Reggae Music: A Subgenre of Music

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Reggae music is a subgenre of music that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. Reggae music is characterized by its heavy use of rhythm and blues, as well as its distinctive sound. Reggae music has been popularized by artists such as Bob Marley and Ziggy Marley.

What is Reggae Music?

Reggae music is a subgenre of music that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. The style is characterized by a strong bassline, drum and percussion instruments, and an emphasis on vocals and lyrics. Reggae music is often political and spiritual in nature, and many of its songs are about social issues such as poverty, injustice, and racism. The genre has been hugely influential, spawning other genres such as dub, dancehall, and reggaeton.

Reggae Music History

Reggae music is a subgenre of music that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. The term “reggae” is derived from the word “regga”, which is a Jamaican Patois word for “rags”. Reggae music is usually characterized by a strong backbeat, rhythms influenced by African music, and often contains elements of blues, rock, and gospel.


Reggae is a subgenre of music that emerged in the late 1960s. It is generally considered to have originated in Jamaica.Reggae is characterized by a strong rhythmic style that is often accompanied by guitars, drums, and bass. The lyrics of reggae songs are often spiritual or political in nature.

Reggae’s early history is often associated with the Rastafari movement, which was popularized in Jamaica in the 1930s. Rastafarians believed that Haile Selassie I, the Emperor of Ethiopia, was the living embodiment of Jah, the Jamaican word for God. This belief influenced the development of reggae music, which often contains references to Jah and Rastafarianism.

Reggae became popular in the 1970s thanks to artists such as Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Burning Spear. Marley’s song “No Woman, No Cry” is one of the most famous examples of reggae music. Reggae has since become a global phenomenon, with artists from all over the world creating their own unique spin on the genre.


The development of reggae music can be traced back to the late 1960s in Jamaica. At that time, there was a strong influence from American rhythm and blues, as well as from Jamaican ska and rocksteady. Reggae developed from these two genres, and began to take on its own unique sound in the early 1970s.

One of the most important aspects of reggae music is the rhythm. The instrumentation typically used to create the distinctive reggae sound includes drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards. The bass guitar is played in a very characteristic way, using a style known as “riddim”. This word refers to the rhythmic pattern that forms the foundation of the music.

Reggae music often contains elements of social commentary, which is reflected in the lyrics. Many reggae songs deal with themes such as poverty, violence, and injustice. Other songs celebrate Jamaican culture and history.

The popularity of reggae music has grown considerably in recent years. It has been influenced by many other genres, including hip hop and electronic music. Today, reggae can be heard all over the world.

Reggae Music Elements

Reggae music is a subgenre of music that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. The music is characterized by its slow tempo, its offbeat rhythms, and its use of the Jamaican patois. The lyrics of reggae songs often deal with themes of poverty, racism, and resistance to oppression.

Rhythm and meter

Instrumentation in reggae usually includes drums, bass guitar, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, saxophone, trombone, and keyboards. The tempo of reggae is usually relaxed, so it is easy to dance to. The drumming is characterized by regular ticks on the off beat, and sometimes a emphasize on the AFTERBEAT. This is different from rock music, which typically emphasizes the backbeat (the two and four).


Reggae melodies typically center around the tonic (or “root”) and fifth of a chord. Reggae uses a lot of minor chords (chords built off the minor third), which gives the music its characteristic “sad” or “mellow” sound. Ska, on the other hand, uses more major chords, giving it a brighter feel.


An important element in reggae music is harmony. The basic harmony in reggae often consists of three parts: Bass, drum, and guitar. The bassline is the most important part of the harmony and usually follows a pattern similar to that of the drum beat. The guitar plays a supporting role, providing chords and sometimes soloing.

The harmonies in reggae are often very simple, but they can be quite complex as well. Reggae artists often use “riddims,” which are basic harmonic progressions that are repeated throughout a song. Riddims can be used for both the verse and chorus of a song, or they can be used as the foundation for an entire song.

