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One of the most recognizable and popular music in the world today is



Jamaican music changes constantly, often influenced by popular trends throughout the world such as jazz, swing, rhythm and blues, and today's lyric-heavy rap.


Early Jamaican Music

According to the History of Jamaica,  the slaves brought drums from Africa called "Burru" used in  arrangements called "talking drums" originating from West Africa.  The early "Jonkanoo" celebrations a mix of African, European and the evolving Jamaican cultural music of drumming, rattles and conch blowing appeared around Christmas time with masquerades.  Jonkanoos were at first encourgaed by the planters, until they realized that the slaves were communicating with their drums and conch shells.    By the turn of the century, Calypso from Trinidad & Tobago along with the Samba from Central America was introduced to Jamaicans to form a new mix called Mento.  Mento is simple music with humorous lyrics played by guitar, banjo, tambourine, shaker, scraper and a rumba or bass box. This form was popular in the 20's and 30's and was the first Jamaican musical form to gain attention off the island.  Today Mento is seen as a Tourist attraction and is played around some hotels on the island.

Ska & Rock Steady

Influences of Swing, Rythym & Blues from the United States combined with Mento created 'SKA' in the 40's and 50's. Ska was a big band sound with horn arrangements, piano and "bop" quick beat.  Ska was easy to move to and created a form of dance "skanking" in the early 60's.

Among Jamaica's first music stars were Byron Lee and the Dragonaires formed in 1956.  Lee's band continues to be a driving force in Jamaican music today and tours all over the world.  Other Ska artists included the Vikings, Carlos Malcolm and the Skatalites.  The dance craze and ska brought forth a new method of bringing music to the people and these mobile D.J's were called "toasters"(toasting between cuts of the music).  Many of the DJ's became recording artists and eventually what is known today as "DJ/Dancehall".  The beat of Ska slowed down in the mid 60's and the Rock Steady emerged.  Rock Steady (a heavy Bass tune) was conceived by Leroy Sibbles with his singing group the Heptones and was then the Jamaican dance music of the 60's.


Here comes Reggae!

It is not known when and from what the word 'Reggae' came from, but is was the Third World's  first musical star Bob Marley that took Reggae to the masses and made it the universal language.  For many Reggae was and remains the domain of Hon. Robert Nesta Marley, the undisputed King of Reggae Music.

Bob Marley's untimely death robbed the world of one of the Greatest.  Since his death many successful musicans have taken up the mantle and brought Reggae into the 90's.  Artists like Freddie McGregor, the late Dennis Brown , Gregory Issacs (the Cool Ruler) & Marcia Griffiths consistently gave us popular hits  & continued in the path of keeping up the standards of Reggae Music. 


A new form of reggae began as 'dub'( a method of cutting out the vocals, leaving the heavy bass and drum line so that singers can dub over with their lyrics) is considered to be the beat of the 90's.  Early efforts of - U Roy, King Stitch, Big Youth, Yellowman & ShabbaRanks brought dancehall to the club scene just in time when Rap became popular in North America.  This scene is now dominated by, Buju Banton, Supercat, Sister Carol, Patra and the Dancehall King, Beenie Man .  This style continues to rule in its birthplace, the dancehall. 


Another genre of "Reggae Talk" called Dub poetry was introduced by Linton K. Johnson in the late 70's.  Unlike dancehall in which the music often overshadows the lyrics, in Dub Poetry the message is emphasized.  Dub poets like; Mutabaruka, the late Mikey Smith, Queen Majeeda, Yasu Afri and others have stirred consciences with their outspokedness.


There is lots more Reggae Music on this site, including tributes to Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Marcia Griffiths, Freddie McGregor, Beenie Man, Sanchez and Beres Hammond - Lots of Links to Ja' Music. You may want to bookmark this page for future reference.


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