Reggae Music

Music has always been an important factor in the lives of Jamaicans and other West Indians. Jamaican music comes from an African foundation, influenced early on by the music of Europe, especially England & France, and later by American popular music.The great-great grandparent of Reggae is mento, a loose-sounding folk music, sometimes confused with calypso, a Trinidad-born music. Mento’s lyrical food is topical issues. It draws on the fife and drum music of Jonkanoo, Pocomania church music, the quadrille, and work songs learned on plantations, and passed through generations.

By the 1950s Jamaican youth were more interested in listening to American music, popularized by radio stations in the US south, and sound systems – portable dance machines that were to change the face of Jamaican music. Soon dance halls would rock to the beat of Duke Reid’s Trojan sound, Sir Coxsone’s Downbeat, Prince Buster’s Voice Of The People, V-Rocket, and many others. To protect the identity of the their music many sound system operators defaced or removed the labels from their records.In short order local musicians were called on to record music that emulated the sound of the imported American music. “Jamaican Blues” or “Blue Beat” was a shuffling Jamaican interpretation of R & B.

As time wore on the prominence of the off-beat rhythm supplied by the horn section grew, as did that of the guitar or piano. By 1958 this style was fast transforming into a blazing fire – Ska! It is said that the sound of the off-beat horn riff inspired the term Ska.Cuban music also had its influence. Brought to Jamaica by immigrants like Rolando Alphonso it would play a key role in the development of Jamaican music. Trinidad, Barbados and other West Indian islands also exported singers and musicians to Jamaica (like Lynn Taitt and Jackie Opel). They too brought their musical influences to the birth and development of Ska, Rock Steady and Reggae.

Blazing Fire>>