The History of Reggae Music in Jamaica

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Reggae music is a genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. The term reggae is derived from the word “raggedy,” which was used to describe the music of that time.

Origins of Reggae

Reggae is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. The term reggae was first used to describe a style of music that developed from ska and rocksteady. Reggae is characterized by a heavy bass line, guitars, and drums.


Ska is a direct precursor to reggae music and was very popular in Jamaica in the 1960s. Ska is a fast-paced, guitar-based genre with a strong backbeat. It often features horns, especially trumpets and saxophones, and is generally considered to be happy and upbeat music. Reggae developed out of ska in the late 1960s, and maintains many of the same musical elements.


Rocksteady is a genre of Jamaican popular music that developed from ska and R&B in the late 1960s, and had its roots in African American R&B. The style was an offshoot of ska, with slower tempos and more emphasis on the bass. The Rocksteady era lasted about two years, from 1966 to 1968.

Reggae is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. The term also denotes the modern popular music of Jamaica and its diaspora. A 1968 single by Toots and the Maytals, “Do the Reggay” was the first popular song to use the word “reggae”, effectively naming the genre and introducing it to a global audience. While sometimes used in a broader sense to refer to most types of popular Jamaican dance music, the term reggae more properly denotes a particular music style that originated following on the development of ska and rocksteady.

The Golden Age of Reggae

Reggae music started in the late 1960s in Jamaica. It is a style of music that was influenced by ska, rocksteady, and R&B. Reggae is usually played with drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards. The lyrics are often about love, life, or politics. Reggae became very popular in the 1970s and is still popular today.

The Wailers

The Wailers were a Jamaican reggae band formed by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. The band started out as a ska group but later evolved into one of the most successful reggae bands of all time. They are best known for their hits “No Woman, No Cry”, “Exodus”, and “One Love”.

The Wailers were formed in 1963, when Bob Marley and Peter Tosh recruited Bunny Wailer and Joe Higgs to play with them. The group’s first hit was “Simmer Down”, which was a number one hit in Jamaica in 1964. The Wailers went on to have success with other singles, such as “No Woman, No Cry” and “Exodus”. In the 1970s, the band became more politically active, releasing songs such as “Get Up, Stand Up” and “Small Axe”.

The Wailers disbanded in 1981, after the death of Bob Marley. Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer both went on to have successful solo careers, while Marley’s son Ziggy continued the legacy of the band with his own group, Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers.

Bob Marley

Bob Marley is one of the most influential and popular reggae artists of all time. Born in 1945, Marley rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band, the Wailers. The Wailers’ biggest hits included “No Woman, No Cry,” “Jamming,” “One Love/People Get Ready,” and “Could You Be Loved.” Marley’s music was heavily influenced by his Rastafarian faith, and he is credited with helping to spread Rastafarianism around the world through his music. He died of cancer in 1981, but his music continues to be hugely popular and has been referenced and sampled by many other artists.

Other Notable Reggae Artists

Other notable reggae artists include Beres Hammond, Dennis Brown, Frankie Paul, Gregory Isaacs, Lee “Scratch” Perry, The Skatalites and Sugar Minott. These artists helped to shape the sound of Jamaican music and bring it to the world.

The Decline of Reggae

The roots of reggae can be traced back to the ska and rocksteady genres that emerged in Jamaica in the late 1950s and 1960s. Reggae developed from these earlier styles, and it was initially used as a term to describe a new kind of Jamaican popular music that was strongly influenced by the sounds of American R&B and jazz. The term “reggae” was first used in print in 1968, and it quickly gained popularity both in Jamaica and abroad. However, in the early 1970s, the popularity of reggae began to decline in Jamaica.

The Rise of Dancehall

In the early 1980s, a new style of music called dancehall emerged in Jamaica. Dancehall was a slower, more sensual offshoot of reggae, and it quickly became popular with Jamaican audiences. As dancehall grew in popularity, reggae began to decline.

Many of the biggest names in reggae, including Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, had died by the early 1980s. With its biggest stars gone, reggae struggled to find a new audience. Meanwhile, dancehall was becoming more commercialized and mainstreamed. By the 1990s, it was the most popular genre in Jamaica.

Reggae’s decline in popularity continued in the 2000s. In 2005, Rolling Stone magazine declared that “reggae is dead.” The article claimed that Jamaican audiences had grown tired of the genre and that there were no new artists emerging to keep it fresh.

