When Did Reggae Music Originate?

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Reggae music originated in the late 1960s in Jamaica. It is a genre that is influenced by ska, rocksteady, and African music.

Reggae’s African Origins

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 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.

Reggae’s Jamaican Origins

The exact origins of reggae are unknown, but the most accepted story is that it began in the late 1960s in Jamaica. Ska, an upbeat predecessor of reggae, was the dominant music genre in Jamaica at the time. Reggae developed from a combination of ska, rocksteady, and African rhythms.


Ska is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s. It is a precursor to the reggae style that emerged in the 1960s. Ska is characterized by its fast tempo, offbeat rhythms, and use of horns. It was made popular by Jamaican artists such as Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker, and The Skatalites.


Rocksteady is a music genre that originated in Jamaica around 1966. The term rocksteady comes from a style of danceable Jamaican popular music that evolved from ska and reggae. This intense focus on the bass and drums helped to inspire what we now know as dub music. Rocksteady was the last popular music style to arise before reggae took over the Jamaican mainstream in 1968.

The lyrics of rocksteady songs often dealt with romantic themes, reflecting the mood of the people at the time. The music also emphasised singing over toasting (rapping), as well as increased use of harmony vocals, similar to Motown R&B and doo-wop. The instruments used in rocksteady were also quite different from those found in earlier Jamaican music genres such as ska and mento. Pianos and guitars became more prominent, while horns and saxophones were deemphasized.

Reggae’s International Influence

Reggae’s international influence Simon Reynolds Wednesday April 19, 2006

The Observer

From the mountain plains of Ethiopia to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, from Brighton Beach in New York to the clubs of Tokyo, the riddim called reggae has been spreading its sound and ethos for more than three decades.

Reggae’s global success is one of the most extraordinary stories in popular music. It began with a handful of singles in Jamaica during the late 1960s, fostered by a few intrepid producers and entrepreneurs such as Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Chris Blackwell, and achieved full-blown international renown only after Bob Marley’s victory lap with his backing band, the Wailers, in the late 1970s.

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