How Reggae Developed Out of Jamaican Music

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


How Reggae Developed Out of Jamaican Music Reggae is a genre of music that developed out of Jamaican music in the late 1960s.

The Origins of Reggae

Reggae is a genre of Jamaican popular music that originated 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 broad 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.


Ska is a music genre that developed in Jamaica in the late 1950s and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. It combined elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues. Ska is characterized by a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the off beat. In the early 1960s, ska was the dominant music genre of Jamaica and was popular with British mods. Later it became popular with many skinheads.


Rocksteady is a music genre that originated in Jamaica around 1966. The term rocksteady comes from a style of dance that was popular at the time. This type of dance was performed to the new style of music that was slower than ska, which was the popular Jamaican music at the time.

Rocksteady was created out of a need for something slower than ska and more suitable for dancing. The first rocksteady song is believed to be “Hold Me Tight” by The Paragons, which was released in 1966. The song’s slow, easygoing tempo and simple lyrics made it perfect for the new style of dancing that was becoming popular at the time.

Rocksteady quickly became the dominant form of Jamaican music in the late 1960s, and many of the biggest names in reggae got their start in rocksteady, including Bob Marley and The Wailers, Alton Ellis, and Toots and The Maytals. Rocksteady remained popular in Jamaica through the 1970s, but its popularity began to decline in the 1980s as faster-paced styles like Dancehall gained favor.

The Development of Reggae

Reggae is a music genre that developed out of Jamaican music in the late 1960s. The style is characterized by a heavy bassline, guitar, and drums. Reggae has its origins in mento, ska, and rocksteady.

The Golden Age of Reggae

The 1970s was the golden age of reggae, with roots and rockers ushering in a new era of the genre. Following the lead of Marley, Peter Tosh, and Lee “Scratch” Perry, artists like Burning Spear, Junior Murvin, Max Romeo, The Congos, Israel Vibration, and Culture helped to bring reggae to new heights. With its egalitarian messages of peace and love, as well as its distinctive sound and feel, reggae went on to conquer the world in the 1970s.

The Internationalization of Reggae

The internationalization of reggae occurred during the 1970s when the music spread from its native Jamaica to other countries, especially in Africa, Europe and North America. The genre’s popularity was initially confined to black and mixed-race communities outside of Jamaica, but it soon entered the mainstream. Reggae’s international success was due in part to the appeal of its rebellious, anti-establishment lyrics, as well as its laid-back sound.

During the 1980s and 1990s, reggae experienced something of a decline in popularity, but it has since made a comeback. In recent years, the genre has been fused with other styles of music, such as hip hop and electronic dance music. This has helped to ensure its appeal to new audiences and maintain its place as a global force in popular culture.

The Influence of Reggae

Reggae is a unique genre of music that developed out of the Jamaican music scene in the late 1960s. Reggae has its roots in traditional Jamaican music, as well as in ska and rocksteady. Reggae is characterized by a slow, relaxed tempo and a heavy bass sound. The lyrics of reggae songs often deal with social and political issues.

Reggae’s Influence on Other Genres

Reggae’s influence on other genres is incalculable. The music has been a major force in the development of punk rock, skinhead, 2 Tone, new wave, and dancehall. Reggae has also inspired many non-reggae artists, including Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, the Clash, and the Police.

Reggae’s Influence on Culture

Reggae music has long been a part of Jamaican culture, and its influence can be seen in many aspects of the island’s society. The music is often used as a form of political and social commentary, and its positive message has helped to shape the Jamaican way of life.

Reggae has also had a significant impact on the world of fashion. The signature style of dress associated with the music is known as “Rasta fashion,” and it features brightly colored clothing, dreadlocks, and other items that are traditionally associated with the Rastafarian movement. This style of dress has been adopted by people all over the world, and it is often seen at reggae concerts and festivals.

The influence of reggae can also be seen in the popularity of Jamaican food. Some of the island’s most popular dishes, such as jerk chicken and curry goat, have become staples in the diets of many people who are not even from Jamaica. The unique flavor of Jamaican cuisine is due in part to the use of traditional spices and herbs, as well as the slow cooking methods that are often used.

Overall, it is clear that reggae music has had a significant influence on Jamaican culture and society. The music’s positive message and unique sound have helped to shape the way that Jamaicans view themselves and their place in the world.

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