the famous syndrome used on many a tune.
In the 1990's dancehall and reggae evolved, accompanied by the opinion that it contained more offensive lyrics that would encourage street violence and dismay. However, there is a recent development going back to more socially and spiritually aware lyrics known by some to be the New Roots Movement. The old-style roots reggae has also become global, with reggae bands springing up all over, many of whom had achieved great critical success, like the African reggae of Lucky Dube or Alpha Blondy.
Today reggae has grown as the artists are showcased at events such as the Caribbean Music Expo, and Jamaica Sumfest. It is highly recommended that those who are truly interested in Jamaica's music attend one of these shows. Some of these stage shows can be days long, so if you can't be there for the entire show, you can catch at least one day of it. New Reggae artists such as Shaggy and Sean Paul have brought reggae even further internationally. An example of how reggae has grown globally is Shaggy's concert in Kuala Lumpur on 1 December 2007.
When one thinks of Reggae music, the first name that comes to mind is Bob Marley. Rustic Girls (n.d.) has indicated that even though the world first met Bob Marley in the 70s, the name still lingers to this day, because he was the man who turned Jamaican Reggae music into an international phenomenon, and with the help of a few others along the way established reggae as a worldwide genre of music.
Bob Marley had established himself as an early leading influence, with his creative style and unique stage presence. He adopted Rastafarianism; bring in his reggae music with greater soul and more touching lyrics. Bob Marley became an international superstar and is considered a prophet by the followers of the Rastafarian religion. It is Bob Marley legend because he managed to bring reggae music to the non-African and non-Jamaican population of the world and made them love it as it was their own natural spiritual legacy. He showed people the everlasting backbeat that goes along with the wailing soft words like “No Woman, No Cry¨ and” Is This Love¨.
Morgan Hamilton (n.d.) claimed that the legend has his name because Bob Marley was the one who actually made it in the conformist society of those days by first getting there, finding his place to fit into that specific social environment, playing by their rules, wearing their clothes and hairstyles. Afterwards he managed to grow and evolve both in a spiritual and a physical aspect keeping in mind all the dreads, but following his own ways in philosophy as well as in religion and in the general attitude as well as in the very words.
For people of the different ages the Bob Marley legend has different meaning, and they vary from peaceful love to melancholia. Some people connect him with superior reggae inspiring music with meaningful lyrics, others think of him as a part of their own search for self, and still others connect him mostly with deep and true love. The legend of Bob Marley still lives with those who remember him, and remember how it started with him and was only because of him.
The album Bob Marley Legend is one of the best albums of all time, especially in the sector of reggae. Bob Marley Legend tells you the story of the world- famous Bob Marley and the Wailers, by having such classic tracks and all time hits as Buffalo Soldier, Stir it Up, Get Up Stand Up, Is This Love, just to name a few. In 2002 Bob Marley's album Exodus won album of the century. This proud, bold island had now made its mark on the world first because of its music.
It was proposed by Glenn B. Porter (n.d.) that Bob Marley is one of the most phenomenal musicians in history, and almost single-handedly pioneered the art of reggae music. It is a testament to him that, despite the fact that he is probably more famous worldwide than all other reggae artists combined, he is still adored and respected in his native Jamaica rather than resented for permanently acing the rest of the local music.
Bob Marley himself always succeed for noble causes such as independence and the right of ordinary people, and his radical spirit is still fresh in the songs that he plays. Wailers songs are not just meant as party music, although of course, they are lots of fun to party too. They are meant to make the listener feel a thirst for justice and peace, and sow the seeds of hope for a better world.
Though Marley died in 1981, Reggae has gone from strength to strength. International stars such as Eric Clapton and Paul Simon even began to incorporate Reggae tunes into their smash hit reggae albums. Roots Reggae Club (n.d.) mentioned that Bob Marley has sold more reggae albums than any other reggae recording reggae artist. On his birthday, February 6, 2001 Bob Marley was awarded a star on the famed Hollywood Walk of Fame. He receives many awards for his contributions to reggae music each year.
Finally we can say Bob Marley legend because no matter where we were, what we were doing, what we were trying to get, or to escape from, he was always there, always ready to help and support us with his music and his words spreading his great spirit all over telling us that what we really need is just love, respect, unity and spirituality. Bob Marley helped all of us to ¨stir it up¨, to “put it on¨ and to “rock it baby¨, there was also encouragement in his words with “pass it on¨ with “stand alone¨ and with “keep on moving¨. All he did actually tell us through his music was that we should try living our lives according to our and to God's rules. He taught us to know what our rights are and to never quit until we get them granted and then use them properly.
Reggae to me is not just a great beat or music just to dance to. Many songs in the reggae genre are spiritual in their sound and lyrics. Songs performed by reggae artists such as Bob Marley and the others consist of not simply great lyrics but a message. A message that inspires, motivates, and reminds us of the past and where we are coming from. Beside that, there are some things that are associated with both reggae music and Jamaican culture that are deemed unacceptable in some societies such as the use of marijuana. However, it cannot be disputed that there are a lot of positive aspects to it. These include principles such as unity, freedom, peace, love and anti-racism which are essential to all of us. Its global appeal continues to grow, as a form of music and knowledge.
Glenn B. Porter, n.d. Retrieved: November 10, 2007, from http://ezinearticles.com//?Bob-Marley---Legend:--The-Ultimate-Collectors-Album&id=296642
Jam2jamdis, n.d. Retrieved: November 10, 2007, from http://www.jam2dis.com/j2dreggaehistory1.htm
Jeff Reiss n.d. Retrieved: November 11, 2007, from http://www.lionvibes.com/reggae-history.html
Morgan Hamilton, n.d. Retrieved: November 11, 2007, from http://ezinearticles.com/?A-Review-of-Bob-Marley-Legend&id=263009
Music Lesson Online, 2007. Retrieved: November, 11, 2007, from http://www.musiclessonsonline.co.uk/ReggaeMusic.html
Piero Scaruffi, 2003. Retrieved: November 11, 2007, from http://www.scaruffi.com/history/reggae.html.
Roots Reggae Club, n.d. Retrieved: November 10, 2007, from http://www.rootsreggaeclub.com/culture_reggae_afro/reggae/reggae.htm
Rustic Girls, n.d. Retrieved: November 11, 2007, from http://www.rusticgirls.com/fun/history-of-reggae-music.html
Wikipedia, 2007. Retrieved: November 11, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggae