The Reggae Music History and Culture You Need to Know

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


This blog post covers the reggae music history and culture you need to know. It discusses the origins of the genre, the different subgenres, and the artists that have made it what it is today.


In Jamaica, Reggae is everywhere. The music fills the airwaves, blares from car stereos, and echoes through open-air markets and down deserted streets. Reggae is the voice of the Jamaican people, a way to tell their stories, express their joys and struggles, and promote their culture and identity.

Reggae has its roots in African folk music, American Rhythm and Blues, and Caribbean Mento. The genre first gained popularity in the 1960s with artists like Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Toots & the Maytals. Since then, Reggae has continued to evolve, incorporating elements of Hip Hop, Dancehall, and other genres.

Reggae is more than just a type of music; it’s a lifestyle and an attitude. Jamaicans use Reggae as a form of self-expression, to address social issues, and to celebrate life. When you listen to Reggae, you can feel the sun on your skin, the sand between your toes, and the rhythm in your soul.

What is Reggae Music?

Reggae music is a genre of music that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. The style is a fusion of African and Caribbean musical styles, and is characterized by a strong rhythm with heavy bass and drums. Reggae is traditionally considered a type of folk music, but has also been popularized as pop and rock music.

Reggae music has its roots in the ska and rocksteady genres that developed in Jamaica in the 1950s and 1960s. Ska was a popular style of music that blended elements of Caribbean mento, calypso, and R&B. Rocksteady was a slower, more soulful style of music that emerged from ska in the late 1960s. Reggae developed from rocksteady in the 1970s and is considered to be its direct descendant.

Reggae became internationally popularized in the 1970s by Jamaican artists such as Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Ziggy Marley. The genre has since been adopted by musicians all over the world and has influenced other genres such as hip hop, dub, and dancehall.

The Origins of Reggae Music

The origins of Reggae music can be traced back to the early 1940s in Jamaica. Reggae is a genre of music that was developed from various African musical traditions, including blues, jazz, and mento. The first recordings of reggae were made in the late 1950s by Jamaican artists such as Laurel Aitken and Clancy Eccles. Reggae became popular in the 1960s with the release of ska and rocksteady records by Jamaican artists such as Toots and the Maytals and Bob Marley. Reggae music has become a global phenomenon, with artists such as Ziggy Marley, Sean Paul, and Shaggy achieving international fame.

The Development of Reggae Music

Reggae is a music genre that developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s. The term “reggae” is most commonly used to refer to a particular style of Jamaican popular music, originating in 1968. This style was influenced by traditional mento and calypso music, as well as American jazz and rhythm and blues. Reggae typically features a heavy bassline, electric guitar, drums, and horns.

The earliest known use of the word “reggae” to refer to a musical style was in a 1968 article in the Jamaican newspaper The Daily Gleaner. In that article, Alex Osmond-Clarke described the new style of music that he and his friends were listening to: “This new sound—‘reggae’—is named after the Jamaican ‘raggedy’ or ‘streetside’ musicians who play it.”

Reggae became popular in the 1970s, with Bob Marley becoming one of the best-known performers of the genre. Marley’s heirs Ziggy and Damian “Junior Gong” Marley have continued to be successful reggae artists in their own right.

The Spread of Reggae Music

From its Jamaican roots, reggae music has been adopted and influences by other cultures around the world. One of the most notable examples is in Brazil, where reggae has become deeply entrenched in the country’s music scene.

In the early 1970s, a group of Brazilian musicians traveled to Jamaica to learn more about the new style of music that was taking the island by storm. They quickly fell in love with reggae and brought it back to Brazil with them. Reggae then began to spread throughout Latin America, particularly in countries like Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

While reggae has never reached the same level of popularity in the United States as it has in other parts of the world, there are still a number of American musicians who have been influenced by the genre. Some notable examples include Ziggy Marley, Sublime, and Matisyahu.

The Influence of Reggae Music

Reggae music has been a significant part of Jamaican culture since the 1960s, when it first developed as a response to the mainstreaming of American rock and roll and rhythm and blues. Reggae experienced a Golden Age in the 1970s, with the genre’s worldwide popularity increasing due to the rise of Bob Marley and others. Marley’s success brought increased exposure to other reggae artists such as Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Burning Spear, and Lee “Scratch” Perry. Reggae has since then continued to evolve, with new subgenres and fusions constantly being created. Some of these include dub, dancehall, lovers rock, roots reggae, ska, and ragga.

Reggae music is deeply rooted in African musical traditions, especially those of drumming and call-and-response singing. These elements were brought to Jamaica by enslaved Africans who arrived on the island during the Atlantic slave trade. Reggae also incorporates elements of Caribbean mento music, as well as American jazz and R&B. The lyrics of early reggae songs were often concerned with social issues such as poverty and racism; later songs would move away from these themes to focus more on love or party vibes.

Reggae has enjoyed a huge global popularity ever since its inception, with many artists finding success both in Jamaica and abroad. The genre has been particularly influential in the development of hip hop; several key rap artists got their start by sampling or interpolating reggae tracks in their own songs. In more recent years, reggae has seen something of a resurgence in popularity thanks to artists like Sean Paul, Shaggy, Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, and Vybz Kartel

The Future of Reggae Music

In spite of its popularity, the future of reggae music is unclear. The style has been declining in mainstream popularity for years, and there is no obvious new wave of artists carrying the torch. The genre faces stiff competition from other genres such as hip-hop, trap, and EDM, which are all more popular with younger listeners. It remains to be seen whether reggae music can make a comeback or if it will fade into obscurity.

Similar Posts