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Transcript of Reggae Music
The basis of any reggae song is the use of drums and bass guitar. The drums must be directly in time, to ensure the music flows together, emphasizing the down beat in their loose guidelines. The guitar must then keep the piece moving by thickening the texture, and working with the drummer to keep the tempo steady, yet upbeat sounding. Then, although the piano was used in earlier forms of the music, the organ is used to build up dimension and rhythm. Other instruments, such as violins, xylophones and flutes, are placed on top to enforce the tune and show dynamic variation. Vocals then carry the tune, with lyrics carrying political messages and associated with Rastafarianism.
When the word 'reggae' became used to describe the music, the bands where mostly duos, trios and quartets, and song writing aimed to make people dance. During the early 70s, artists such as Bob Marley began to use a more lilting drum beat, and layer more variations of sound, popularizing the style around the world; it didn't conform to normal pop or dance tune format. The mid to late 70s brought dub music, which had an instrumentalist playing over a previous recording. Along with this came DJs who rapped over original reggae songs; they were often already artists, such as Big Youth and U-roy. During the 80s, reggae music became digital, using synthetic sound as much or more than real instruments.
History and structure
According to a 1980s definition, reggae was based on ska, an earlier form of jamaican popular music. The beat from ska music was too fast to dance or play to in the heat of Jamaica, and so it was slowed down, to create reggae.
This new style of music used heavy beat, and loud bass line riffs throughout. It is also characterized by a 4/4 rhythm, repeated off-beat quavers, simple chord sequences and a verse and chorus structure.
Reggae music originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. By the 1970s, it was internationally recognized, and was particularly popular in Britain, the US and Africa. It was also said the be the voice of the oppressed, with lyrics that expressed political, social and humanitarian views.
Overall, I think samba and reggae music are very similar in some ways, whilst sending different messages. Both are aimed to be encouragement to dance, while reggae also sends political messages out as well. Musically, they are quite similar, both including heavy beats and bass lines, thick texture, and varying dynamics. However, reggae layers this further by adding an instrument or voice to carry the tune, which is perhaps why I enjoy the joyful simplicity of the beating samba rhythms more. I think that although reggae exudes joy, the varied tempo of samba appeals more to me. The sometimes more complicated layering of rhythms interests me more than a melody with accompaniment, which reggae is closer to.
Samba is a Brazilian form of music, recognized as a symbol of the country. Modern Samba emerged in the early 1900s, in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. However, an older form of samba still exists in a state of Brazil, Bahia. This style is more stripped down and simple.
History and Structure
The samba of Rio de Janeiro has roots in other popular music styles, like Lundu, Jongo and Samba de Roda (from Bahia). It uses an ostinato (repeated rhythmic phrase), each instrument given a different one to play. The 'Groove' is the main phrase of the piece and is heard throughout, broken up only by 'breaks' and 'mid-sections'. A break is another ostinato, played less regularly, and a mid-section is where a couple of instruments change their rhythm on top of the other players.
Samba music often has a large and strong percussion section. The lead drum being the repinique, keeping the band in time. The tambarims (tambarines without bells) are layered on top to add texture, along with snare drums which drive the band. Ganzas (cylindrical shakers) support the snares to gives the piece a fast tempo and sense of movement. Surdos (big bass drums) provide pulse and agogo bells (tin bells on a stick (to be hit)) pepper the phrase with notes, although slightly dulled in sound.Question and answer phrases are often used in the opening between tambarims and agogo bells to open with repetitive and lively shapes of movement.
The word samba is said thave derived from the Angolan word 'semba', meaning 'invitation to dance', a term used by slaves and former-slaves who held gatherings outside of Rio, in the early 1900s. Going back to the colonial period, the dance associated with the music was primarily made up of gyrating hip movements. The dance and music influenced many other styles in Cuba, and even Germany. Then, in the 1920-30s, the tempo of samba slowed down, becoming more romantic in feel leading to a second genre, called samba-cancao which brought out the tune over the rhythm. However, by the 1950s, this form of samba lost its momentum, and a more percussive and upbeat style was born in shanty towns, with emphasis on the polyrhythm (the simultaneous use of conflicting rhythms) of the instruments, which became the heart of Brazil's carnavals.