Reggae music

Solely the siren song of the islands

Reggae music

Rastafarianism

This Abrahamic religion is based on social change, and the freedom from domination

Rastafarianism

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Evolution of Reggae Music

Overview.

Music is part of life. When you listen to good music, it soothes your soul. Reggae music is especially very conscious in terms of the output message. When you listen to the words in a reggae song, the message is usually love, peace, unity and criticism of political & other injustices.

The sound of reggae makes you think of Jamaica. This sweet music originally had a slow rhythm and beats. It has evolved to become the world’s dancing music. Reggae was developed in the 1960’s from a combination of other existing music genres.

The beginning of reggae.

Calypso was dominant in Jamaica in the 1920’s and was replaced by Ska and Mento in the 1950’s. Ska was a combination of Jazz and RnB that were broadcasted from Jamaican and American stations.

Since the youths were rebelling against popular music, ska was the perfect replacement. The island got its independence in 1962 and by this time many music bands had already been formed.

Ska and Rocksteady formed the basis of reggae. Rocksteady was a slower version of Ska, formed just before reggae, and there is a very slight difference between the two. In the 1970’s, reggae music spread to Africa, USA and Britain. It was very popular between 1969 to 1983 when dancehall was born.

Jamaica’s history.

This Caribbean Island was an interest to many nations. The Taino also know as Arawak Indians are said to be the original inhabitants before Spain destroyed them. The Taino had invaded Jamaica from South America and as Christopher Columbus was cruising by the island in 1494, he decided to explore it. Columbus discovered Jamaica for the Spaniards on that trip to the West Indies.

ReggaeArtistIn 1509, the Spanish set up base at St. Ann’s Bay. They renamed the island Seville and brought in West Africans. The Tainos were extinct in a few years due to diseases and mistreatment. Spain surrendered the Island to England in 1655 who renamed it Spanish Town.

The Enslaved Africans had fled to interior areas and formed independent groups known as Maroons during the invasion. The English built a settlement on the Coast and named Port Royal. It became a pirate base and attracted privateers too but collapsed later from an earthquake. The sugar industry replaced piracy in the 18th century and this necessitated the importation of slaves for the intensive labor. This led to a upsurge in African population who outnumbered the English with multiple ratios forcing them surrender power.

The wailers.

This band was made up of the great Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. They formed the group in 1963 and recorded songs in the earliest transitions of reggae. Bob Marley is recognized as the father of reggae since he led to it’s worldwide acceptance.

In his songs, Bob communicated love, political injustice and conscious messages. He was a political activist as well a singer who was committed to the Rastafarian culture and made it simpler for people to understand the positive effects of reggae’s message. He still holds the King’s reggae crown as a pioneer or this inspiring music.

Rastafarian culture.

This is a religigon practiced by African Jamaicans in solidarity with Ethiopia’s emperor Haile Salassie. He was crowned Emperor in 1930 since Ethiopia was among the few African countries that were not colonized.

The religion has its set of rules and most reggae musicians practice it. Reggae lyrics usually contain the beliefs, traditions and a positive message of the religion. Bob Marley became a Rastafarian and even refused to be amputated to diagnose cancer due to his beliefs. Not everybody can be given the Rastafarian title since there are strict rules to be followed first.

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Ganja, the other name for marijuana in Jamaican slang is believed to be holy and should be used for meditation purposes. Grooming long hair is also a symbol of unity in the Rastafarian culture. Some claim the hair was a sign of solidarity with the African freedom fighters.

Types of Reggae.

Reggae evolved from Rocksteady which was originally Ska. In the 1970’s, the music genre was spread worldwide and was branded names like dub and raga. This names were used for the later versions of reggae music in which raga was faster and didn’t stress on spirituality like reggae.

The slow rhythm music was renamed roots reggae to emphasize on the originality of the message. Lovers rock has existed throughout the transformations and remarkable artists of this genre are Gregory Isaacs & Dennis Brown.

In the 80’s, Jamaica was gaining stability and musicians diverted to singing songs with diverse messages. This was the birth of dancehall music which is common up to the present day. Reggae music maintains a poetic and rebellious culture hence the portrayal of gangster behaviors in Jamaican music. Riddims are the current version of reggae that is widely spread.

