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Columbia College Chicago


Definition of Style

Familiar around the globe primarily because of the hypnotic music of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, reggae is a Jamaican popular music that developed in the late 1960s in the wake of its predecessors: ska, mento, and rock steady. Picking up broadcasts of Fats Domino and others emanating from coastal cities such as New Orleans, musicians in Jamaica combined the rhythm and blues they heard on the airwaves with Caribbean rhythms, creating the distinctive accent pattern of ska. Reflecting the uptempo nature of the classic R&B artists, ska was a high-energy dance music, but it gave way in the mid-1960s to a slower, more deliberate form known as rock steady. Reggae, as we know it today, emerged when these musicians fell under the influence of the longer songs and open-ended instrumental improvisation.

Musical Example

Rivers of Babylon (L.Kong), Melodians. Tougher than Tough: The Story of Jamaican Music (Mango 162-539 935-2 518 399-2).

Introductory Bibliography

Barrow, Steve, and Peter Dalton. The Rough Guide to Reggae: The Definitive Guide to Jamaican Music from Ska through Roots to Bashment. 3rd ed. London: Rough Guides, 2004. Description plus annotated discography of Jamaican music from the 1960s to the beginning of the 21st century.

Davis, Stephen, and Peter Simon. Reggae Bloodlines. [Garden City, N.Y.]: Anchor, 1977. An overview of Jamaican popular music until the 1970s.

Mulvaney, Rebekah Michele. Rastafari and Reggae: A Dictionary and Sourcebook. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1990. Dictionary of terms and list of resources.

Potash, Chris, ed. Reggae, Rasta, Revolution: Jamaican Music from Ska to Dub. New York: Schirmer, 1997.

Selected Discography

Lee, Perry "Scratch". Arkology (Polygram 524379) 3-CD box set

Marley, Bob. Legend (Tuff Gong 846210)

Skatalites. Ska Foundation (Heartbeat HB 88)

Studio One Dancehall Selection (Heartbeat HB 220)

Tougher than Tough: The Story of Jamaican Music (Mango 162-539 935-2) 4-CD box set

What a Bam Bam! Dancehall Queens (Shanachie 45028)