One important thing to remember about reggae harmony is that it is often based on Jamaican Patois, which is a dialect of English spoken in Jamaica. This means that the lyrics of a reggae song are often not immediately intelligible to English speakers. However, the meaning of the lyrics is usually conveyed through the music itself, so it is still possible to enjoy the music even if you don’t understand all of the words.

Reggae Music Instruments

Reggae music is a subgenre of music that was developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s. The music is characterized by a heavy bass sound and rhythms that are similar to those found in African American gospel music and blues. Reggae artists typically use guitars, drums, and keyboards to create their unique sound.

Reggae Music Genres

Reggae music is a subgenre of music that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. Reggae is usually characterized by a 4/4 time signature, offbeat rhythms, and inflections of speech. Reggae music is often identified by its use of the Rastafari movement’s symbolism and lyrics.


Ska is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. Ska combined elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues. It is characterized by a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the off beat. Ska developed in Jamaica in the 1960s when Prince Buster, Clement Coxsone Dodd, and Duke Reid began producing records for the growing market of jukeboxes in Jamaica. The style was named after Collins’ SKA sound system. By 1966 it had begun to spread to Britain where it developed further, giving rise to the more distinctly British form known as 2 Tone

Ska has been described as “the first distinctly Jamaican popular music”. Reggae historian Steve Barrow notes that although ska’s “rock n roll antecedents” are sometimes perceptible in its assaulting guitar work, deep bass lines and also “weak offbeats at (the) centre of the rhythms”, there is also an African element which consists of “the repetitive strikes on the three main drums…and also those played on various percussion instruments including tambourines, congas and cowbell”. He relates this African characteristic to memories brought by descendants of enslaved Africans who recalled music they heard while working on plantations. One commentator writes that while ska was created by Jamaicans living in UK “its flamboyant middle-class 344 culture found an audience well beyond those island shores”, so that ska eventually became part ‘parallel universe’to British pop.”


Rocksteady is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in 1966. The term rocksteady comes from a style of dancing called “rocking” which was popular at the time. The music is a slower, more relaxed style of reggae than the ska that preceded it, and is characterized by smooth, flowing vocals and mellow instrumentation.

The music was named for its ability to make dancers “rock” or “steady” themselves on the beat, similar to how dancers in the United States would “slow drag”. Rocksteady is considered a transitional phase between ska and reggae; many songs from this period would later be rerecorded in a more uptempo reggae style with new lyrics.

The rocksteady sound typically featured horns (usually trumpets) playing melodic lines over a steady bass guitar heartbeat rhythm, with guitars playing simple chords on the off-beat. The snare drum often plays a backbeat, while an upstroke on the hi-hat emphasizes the third beat of each bar.

Lyrically, rocksteady songs often dealt with themes of love and relationships. As with ska and reggae, rocksteady was initially most popular with people of Jamaican descent living in urban areas such as Kingston and London; however, it eventually found a wider international audience.


From its beginnings in the 1970s, dub music has been a major influence on subsequent genres of music, particularly reggae. In the 1980s and 1990s, dub developed into a subgenre of reggae, characterised by a sparse, atmospheric sound that uses studio effects to create an evocative echo chamber atmosphere. The dub sound typically features delayed and reverbed drums, heavily echoed and sometimes pitch-shifted or otherwise distorted vocals. Dub productions were often instrumental versions of reggae tracks with the vocal tracks removed, resulting in an instrumental track that retained the vibe of the original but with a different feel.

Reggae music has been a part of the popular culture for many years. It has been used in many movies, tv shows, and even commercials. Reggae music is usually associated with the island lifestyle, and it often has a relaxed feel to it. Reggae music is also known for its positive lyrics and its ability to make people feel good.

Reggae Music Festivals

Reggae music festivals are musical events that feature the performance of reggae music. Reggae music is a genre of music that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. The style of reggae music is characterized by a strong rhythm with an emphasis on drums and bass, as well as catchy melodies. Reggae music is often considered to be a form of protest music, as it often contains lyrics that are critical of social ills such as poverty, racism, and violence. Reggae music has gained popularity all over the world, and reggae festivals are now held in many countries.

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