The need for innovation led to the adoption of riddim culture which involves producing different songs with the same beats. This method is very creative and saves the trouble of producing beats for each new song. It also shows unity since various artists combine their lyrics to make in a riddim.

Rastafarianism: The Basics

The History

Sometime in the 1930s a revolutionary by the name of Marcus Garvey profiteered about the new messiah, a black king that would come to Africa. This man was Halie Selassie, who was crowned the king of Ethiopia.

This Abrahamic religion is based on social change, and the freedom from domination. Based on the time Rastafarianism came about, this change was geared towards the white domination exercised over black slaves. Initially, this domination came in the form of slavery especially in Ethiopia and Jamaica, while in more modern times Rastafarianism addresses the inequality caused by wealth and power.

As monotheists, Rastafari worship a single God, Jah. Similar to the teachings of the Bible, Jah is joined in the Holy Trinity with Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. While Rastafarians try to avoid association with the Babylon culture, some also reject any particular sect or denomination. This allows for a personal search for freedom and spirituality, while following the ideals of Rasta.

Worship takes place in a variety of places. However, the most important temple to the Rastas is their own bodies, which they see as the church and temple of Jah.

When you think of Rastafarian, however, the first thing that comes to mind is music. This is truly a Doctrine driven by sound and movement through music.

Reggae Music in Rasta Doctrine

Rastafarianism has been spread and grown through music. Reggae music, specifically has acted as the transport of the Rasta message, and the medium to spread the belief of social change. More than that, however, Reggae music has helped to build a community around the Rasta movement, creating a culture of its own.

With the huge success of singers such as Bob Marley, Count Ossie and Burning Spear, Reggae music has helped to spread the message of Rasta around the world. With political lyrics that speak directly about social change and the inequality faced by the black community, artists such as Bob Marley have used their music to promote peace and condemn suppression.

Count Ossie played an influential role in the association of Reggae with Rastas, as his drumming workshops promoted the Rastafari message and movement. Musicians would join Count Ossie in his drumming circles and in turn would spread the word to their followers.

While they are messages against inequality, the lyrics to songs of Reggae greats like Bob Marley also call for a positive and loving culture around humanity. Others recognize the philosophy of Marcus Garvey and sing praise about the return to Africa.

It is ultimately a revolutionary movement against the past and current social state of suppression.

What is the Rasta Movement

With the growth of Reggae music, the Rasta movement has become a purveyor of the message of peace. It is not a religion based on punishment of sinners and the ruin of enemies. Reggae music is often known for its easy listening and soothing tunes, with its strong focus on social change. Even though the associations also often come with marijuana and dreadlocks, the last movement is more than this. It does not accept the social inequalities as they are, but uses the power of music to promote equally treatment and to combat the suppression of blacks both through power and through wealth.

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The message is not to use violence to fight these inequalities, however, but rather to bring awareness to these inequalities. The music is a form of oral history, addressing the emotions and effects of slavery and suppression. By acknowledging these realities, Rasta music empowers listeners to overcome adversity, but in a way of peace and respect to oneself and to others.

With the growing popularity of Reggae music, we must not forget the message behind the music. While Reggae festivals have become a chance for communities to come together and enjoy the movement and music of Reggae, the message still remains the same. There is inequality in the world, and there is an undeniable suppression of black society that cannot be ignored.

So, the next time you are listening to Bob Marley ease your soul, know that his music came at the expense of millions of black lives that lived and are living a life of suppression.

However, more importantly know that the music is meant to bring about peace in this world, to create equality and to bring a culture of respect for the past and to cultivate a culture of respect and peace for the future.

Top Reggae Performers – Currently and In The Past

Reggae music, which was once solely the siren song of the islands, has become about as mainstream as pop or rock music, and with good reason. The music communicates the beauty of island culture through its lyrics, melodies and intricate musical backdrop. Some of the top reggae performers of the past and present have been responsible for introducing this music to the rest of the world with great success.

Past – Bob Marley

No reggae list would be complete with mentioning Bob Marley, who is arguably the most well-known reggae artist in history. In fact, just about any list is bound to have Marley atop it. Born and raised in Jamaica, Bob Marley was actually part of a larger band called The Wailers. The songs he recorded throughout history is the stuff of legend: “No Woman, No Cry,” “Buffalo Soldier,” “Get Up, Stand Up.” Marley was known for politically-charged lyrics that reflected some of the struggles that were happening among the people of his island. He was vocal about poverty, violence, policy brutality, racism and a number of other social issues. He was also a Rastafari and infused his music with plenty of spiritual references as a result. Marley remains – to this day—one of the top selling artists of all time.

