The term "Reggae" was coined around the 1960s, but didn't become famous until the 1970s. In 1968, a single by Toots and the Maytals called "Do the Reggay" was the first popular song to use the word "reggae," which named the genre and introduced it to a global audience.
The music itself has regular chops on the off-beat, which is called a "skank," and are played by a rhythm guitarist. The bass drum hits on the second and fourth beat of each bar, called the drop. Reggae bands can use anything from drums, the guitar, a saxophone, or trumpet, and trombone, to bass, a keyboard or organ, and horns. There are many varieties of reggae music with different instruments, as the genre has spread all over the world.
Reggae incorporates influences from Mento, Rocksteady, and Ska from Jamaica and Rhythm and Blues (R&B) from America. The earliest reggae often focused on the theme of love, but then evolved with the Rastafarian movement in the 1970's, and developed into socio-political and religious vocalisations. The genre rose internationally through the 1970s, with the aid of the 1973 movie "The Harder They Come" by Jimmy Cliff, which had a soundtrack of exclusively reggae hits.
In the February of 2008, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding made the first annual Reggae Month in Jamaica. To celebrate this monumental event, the Recording Industry Association of Jamaica (RIAJam) held its first Reggae Academy Awards on February 24, 2008. Reggae Month also included a six-day Global Reggae conference, a reggae film festival, two radio station award functions, and a concert tribute to the late Dennis Brown, who Bob Marley cited as his favorite singer.
The best summary of the importance of the historic achievement of reggae is given by Count Ossie, a drummer and Rastafarian personality, who remarked that both reggae and Rasta were "fighting colonialism and oppression but not with guns and bayonet, but wordically, culturally."
Popular Reggae performers
Bob Marley is the world's best known international Reggae and Rasta ambassador, who's career spanned more than a decade, beginning in 1963. Although he started to grab attention in the United States, Marley's true American breakthrough arrived with Rastaman Vibration in 1976, peaking at number 8 on the Billboard 200 charts. His band, Exodus, went on to be named the best album of the 20th century by Time Magazine, while Rolling Stone placed it at 169 in the 500 greatest albums of all time. Eight of Marley's children are currently following his legacy and are involved in music, three of them (Ziggy, Stephen, and Damian) having received multiple Grammys for their efforts thus far. Marley's songs continue to inspire oppressed people worldwide, and his music remains widely adored.
Alton Ellis was a trailblazer in the Jamaican music scene and pioneered into rocksteady and covers of R&B classics with Eddy Perkins for Coxsonne Dodd. Ellis moved briefly to the United States and Canada before settling in the UK and setting up his own label called Alltone. He had mild success with that new label, but was unfortunately one of the many reggae singers who was overshadowed by Marley's success worldwide. Despite this, Ellis received the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican government in 2004 for his musical achievements.
Michael Rose was the lead singer of Black Uhuru, which was the first reggae band to take the newly-created Grammy category in 1985 with their album "Anthem." At the age of 15, Rose recorded his first single, and soon followed this with a number of other singles under the production of Winston "Niney" Holness. His first Island album was Sinsemilla, which was quickly followedwith Red in 1981. Red managed to reach number 28 on the UK albums Chart and Rolling Stone rated the album 23rd in their 1989 list of the 100 greatest albums of the Eighties.
Toots Hibbert "The Skafather" had a tremendous effect on the growth and development of both ska and of reggae. Hibbert has been credited with penning the first song to use the word reggae in the 1968s "Do the Reggay." Rolling Stone also ranked Toots Hibbert number 71 in its list of the 100 greatest singers of all time (of which Marley was number 19).
Jimmy Cliff emerged as a popular reggae symbol in the late 1960s and early 1970s with hisinstantly recognizable clear and high vocals. After two previous failures, Cliff recorded his first ska hit, "Hurricane Hattie" at the age of 14. This was followed by a string of top hits under Leslie Kong's guidance, having received the producer's attention in 1962. Until he was overshadowed by Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff was the face of Jamaican reggae and was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Winners of Reggae in the Grammys
1985 - Black Uhuru
1988 - Peter Tosh
1989 - Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers
1990 - Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers
1991 - Bunny Wailer
1992 - Shabba Ranks
1993 - Shabba Ranks
1994 - Inner Circle
1995 - Bunny Wailer
1996 - Shaggy
1997 - Bunny Wailer
1998 - Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers
1999 - Sly and Robbie
2000 - Burning Spear
2001 - Beenie Man
2002 - Damian Marley
2003 - Lee "Scratch" Perry
2004 - Sean Paul
2005 - Toots & the Maytals
2006 - Damian Marley
2007 - Ziggy Marley
2008 - Stephen Marley
2009 - Burning Spear
2010 - Stephen Marley
2011 - BujuBanton
2012 - Stephen Marley
2013 - Jimmy Cliff
2014 - Ziggy Marley
2015 - Ziggy Marley
2016 - Morgan Heritage
2017 - Winner TBD on February 12
Reggae music in Africa
In 1980, Bob Marley performed in Harare, Zimbabwe. This concert has been credited as marking the beginning of reggae in Africa. There are many African reggae musicians with a wide fan base both on the continent and abroad. Five particularly well-known African reggae artists are Alpha Blondy, Pax Nindi aka Harare Dread, MajekFashek, Tiken Jah Fakoly and Lucky Dube.