The definition of reggae can be described in many ways. The definition that I will be referring to is from the book Reggae Routes: The Story of Jamaican Music. This book by Kevin O’ Brien Chang and Wayne Chen details the history and transformations that reggae has gone through over the years. The definition that I will be using will be primarily coming from their work. The definition that Chang and Chen state is “Reggae has two meanings. It is a generic name for all Jamaican popular music since 1960 ‘West Indian style of music with a strongly accented subsidiary beat’ according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary. But reggae can also refer to the particular beat that was popular in Jamaica from about 1969 to 1983.” (1) Reggae since its inception has undergone many transformations over the year. The two definitions described by the authors represent that reggae is more than just a music genre it was a movement that changed the whole world. The reggae movement is something that never died out it is still quite popular in Jamaica and the whole world today. Reggae has grown up and developed into other types of genres such as dance hall.
In this book the history of reggae and its transformations are discussed throughout the history. It is interesting to see how the music and movement of reggae are connected together throughout Jamaican history. It is stated by the authors of the book that “Jamaican popular music since 1960 can be roughly divided into four eras each of which had a distinctive beat ska, rock steady, reggae, and dance hall. Ska dated from about 1960 to mid S 1966. Rock steady lasted from late 1966 to late 1968. The popular beat from 1969 to about 1983 was named reggae and had two phases ‘early reggae’, from about 1969 to 1974, and ‘roots reggae’, from about 1975 to 1983. From 1983 onward the prevalent sound has been called dance hall.” (1) This explanation of the times when reggae was changing helps clear up any confusion that people might have about the Rastafarian movement. Since everyone seems to know about reggae, but if you really think about it how many people really know where and how reggae became so popular?
Here the authors discuss more specifically what exact transformations the genre of reggae went through. There are a variety of genres discussed here to be more specific “Just as the ska beat is different from the rock steady beat, so is the dance hall beat different from the reggae beat. Outside of Jamaica dance hall is often called ‘ragga’ or ‘dub’, but in Jamaica ‘dub’ usually refers specifically to bass-heavy instrumentals created by mixing out other instruments and leaving the drum and bass only. Dub was especially popular here in the 1970s.” (1) Here we see that even in Jamaica reggae was sometimes thrown in with many other types of genres. It can also be seen here that the genre of reggae as time went on went through what can be compared to as an identity crisis. Since the beginning to that seems to be the main point of finding reggae which was to help find the Jamaicans find their identity during the historical social movements that they went through as a nation. So what is reggae? That is the question that I am going to answer here today.
References and Citations
Chang, Kevin O’Brien., and Wayne Chen. Reggae Routes: The Story of Jamaican Music. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998.