Past – Gregory Isaacs

Isaacs got his start competing in teen talent contests and winning one of these contests was what helped to put Isaacs on the map. One of the best vocalists in reggae, Gregory Isaacs was perhaps best known for his rich baritone voice and ballads. He was also born and raised in Jamaica and hit his peak in the 1970s and 1980s. He recorded on his own label, so that he would have complete creative freedom. In fact, Isaacs is credited with having the first true “lovers rock” anthem “My Only Lover.” Despite the fact that he has been in the industry for so long, Isaacs continues to record with current artists until his death in 2010. However, he was still gracing the stages and working with current artists before his death, showcasing his longevity as an artist.

Past – Peter Tosh

Peter Tosh was a founding member of The Wailers with Bob Marley. However, despite his initial success with the group, he went on to have a successful solo recording career and became one of the most prominent voices in the genre. Tosh had a successful solo career that kicked off in the 1970s with a number of songs dedicated to the legalization of marijuana. Tosh was also a dedicated Rastafari and his career continued to skyrocket until he was killed abruptly in 1987. Peter Tosh was, for the length of his career, something of a stoner’s hero; he so staunchly advocated for legalized marijuana use and as a result was an idol for this particular crowd. In fact, many advocates for marijuana still cite Tosh’s lyrics even today, which shows how his music resonated with this audience and continues to do so even today.

Present – Damien Marley

The youngest son of Bob Marley has a legendary last name, but he made his list in his own right. A talented lyricist who has managed to preserve elements of the genre while mixing it up with current hip-hop elements, Marley has garnered the respect of many in the musical industry for his clearly-inherited musical talent. In his songs, he has paid homage to those artists that paved the way for him, including his father, and has been performing now for more than a decade. He is well known by his nickname “Junior Gong,” which is a reference to his father’s moniker “Tuff Gong.” Marley’s breakout hit “Welcome to Jamrock” was an international success that topped the charts in a number of different countries.

Present – Shaggy

If there were an artist that perhaps had the greatest influence in getting reggae-inspired music played on Top 40 radio, it would be Shaggy. He is somewhat a polarizing figure in the genre because of the fact that he has spent a great deal of his adult life in New York City (despite having been born in Jamaica). Shaggy takes a great deal of his music and creates a pop feel to it, even though he retains a thick Jamaican access. Many of the lyrics are fairly light-hearted and don’t touch on some of the more serious themes that the music of the younger and late Marley do. This is where many fans feel he is out of touch as the genre has always been responsible for covering themes important to the people of the islands, which is where the genre originated. However, Shaggy has been responsible for bringing reggae further to an audience that perhaps may not have been as receptive to it before, thus furthering its visibility and influence.

Present – Beenie Man

Beenie Man, like Damien Marley, has influenced hip-hop and rap and infused those into his reggae music. He is one of the most popular acts and has been since the 1990s. His brand of reggae is known as dancehall and has a lot of techno-inspired sounds as well. In fact, this particular blend of reggae has become among the more well-known sounds coming out of the islands in the new millennium. It remains to be music with a message, but it also highly danceable as well. He has worked with a number of mainstream artists as well and has had songs that have hit the Top 40 charts, which has traditionally been unusual for a reggae artist. In fact, he has been called “The King of Dancehall,” because of his tremendous international success in this genre. These days, because of Beenie Man’s influence, when people think of reggae, more often than not, what they are thinking about is dancehall music. Beenie Man has not only recorded his own original music, but also is known for taking cover songs and infusing them with a reggae sound to turn it into dancehall music.

Past/Present – Burning Spear

Burning Spear could go on either end of this list since his storied career covers several decades. His brand of reggae is known as roots reggae and has Rastafarian influences that have guided his career since it began in late 1960s. Burning Spear was the name of both the man and his group, which he has continued even today. Burning Spear recorded under Tuff Gong Records (Bob Marley’s label) and has worked with just about every major star in the business.