Reggae: the Music of Protest

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There are several theories about how the word reggae originated. The first theory claims that the word reggae was coined on a 1968 Pyramid dance single, "Do the Reggay (sic)," by Toots and the Maytals. Some believe that the word is originated from Regga, the name of a Bantu-speaking tribe on Lake Tanganyika. Others say that it is a corruption of the word streggae, which is Kingston street slang for prostitute (The Origins of Ska …,n.d.). On the other hand, Bob Marley claimed that the word was Spanish in origin, meaning "the king's music." Veteran Jamaican studio musicians offer the simplest, and probably the most logical, explanation. "It's a description of the beat itself," says Hux Brown, lead guitarist on Paul Simon's 1972 reggae-flavored hit, "Mother and Child Reunion". "It's just a fun, joke kinda word that means the ragged rhythm and the body feelin'. If it's got a greater meanin', it doesn't matter," Brown said (The Origin of “Reggae”,n.d.). To many listeners reggae means fun, yet the lyrics of reggae music have deeper meanings which are about an extraordinary philosophy, Rastafarianism and political messages mostly about colonialism and corruption in governments. Reggae music which is evolved before the end of 1960s in Jamaica, has been used as an efficient form of protest against slavery, poverty and corruptions in government; and Bob Marley, the legend of reggae, had very important role in spreading the ideology of Rastafarianism and giving humanitarian messages to the world. Reggae is a style of popular music which is originated in Jamaica in late 1960s and became dominant music in the country. In Jamaica there were 3 other music styles before reggae emerged. Since 1945 Jamaica adopted many American music forms such as; swing, soul and most importantly R&B. During and after the World War II the American troops based in Jamaica and while soldiers listening the Miami and New Orleans radio many young Jamaican were impressed with the music. By the mid 1950s huge open air dances started to occur and the interest to American R&B rose drastically. In the end of the 1950s, Jamaicans who were influenced by independency ideas were not satisfied by sounds of American rhythm & blues anymore. During the early and mid 60s around the time Jamaica was granted its independence, the first Jamaican modern music style merged. Ska is the rollicking, raucous music that perfectly summed up the mood of the people as they approached Independence at the beginning of the 1960s and wanted to announce their Jamaicanness with as much gusto as possible. Many reggae historians claim that the founders of ska music are legendary producer Prince Buster and Clement "Coxsone" Dodd. While they were looking for new sounds to thrill Jamaican youth they changed the emphasis of the R&B from the first and third beats in the bar to the second and fourth, creating the offbeat style that became the fulcrum of Jamaican music from then on. By 1962 Jamaica was self-governing and ska was said to reflect the aspirations of the newly liberated masses. In Jamaica, it is said that in mid 1960s summer the weather was too hot and people refused to dance to up-tempo music like ska and this situation led to slow the tempo of music so a new style of music was emerged, rock steady. However this is not simply the case, in fact, the reason behind slowing down the tempo can be related with the disappearance of hopes to independent future of Jamaica. Rock steady simply can be defined as; half-speed ska with the trombone replaced by piano and prominent bass. (Rock Steady,n.d.). This short lived music embedded to lyrics social themes and was a step to transit to reggae. Reggae evolved from the roots of music styles mentioned above and the lyrics weighted more on politics that addressed social and economical injustice. It also drew from folk music, Pocomania church music, Jonkanoo fife and drum bands, fertility rituals, adaptations of quadrilles,...
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