Reggae through the years
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Picture of Bob Marley

Bob Marley was a Jamaican singer, guitarist, songwriter and reggae music pioneer. He and his group, the Wailers, made reggae popular internationally. Their first album, Catch a Fire, was one of the first reggae albums to have worldwide impact. Marley and the Wailers went on a world tour of more than 30 dates. Though Marley died in 1981, his legend remains as one of the most prominent reggae artists of the world. Marley claimed the word "reggae" was Spanish for “the king’s music.”

Though Reggae became popular with overseas audiences, it was originally rejected in Jamaica, its birthplace. Reggae was thought of as ghetto music because it was associated with the slums of Trenchtown, Kingston -- where Marley was raised -- and its surrounding areas. This music was only played in dance halls, which were often raided and shut down by police. Reggae was only accepted in Jamaica after it became popular worldwide.

Reggae came out of two ‘60s Jamaican styles: ska and rock steady. One of the biggest differences between reggae and these previous styles of music is reggae’s spiritual focus. This new genre became closely associated with the Rastafarian religion. Rastas do not have an organized church, only a set of spiritual and cultural beliefs open to various interpretations. Even the Rastafarian colors of red, green and gold (yellow) are associated with reggae music.

Marley’s form of reggae is called roots reggae. It is known for its strong vocals and Rastafarian lyrics. Roots reggae remains the most popular type of reggae. Other types include: lover’s rock, dub and dancehall.

Dub also emerged in the 1970s. The word “dub” is used to describe a genre of music that consists of instrumental remixes of existing recordings. Many artists placed instrumentals on the back of their vinyl records. Dub started when disc jockeys began talking over the instrumentals.

Listen to a clip of the roots reggae hit: Three Little Birds, by Bob Marley & the Wailers. This clip is from www.fye.com.

Copyright © 2004 Chantal A. Raymond. All rights reserved.