While it’s true that reggae has lost some of its luster in recent years, the genre is still alive and well. Reggae artists like Ziggy Marley (the son of Bob Marley) and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley (another of Bob Marley’s sons) are keeping the music alive and introducing it to new generations of fans. Reggae may not be as popular as it once was, but it’s still an important part of Jamaican culture and music history.

The Death of Bob Marley

The death of Bob Marley on May 11, 1981 was a tragic day for the world of reggae. Not only was he the most famous and successful Jamaican musician of all time, he was also a powerful political voice for his country and its people. His loss was felt not only in Jamaica, but around the world.

Bob Marley was just 36 years old when he died from cancer, but in his short life he had accomplished more than most people could ever dream of. He rose from humble beginnings in the slums of Kingston to become an international star, with his music connecting with people of all cultures and backgrounds. His message of love and peace was truly universal, and his influence is still felt today.

Bob Marley’s death marked the end of an era in Jamaican music, and the decline of reggae as a mainstream genre. The 1980s saw the rise of dancehall music, which was louder and more abrasive than reggae. It became the dominant sound of Jamaica, and reggae soon became associated with the country’s violent past.

In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in reggae music, with many young people rediscovering the genre thanks to Bob Marley’s iconic status. His legacy continues to live on through his music, which remains as popular as ever.

Economic Struggles in Jamaica

The late 1970s and early 1980s were difficult times for Jamaica. The world economy was in recession, and Jamaica was hit hard. The price of oil went up, which increased the cost of transportation and fuel. The price of coffee, one of Jamaica’s main exports, dropped sharply. And Jamaicans who had been working in the United States and sending money back home lost their jobs and had to return to Jamaica.

Jamaica’s economy began to improve in the late 1980s, but it was not enough to save reggae. Dancehall, a new style of Jamaican music, was becoming more popular with young people. Reggae was seen as old-fashioned, and many reggae artists struggled to find work.

In the 1990s, some reggae artists found success outside of Jamaica. Hip-hop artists in the United States began sampling reggae songs, and reggae became popular in Europe. But in Jamaica, dancehall remained the dominant style of music.

Today, there are still some reggae artists making music, but they are not as popular as they once were. Reggae is now just one part of Jamaica’s musical heritage.

The Resurgence of Reggae

Reggae music has been a part of Jamaican culture for centuries. It is a genre that is deeply rooted in the country’s history, and its resurgence in recent years has been nothing short of amazing. Reggae music has been used as a tool for social change, and it has helped to bring people together from all walks of life.

Reggae Revival

During the late 2000s and early 2010s, a set of young, roots-oriented performers led a resurgence of reggae music in Jamaica. The trend continued into the 2010s, leading to the coining of the term “Reggae Revival” to refer to this era. This new wave of performers included Chronixx, Protoje, Kabaka Pyramid, and Jesse Royal. Reggae Revival artists have been credited with returning Jamaican reggae music to its roots by eschewing electronic instruments and incorporating elements of dub and rocksteady into their sound.

The term “Reggae Revival” was first coined in 2012 by music journalist Steve Johnson in an article for United Reggae Magazine. Johnson described the Revival as “a conscious effort by a group of young Jamaican artists to return to the original sound and style of late 1960s and early 1970s reggae”. This new wave of performers has been credited with returning Jamaican reggae music to its roots by eschewing electronic instruments and incorporating elements of dub and rocksteady into their sound.

The Reggae Revival has been embraced by luminaries such as Ziggy Marley, who said that the movement is “bringing back the heart and soul of reggae music”. Veteran producer Sly & Robbie have also worked with resurgence artists Chronixx, Protoje, and Kabaka Pyramid. The Revival has even spawned its own international festival, dubbed Rebel Salute, which was founded in 2014 by Tony Rebel

Contemporary Reggae Artists

Reggae music has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years, with a new generation of artists carrying on the torch of this essential Jamaican genre. Here are just a few of the contemporary reggae artists keeping the flame alive:

-Buju Banton: One of the most successful and well-known reggae artists of all time, Buju Banton rose to prominence in the early 1990s with his combination of dancehall and traditional reggae sounds. His hits include “Boom Bye Bye” and “Murder She Wrote.”

-Beres Hammond: A smooth-voiced singer known for his romantic ballads, Beres Hammond is one of the most popular reggae artists in Jamaica. His hits include “Tempted to Touch” and “Can You Play Some More.”

-Shaggy: A world famous reggae artist, Shaggy first gained international attention with his 1995 hit “Boombastic.” He has since gone on to release a number of successful albums, including 2002’s Hot Shot, which featured the hits “It Wasn’t Me” and “Angel.”

Similar Posts