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The Evolution of Jamaican Music

From Jamaican Mento music to Modern Dance Hall

Doug Aitofi

on 8 October 2013

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Transcript of The Evolution of Jamaican Music

To understand Reggae music we must first gain
an understanding of the culture and people it was birthed from
Brief History of Jamaica
Original People were the Arawak Indians
Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus showed up in 1494. Arawak Indians welcomed the Spaniards but were soon enslaved and forced to work on plantations for no pay.
When the Arawak Indidans start dieing from disease, the Spaniards start kidnapping Negros from Africa to work as slaves on Jamaican plantations.
In 1645 the English invaded Jamaica and took rule of the Island. Spanish leave not long after.
By 1665 There are no Arawak Indians left in Jamaica. They either die, are killed or taken to Spain as slaves.
In the 1700s Jamaica prospered due to high demand for its Coffee and Sugar and due to the fact that the plantation owners did not have to pay the African slaves who were working the plantations.
Around the 1800s the price of sugar dropped after Napoleonic wars. This put Jamaica in to a very bad economic situation.
In 1807 slavery is abolished. Jamaica's economic situation worsens. Black Jamaicans are no longer slaves, however, the majority are living in poverty.
In 1935 The first branch of Rastafari is believed to have been established in Jamaica by Leonard P. Howell.
February 6, 1945. Robert Nesta Marley was born to his Black African Jamaican mother and White English Jamaican Father. Robert went on to become Bob Marley, the first International Superstar of Reggae music.
In 1952 the first recording studio in Jamaica was opened and begun recording "Mento" music.
In 1962 Jamaica gained independence. Economy started to improve due to Tourism and Banana exports.
In 1966 Haile Selassie (Rastafarian's Messiah) visited Jamaica, where he was greeted with vast enthusiasm.
Jamaica - Quick Facts
The first Jamaican recording studio opened in 1951. The music being played and recorded at that time was called "Mento" music.
Mento was created with the fusing of the traditional Folk Dance music of the two cultures inhabiting Jamaica...the Europeans and the Africans.

A traditional Mento band usually consisted of:
Rumba Box (Bass)
"Rock n Roll"
You might be wondering what American Rock music has to do with Reggae...
In the 50s and 60s American Rock n Roll was being played on every radio in Jamaica.It was this energetic and melodic music coming from America that helped evolve traditional Mento in to "SKA".
Bob Marley himself was quoted as saying Reggae started with African American Rock n Roll star 'Fats Dominio'...
The Original Jamaican Music...
The first manifestation of Reggae Music...
...around the same time Jamaicans were being exposed to Rock n Roll, they were also being listening to and starting to experiment with Rhythm & Blues (R & B) from New Orleans, USA.
An example would be with song by 'Roscoe Gordan' called "No more doggin"...
Jamaican musicians began incorporating the instruments, chord progressions, grooves and feels they had been hearing in American R n B and Rock n Roll to create their own style of music dubbed "SKA"
"The Skatalites" were one of the most prominent Ska bands in Jamaica.
They heavily influenced a young Bob Marley and even played on his first single which was a Ska song called "Simmer Down"
...the first International Ska hit was Jamaican Artist 'Millie Small's version of "My Boy Lollipop" which was released in 1964 and has since gone on to sell over 7,000,000 copies worldwide.
Ska has been picked up by various people groups including Punks and Skinheads.
More recently it has been the soundtrack for Surfers, Skaters and
Extreme sportspeople in general.
Its modern adaptations are fast paced and energetic and more often than not incorporate Distorted Electric Guitar and a Brass Section like this song from American band 'Reel Big Fish'.
Notice that the Guitar is "skanking" in the Verses.
Ska mixed with American Soul equals...
During the mid Sixties, Ska music evolved into "Rock steady", a laid-back style of music named after Alton Ellis' hit "Rock Steady" (1966)
Rock Steady was popular
with the troubled, poverty
stricken youth in
Jamaica who were
known as 'Rude Boys'
...once again American Music was responsible for the mutation of Jamaican music. This time it was the laid back grooves and sweet vocal harmonies of 'Black Soul Music' that influenced Jamaicans to turn Ska in to Rock Steady. An example of this Soul music would be Otis Redding singing 'My Girl'
Rock Steady has a son called...
The word "reggae" was coined around 1960 in Jamaica to identify a "ragged" style of dance music, that still had its roots in New Orleans Rhythm 'n' Blues.
In the same way Ska slowed down to become Rock Steady, Rock Steady slowed down to become Reggae.
One of the first reggae songs to utilize the 'One Drop' drum beat and solidify the name of this new style of music was "Do the Reggay" by Toots and the Maytals.
Reggae music was the 'Gangstah Rap' of the 60's, popular with Jamaica's ghetto youth and 'Rude Boys'. In 1969 however, no doubt influenced by the 'Flower Power' peace movement happening in America and the UK, Jimmy Cliff released a song called "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" which forever changed the direction of Reggae to one of Peace.
Reggae goes GLOBAL thanks to one man...
Where is
Reggae now???
British Pop Reggae
Jawaiian Reggae
Chinese Reggae
...and best of all...
Aotearoa Reggae
Reggae has influenced and continues to influence
Modern Pop music such as...
Classic Rock:
The Police, Led Zeppelin
Hip Hop:
Lauryn Hill (The Fugees),
Damien Marley, NAS
R 'n' B:
Sean Kingston, Beyonce, Rihanna
Sean Paul, Shaggy, Beenie Man.
Modern Rock/Pop:
Sublime, No Doubt
The Evolution of Reggae Music
Where to from here???
Reggae has crossed seas, crossed cultures, crossed race and colour to become one of the longest surviving forms of modern popular music in the world. What do you think the future holds for Reggae music in New Zealand, and Internationally.
Full transcript