The Origins of Reggae Music: Study It for Your Class

Mento is originally a folk music genre, which was founded in Jamaica. One more genre that contributed to the development of reggae is Calypso. From the 1940s to 1950s, this direction quickly developed and gave life to a completely new culture. Originally, Jamaica was a Spanish colony. You can feel the corresponding beat in the music. Later on, Jamaica belonged to the United Kingdom. Both of the cultures can be felt when listening to reggae. The convergent community of the country was one of the main topics for lyrics.

Mostly, Jamaica consisted of slaves from Africa. They were working on various plantations just like everywhere else in this country. One can hear plenty of musical instruments in the sound of reggae. The main musical instruments that we can hear in this genre include:

  • Guitar;
  • Rumba box;
  • Bongo;
  • Banjo.

These instruments are still widely used in the genre. The culture is still on the rise thanks to the numerous followers and admirers around the globe.

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Further Evolution of Ska Music

The demand for Mento was going up during the upcoming years. The decrease in popularity was caused by R’n’B. The last one was spread via radio in the United States and quickly became popular throughout the entire continent. 

Those who listen and support reggae started to feel the touch of R’n’B. They decided to mix the existing genre and culture with the new trend. Many reggae followers started to imitate the styles of R’n’B. that was the time of the new madness as sound systems became accessible. 

In addition to music, new dancing techniques appeared. Reggae was still popular among Jamaican working class, and it was music for poverty at first. The rivalry took place between the sound recording studios and artists. It was not easy to obtain rare records. In Jamaica, all types of music became highly demanded due to the mentality of the local population. 

The most known artists of that time were:

  • Edward Thornton;
  • Yellowman;
  • Dizzy Reece.

Because of the latest innovations, the recording industry in Jamaica completely re-shaped. Special sound systems were created to select exclusive and top-quality materials. Since 1962, when the country gained its independence, so-called Ska’s upbeat rhythm showed the mood of the population, especially the working class. You may study the works of essay writers of that time to learn more about this part.

What they did was adding the elements of R’n’B to the existing Mento genre. Among the components of both music genres, a creeping bass line was chosen. Musicians also added a dynamic brass part, as well as folk elements of Jamaican traditional music sound. 

That is why it may feel like folk from time to time. It all resulted in spreading the popularity of Mento. As the year 1972 arrived, a legendary movie called The Harder They Come came out, and one of the reggae representatives, Millie Smalls, hit the top-5 in the United Kingdom chart.

Rocksteady a Slower Pace

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The streets by that time were full of musicians who played reggae. They supported Ska style in everything. This style is a quickly paced chaotic genre from the 60s. Another bright representative of that epoch was “Rude Boys,” a known gangster band that used to terrorize the population. It led to the appearance and popularity of such genre as Rocksteady, which is a slowed down paced sound.

The rhythm and beat switched to more relaxing and simpler. It motivates the listeners to dance instead of just listening. Music professionals would choose outdated love tracks. Bass guitars got the leading role and put guitars to the second place. Singers replaced instruments, imitating their sounds. The known names include Alton Ellis and Hopeton Lewis. Rocksteady, however, only lasted for a couple of years.

When Did It Turn into Mainstream?

In the late 60s, Jamaica was involved in the civil war. It was scary to walk out the streets full of violence, homelessness, and poverty. Drums and bass guitars were the most commonly used musical instruments by that time. You can hear a sober part of revolutionary spirit and motto in most of the songs of that time. Lyrics changed to more conscious. 

Mostly, the texts reflected the desire of enslaved citizens to obtain human rights and freedoms. They strived for equality and fairness for all. That was the time when the greatest star of this genre showed up. Bob Marley stressed the problems of slavery. Other genres that appeared included Ska elements and a bit of pop-rock. Since then, reggae remains popular among people who value freedom and justice.

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