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Caribbean Popular Music: An Encyclopedia of Reggae, Mento, Ska, Rock Steady , and Dancehall. Reviewer(s). Richard Turner (School of Business Information.
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A-Z Index. Toggle navigation. Alternative rock music. Hip hop. Popular music. Punk rock music. Reggae music. Rock music. Rock music -- Social aspects. P66 Bibliographies: ML P63 Discographies: ML P66T38 P66M67 C7C28 R27B96 P66V Ska was an early s urban musical synthesis that transformed twentieth-century Jamaican popular musical culture.

It replaced mento, a musical form that was born of the cultural encounter between African musical traditions and the melodies of European instruments. This encounter produced instruments such as the rhumba scraper. Many claim that the first popular indigenous Jamaican music record was the Folkes Brothers' Oh Carolina. With the nyabinghi -style repeater drumming of Count Ossie holding the entire spine of the track together, the song became an exemplar of the different ingredients that eventually merged to create reggae.

When Derrick Morgan sang "Forward March" in honor of Jamaican independence, he did so to the hard driving, horn blowing, and rhythm section of the studio band. Ska was big band music influenced by jazz and swing. But ska sped up the second.

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This group eventually came together as the Skatalites, and their musical skills remain a rich archive of Jamaican music. There is no popular Jamaican music without the dance steps. For Jamaican popular music the dance steps were often created in the dances in which the ubiquitous sound system provided thousands of watts. With names in the s such as Black Harmony, Black Scorpio, Black Roots, Gemini, Jack Ruby , and perhaps the most dynamic of them all, King Tubby's Hi Fi, the sound system dances became sites in which audience, dancers, and music were integrated into a tight fit.

When the audience members are primarily urban dwellers alienated from official society, then the relationship between the music, musicians, and audience often becomes a practice of countersignification. This is clearly illustrated by the morphing of ska into the musical form of rock steady. In the transition the music slowed down, the loose skip was transformed into a tighter bass, and the fast-paced ska dance movements became languid movements of the shoulders and hands operating in different time to the pelvic motions.

The combined effect of the dance and music was a sense of dread, of bodies about to explode: The figure that best represented this was the "rude bwoy. Their behavior was a direct confrontation with the conceptions of working-class black respectability and official ideas about how the new Jamaican citizen should comport himself.

Caribbean Popular Music

In reggae the drum and bass become pronounced. The singer is given scope, the horns surround the bridge segments of the music, and the dancer skips and moves with feet that are now free from the chains of racial slavery while the body moves in memory of the Middle Passage. There are many streams of reggae, but one of the most popular streams is sometimes called roots rock reggae. This music relies heavily upon the message it delivers.

The emergence of reggae also saw the development of creative producers who were musical techno-innovators creating new sounds within the general "riddim" structure of the music. Roots reggae's musical vocabulary explores the New World black experience through the themes of exile, redemption, and imagery of Africa and slavery. These themes are shaped by Rastafari and therefore are often expressed in the language of black prophecy. As reggae became internationally popular, it carried with it the freight of Rastafari.

In the contemporary period, reggae has remained the preferred musical idiom of what is sometimes called "conscious" or "culture" music as distinct from dance hall. If the internal Jamaican migration eventually led to reggae as a musical and cultural practice, then external migration allowed the music to develop another distinct genre.

Jamaican music arrived in the United Kingdom on board the Empire Windrush in as part of the cultural makeup of the newly arrived West Indians. Initially it was the cloak of home comfort, something in which the new arrivals could wrap themselves in the strange gray land of the former colonial power. However, as these new communities put down roots and second-generation West Indians began searching for an identity that located them in the United Kingdom — while retaining the connections to the Caribbean — the music changed, and black British identity became a locus for a radical transformation and representation of the self.

The first wave of this change occurred in the s with the development of "lovers rock," ostensibly as the antithesis to the more bass-heavy Rasta-influenced roots and culture forms that dominated the reggae scene in the s. In lovers rock the baselines were unmistakably reggae but with an added emphasis on melodic composition and lyrics that dealt almost exclusively with matters of the heart.

This reflected a mainstream pop music influence as well as that of soul music. Powered by labels such as Lovers Rock, Arawak, Santic, and Hawkeye and featuring artists such as Janet Kay and Carroll Thompson, lovers rock enjoyed some mainstream success before petering out in the s when the fun pop sensibilities that it embraced were rejected for a harder, bass heavy sound.

This is not to say that Rastafari and roots reggae became lost in translation. More traditional forms were being produced by the likes of Steel Pulse and the dub poet Linton Kewsi Johnson, bubbling under the more commercially accessible lovers rock and satisfying the desire for musical content that directly expressed the problems faced by young blacks. In the s, when the conservative political ideology of Thatcherism took hold and young black men in particular found it increasingly difficult to obtain jobs, lovers rock began to lose its appeal and was eventually replaced by "drum and bass.

The best known of these was Soul II Soul. Drum and bass practitioners like Goldie, LTJ, and Roni Size started life as mixers on sound systems across the country in such places as Bristol before branching out into music production. With its elongated basslines and irregular, fast-paced drum patterns voiced by the MCs, drum and bass quickly became the voice of disaffected young blacks. Though its style was more reminiscent of the dance-hall style that dominates sound systems in twenty-first-century Jamaica, the influences did not stop there. Hiphop shares some similarities in production techniques.

