Laying off the downbeat may not seem like such a radical idea until we realize that it's this simple technique that lies at the heart of a pop music revolution. The story of the Jamaican music that came to be known... [more]
Laying off the downbeat may not seem like such a radical idea until we realize that it's this simple technique that lies at the heart of a pop music revolution. The story of the Jamaican music that came to be known as reggae is an incredible tale of a tiny island that originated an entire classification of contemporary music, impacting both the record industry and the direction of popular music internationally.
Whether you attribute the origin of that distinctive up-beat accent to Coxsone Dodd, Prince Buster, or someone else, what's beyond dispute is that both producers were crucial to the early development of the form, just as King Tubby and Lee 'Scratch' Perry, early pioneers of multi-tracking in Jamaica, took it further outside.
With Bob Marley's breakout international stardom in the 1970s, the Rastafari religion became synonymous with Jamaican music to many people. Rastafarianism, a syncretic native faith, which combines plant medicines, Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, and Judaism, had been growing for several decades. When the songwriting genius of Bob Marley fused these teachings with a hard-rocking reggae sound, anthems of liberation and struggle were born -- songs now beloved by millions worldwide.
After the Wailers, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, and others took this folk art of resistance to the world stage, reggae continued to evolve, taking cues from the American DJ scene it had helped create. Toasting -- or crafty verbal extemporizing -- and the practice of cutting different versions of singles for the dancefloor are clear precursors to modern rap and turntablism. In a seemingly opposite move, reggae lent its influences to 1970s punk music. At that time, poets of resistance such as Linton Kwesi Johnson inspired the politically oriented UK scene. In fact, the fusion of the edgy punk sound with reggae beats birthed a whole new genre called ska. Reggae also gave birth to the popular dancehall style, which Rasta purists decry as being overly lewd and not in keeping with the spiritual message of original reggae.
In later years, reggae has received the electronic treatment. Dub has resulted from alternate mixes featuring liberal doses of reverb and echo and stripped down vocals. And in another mutation, the original trip-hop sound from Bristol took its cue from dub. [show less]