The Religious History Behind Reggae Music

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Reggae music is often associated with religious themes and messages. Learn about the religious history behind reggae music and how it has evolved over the years.


Reggae music has its roots in the religious traditions of Jamaica, where it developed in the late 1960s. Its name comes from the word “raggamuffin,” which was used to describe a style of Jamaican dance music that was popular at the time. Reggae is closely related to ska and rocksteady, two other genres that emerged in Jamaica in the 1960s.

Reggae is typically characterized by a slow, steady beat and a heavy emphasis on bass. The lyrics often deal with social and political issues, as well as with religious themes. Many reggae songs are pumped up with energy and optimism, but there is also a significant strand of reggae that deals with more introspective and personal topics.

The best-known practitioner of reggae is Bob Marley, who spearheaded the genre’s international popularity in the 1970s. Marley’s music often dealt with political and social issues, as well as with his own Rastafarian beliefs. Other important reggae artists include Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Jimmy Cliff, and Burning Spear.

Reggae has also been an influence on other genres of music, including hip hop, dubstep, and drum & bass. In recent years, it has also experienced something of a resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to renewed interest in Marley’s music.

The religious origins of reggae music

Reggae music is a genre that is intrinsically linked with the Rastafarian movement. The Rastafarian movement was founded in the 1930s in Jamaica, and it was based on the belief that Haile Selassie I, the Emperor of Ethiopia, was the messiah. Rastafarians also believed in the decriminalization of marijuana and the use of it for religious purposes. Reggae music became the sound of the Rastafarian movement, and it spread around the world.

The influence of Rastafarianism

Rastafarianism is a religion that developed in Jamaica in the 1930s, and it has had a significant influence on reggae music. The religion is based on the belief that Haile Selassie I, the former emperor of Ethiopia, is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Rastafarians also believe that black people are the true Israelites, and that they will one day return to their homeland of Africa.

Reggae music often contains religious themes, and many reggae artists are Rastafarians. The most famous Rastafarian reggae artist is Bob Marley, who popularized the genre around the world. Marley’s lyrics often contain references to Rastafarian beliefs, and he was a strong advocate for the religion.

While not all reggae artists are Rastafarians, the religion has had a significant impact on the genre. Rastafarian beliefs often come through in the lyrics of reggae songs, and many artists have used their music to spread the religion’s message to a wider audience.

The influence of Christianity

Christians in Jamaica attend church on Sundays, but they also practice their religion in other ways throughout the week. One of these ways is through music. Reggae, which is a type of Jamaican popular music, is one genre that has been heavily influenced by Christianity.

Reggae music often contains Christian lyrics, and many artists have been openly Christian themselves. Bob Marley, for example, was a Rastafarian, which is a Christian sect that worships Haile Selassie, the former emperor of Ethiopia. Marley’s music often contained Christian and Rastafarian lyrics side by side.

Other reggae artists have been less overt about their Christianity, but their lyrics still reflect Christian themes. In “Three Little Birds,” for example, Bob Marley sings about trusting in God even when times are tough. This message of hope and resilience is common in both Christian and reggae music.

Christianity has also had an influence on reggae music in terms of its sound. Reggae beats often make use of the ” skank,” which is a rhythmic guitar technique that has its origins in gospel music. Additionally, many reggae songs make use of call-and-response structures, which are also common in religious music.

The influence of Christianity on reggae music is clear. From the lyrics to the sound, the two genres have been intertwined for decades.

The development of reggae music

Reggae music has its roots in the religious history of the island of Jamaica. The music is a blend of African and European influences, with its origins in the folk music of the slaves who were brought to Jamaica from Africa. Reggae music is deeply rooted in the Rastafarian religion, which is a religion that worships Haile Selassie, the former emperor of Ethiopia. The religion promotes the use of marijuana and the use of music to spread its message.

The early years

The origins of reggae music can be traced back to the early 20th century, when the genre was first developed in Jamaica. At that time, reggae was heavily influenced by other genres of music, such as ska and rocksteady. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s that reggae really began to gain popularity around the world.

Reggae music has its roots in Jamaican folk music and African-American rhythm and blues. The word “reggae” is actually derived from a Jamaican term for “rags”, which was used to describe the clothing worn by poor Jamaicans.

Reggae songs often deal with themes of social injustice and poverty. This is because many Jamaicans felt they were being treated unfairly by their government and by the richer members of society. As a result, reggae became known as the “voice of the oppressed”.

Despite its humble beginnings, reggae went on to become one of the most popular genres of music in the world. Today, it is enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds.

The golden age

The golden age of reggae music was a period of great creativity and innovation that began in the late 1960s and continued through the 1970s. This was a time when reggae music was first becoming widely known outside of its native Jamaica, and when many of the genre’s most iconic artists and songs were released.

Some of the most important and influential figures in reggae history emerged during this time, including Bob Marley, who would become one of the world’s best-known and most beloved musicians. His albums Catch a Fire (1972) and Exodus (1977) are widely considered to be two of the greatest reggae albums ever made. Other important artists from this era include Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs, Lee “Scratch” Perry, and Bunny Wailer.

During the golden age of reggae, the music was heavily influenced by both Jamaican folk traditions and the Rastafari movement. Rastafari is a religion that emerged in Jamaica in the 1930s, inspired by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I (who is worshipped as a deity by Rastafarians). Rastafarianism has had a profound impact on Jamaican culture, including its music. Many of Bob Marley’s songs contain references to Rastafarian beliefs, and he is perhaps the movement’s best-known proponent.

The golden age of reggae came to an end in the early 1980s, but the genre has continued to evolve and remain popular around the world ever since.


Reggae music is a unique genre that has its roots in many different cultures and religions. From its African roots to its Christian influence, reggae music has always been a reflection of the religious beliefs of its performers and fans. Today, reggae music is enjoyed by people of all faiths, and its message of peace and love continues to resonate with listeners around the world.

Similar Posts