More recently, jazz sensibilities that allowed improvisation have shaped a new musical style dubbed "intelligent drum and bass. A good example of this new form is the title track of Bukem's But reggae has not only followed a Jamaican diaspora. It has become one of the most popular international musical forms, with artists deploying its rhythmical syntax in Africa, Europe, and beyond. In the end reggae remains a form of black cultural production in which its practitioners speak to conditions of oppression and experiences of Africa and peoples of African descent. Its lyrical and musical power resides in its messages and sounds of redemption. Thompson Dave. Reggae and Caribbean Music. San Francisco : Backbeat, Reggae is a broad term encompassing a related variety of musical styles that emerged from the island nation of Jamaica after These styles include ska, rock steady, reggae, and dancehall, all of which swept Jamaican music in distinct stylistic waves, one after the other, during the s and s.

Musically, these styles share a common loping rhythm that accents the subsidiary beat. Reggae, however, is many things to many people. It can be seen as merely another great Caribbean dance rhythm, but at the same time many of its songs have highly political overtones. It is also often associated with the Rastafarian religion, an ascetic, millenarian sect that originated in part in the back-to-Africa teachings of Marcus Garvey in the s and s. Since its arrival on the world scene after , reggae and its associated musical styles have become immensely popular around the world.

It is one of the world's first truly international musical forms, both in its origins and in its worldwide appeal. Reggae's origins come from a unique blend of Caribbean musical styles and American rhythm and blues from the s. Prior to World War II , the most popular musical style in Jamaica was mento, which drew from Caribbean forms such as calypso, merengue, and rumba, as well as older African-derived folk styles.

These records were also promoted in Jamaica by sound-system operators who carried portable speakers and record players in their trucks, playing at parties and selling records. Ska became the dominant musical style in Jamaica after , propelled by such groups as the Skatalites, the Ska Kings, the Soul Vendors, the Maytals, and Millie Small, whose song "My Boy Lollipop" was an international hit. Much of this music was produced by new Jamaican-run studios, notably those of Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid, and Prince Buster, all of whom were veterans of the sound-system circuit. Jamaica's political independence from Great Britain in further strengthened the desire to produce all-Jamaican musical forms, and the dance rhythms of ska provided a soundtrack to the celebrations that accompanied independence.

The era of ska's dominance lasted until about , although the style continues to have adherents and practitioners, especially in the United States and Great Britain , where it was revived in the late s.

The music slowed down, and the horns largely disappeared, replaced in dominance by a more melodic bass line. While rock steady was certainly dance music, it was not without its social commentary aspects: Desmond Dekker's "Shanty Town" commented on life in the ghetto communities around Kingston; the Ethiopians sang about the wave of strikes afflicting Jamaica in with their song "Everything Crash.

Replacing rock steady was a new sound, reggae, a name that eventually would be applied to all of Jamaican music. The exact meaning of the term is unclear, some claiming it means ragged or street rough. Others defined reggae as a general term referring to poor people who were suffering. For others it was simply a beat. Musically, reggae slowed the rock steady beat down even further with a stronger bass driving the beat, a loping, chopping guitar sound, and more rhythmic freedom for the drummer to play around the beat of the bass.

Best Of Reggae, Ska & Rocksteady 100 Classic Songs (Part 1 Of 4)

Early reggae records, such as Toots and the Maytals' "Do the Reggay" blended elements of rock steady and reggae. Much of this new sound came from new producers such as Lee Perry, Clancy Eccles, and Bunny Lee, who established their own studios in the late s. Unable to hire established studio musicians, they turned to younger talents such as Aston and Carlton Barrett and Leroy Wallace.

These producers and musicians established the new reggae beat that soon became the most popular style in Jamaica, eclipsing both ska and rock steady. Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Marley became the greatest reggae star ever, with an enduring international appeal.

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Born in , Marley grew up in Trench Town, a rough slum in Kingston. He formed the Wailers with Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingstone in , and they made their first recordings in In the later s, Marley became an adherent of Rastafarianism. In , they signed a recording contract with Chris Blackwell's Island Records. Blackwell gave Marley the money and artistic freedom to do largely as he pleased.

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What followed was a string of some of the most influential reggae recordings in the genre's history. On albums such as Catch a Fire and early singles, Marley and the Wailers took on political, religious, and social topics, from ghetto conditions in "Trench Town Rock" and "Con-crete Jungle" to "Natty Dread" on Rastafarianism.

Marley died of cancer in at 36 years of age. Along with the success of such reggae ambassadors as Marley and the Wailers during the s, another event that made reggae an international cultural force was the release of the film The Harder They Come. This film, by white Jamaican filmmaker Perry Henzell, starred reggae singer Jimmy Cliff as a young street tough or "rude boy" in Jamaican slang terms who comes to Kingston, records a hit record, and then gets in trouble with the law.

Although fictional, The Harder They Come was based on several years of research by Henzell on the culture that surrounded reggae music. The story of success, oppression, and rebellion hit a literal and figurative chord with young people around the world, awakening an interest in Jamaican music and culture that has never completely subsided. The soundtrack album that accompanied it, which included such stars as Jimmy Cliff, the Melodians, the Maytals, and Desmond Dekker, introduced reggae music to millions around the world.

By the early s, reggae was evolving once again. DJs had always been important in Jamaican popular music, bringing music to the masses and sometimes acting as producers of reggae artists. DJs began to dominate Jamaican music in the late s and early s in a style that came to be known as "dancehall.