Throughout the years, It has steadily moved from mento, to ska, to rocksteady, to what we now call reggae and dancehall music.
This is “old time” story telling in song and music. It combines African and latin rhythm, with anglo folksongs…and was very popular during the 1940s and 1950s. Today it is used mainly to entertain visitors coming to the island…giving them a taste of what Jamaican music was like in the past.
Listen to it and you will most certainly feel the spirit of the “old” days. The stories it tell are usually simple and funny everyday happenings in Jamaican life.
The instruments are also very simple – a gourd shaker, a upright bass, rumba box, fiddle, mandolin, ukulele, or a trumpet…hang around it for a bit and you will most certainly find yourself laughing and moving to the beat.
Mento singers doing their thing…
You will see in the video above that the men are playing a banjo, guitar, and a rumba box.
Ska is simply mento music moving to the next stage!
Musicians began playing around with the music – adding a little calypso here and there…a little American jazz, some rhythm & blues…and before you know it ska popped out!
This “new” rythm took the 1960’s by storm…until The “rude boys” of the time slowed the pace a bit, added a steady rock beat…to portray their “rude boy” image…and out came ska. See the video below…
The slowing continues! By 1966, a new genre called rocksteady is born. This heavier more relaxed tempo took on a kind of walking bass known as skank.
That same year, Alton Ellis released his single “Do the Rocksteady” and that was it. The beat took hold. Listen to it beat below…
The slowing of the beat continues as if in search for something better.
By 1968, musicians had added enough effects to the beat and reggae was born.
Enter Bob Marley and the Wailers and reggae gots its big break in the United states in the “70s when Island records of Great Britain, they them the big break. The entire world was introduced to this new “sound.”…and they liked what they heard. From then on reggae never “looked” back
Bob Marley and the wailers would go on to record many hit songs…and at the same time make a decent living.
By the time Bob Marley died of cancer in 1981, his music had taken to the American mainstream and his name was cemented as a reggae music icon.
Many other Jamaican music artists later came on the scene and made a name for themselves.
Jamaican Music Today
The music today…while still reggae…comes in different styles – roots, rastafarian, dance-hall, lovers rock,
see an example in the video:
Today reggae artists come and go at a rapid rate. From Sizzla, to Shabba ranks, to elephant man, to Vybz Kartel, to Buju Banton, to Sean Paul…among othersSo as you can see, Jamaican music has come a long way…and is still evolving as we speak
Where will it go in next? That’s left up to the most creative future reggae artists.
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